Page 1

Spring 2018 Volume 5, Issue 1

The Georgia Gwinnett College Magazine Engage


R e s e a rc h la b or a tor y s ym b o liz e s Str icklan ds’ s t ron g se n se of commu n ity

Col l ege expands degree programs

GGC schol ar- at hl e t e s gi ve back w hil e excel l i ng i n ac ade m i c s

IP H S R A L O H C S As her teammates watch, Elyssa Melton, ’19, business, strikes a ball during the softball team’s Grizzly Classic tournament earlier this spring. During the multi-game event, Melton tied the Grizzlies’ single-game school record with two triples. One of GGC’s outstanding scholar-athletes (see related story page 18), Melton finished the 2017 fall semester on the Athletics Director’s Honor Roll. At press time, the softball team had been ranked as high as No. 1 on the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics top 25 poll. For end-of-season tournament information for softball, baseball and men’s and women’s tennis, visit

Spring 2 018 Volume 5, Issue 1

CONTENTS P R E S I D E N T ’ S M E S S A G E .............................................................. 2 COLLEGE NEWS Notables ....................................................................................................... 3 GGC students team up to fight Parkinson’s disease......................................... 4 College expands degree programs ................................................................ 14 GGC scholar-athletes give back while excelling in academics ........................ 18

OUR FOUR PILLARS IN ACTION SCHOLARSHIP Students’ successes are George’s rewards ..................................... 8

SERVICE Standridge is dedicated to serving others .................................... 12

LEADERSHIP Guevara fulfills his parents’ dream ................................................... 16

C R E AT I V I T Y Honors Program redefines access ...................................................2 0

A D VA N C I N G G G C Research laboratory symbolizes Stricklands’ strong sense of community .......... 6 It started with a wish .................................................................................. 10 Grants provide important student support ................................................. 15

T H E G A L L E R Y ...................................................................................... 21 On the cover: Heather Pathak, ’16, biology, Christian Santos, ’18, biology, and Jonathan Mwizerwa, ’19, biology, are among about 30 students who have contributed to a years-long research project about Parkinson’s disease. e n g a g e. g g c. e d u



President’s Message



with regional economic needs and opportunities Soon after Georgia Gwinnett was founded in 2005, we partnered with local business and community Dr. Stas Preczewski leaders to ensure that the college’s degree programs were synchronized with area needs. This enabled us to strategically select the first majors that would be available to students when we opened in 2006, and set the course for which majors would be developed over the next several years. Some majors require more lengthy planning with outside organizations, such as education and nursing. And some require specific instructional facilities, so they had to be planned in coordination with campus construction projects and enrollment growth. All along, our priority has been to align GGC’s degree programs with employer needs and career opportunities in the Gwinnett area and surrounding region. This ensures that the college will meet critical needs for trained professionals while providing maximum employment opportunities and career options for our students. However, needs and opportunities change over time. In response to those needs, GGC has changed concentrations within several existing majors and added minors to allow students to customize their education to individual career interests. One

example is the addition of a digital media concentration within the information technology major, which aligns with tremendous growth in areas such as the electronic gaming industry. This year, we added two new bachelor’s degree programs created specifically to address high-growth arenas within the local economy. The bachelor of science in human development and aging services will prepare students for a broad range of careers that have arisen out of changing demographics within American society. The bachelor of arts in cinema and media arts production will allow students to take advantage of Georgia’s growing film and television entertainment industry (see related story, page 14). In their first semester alone, the new degree programs enrolled 50 and 169 majors, respectfully. As Georgia Gwinnett continues to mature, it will continue adapting its programs as significant needs and opportunities arise. This supports the college’s mission to produce engaged graduates who are prepared to anticipate and respond effectively to an uncertain and changing world. Go Grizzlies!

Stas Preczewski The GGC nursing program conducted a joint trauma training exercise with the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine during the 2017 fall semester. Here, Mary Beerman, GGC instructor of nursing, gestures toward EKG lead placement on a volunteer patient, as Terri Fortier, ’17, nursing, a PCOM student, and Cameron Williams, ’17, nursing, observe.



Ge orgia Gwinne t t C ollege

Notables GGC honors 5000th alumnus Micah Seibel, ’17, has been recognized as Georgia Gwinnett College’s 5000th alumnus. A political science major, he now works as an operations assistant for Perimeter Community

Improvement Districts. He hopes to someday work for the U.S. State Department. Here, Lori Buckheister, vice president for

Advancement, presents Seibel with a commemorative plaque

at a recent alumni mixer. The Alumni Association hosts events almost every month, as well as school-specific gatherings. Visit for more information.

Georgia Gwinnett College’s School of Business has been

accredited by AACSB International – The Association to Advance

The Georgia Gwinnett College Magazine

Collegiate Schools of Business.

Dr. Lior Burko, associate professor of physics, was recently selected as a 2018-2020 Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP)

Scholar, a prestigious program through the University of California - Santa Barbara.

Angela Gray, ’15, early childhood education, was recently named an Atlanta Journal-Con-

stitution Celebrating Teachers Award honoree. Dr. Semire Dikli, associate professor of

English, Dr. Brian Etheridge, professor of

history and director of the Center for Teaching

Excellence, and Dr. Richard Rawls, professor of history, co-edited and published “Curriculum Internationalization and the Future of

Education.” Through this book, faculty at GGC and elsewhere share experiences with curriculum internationalization and research.

Star Farrington, ’12, psychology, was selected by the Council on Social Work Education for its Minority Fellowship Program Youth

We Value Your Input

Send your ideas and comments about Engage to or call 678.407.5549.


Editor-in-chief: Sally Ramey Photography: Rod Reilly, Dale Long Graphic design: Libby LeBlanc Writing: Sally Ramey, Amy Davenport, Dale Long, Carol McEntee Engage Online team: Rycca Blanton, Educational Technology Server Team Other support: Dan Cassavaugh, Dawn Gadar, Laurie Hudson, Hoang Huynh, Amy Davenport, Barbara Lund, Sydney Smith, Candace Williams-Brown


Lori Buckheister, vice president for Advancement Sloan Jones, associate vice president for Communications Asia Hauter, director of Public Relations

Mailing List

To be added to, or removed from, the Engage mailing list, email or call 678.407.5549.

