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09.12.2013

40 Under 40 Spotlight: Irving Steel (AB ’08)

Irving Steel (AB ’08) has been described as one of the most “globally competent” UGA graduates. I would add that he is also one of the most committed alumni when it comes to giving back to the University of Georgia.

Steel graduated from UGA in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and a certificate in global studies. Steel traveled to China in 2007 through the International Center for Democratic Governance and the Carl Vinson Institute at UGA, and credits that experience for opening career paths for him.

Steel’s experience abroad at UGA led him to move to Shanghai after graduation. From 2009 to 2011, he served as an environmental champion and corporate account coordinator for Tandus. The alumnus was responsible for leading the company’s sustainability efforts in China and managing more than 40 design, architecture, construction and project management company accounts.

While Steel was with Tandus, he also founded Green Drinks China, which aims to bridge the gap between organizations, students and communities in order to take action on environmental issues in China. What began as a monthly networking event has grown into an eight-city organization hosting more than 75 events and planting hundreds of trees across China.

At the same time Steel was working for Tandus and founding Green Drinks China, he also found time to establish and lead the UGA Alumni Association China Chapter. As the China Chapter president, Steel coordinates events and programs for alumni across China. In addition, he hosts events and functions for undergraduate and MBA students, professors and other campus departments.

In 2012, Steel, who is now fluent in Mandarin, founded and became CEO of Original Life, Ltd., which strives to create a deeper impact on the attitude toward food and life via aquaponics. He facilitates training sessions and partnerships with educational institutions, and trains undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students in the University of Virginia’s SEED program. Original Life’s mission is very simple – clean, affordable food for all.

Kavita Pandit, associate provost in UGA’s Office of International Affairs, nominated Steel for the 40 Under 40 Class of 2013, saying, “What impresses me most about Irving is his truly international outlook and vision. He has identified a very promising business niche which is consistent with his personal commitment to environmental responsibility.”

Steel’s entrepreneurial spirit and international outlook is taking him great places.  He was awarded the Rotary International Leadership Award for Community Development by Rotary Shanghai last year and has won a number of other awards, including Environmental Performer for Asia from Asia’s top real estate media.

Congratulations to Irving on being named to the 40 Under 40 Class of 2013 – he is truly deserving of this honor and we are glad to have the opportunity to recognize him for his commitment to UGA.

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02.09.2016

Building a welcoming and supportive campus community

Launched during the 2015 Homecoming Weekend in October, UGA Black Alumni is the official affinity group for black graduates of the University of Georgia. Similar to the Women of UGA program, UGA Black Alumni exists underneath the umbrella of the UGA Alumni Association and seeks to connect black alumni and students.

Each year, UGA enrolls an increasingly diverse student population and it is important to connect alumni and students with shared experiences to continue building a welcoming and supportive campus community. 

“As a student and an alumna, one thing I felt was missing from my UGA experience was the presence and mentorship of UGA alumni who looked like me. In 2008, I saw the first Black Alumni Homecoming Tailgate on Myers Quad and was full of emotion,” said Ambre Reed (BSFCS ’09), a member of the UGA Black Alumni Leadership Council. “The creation of UGA Black Alumni and its Black Alumni Leadership Council is so important to our community. Becoming involved was a no-brainer for me.” 

The mission of UGA Black Alumni is five-fold: recruit black students, faculty and staff; support black students to completion of a degree program; engage current students and alumni by mentoring and professional development; ‘friendraising’ and fundraising for UGA needs; and serve as UGA ambassadors in the community and to fellow Bulldogs 

Raymond Phillips (BS ’12), another member of the UGA Black Alumni Leadership Council says that groups like UGA Black Alumni and Women of UGA send an important message to the university community, as well as prospective students.

“The time and resources the university is investing into UGA Black Alumni demonstrates its commitment to diversity and inclusion,” he said. “This investment shows there is a place for everyone at UGA, regardless of one’s race, gender or age.”

