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Share on Facebook Tweet this Blog Share on LinkedIn Google+ 04.03.2015

Alumna Spotlight: Christina Sass (AB ’02)

Since graduating from UGA, Christina Sass (AB ’02) has led a successful career in the for-profit and nonprofit world. Her passion for empowering others inspired her to co-found Andela, a global talent accelerator that produces world-class remote developers and connects them with top employers. Andela finds the brightest young people in Africa and gives them the training and mentorship to thrive as full-time, remote developers for companies around the world.

The UGA Alumni Association’s strategic communications intern, Emilie Clarke ’15, had the opportunity to catch up with this outstanding alumna:

Tell me a little bit about Andela. Where do you see the company in five years?

Andela began as a pilot of a model that I’ve been dreaming about finding for years — a scalable way for brilliant young people living in places where economic opportunities are scarce to receive training and employment that leads to lifelong careers without debt and without leaving home.  

At Andela, we find and train these young people - starting in Lagos, Nigeria - to be world-class remote web developers. We are unlocking the world’s untapped human potential and creating a talent pipeline for global industries, most of which struggle to find tech talent. With more than 10,000 applications coming in from across Africa to participate in the program and with 100 percent client retention so far, I'd say we are onto something!  

Walking into the Andela office in Lagos, Nigeria and seeing 70 people (25 percent young women) who have a new career path and who feel like a family because of Andela -- that is my proudest career accomplishment.

In five years, we plan to scale, scale, scale. I foresee us having centers in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa and others across Nigeria. I foresee companies viewing us as the go-to place for world-class software developers. They can feel great about hiring through Andela because of the social impact. 

  

Christina Sass (AB '02) at an Andela exposé

How did your time at UGA help you achieve your goals? Did you have a favorite professor or class?

I met a group of friends in Myers Hall that are still some of my closest friends in the world. We all spent the millennium New Year’s Eve together and have spent every single New Years together since 1999. You read that right - 15 years of dear friends who meet annually to watch UGA bowl games and to ring in the New Year together. Individuals from that group are now teaching literature at top high schools. They are teaching media and communications at UNC and philosophy at Purdue. They are city planning for Los Angeles. They are professional musicians who got their start in Athens. They are dear friends who have shaped me personally and professionally since we were all at UGA. 

My favorite professors were Dr. Loris Magnani in Astronomy and Physics and Dr. Edward Halper in Ancient Philosophy. Both are still st UGA. If you are a student, stop what you are doing and sign up for their classes immediately. Dr. Magnani's classes left me in awe of the universe. Dr. Halper made Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and Maimonides come alive and showed how their work can guide our everyday lives.  Personally, his own life exemplified how unity and purpose in one's thinking and one's action shape a life well-lived. 

You are being honored by the New York Business Journal for its Women of Influence Award. Who are some influential figures in your life? Where do you draw inspiration?

My father, Jurgen Peter Sass, is the greatest inspiration in my life. He left post-war Germany at twenty-two with only a suitcase and $200 and built a meaningful life. He instilled in my brother and me, the way that only a German can, that education would be the greatest determining factor of the quality and richness of our lives. We had Aristotle and FDR quotes on our fridge. We debated literature and politics over long dinners. We traveled and studied the geography and history of new places as a family. He fueled my endless curiosity about the world and gave me the initial courage and street smarts to travel everywhere! 

I have also had the privilege to meet and work with vibrant young people across the globe who fight to get an education. From my first campers at the YMCA in Athens to my current Fellows at Andela who are teaching me to code, young people who hustle and succeed against all odds inspire me every day. At Andela we call this #allheartallhustle.  

What advice would you give to future graduates or young alumni looking to create global impact?

Find the overlap between what you are passionate about and what the world needs most. Start with the Millenium Development Goals or focus on job creation in areas of highest unemployment. Doing what feels good is not enough. Don't side-step the hard work of researching what really works: what is scalable and sustainable, what is safe for local communities, and what is aligned with what local communities need and want. Do the research and then go apprentice with those who are doing it best. Listen when you are out in the field. Have hundreds of cups of tea and just listen. Never stop asking yourself if this is truly the best (most efficient, most effective) way to solve the problem you are trying to solve. And no matter where you go - even to the farthest corners of the earth- never stop loving the Georgia Bulldogs. 

The UGA community is proud to call Christina a member of the Bulldog family.

Visit Andela's website to learn more.


Share on Facebook Tweet this Blog Share on LinkedIn Google+ 03.27.2015

Alumnae Work to Save our Hearing

Athens, a town where music flourishes, is packed with music venues and sold-out shows. However, two of Athens’ biggest fans , alumnae Katie Carmody (BSED ’08) and Caroline DeCelles (BSED ’08, MED ’10), realized that most people were unaware of the long-term, damaging effects concerts can have on hearing.

Inspired by their undergraduate studies in music business and communication sciences and disorders and by their passion for music, the two graduates started We’re hEAR for You, a non-profit organization that raises awareness for hearing conservation. We’re hEAR for You supplies free earbuds to concert-goers in Athens and across the nation.

Earbuds provided by We're hEAR for You

In an interview with the Red & Black, Carmody and DeCelles shared their passion for hearing protection.

“We’re trying to break the stigma of hearing protection. People think that hearing protection will decrease the quality of a show, but it actually filters out damaging frequencies. We’re hEAR for You focuses on education. Once people understand the science on why they need to protect their hearing, they are so much more likely to use hearing protection,” said Carmody.

We’re hEAR for You has established chapters in Atlanta, Nashville, Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins, but the group’s largest chapter is in the Classic City.