Master’s Student program.

Dr. Bagie George, associate professor of

biology and assistant dean in the GGC School of Science and Technology, has been named a recipient of the Felton Jenkins, Jr. Hall of

Fame Faculty Award, the University System of Georgia’s highest faculty honor (see related story, page 8).

See more Notables at

Georgia Gwinnett College 1000 University Center Lane Lawrenceville, GA 30043 678.407.5000

Georgia Gwinnett College is an accredited, four-year, degree-granting unit of the University System of Georgia.

e n g a g e. g g c. e d u



GGC students team up to fight

Parkinson’s disease Parkinson’s disease causes debilitating symptoms for millions of people The Challenge

In Parkinson’s and related disorders,

Like many neurological conditions,

these neurons can malfunction and die

because it is challenging to understand.

speech difficulties and other symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease is difficult to treat

Parkinson’s involves a small area of

– leading to tremors, mobility problems,

the brain called the substantia nigra. This

The Research

name given because this area is very

students have researched Parkinson’s

nerve cells, or neurons. Melanin is a pig-

Haining, assistant professor of chemistry,

In neurons, it is called neuromelanin.

professor of biology.

melanin due to their production and use

abnormal neuromelanin contributes

communication between neurons.

development of Parkinson’s, while Achat-

term translates to “black substance,” a

For several years, about 30 GGC

dark due to the presence of melanin in its

disease under the guidance of Dr. Robert

ment also involved in skin and hair color.

and Dr. Cindy Achat-Mendes, assistant

These neurons accumulate neuro-

Haining has long suspected that

of dopamine, a chemical that allows

to faulty dopamine function in the

Mendes studies how nicotine appears to protect against Parkinson’s.

“Understanding the interaction

of these three substances may shed light on the

biochemistry of the disease, which

may in turn lead

to treatment,” said Haining.

This area is largely unexplored despite

the fact that Parkinson’s is directly related to the death of neuromelanin-containing

neurons. Haining and Achat-Mendes dis-

cussed this in their article, “Neuromelanin, one of the most overlooked molecules in modern medicine, is not a spectator,” in

the March 2017 peer-reviewed scientific journal Neuro Regeneration Research. To study these interactions, the stu-

dent/faculty team tackles the challenge from different angles.

Because it is so dark, neuromelanin

absorbs almost all visible and ultraviolet (UV) light. To study its biochemical

processes, the team uses an instrument called a spectrometer that is equipped

with fluorescent light. This strategy en-

ables them to study the largely unknown

properties of neuromelanin, shedding light on Parkinson’s and similar conditions.

To evaluate nicotine’s neuroprotective

effects, students study movement in a

worm species in which Parkinson’s can be modeled.

Another exciting approach involves

studying lab-grown neurons to examine

how nicotine affects the nervous system’s immune response.

Dr. Cindy Achat-Mendes, assistant professor of biology, and Fergie Giron,’19, biology, calculate the density of dopamine-producing neurons that will be grown in the lab for use in their research.



Ge orgia Gwinne t t C ollege

worldwide. Students and faculty at GGC are working to understand how. Dr. Robert Haining, assistant professor of chemistry, discusses pipette procedures with Christian Santos, ’18, biology (right) as Yechan “Peter” Kang, ’18, and Dr. Simon Mwongela, associate professor of chemistry, look on.

The Educational Benefit The research is currently funded by a

mini-grant from the GGC School of Sci-

ence and Technology. Such grants allow GGC students majoring in STEM fields

to pursue research projects during their

entire college career – an opportunity not available at many institutions.

“We discuss students’ research inter-

ests and mentor them in planning and implementing their research projects,” said

Achat-Mendes. “Undergraduate research helps students build important skills and lab experience that will serve them well, whether they enter the workforce or go to graduate school after GGC.”

Students conduct their work in the

Strickland Research Laboratory, a

specially equipped facility in the Allied

Demonstrated by Fluorescence

upon the work of their predecessors.

issue of the peer-reviewed scientific

member of the research team.

Spectroscopy” in the December 2016 journal Neurochemical Research.

Jonathan Mwizerwa, ’19, biology,

working with Achat-Mendes, received a

travel award for his research on nicotine’s effects on cytokines at the 2017 Annual Biomedical Research Conference for

Minority Students in Phoenix, Arizona.

“This research gave me opportunities I never thought I would have.” – Jonathan Mwizerwa, ’19

Health and Sciences building that houses equipment and instrumentation needed for cell biology and biochemical studies (see related story, page 6).

Students have co-authored papers,

posters and presentations with their

professors, some winning awards.

Haining, Travis Jones, ’15, biology,

and Aubrey Hernandez, ’16, biology,

co-authored the paper “Saturation Binding of Nicotine to Synthetic Neuromelanin

“This research gave me opportuni-

ties I never thought I would have,” said

Mwizerwa. “In addition to my conference

presentation, I participated in two summer research experiences at Alabama State

University and The Ohio State University.

Christian Santos, ’18, biology, is a new “I’m honored to be selected for the

research,” said Santos, who plans to

go to medical school. “I feel humbled to be part of something that was going on before I was here.”

“This project showed me how much I

loved research and helped lead me into

immunology. It was the first time I ever felt like a scientist,” said Heather Pathak, ’14, biology, an ORISE research fellow at the

Centers for Disease Control. “Working on an independent project is an experience

I think every future scientist should have.

It gave me a great foundation for building the scientist I am today.”

The work is rewarding for both Haining

and Achat-Mendes, although such research progresses slowly.

“I set this up for the long term,” Haining

said. “This is my life’s work. It means a lot to me to pass it along to students.”

“I am passionate about this project, but

These experiences have instilled the

more importantly, I truly enjoy spending

biomedical science.”

love of neuroscience and learn how to

confidence in me to pursue a career in Each generation of students builds

time with students who want to share my conduct research,” said Achat-Mendes. e n g a g e. g g c. e d u



Research laboratory symbolizes Stricklands’ strong sense of community Faith, family and the region’s future drives their philanthropic passions.


evoted volunteers. Pillars of the

community. Dedicated philanthro-

pists. The phrases often used to describe Clyde and Sandra Strickland are as

consistent as the donors themselves.

The couple’s enduring presence within

Gwinnett County and their loyal support

of Georgia Gwinnett College was evident in a capacity-filled campus laboratory

last November. Members of the GGC

community gathered alongside business and civic leaders, family and friends to

celebrate the naming of that facility as the Strickland Research Laboratory.

A successful businessman and author,

Clyde Strickland is the son of a North

Since marrying in 1963, the couple’s

faith has guided them through humble

represented at GGC, students can learn

need. Residents of Gwinnett County for

understanding of what life is truly about,”

continuous mission of helping those in

50 years, the Stricklands’ love for their

community runs deep. Both believe in the

Sandra said.

Clyde and Sandra support giving

people a “hand up” rather than a “hand

they did, creating a broad and enduring

at GGC. The Stricklands have said that

able to provide support to the community, legacy in the area.

Their love of GGC began after attending

the college’s first commencement ceremony where they were impressed

preneur from an early age, he dropped

out of school in 10th grade but knew the value of working hard – and did so 18 hours a day. Believing knowledge is

one thing no one takes away from you, Clyde eventually earned his GED while serving in the U.S. Army.

Under a hood in the Strickland Research Laboratory, Kyra Brewer, ’19, biology, prepares slides for growing dopamine-producing neurons in a cell culture.

Ge orgia Gwinne t t C ollege

from one another and have a better

power of learning, and when they were

not read or write. A self-professed entre-


“With so many ethnic backgrounds

beginnings, great successes and their

Carolina sharecropper. His parents could


with its diverse campus.

out.” This includes funding scholarships meeting their scholarship recipients continues to inspire them.

“We are honored to plant the seed of

In addition to his philanthropic efforts, Clyde Strickland recently published an inspirational book about service, What Can I Do?

After introducing a specific substance to lab-grown neurons, Fergie Giron, ’19, biology, observed that the neurons became pigmented, a characteristic of neurons involved in Parkinson’s disease. She is holding a photo she took of the neurons using the inverted light microscope in the Strickland Research Laboratory.

Sandra and Clyde Strickland

forward to

increasing the

number of graduates

qualified to compete

for jobs in the fields of

science, technology,

engineering and mathematics.

“The study of cellular damage caused

knowledge at Georgia Gwinnett College,” Clyde said. “We like to see young people

expand their vision and their minds. They can then go out and achieve great things for our community and the world.”

Housed within the Allied Health

and Sciences Building, the Strickland

Research Laboratory will allow GGC stu-

dents to work alongside faculty members while broadening their research horizons as they grow from student to scientist. Funding provided by the Stricklands

supported improvements including the

additions of a fluorescence microscope

and incubators, increasing the capabili-

ties for cell biology research (see related story, page 4).

During the dedication event, Dr. Tom

Mundie, dean of the School of Science and Technology, equated the research laboratory to those found at Tier 1

research institutions. He said he looked

by reactive oxygen species and its implications in the progression of numerous

“We like to see young people expand their vision and their minds. They can then go out and achieve great things for our community and the world.” – Clyde Strickland

diseases, including cardiovascular dis-

ease, neurodegenerative disorders and

cancers, are among the areas our students will be exploring,” said Mundie.

GGC President Stas Preczewski

expressed his sincere appreciation to the Stricklands on behalf of the faculty, staff and students of the college and spoke of the “pure excitement” the newly renovated lab has brought to campus.

During the event, the

Stricklands were asked, “What do you hope

students will gain from your contribution?”

Clyde smiled and said,

“Knowledge – and once

they have that, they can

go and conquer the world.” e n g a g e. g g c. e d u





are George’s


Dr. Bagie George stands among the college’s collection of instructional models in the Anatomy and Physiology Prep Room. Because of her varied interests, her research papers and presentations have been about innovative instruction, invertebrates and even hormones. George also advises the registered student organization Starting Careers and Research Using a Bachelor’s of Science, or SCRUBS.



Ge orgia Gwinne t t C ollege


hen Dr. Bagie George was only four years old,

she dreamed of being a doctor when she grew up. She held tight to that dream as she earned a

bachelor’s degree in biology and then went to graduate school.

Yet, when she began receiving acceptance letters from prestigious medical schools, she had second thoughts.

George recalled a moment of indecision during a graduate

school research excursion. Why, when she had always wanted to be a doctor, was she in a boat 10 miles deep into the Okefenokee Swamp, with a stalled motor jammed full with water lilies and surrounded by dozens of alligators?

“I was slowly beginning to gravitate away from medicine and

toward my true calling … teaching,” she said.

It was during graduate school that George received her first

award for her teaching ability. Surprised by the recognition and

being called an innovative and experiential instructor, she began to reconsider her career options. Not only was she good at teaching, she enjoyed it.

Acceptance into the University of Georgia (UGA) entomology

program and selection as a teaching assistant in human anatomy and physiology seemed to be the best of both worlds for George. The combination fed her interests in invertebrates as well as medicine, and gave her a chance to keep teaching.

It was during her assistantship at UGA that she experienced

the energy and excitement from students that still fuels her passion to teach today.

“In Latin, doctor means teacher,” George said. “My dream job

was not to become a physician, after all, but to earn my doctorate and become a professor. And to me, this is the best type of doctor – one who teaches our future physicians and scientists.”

After obtaining her Ph.D. in entomology, George taught at

Dr. Stas Preczewski, president of GGC, Dr. Bagie George, associate professor of biology, and Dr. Thomas Mundie, dean of the School of Science and Technology, recently celebrated George’s receipt of the Felton Jenkins, Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award at the 14th annual Regents’ Scholarship Gala.

George said it means a lot to know that she has helped both

biology majors and non-majors find success. Some have even

two University System of Georgia (USG) institutions before

chosen different life paths because of her support.

joining Georgia Gwinnett as a charter faculty member in 2006.

