Tour Helps UGA Employees Better Understand the University’s Land-Grant Mission

Emilie Gille

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2022

In February, a group of UGA Public Service and Outreach staff members traveled to Hart, about 40 miles northeast of Athens, to see firsthand how the university carries out its mission to serve the state.

The PSO in Action day trip, sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, was designed to help employees in the eight Public Service and Outreach units better understand the work their colleagues do across Georgia, in nearly every community.

“It makes you want to be a part of the changes that happen as you see the development, as you hear about the strategic planning,” said Jasmine Jackson, a senior event coordinator with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

As an Archway Partnership community, Hart County has ready access to university resources through a UGA faculty member living in the area. Called an Archway Professional, the faculty member connects Hart County to experts at UGA who can help the community address self-identified challenges.

Bill Leard, chair of the Hart County Archway executive committee, led the group on a tour of downtown, where they saw brightly colored murals, reflecting the county’s history and business, painted by students from the UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art.

Since 2008, Archway Partnership has worked with Hartwell on a variety of projects, from downtown revitalization to workforce development to establishing a poverty task force.

“I don’t know if I’ll be doing this in 10 years, but I hope Archway Partnership is,” Leard said.

At the Hart County College and Career Academy, tour participants learned that the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit, helped local officials develop a strategic plan for the academy.

As a result, students who may not attend college can choose other pathways, such as welding or cosmetology, to help them prepare for the workforce.

“We tell our students they have three options after graduation,” said Superintendent Jay Floyd. “Enrollment, employment or enlistment. They’ll either be in school, have a job or be in the military. Whatever they choose, they will be prepared.”

A very popular stop on the tour was Dressing Dreams, where hundreds of clients from the southeast U.S. shop for bridal gowns and prom dresses. The shop is a client of the UGA Small Business Development Center (SBDC), another Public Service and Outreach unit, which helps entrepreneurs launch new businesses and helps small businesses grow. The SBDC has helped Dressing Dreams with social media marketing, which brought in more business.

“You don’t think of something like a dress shop when you think of community outreach,” said Taryn Williams, assistant front desk manager at the UGA Center for Continuing Education & Hotel. “Actually going there and seeing how we’re helping small businesses really helps you understand it better.”

Three additional PSO in Action Tour were scheduled: Thomson in March, Atlanta in April and Gainesville in May.

“While I know what our mission is and what we do, you don’t really know until you’re boots on the ground and actually seeing it,” said Courtney McGill, a program specialist with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. “So, this trip helped me see the vision behind the words. You see those paragraphs, the mission and vision statement, but to actually be here and in this program has really given life to that.”

Learn more about future PSO in Action opportunities here: