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08.09.2013

40 Under 40 Spotlight: Kira Fonteneau (JD ’05)

Kira Fonteneau (JD ’05) remembers the day like it was yesterday.

“I was sitting in Professor Ron Ellington’s Civil Procedures class as a [first-year law student] at UGA when he called on several members of our class who were unprepared. When he reached the fifth unprepared student, he calmly put down his marker and dismissed the class, telling us that he could not continue unless we were prepared. The class was dumbfounded. The most intense feeling of embarrassment and shame filled the room as we realized how disappointed he was. I will never forget that day – it was the day that I learned the importance of being prepared as a lawyer.”

Fonteneau learned that lesson and hasn’t looked back. The alumna graduated in 2005 from the UGA School of Law and became a litigation associate with Constangy, Brooks and Smith, LLP, in Birmingham, Ala. In late 2006, she established The Fonteneau Firm, LLC.

According to Julie Jun, a colleague and friend of Fonteneau’s, “Kira left a comfortable job with a big law firm to open her own shop, which she ran for several years. She was not simply successful, but she made such an impression on her peers, that she was eventually nominated and appointed to the position of public defender for Jefferson County, Ala., where Birmingham is located.”

In January 2013, Fonteneau was appointed to open and run the state of Alabama’s largest public defender office. In this role, she is responsible for recruiting, managing and training 39 attorneys and 29 support staff members.

In her free time, Fonteneau gives back to the Birmingham community. She has served on the American Diabetes Association’s Board of Directors since 2007, the ACLU of Alabama Board of Directors since 2011, and the Holy Family Cristo Rey High School Junior Board of Directors since 2009. She has participated in the Birmingham Volunteer Lawyers Program since 2006.

When asked what advice she would give to UGA students today, the alumna said, “You never know how the detours in life will prepare you for the future, so don’t feel like you have to plan your life in great detail.”

As Birmingham’s first public defender, there was no way Kira Fonteneau could have envisioned her career path to this point. But, she has obviously followed her own advice and found great success in our neighbor state to the west. Congratulations, Kira!

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08.26.2014

Five questions with wedding planner Maren Clarke White (AB ‘09)

Maren Clarke White (AB ’09) may be Athens-bred, but she is taking the Golden Isles by storm, one wedding at a time. After growing up in Athens and graduating from UGA with a degree in English, Maren packed her bags for St. Simons Island to work with the Sea Island Company’s esteemed wedding planning team.

Maren has been with the Sea Island Company for over four years and currently serves as the company’s wedding manager. As the wedding manager at this exclusive 5-Star Resort, Maren has the opportunity to plan high-end wedding events for an elite group of clients. Throughout her time at Sea Island, Maren has planned over 200 weddings and events and has worked with celebrity planners and couples. Maren will always hold Athens and her alma mater close to her heart as she is the daughter of Rebecca White, Dean of UGA’s School of Law, and Dan White, Director of Production at UGA’s Institute of Continuing Legal Education, and sister to Brendan White (JD ’11), a 2011 graduate of UGA’s School of Law.

Recently, Margaret Sullivan (BSFCS ’11, MA ’12) had the opportunity to catch up with this outstanding alumna. Read below to find out more about Maren’s amazing career.

How did you get into the wedding planning business?  

My first job after college was at a boutique hotel, and my favorite part of the job was working on weddings and events. So when I saw the opening for a wedding coordinator at Sea Island, I knew that was the right move for me.

What advice do you have for others wanting to get into wedding planning?

Planning weddings, particularly at a resort like Sea Island, is in many ways a glamorous job. But what many people don’t realize about wedding planning is that you must be highly focused, able to pay close attention to detail, be very organized, able to adapt quickly to changes, as well as being able to think creatively and stylishly. And you need to be prepared for some blistered feet from long wedding days!

How did your time at UGA prepare you for your career?

As an English major at UGA, I learned the true strength of written and verbal communication. I have found this knowledge to be vital in communicating with my brides. Every bride has her own vision, and through words we find a way to translate her dreams into reality!

Have you planned many weddings for your friends or other fellow UGA alumni?

We do have a number of UGA alumni weddings, and that is always special to me! While I may not have known some of my UGA brides in college, they become fast friends during the planning process due to having UGA in common with one another! Sea Island’s wedding clientele comes from throughout the entire country, not just the southeast.

What’s your favorite wedding tradition?

When the groom first sees the bride.  It brings tears to my eyes every time.

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08.22.2014

Reflecting on Freshman Welcome 2014

We recently sat down with the man behind Freshman Welcome, Assistant Director of Student Programs Evan Tighe (BSED '08, MA '11). The following recounts his experience this past Sunday when UGA welcomed thousands of members of the Class of 2018 into Sanford Stadium for this special event.

Last Sunday, I stood on the field of Sanford Stadium and witnessed something incredible.

After 20 minutes of direction from members of the Redcoat Marching Band, thousands of incoming freshmen from the UGA Class of 2018 formed a single entity on the soft green turf; they had formed the revered “Super G.”

Thousands of students, from a multitude of backgrounds, hometowns, interests and intended majors gathered in one spot for the same purpose.

Thousands of students.

Thousands of futures.

Thousands of dreams.

One united display of UGA pride. 

After the official class photo was taken, I watched the students disperse and head in different directions. It was a perfect analogy, I realized. These students all have their own dreams. They will face their own challenges and realize their own successes. They will declare their own majors and they will decide their own path at UGA.

They will become our society’s next generation of doctors, veterinarians, botanists and scientists.

They will be our new businessmen and women, executives, lawyers and political leaders.

They will serve us as teachers, counselors, coaches and social workers.

They will inspire us as poets, dancers, artists and musicians.

They will build for us as engineers, architects, mechanics and designers.

And then, once UGA has prepared them for their rest of their lives, they will reunite once again on the field of Sanford Stadium to throw their caps in the air during Commencement. In a final display of solidarity, they will watch fireworks illuminate the stands of Sanford Stadium, where they cheered on the Bulldogs and sang “Glory, Glory” countless times. They will then go on to do great things in the world.

I am honored to advise a group of 35 students, the Student Alumni Council, who feel the same way. Even though they are not yet alumni, they have already made a monetary gift to UGA through the Georgia Fund.

Each freshman is just a tiny part of that “G.” It is only by coming together as a class that they can form the whole symbol. Each individual may only be able to give a little to the university. But together, small gifts build an incredible foundation which will vault the University of Georgia to even greater accomplishments.

UGA may just be one university, but it is our university.

Let’s support our students as fervently as we support our student-athletes on game day.

Let’s not allow our Georgia pride to cease at the gates of Sanford, Stegeman, or Foley.

Let’s show the world what the Red and Black is truly capable of. Make your gift today.

Go Dawgs!

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08.18.2014

Class of 2018 Freshman Welcome

The Class of 2018 was welcomed into the Bulldog family with style yesterday afternoon during the fourth annual Freshman Welcome.

Freshman Welcome was a day of firsts for many of the students in attendance. First time at Sanford Stadium. First time Between the Hedges. First time hearing from President Jere W. Morehead (JD '80) and Football Coach Mark Richt. First time learning UGA game day traditions like Calling the Dawgs, Krypton and the Battle Hymn of the Bulldog Nation. Click here to view a video of yesterday's festivities - or check out students' photos on Twitter and Instagram using #uga18

Already boasting the highest average GPA and SAT scores of any incoming class at UGA, the UGA Alumni Association knows the Class of 2018 will leave its mark on UGA.

 

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