“We all have students who might need just a word of encour-

She quickly made her mark.

agement or five minutes of our time to show them that they

biology program and the design of our newest laboratory science

we may never know the impact this will have on their lives.”

“Dr. George was instrumental in the creation of our enviable

building,” said GGC President Stas Preczewski. “Perhaps most

matter and we see their potential,” she said. “The reality is that What started as words of encouragement led Cindy

importantly, she authored our initial faculty manual, a document

Valenzuela, ’15, to change her major to biology.

GGC faculty.”

but my struggles,” said Valenzuela in her nomination letter.

that set the cultural tone of student-focused instruction for all

George, associate professor of biology and assistant dean in

the GGC School of Science and Technology, is known by both science and

non-science majors as a champion for students and faculty alike. Her instructional creativity is unparalleled.

“She is the complete mosaic of a sin-

cere, enthusiastic, meaningful and gifted teacher,” Preczewski said. “She chal-

lenges all whom she teaches, mentors and inspires.”

“Dr. George took the time to not just learn my aspirations,

“Dr. George believed in me when I did not have any hope or intention to continue my journey.”

“Dr. George took the time to not just learn my aspirations, but my struggles. She believed in me when I did not have any hope or intention to continue my journey.”

George’s students are just as com-

plimentary. In fact, due to a student’s

– Cindy Valenzuela, ’15

nomination, George recently won the

Today, Valenzuela works in a local eye clinic’s laboratory and plans to apply to medical school.

“Dr. George pushed me to do some-

thing I did not think would be possible at this stage of my education,” said

Taylor Holbrook, ’15, biology, in another letter. She recently asked George for career planning advice. “I wasn’t even her student anymore, but she went above and beyond to help me.”

George also maintains connections

college’s 2017 Outstanding Teaching Award. GGC automatically

with many former students, such as charter student and GGC’s

Jr. Hall of Fame Faculty Award, the USG’s highest faculty honor.

’09, biology, who recently succeeded in completing medical school

submits each year’s winner of this award for the Felton Jenkins,

Five members of GGC’s faculty have won this award since the

college opened in 2006. This spring, George became the sixth.

While this prestigious award means a lot to George, she said

the student and alumni letters submitted with the college’s nomination bring her the most joy. “These letters are the awards.”

first Student Government Association president, Stephen Haney, and his medical residency in Chicago.

Results like these confirm George’s decision to become a

college professor. She expresses pride with each example of her students’ successes.

“Not only have I found my dream job; I now am able to help

my students find theirs,” she said.

e n g a g e. g g c. e d u



It started with a wish

Items from Katie Smith’s collection

Local nurse, author and civic leader Katie Hart Smith donates a nursing artifact collection to inspire students to pursue their passions.


ne day in 2016, the GGC Center

for Teaching Excellence committee

gathered to discuss a collaborative re-

search project between the college and the Lawrenceville Police Department (LPD). Attendees included Jeff Smith, LPD

captain and part-time GGC criminal jus-

tice instructor, Dr. Sharon Grason, director of nursing, and several nursing students.

During the meeting, Grason expressed

a “wish” for an old nursing cape to be showcased in the Allied Health and Sciences Building.

Upon returning home that evening,



Ge orgia Gwinn et t C ollege

Jeff mentioned this wish to his wife, Katie

She wanted to become a registered nurse,

donation that will inspire GGC nursing

experience a life well-lived.

Hart Smith, setting in motion a unique students for years to come.

For Katie, health care is a three-genera-

tion tradition. Her grandmother, Orvada “Gigi” Killion Isensee, is a legendary figure in her family.

Isensee was a strong-willed young

woman in 1924 when she defied her

father’s orders to stay on the family farm in southern Indiana, marry and have

children. She knew that an education was the key to breaking the chains of poverty.

serve others, travel the world and

“She secretly applied to nursing school

at Methodist Episcopal Hospital in

Indianapolis. She and her mom sewed

her nursing uniform during the day, and hid it away in her hope chest at night,” Katie said. “One day when her father

came home off the fields, she was gone. As a result, he disowned her.”

Isensee’s determined decision forever

changed her family’s trajectory. Katie’s mom also worked in health care and

earned two master’s degrees and her sister

earned a master’s in education. Katie holds a

bachelor’s of science in nursing and an MBA.

(SHS). The artifacts are now displayed in the SHS dean’s office.

“This gift does more than reflect on

As a result of Isensee’s international travels,

nursing history. It is deeply meaningful

appreciation of arts and music, how to be

challenges,” said Dr. Diane White, SHS dean.

she taught her family about different cultures, financially responsible and resourceful, and the importance of social service and faith.

Her grandmother’s story of overcoming

economic hardship and some of the social

and political issues of her day inspired Katie

to write a historical fiction series including

because many of our students face their own “Gigi Isensee’s powerful story shows our

students what you can do when you chart your own path, and how first-generation

college graduates can impact generations of their families.”

Katie and Jeff also are among the charter

Aspirations of the Heart and Hope Never Rests,

members of GGC’s Emerald Society, which

Georgia Author of the Year award and which

estate plans.

works that earned nominations for the

were placed in the Georgia Governor’s

recognizes donors who include GGC in their “Jeff and I have been excited about GGC

Mansion Library by First Lady Sandra Deal.

since its founding,” Katie said. “We see donat-

moved to share her family’s inspiring story

in the future of the college, but also in the

After learning of Grason’s wish, Katie was

with GGC’s nursing students.

Katie had not only her grandmother’s

future of the students and the community.” During installation of the nursing

memorabilia display last fall, Katie opened

included textbooks, medical instruments,

textbook and found the following in

report cards, patient drawings and notes, a

nursing school acceptance letter, exam ques-

tions, and a nursing license and diploma from

her grandmother’s Principles of Bacteriology Isensee’s handwriting, “He is greatest who serves most people.”

