Honoring Exemplary Service

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Assistant professor Tiffany Washington, one of three 2017 Service-Learning Excellence Award winners, partners graduate students with adults with dementia to provide in-home activities.

Public service is a core component of the University of Georgia’s mission, and it is intertwined with the instruction that our faculty members provide and the research they conduct.

Through service-learning, our students apply their classroom knowledge to transform the lives of individuals while strengthening communities. In doing so, they gain a deeper understanding of the subject matter and develop the kind of communication, teamwork and critical thinking skills that are in such high demand after graduation.

Three faculty members have been named recipients of 2017 Service-Learning Excellence Awards as part of Honors Week, and their work demonstrates the transformative impact of combining instruction with community engagement.

Service-Learning Excellence Award winner Carol Britton Laws, clinical assistant professor in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, is being honored for implementing a new course that pairs UGA students as peer mentors for “Destination Dawgs,” an inclusive post-secondary education program for students with intellectual or developmental disabilities. In the College of Environment and Design, Associate Professor Sungkyung Lee and her students have applied their knowledge of community-based design and development to projects in Athens and Albany, including developing community gardens, agricultural and stream bank site designs, and neighborhood analyses. In the School of Social Work, Assistant Professor Tiffany Washington partners graduate students with adults with dementia to provide in-home activities. Her research demonstrates the program’s impact on student learning and self-efficacy, as well as benefits to the participating community members. 

Tina Harris, a professor in the communication studies department, has been named the recipient of the Engaged Scholar Award for her commitment to using service-learning to help students become critical thinkers committed to positively impacting communities. Kate Smith will receive the Public Service and Outreach Staff Award for Excellence for her role in supporting the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development’s youth programs.

Five faculty members have been named recipients of the Walter Barnard Hill Awards for their contributions to improving quality of life in Georgia. Tracy Arner, who manages the Carl Vinson Institute of Government’s financial management training program, has led key initiatives with state and local government clients, including the launch of an online financial management program that is the only one of its kind in the nation. Melanie Biersmith has increased 4-H’s ability to influence the next generation of workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics through her role as the statewide coordinator of the Georgia 4-H Environmental Education Program. Danny Bivins, senior public service associate in the Vinson Institute, designed and implemented the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership, which has assisted 30 communities in the past three years. Dennis Hancock, an Extension specialist and an associate professor in UGA’s department of crop and soil sciences, shares his research-based expertise with producers across the state to help them sustain economically viable forage and livestock productivity. The final 2017 Hill Award recipient is Janet Rechtman, a senior public service associate in the Fanning Institute who provides technical assistance to nonprofits in areas of strategic planning, evaluation and marketing and communications.

These outstanding faculty and staff members—and their colleagues across the University’s Public Service and Outreach units—change lives for the better, and they exemplify the University of Georgia’s land-grant mission of service. I look forward to celebrating their accomplishments and many others during Honors Week.