In Athens, the organization’s major effort is to supply music venues, bars and other music-related operations, such as Nuci's Space, with free ear buds and hearing protection resources. The public is taking full advantage of the earbuds because they have to be restocked frequently.

DeCelles and Carmody are working in collaboration with the UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music and to encourage students to get involved in advocating for hearing protection. The organization takes part in the annual International Hearing Awareness Day on campus, too.

As the organization continues to grow, it will work with musicians nationwide to promote hearing conservation. Currently, We’re hEAR for You has recruited 25 bands to carry its earbuds on tour. Carmody operates as a liaison with these artists and ensures the bands remain stocked. The organization even coordinates with music festivals to provide the earbuds to fellow music lovers.

Visit We’re hEAR for You online to partner with them or learn more about their cause.

Source: This was originally published in the Red and Black


Share on Facebook Tweet this Blog Share on LinkedIn Google+ 02.25.2015

Alumna Spotlight: Sara Alread (BFA ’09)

Sara Alread (BFA '09) of Saint Simons Island, Georgia successfully launched her business, Little River Designs, in April 2013. The web-based business features rustic hand-crafted, wooden designs for the Southern home. Litter River Designs is a family business in every sense of the word. Sara's father is a carpenter, while her mother and sister serve as constant inspirations for new designs. The idea to create Little River Designs came in the form of a new family member. 

Sara shares how Litter River Designs got its name, "On November 30, 2011, my nephew, River, was born. He became our inspiration and official mascot. We were already making signs, planning weddings and building furniture for ourselves when friends became interested in what we were creating. Soon after River was born, Little River Designs began."

Little River Designs centers around a timeless family tradition: tracking grandchildrens' growth-spurts on the wall at grandma's house. Little River Designs' most popular item is the wooden Grow Chart Rulers.

      

Grow Chart Rulers by Litter River Designs

Today, Little River Designs continues to develop its online business and clientele. A recent expansion includes a line of wedding signs and the personalization of all Litter River Design products. As Sara and her team grow the Little River Designs line, they have gained the attention of a few big crafting and design websites. The business has been featured on SwissMiss, Sweet Peach, 100 Layer Cake, Rustic Wedding Chic, Golden Isles Magazine, and in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

To learn more about Sara and Little River Designs, check out the website and Facebook page.


Share on Facebook Tweet this Blog Share on LinkedIn Google+ 02.23.2015

Sisters Rethink “Something Borrowed”

Sisters Ashley Steele (ABJ ’06), of Charlottesville, Virginia., and Cali Brutz (AB ’08), of Athens, Georgia., own and operate two businesses that are modernizing the wedding industry. Steele and Brutz began working together in 2008 at the ages of 24 and 22, respectively. At the time, Steele was planning her own wedding and Brutz was a photographer. During the wedding planning process, the pair identified a number of issues that arise for the soon-to-be brides. Looking to solve those issues sparked several entrepreneurial projects.

The duo's latest venture, Borrowing Magnolia, uses a concept similar to that of Rent the Runway and Warby Parker in that brides will be able to rent wedding dresses for their big day directly from Borrowing Magnolia. The dresses available for rental will be provided by former brides who are interested in earning extra cash by lending their gown to another individual. Borrowing Magnolia ensures that the dresses are in good quality by limiting each dress to three rentals annually and five total. Sizes range from 0 to 24 and alterations are available as long as the changes are reversible

Borrowing Magnolia lives to serve the bride. The sisters ensure the brides-to-be that, "Borrowing Magnolia is committed to helping you find your dream gown, the way the modern bride does the dress. We make it easy for you to buy or borrow a designer gorgeous gown at a fraction of the retail cost, while still having a white-glove personalized boutique experience from start-to-finish. Look fabulous in your dream dress, save some cash, go green, and focus on what really matters on your wedding day. That’s what we’re all about."

The sisters have obviously been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and show no signs of stopping. This year, Borrowing Magnolia is expected to have over 800 dresses in their collection by the end of the year; the business was featured in the New York Times’ Style Section; and reality show producers are in talks of covering their business endeavors.

Congratulation to Ashley and Cali on their stellar sucess and best wishes as they continue to help women live their dream weddings. 


Share on Facebook Tweet this Blog Share on LinkedIn Google+ 02.02.2015

Alumna Spotlight: Keysha Lee (ABJ '97)

Keysha Lee (ABJ '97) is an award-winning broadcast video production instructer, former 40 Under 40 honoree and proud Bulldog. Since earning her degree from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Keysha's career has led her to places she never imagined, including covering the story of a dying man whose last wish was to take his wife to the Masters Tournament, reporting live from the Greensboro Airport following the September 11th attacks and interviewng living legends at the reenactment of the Selma to Montgomery March. After working in three television markets, Keysha made the transition to teaching, a job that combines her two passions: broadcasting and working with students to help them realize their dreams. 

With assistance from an all-student production crew, Keysha stars in her own television show, "Lessons with Mrs. Lee." She interviews exceptional guests who share life lessons and career tips. Her first guest was Connie Seacrest, mother of media mogul, American Idol host and former UGA student Ryan Seacrest. Other notable guests have included:

-- Judge Glenda Hatchett of the Emmy-nominated show Judge Hatchett

-- IronE Singleton (AB '98) from AMC's hit show The Walking Dead

-- Artist/musician Eshe from the 90's group Arrested Development

The show's audience is students in grades 6-12, parents, teachers and community leaders. It gives students an opportunity to gain production skills, practice interviewing techniques, and experience a professional work environment. Watch past episodes of the show.

When not teaching, Keysha shares her broadcasting expertise across the Southeast at a variety of teaching and speaking engagements.