After blinking back tears, she and Grason

Methodist Episcopal Hospital.

propped the book open to that very page to

her mother’s medical shoes and her own

art of nursing is really all about – serving and

Katie donated this collection, including

nursing cap, to the School of Health Sciences

GGC Foundation introduces the

ing to the college as an investment not only

nursing cape, but an impressive collection of

nursing memorabilia spanning 90 years. This

Katie and Jeff Smith are Emerald Society charter members.

serve as an inspirational reminder of what the caring for others.

Inspired by the emerald’s symbolism of vision, the GGC Foundation’s Emerald Society recognizes those individuals whose vision of their legacy includes support of Georgia Gwinnett College and its students through a planned estate gift. Planned gifts can be small or large and come in many forms. These gifts are significant because they represent a donor’s commitment to fulfill the educational goals of GGC students for generations to come. If you have included GGC in your estate plans, we invite you to join the Emerald Society so that we may say, “Thank you.” Please contact the Office of Advancement at 678.407.5588 to talk with a member of our Development staff about the Emerald Society and the variety of available planned giving options.

Katie Smith’s artifact collection is displayed in the School of Health Sciences (SHS) dean’s office. Shown are Dr. Diane White, SHS dean, Katie Smith and her mother, Brenda Hart, Jeff Smith and Dr. Sharon Grason, director of nursing.

e n g a g e. gg c. e d u



Standridge is dedicated to I

t was just an ordinary day as Laura James, associate vice president of

Academic and Student Affairs Operations, and Pat Lewis, Series25 administrator,

walked through the Building B atrium on their way to a meeting. Suddenly, they

saw Amanda “Skye” Hill, ’24, information technology, stumble out of a classroom and fall into a dining area chair where

she leaned over and put her head down. The pair rushed to the student’s side and

realized Hill was having a severe asthma attack. Hill said a friend was on the



Ge orgia Gwinne t t C ollege

way with her inhaler, but her breathing became more labored.

The commotion drew the attention of se-

nior Colton Standridge, seated at a nearby table with Tim Lumley, a GGC history

instructor. Standridge realized something was wrong so he rushed to Hill’s aid.

He quickly assessed the situation and

took control, thanks to his training and experience as a volunteer emergency

responder with Jackson County for three years. He asked Lumley to call 911 and requested that Lewis obtain bags of ice

from the atrium restaurant nearby. Noting a risk of injury if Hill remained

among the hard dining chairs and tables, Standridge moved her to more stable,

cushioned furnishings a few feet away. He calmed her, placed the ice bags

under her arms and monitored her vital

signs. His quiz in Lumley’s history class would have to wait.

Once paramedics arrived, Strandridge

relayed important details about Hill’s con-

dition and then rushed off to take his quiz,

serving others returning afterward to check on his patient. Her inhaler had arrived and she was fine. Afterward, James extended gratitude to the GGC staff, campus police, para-

medics and the student who brought the inhaler for collectively contributing to the

“Everyone has a part to play on this Earth. Caring for and respecting people you don’t know is important. You just might be in the right place at the right time to make a positive difference in the lives of others.” – Colton Standridge, ’18

positive outcome of the student’s crisis.

However, she noted that Standridge had been a “rock star.”

coursework with his fire station duties.

“Those of us present during this fright-

He said the one attribute that helps

ening ordeal are so grateful and proud

in both areas is self-awareness.

of Colton for his outstanding service and leadership,” James said. “His presence

“I try to avoid tunnel vision and focus on

made all the difference.”

tening to all the information that I receive

Service has defined Standridge from a

officer is critical and this carries over to

the 360-degree picture,” he said. “Lis-

of mind and considerable expertise

from dispatch and my commanding

young age, due to a life-changing event

my school work as well.”

that shaped his life and perspectives. Shortly after starting eighth grade

in 2008, he was struck by a vehicle

while riding a four-wheeler. The impact

launched him into the air and he fell onto the back of the car and then onto the asphalt. His helmet flew off in the process, and he suffered a serious, traumatic brain injury.

Strandridge was tended on the scene by his community’s volunteer first respond-

A criminal justice/criminology major, Colton Standridge with Amber “Skye” Hill, ‘24, information technology, who recently required his assistance with an asthma attack.

Standridge plans to graduate in fall 2018 and pursue a career as an agent with

the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives or the Drug Enforcement

his grandfather to a heart attack and an

Administration. He has a particular

uncle to cancer.

interest in finding ways to reduce

“These traumatic events changed my

personally witnessed among young

future,” he said. “The firefighters who

responded after my accident became like

underage drinking, something he has people in his community.

family to me, and I knew then that I had

“I’m here for a reason,” he said. “I be-

a calling to join them.”

lieve I can make a difference.”

pital for months and received multiple

And join them, he did. Today, as a mem-

Standridge points to Hill’s asthma attack

After extensive rehabilitation, Standridge

Department, Standridge works alongside

should learn first aid and CPR.

ers and flown by helicopter to Egleston Hospital in Atlanta. He was in the hos-

surgeries, including skull reconstruction.

defied the odds and made an astounding recovery. However, Standridge soon lost Left: Colton Standridge, ’18, criminal justice and criminology, has been a fire fighter for the Nicholson Area Volunteer Fire Department for three years. Here, he is shown with one of his station’s tanker trucks.

ber of the Nicholson Area Volunteer Fire the men who came to his aid when he needed it the most.

as just one example of why more people

“Everyone has a part to play on this

Earth,” Standridge said. “Caring for and

It is a busy station, responding to multiple

respecting people you don’t know is

management as one of his biggest

place at the right time to make a positive

calls a day. Standridge cites time

important. You just might be in the right

challenges as he juggles his college

difference in the lives of others.”

e n g a g e.g g c. e d u



COLLEGE EXPANDS degree programs G

eorgia Gwinnett College introduced

two new bachelor degree programs

in response to local needs and changing demographics.

“Both degrees offer multiple career

“This program will help meet a vital

community demand for trained professionals in these areas,” said Santos.