Reed echoed this message.

“The creation of UGA Black Alumni sends the message that the university not only sees diversity as an asset while on campus, but after graduation, too,” she said.

Serving as an ambassador for UGA, a key part of the group’s mission, involves activities like participating in Give That Dawg a Bone, a card-writing campaign in partnership with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, which invites alumni to write notes to accepted students, encouraging them to call UGA home for the next four years.

Members of UGA Black Alumni also are invited to attend information sessions and recruitment fairs throughout the year, where they can educate talented black high school students about UGA, its traditions and culture.

Reed admits that as a high school student, she never considered attending UGA. It was not until a black recruiter visited her high school in metro Atlanta and spoke about UGA with passion and pride that she realized it could be a place that she, a black student, could feel accepted and comfortable.

The services that are now a core part of UGA Black Alumni are what helped recruit Ambre and are what will help recruit more talented and diverse students in the future.

Another key component of UGA Black Alumni is raising funds for the Black Alumni Scholarship, which supports up to four students a year. Charles Orgbon III, a member of the Class of 2017 and recipient of the Black Alumni Scholarship, is CEO of Greening Forward, one of America’s largest youth-driven environmental organizations. It is talented students like Orgbon, who are supported by the important work of UGA Black Alumni, that are helping to further cement UGA’s reputation as a top-tier public institution.

The UGA Alumni Association is proud to support UGA Black Alumni as it continues to engage the university’s more than 288,000 alumni around the world.

To learn more about UGA Black Alumni, visit www.alumni.uga.edu/blackalumni.

Interested in joining Ambre and Raymond on the Black Alumni Leadership Council? Click here.

To support students like Charles Orgbon III and other recipients of the Black Alumni Scholarship, click here

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02.03.2016

Alumnus Spotlight: Peter Conlon (BBA '75)

One of the biggest attractions to the Atlanta music scene is its annual music festival, Music Midtown. From mainstream pop artists to rising rock bands, Music Midtown offers the crowds that gather performances from a wide variety of artists. For Peter Conlon (BBA '75), one of two founders of the festival and president of Peter Conlon Presents, this was the overall goal: to create an event fit for attendees of all music tastes and genres.

Conlon graduated from Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in international business in 1975. During his four years as an undergraduate student, he was a member of University Union where he first began booking rock concerts that featured artists such as Jethro Tull and the Allman Brothers. He attended law school for a short period of time after graduation, but then took a risk and dropped out to work as an intern for the Carter presidential campaign, a risk that ended up paying off through a victory.

Peter continued to work for Jimmy Carter throughout his presidential term. His position required that he help set up benefit concerts for the president. In 1982, Conlon partnered with Alex Cooley to begin his career in the music industry.

Music Midtown at Piedmont Park

After working many years booking concerts, the pair founded Music Midtown in 1994, inspired by the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. After having to pull the plug on the event in 2005 due to low sales, the festival was reintroduced in 2011 and now takes up several stages across Piedmont Park, hosts more than 30 different artists, and attracts attendees from all over the nation. Moreover, since the festival’s relaunch, it has generated $50 million for the local economy each year.

Congratulations to Peter and best wishes for the continued success of Music Midtown! 

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02.01.2016

Alumna Spotlight: Devin Clower (BFA ’08)

Anyone family with downtown Athens and its eclectic variety of shops is surely familiar with Frontier. Since opening nearly 20 years ago, the store has connected local artists with community members by providing a venue for them to showcase and sell their work. 

UGA alumna Devin Clower (BFA '08) took ownership of the store three years ago. Her background in interior design helped her with the introduction of custom framing and redesigning the store layout.

The store’s motto, “All for the heart and home,” is reflected in the unique gifts that you can find at the store. Devin has worked hard to fulfill the motto, and through her leadership, the store has grown into a local favorite.

Congratulations on your hard work, Devin!

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