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12.04.2014

Introducing Executive Director Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS '00)

The UGA Alumni Association is excited to announce that former Interim Executive Director Meredith Gurley Johnson (BSFCS '00) has been named executive director effective December 1. 

In this role, she oversees all alumni engagement activities and services, including student programs, young alumni outreach, regional programs, special events and collaborative projects on campus.

"In her capacity as interim executive director, Meredith has shown the leadership, vision, creativity, spirit and energy necessary to take the university to the next level in our efforts to closely engage our alumni and parents alike,” said Kelly Kerner, vice president for development and alumni relations. “After conducting a national search, it was clear that Meredith is the right leader for this time in our history.”

In 2001, Johnson joined the UGA Alumni Association as its first Atlanta programs coordinator based out of the new Atlanta Alumni Center in Buckhead. In 2006, she was named director of the Atlanta Alumni Center and managed the facility, Atlanta-area programming and special projects relating to alumni in Metro Atlanta. Seven years later, Johnson became associate director of alumni relations, the position she held prior to being named interim executive director.

Prior to joining the UGA Alumni Association, Johnson served as coordinator of annual giving and alumni relations for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Since joining the UGA Alumni Association, she has helped launched various signature programs, including Bulldog 100 and UGA Days. In 2014, Meredith was awarded the Georgia Education Advancement Council’s Award for Excellence in Alumni Relations for her work at UGA.

  

“It is an honor to be selected as executive director of alumni relations for the University of Georgia. As a graduate of UGA, I have never been more proud of the hard work put forth by the administrators, faculty and students that make this place so special,” said Johnson. “I am thankful for the alumni and friends who support this university, and look forward to energizing my peers and the UGA community as we advance the institution together.”

The UGA Alumni Association looks forward to Johnson's continued leadership! 

Click here to read the official press release. 

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12.03.2014

UGA alumnus takes daring dive

One grad's recent daring journey into a volcano turned into a viral video that captivated the world. Assistant Director of Communications Jamie Lewis (AB '12, AB '12) spoke with Sam Cossman (BBA '03) about the video, his time at UGA and his plans for the future.

You’ve mentioned that UGA is the place that inspired and fostered your adventurous spirit. Can you talk about this?

While at UGA, I had the pleasure of meeting people from all around the world. Combined with a newfound sense of freedom and self-discovery, I finally had the opportunity to take a few international trips. These journeys were incredibly empowering and transformational in that they helped shape my worldview and gave me perspective on how incredibly lucky I was in many regards of my life. This was also partially what inspired my developing sense of social responsibility.

Where did you get the idea to venture into a volcano? 

After co-founding a charity and building a school in Haiti, I returned to San Francisco with a renewed sense of purpose and desire to pursue my passion for adventure. I started a tech company called Qwake, a Kickstarter for new and unusual experiences. It was a tool to help others pursue their own passions and earn a living doing what they loved most. The volcano experience was born out of this. I heard from a friend that a rarely seen magical volcanic wonderland existed deep in the South Pacific, but was unsure if it was real. After much research, I discovered that this seemingly mythical place did indeed exist. However, due to the complexity and cost of a potential expedition, I had to abandon the project after six months. It wasn’t until more than a year later that the opportunity finally materialized. There are only five known lava lakes in the world; Marum (the one we visited) is by far the most active and the rarest.     

  

Your video’s been viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube and your story was featured in the Huffington Post, ABC News, Buzzfeed and more. Were you surprised by the video’s virality, and what opportunities has its popularity created for you?

I had zero formal training in shooting or editing film. However, I was so excited by the experience that I spent the flight home editing a video to share with family and friends. Much to my surprise, I awoke the following morning to millions of views, thousands of comments and dozens of publications contacting me. I was incredibly surprised and humbled by the global response.   

Discovery and exploration have long been a part of my DNA, and I think that partially originated from my upbringing in Georgia where much of my childhood was spent exploring the outdoors. As an adult, my passion for adventure has become a part of who I am. I do it because it makes me feel alive. Being in extreme and wild places, like inside of a volcano, reminds me of my mortality and that I am at the mercy of forces much greater than myself. Most importantly, my adventures serve as existential wake-up calls to live with intention, push boundaries and chase my dreams.

The experience has opened a number of doors, professionally speaking, and reminded me that it’s OK to take an occasional literal and figurative leap into the unknown. I quit my job to embrace the amazingly unexpected opportunity to become a professional explorer and filmmaker, and am currently in discussions with a number of TV networks and iconic film brands. What the future holds is still uncertain, but it feels good marching to the beat of my own drum.    

I’ll return to the volcano in December with a team of volcanic pioneers, scientists and filmmakers to make history in an attempt to be the first to document, record and explore the world’s rarest and most newly-formed lava lake. I’m currently seeking funding and will allow six guests to join the expedition.  

  

What were some of your favorite things to see and do while living in Athens?

Some of my favorite memories are of lying in the grass on the beautiful grounds of North Campus, soaking in the intellectual energy of my surroundings. I loved interacting with my twin sister and our diverse group of friends, celebrating game days, spending time at coffee shops downtown, enjoying the amazing live music scene and day dreaming of ways in which I’d one day leverage my education and experiences to inspire others to pursue their own passions.  

To learn more about Sam and his volcanic journey, click here

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11.26.2014

UGA Alumni Association announces sixth annual Bulldog 100 list

The University of Georgia Alumni Association has released the 2015 Bulldog 100. This annual program recognizes the fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni. More than 450 nominations were submitted for the 2015 list.

The 2015 Bulldog 100 includes businesses of all sizes and from industries such as landscape design, marketing and orthodontics. Several areas of the country are represented, including companies from as far north as Chicago and as far west as Texas. Of the 100 businesses, 88 are located within the state of Georgia. The Atlanta office of Warren Averett CPAs and Advisors verified the information submitted by each company and ranked the businesses based on a compounded annual growth rate during a three-year period.

The public, including UGA alumni and friends, is invited to celebrate the Bulldog 100 honorees at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis on Feb. 7. The evening will begin with a reception, followed by dinner and the awards ceremony.

The awards ceremony will feature a keynote address by Hala Moddelmog, the first female president and CEO of the Atlanta Metro Chamber. Moddelmog graduated from UGA in 1981 with a Master of Arts from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Prior to joining the Atlanta Metro Chamber, Moddelmog was president of Arby's Restaurant Group, Susan G. Komen for the Cure and Church's Chicken.

Following her remarks, members of the Student Alumni Council will lead the highlight of the evening-the release of the final rankings and countdown of the 2015 Bulldog 100.

"Each year, the caliber of the Bulldog 100 businesses illustrates the important role that UGA graduates play in their communities' economic growth," said Meredith Gurley Johnson, UGA's executive director of alumni relations. "On campus, important work is being done to prepare students to become leading entrepreneurs. During the annual Bulldog 100 Celebration, I am proud to see the results of that rigorous academic environment."

To review the alphabetical list of honorees and to learn more about the Bulldog 100, including sponsorship opportunities, see www.alumni.uga.edu/b100.

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