“HDAS graduates also will be prepared to

CINEMA AND MEDIA ARTS PRODUCTION Established to prepare students for

pursue graduate degrees in gerontology,

Georgia’s thriving film industry, GGC’s

other disciplines.”

production (CMAP) offers interdisciplinary

students choose to enter the workforce

because of national issues in the aging

including broadcasting, social media man-

grees, these programs will prepare them

adults and the rapidly changing profile of

options,” said Dr. Adolfo Santos, dean of

the School of Liberal Arts, where the new degree programs are housed. “Whether

after graduation or pursue advanced defor careers in fields expected to experi-

social work, sociology, psychology and The HDAS arena is expanding

bachelor of arts in cinema and media arts studies suitable for a variety of careers

population, social pressures on young

agement, public relations and publishing.

the American family.

Statistics, positions as film/video editors,

projects that jobs in the social and

tors are growing at a rate faster than the

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

producers, directors and camera opera-


community services sector will grow 21

national average for most fields. Georgia

percent between 2012 and 2022. By

is a hotbed of activity in the industry.

The bachelor of science degree in

and older will have increased by about

vision production generated about $6 billion

ence significant growth in coming years.”

human development and aging services

(HDAS) prepares graduates to work with the state’s growing elderly population.

Career opportunities in the government,

business or non-profit sectors include the areas of education, social work, counsel-

ing, advocacy, health and human services, criminal justice/criminology, research and more.



Ge orgia Gwinn et t C ollege

2030, the number of Georgians age 65 142 percent over 1990 levels, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Continued population growth in Gwin-

nett and the greater Atlanta region should

“In fiscal year 2015 alone, film and tele-

for Georgia’s economy,” Santos said.

The unique program offers concentra-

tions in design and production, entertainment industries studies and writing for

ensure a healthy job market for years.

stage and screen, as well as a minor in

for adapting their education and skills to

experience through strategic internships

“Our graduates will be well-positioned

society’s changing needs,” Santos said.

film. CMAP students may gain practical tailored to their area of interest.


Grants provide important student support he GGC Foundation secures

private philanthropic support to help

strengthen programs, initiatives and op-

portunities for student success. Two recent

grants are helping to ease student financial burdens while expanding professional opportunities for faculty members.

The Beacon Foundation’s recent

Kaiser Permanente of Georgia

recently made a grant of $45,000 to

provide eight undergraduate scholarships for nursing majors as well as professional

which she volunteered with an elementary

The scholarships are often particularly

answer to my prayers,” said Holly Hawkins,

GGC Foundation works closely with the

job just before being awarded a scholar-

who are at risk of dropping out due to a tuition or fee shortage of $200 or less.

“As a result of this grant, qualifying stu-

“Receiving this scholarship was truly an

’18, who lost both her financial aid and her

ship. “I am able to continue with the nursing program and not only create a bright future for myself, but for my son as well.”

“This scholarship helped me focus

dents receive one-time emergency funding,

more time and energy on my studies and

Buckheister, vice president for Advance-

education,” said Aby Abraham, ’17, who

allowing them to remain enrolled,” said Lori ment. “Alleviating financial stress allows

our students to focus on academics as they work towards earning their degree.”

Sarah Minju Kim, ’18, used her schol-

provided such a grant.

kind and will make a tremendous differ-

Office of Financial Aid to identify students

family and study time.

arship to fund participation in a globally

This is the third year the organization has


ence in the lives of many students. The

her working hours and increased her

development expenses for nursing faculty.

$23,000 grant earmarked for the GGC

Student Emergency Fund is the sixth of its

Julia Tran, ’18. The scholarship reduced

less on worrying about how to pay for my now works at Egleston Children’s Hospital in Decatur.

“Attending nursing school, working and

taking care of three kids is not easy,” said

Sarah Minju Kim, ’18

and culturally competent program through school in Tanzania last summer.

“I appreciate Kaiser Permanente’s

acknowledgement and dedication to

helping students succeed in their under-

graduate nursing program,” said Stephanie Atkinson, ’16, a scholarship recipient

who now works as a critical care nurse in the cardio-vascular intensive care unit at

Northeast Georgia Healthcare System in Gainesville. “It enabled me to pursue my passion to care for others.”

To learn more about the many options

for supporting GGC students, faculty and programs, contact the Office of Advancement at 678.407.5588.

Julia Tran, ’18 Holly Hawkins, ’18

e n g a g e. gg c. e d u



Guevara fulfills his parents’ dream Years before

Mark Guevara

was born, his parents fled the instability

and poor economy of Honduras to build a new life in the

United States ...



Ge orgia Gwinn et t C ollege

Mark Guevara’s relatives gathered for a rare family photo after the fall 2017 GGC commencement ceremony at the Infinite Energy Center in Duluth. Shown are brother Marlo Guevara, grandmother Luisa Galeano, brother Mario Guevara Jr., mother Mercedes Guevara, Mark Guevara, father Mario Guevara, cousin Cynthia Trujillo, brother Marlon Guevara and his daughter Piper Guevara, infant son Pace Guevara and wife Melissa Guevara.

It was a difficult decision, as the couple

He worked in the Office of Student

had to leave behind three young sons

Involvement as a student engagement

the Atlanta area, rented a single room in

Grizzly community’s efforts to provide

with their grandmother. They moved to an apartment and began working long

hours. They sent money home to support their children, with whom they always

specialist, and played a key role in the

assistance and supplies to tornado victims in Albany.

Despite his busy schedule, Guevara

thought they would reunite.

consistently appeared on the President’s

of travel, the family separation became

Pi Epsilon, the national honor association

But due to the expense and difficulties

more permanent, and the years went by. Guevara and his younger brother were

born in the United States, and the family

has never been fully reunited. Fortunate-

List and earned membership in Upsilon

for information technology students. He

graduated in December 2017 with honors and served as his class’ graduate speaker. “Every great dream begins with a

ly, the internet made communications

dreamer,” he said to his classmates

met his older brothers until he visited

ceremony. “Always remember, you have

convenient. While Guevara had never Honduras at 17, he was already very familiar with them.

“My family’s story is similar to that

of many immigrant families,” he said.

“My parents made the difficult choice to

leave the only home they had ever known to give their family a better future. The

Mark Guevara, ’17, information technology, is a desktop support technician at Rocket IT, where he had previously worked as a GGC intern.

during the fall semester’s commencement

provided valuable internship experienc-

within you the strength, the patience,

Guevara’s own internship there last

and the passion to reach for the stars and change the world.” He encouraged his

fellow graduates to continue dreaming big, fill themselves with ambition and maintain their resilience.

es for many Georgia Gwinnett students. summer led to a full-time position as a desktop support technician.

Before graduating, Guevara had

already begun applying the leadership

skills he developed at Georgia Gwinnett

dream that drove me to seek a higher education is my parents’ dream.”

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember,

introverted commuter student who

you have within you the strength, the patience, and the

Guevara described himself as a quiet,

started his college career at Georgia

Gwinnett with a mundane routine of

passion to reach for the stars and change the world.” – Mark Guevara, ’17

going to class, doing homework and going home every day.

“But then, GGC’s culture took hold,”

he said. “At this college, we are not just a

“Be that spark that will set your

to his service to the broader community.

Guevara’s graduation from GGC was a

American Association’s Latino College

number or a statistic, but part of a growing

destiny in motion,” he said.

led to my personal development.”

special day for his family. His parents and

confident student leader.

ence by two of his older brothers and his

family. GGC’s culture was the spark that Soon, the introvert grew into a

As president of the Organization of

Latin American Students, he led efforts to

engage its members in issues advocacy and legislative involvement, and to host the

younger brother were joined in the audigrandmother from Honduras. It was the

first time in 20 years so many members of his immediate family had been together. “We were still missing my brother,

He is co-founder and chair of the Latin

Leadership Alliance, which seeks to

empower Latino college students and

young professionals through leadership development and civic engagement, developing leaders to serve as role

models for the younger generation.

“Although I just recently graduated,

organization’s 10th anniversary reunion.

Marvin, who watched the ceremony’s live

I have already realized that learning

ernment Association senator for the School

look forward to the day we will all be to-

Guevara said. “There are no limits to

Guevara also served as a Student Gov-

of Science and Technology, as director of

community service for the Association of

Latino Professionals for America, and as a

student member of the college’s Mentoring Re-imagined Committee.

feed from Honduras,” Guevara said. “We gether, but on that special day, I was able to fulfill my parents’ dream by earning my degree.”

does not stop with a college degree,”

what I can learn and accomplish, and that is a beautiful thing.”

Today, Guevara works at a local IT

company in Duluth. The company has e n g a g e. g g c. e d u





hile the GGC Grizzlies maintain

an impressive, winning record, the

Office of Athletics ensures that scholarathletes excel in the classroom, in the community and in competition.

That is why men’s soccer team play-

ers and coaches spent this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day building an outdoor

classroom at Roberts Elementary School (RES) in Suwanee. The facility will help

building positive personal growth as an im-

Healthcare of Atlanta’s Emory campus.

fostering important relationships within the

the Team Maggie 5-kilometer/10-kilometer

portant part of the college experience while college and community.

“While getting out in the community to

do good work and help others is a win-win

situation for Grizzly Athletics and GGC, it’s really beneficial for our student-athletes,” said Steve DeCou, head coach of the

The softball team helped coordinate

running events in Roswell and the Georgia Race for Autism at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds, where players also served

as cheerleaders for runners raising money and awareness for autism.

In addition, softball players partnered

men’s soccer team.

with the Chattahoochee Nature Center to

ence, sustainability and healthy eating.

teers to build the RES outdoor classroom,

ing bird enclosures, clearing leaves and

with GGC Counseling and Psychological

students will grow vegetables, starting this

teach students about elements of life sciMeanwhile, softball players joined

Services and the Student Military Society in a campus pushup challenge that

helped raise public awareness for suicide prevention. In Duluth, women’s soccer

DeCou’s team joined 30 other volun-

which includes garden boxes in which

vegetables grown on school grounds.

from low income areas of the community.

will be able to prepare meals with the

“It was a great project and a tremendous

Living by cleaning apartments, moving

had a great attitude and it was awesome to

up landscaping.

The men’s and women’s tennis players

teamed with Omen Serve Tennis to pro-

service experience for our players.” DeCou

and exchanging appliances, and sprucing

removing holiday decorations.

spring. The school’s cafeteria personnel

team members assisted female sexual

exploitation victims housed at Wellspring

assist with spring preparations by clean-

said. “The guys were fully engaged. They see the finished product.”

The Grizzlies served a broad range of

vide a free instructional clinic for children They also served at a free clinic at Ankle

Biters Tennis, and encouraged children to

donate gifts for the Toys for Tots organization to distribute to needy families during the holidays.

While maintaining their busy schedule

Dr. Darin S. Wilson, director of Athletics,

community needs this year. Baseball play-

of community service and athletic practice

the office that is committed to the National

in the under-8 Gainesville Braves Baseball

achieved a 3.03 cumulative GPA during

established a culture for GGC teams and Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’

(NAIA) Champions of Character principles,

ers provided valuable instruction for youths Club. They also played bingo and other games with children at Children’s

and competition, GGC’s student-athletes

the 2017 fall semester – the highest GPA

for an academic semester since the Office of Athletics was founded in 2012.

Seventy-three of the college’s 131

scholar-athletes were named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll for achieving individ-

ual GPAs at 3.0 or higher. Four teams had cumulative GPAs of 3.0 or higher, led by

softball with a 3.33 team GPA this past fall.



Left: Dr. Darin Wilson, director of Athletics, pauses for a photo with the women’s soccer team at the 2017 Athletic Banquet after celebrating the team’s cumulative GPA of 3.35. Several players received certificates honoring them for earning a place on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll during previous semesters.

Ge orgia Gwinn et t C ollege

WHILE ACADEMICS Three soccer scholar-athletes earned

Success in the classroom carried

Academic All-American honors, as

over to the playing field as GGC’s men’s

tion Directors of America. Senior Samuel

the NAIA tournament, with the men’s

selected by the College Sports Informa-

Sampaio Gomes’ work as a business

major earned first-team honors, while Ellinor Bertilsson, ’19, business and

Sophie Hoare, ’20, mathematics, were

and women’s soccer teams qualified for squad advancing to the quarterfinal round. Both squads were nationally ranked for most of their seasons.

The baseball and softball teams are

named to the second team. This is the

well-positioned for a successful spring

scholar-athletes have been recognized

tennis teams are defending their 2017

second consecutive year that GGC as Academic All-Americans.

Gomes and Bertilsson joined nine

season, and the men’s and women’s

Aedan Radvanyi, ’18, business, tamps down the soil in a raised garden box at Roberts Elementary School.

national championships.

other GGC soccer players named 2017 Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes. This

includes seniors Aedan Radvanyi, busi-

ness, and Bristol Countess, exercise sci-

ence, as well as juniors Stina Andersson, psychology, Junior Ametepe, biology,

Ana Gonzalez, psychology, Courtney McKenzie, pre-nursing, Lauren Moss, exercise science, Riley

Wildeman, biology and Amanda Yarger, business.

Right: Members of the Georgia Gwinnett College men’s soccer team spent the 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday assisting in building an outdoor classroom containing multiple raised gardens boxes at Roberts Elementary School in Suwanee.

e n g a g e. gg c. e d u



HONORS PROGRAM Redefines access


rue to the college’s access mission,

the GGC Honors Program minimiz-

es barriers for students wishing to join.

The GGC Honors Program provides a

distinguished, integrated educational ex-

Qualified students who are interested in the GGC Honors Program are able to try out one of the program’s project-based classes before joining. One such student is Ayanna Henderson, ’20, psychology, shown here preparing to present a demonstration using a robot she built from scratch, including welding and programming, during an Honors Program course.

perience that enables high-performing students to enjoy a rich variety of experiences that challenge them academically, develop their creativity, enhance their leadership skills and foster within them an abiding commitment to civic engagement.

With about 200 members, the pro-

gram’s benefits include special courses, seminars, field trips, guest speakers, learning communities, workshops,

lunch-n-learn events, cultural events,

project-based service learning, mentoring, advising and more.

Like programs at other institutions,

the GGC Honors Program requires that

prospective members have a high grade point average (GPA) and complete an

application that includes an essay and

details about extracurricular activities. That is where the similarity ends.

“Many programs automatically admit

members based on GPA and test scores,” said Dr. Jennifer Wunder, director of

the GGC Honors Program. “We look at students more holistically. Ours is

one of only a few programs that inter-


Ge orgia Gwinn et t C ollege

possible at other colleges.

GGC’s program requires a 3.5 GPA,

views applicants.”

but it has no ACT/SAT test score

members as incoming freshmen or after

tions charge a program fee as high as

Other schools’ programs only accept

one semester.

“This type of policy omits transfer

requirements. And while many institu$500, there is no cost for GGC’s members. This creative approach established

students, those returning to college after a

GGC’s Honors Program as uniquely

said Wunder. “This doesn’t meet GGC’s

of its members started college with learn-

break or those who improve their GPA,” access mission. We wanted as many

qualified students as possible to benefit from our program, so we aligned its re-

quirements with the characteristics of our student body.”

Students may join the GGC Honors

Program at any time, as long as they have

accessible. As a result, about 25 percent ing support courses. About 11 percent are of non-traditional college age. The

program membership also reflects the

ethnic diversity of the college’s student

body, Gwinnett County and the northeast Atlanta region.

“It is very rewarding to see our mem-

at least four semesters remaining before

bers grow through our activities, knowing

enough time to benefit from membership.

such an opportunity elsewhere,” Wunder

graduation, which ensures they have

If life circumstances require them to leave college for a while, they may rejoin the


program when they return. This is not

that many of them would not have had said. “That’s what GGC is all about.”

The Gallery Tomorrow’s leaders meet with today’s leaders – During the annual GGC Day at the Capitol, a group of political science students enjoyed a lively discussion with members of the Gwinnett legislative delegation over lunch. Pausing for a group photo with GGC President Stas Preczewski, students, faculty and staff were Georgia representatives Buzz Brockway, Brooks Coleman, Pedro “Pete” Marin, Dewey McClain and Samuel Park and senators P.K. Martin, Fran Millar, Curt Thompson and Renee Unterman. Not shown are representatives Timothy Barr, Karen Bennett, Joyce Chandler, Clay Cox, Scott Hilton, Dar’Shun Kendrick and Tom Kirby and senators Gloria Butler and David Shafer.

Many GGC employees exemplify the college’s pillar of service. Here, actor and philanthropist Gary Sinise is shown with Jenny Storey, executive assistant to the senior vice president for Academic and Student Affairs/ provost, and her husband Kevin Storey. The Storeys were honored for supporting the Gary Sinise Foundation’s RISE program, through which the couple’s company, Storey Custom Homes, provided specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded veterans.

Students enjoy a good laugh at a faculty member’s reaction to using a virtual reality headset during a recent Green Scene student involvement fair.

GGC faculty members, like Dr. Eric Choi, assistant professor of mathematics, are routinely seen providing personal instruction to their students in the college’s many gathering spaces.

Students are hard at work with a chemistry exercise in one of the library’s private study rooms.

e n g a g e. gg c. e d u



Office of Public Relations 1000 University Center Lane Lawrenceville, Georgia 30043

Georgia Gwinnett College is an accredited access institution offering targeted baccalaureate and associate degrees meeting the economic development needs of the growing and diverse population of Gwinnett County and the northeast Atlanta metropolitan region. Visit Connect with us @GeorgiaGwinnett

Congratulations, GGC School of Business!

Coming next issue • Learn more about the college’s AACSBaccredited School of Business. • A student leader cultivates the college’s microfarm efforts. • One family’s inspiring commitment to higher education. Shown are business majors Zulma Romero, ’20, Muke Lee Johnson, ’20, Erik Andersson, ’20, and Caitlin Corbett, ’19.


he Association to Advance

is the longest-serving global

highest standards of quality, AACSB

Collegiate Schools of Business

accrediting body for business

accreditation inspires new ways of

(AACSB) announced this spring

schools, and the largest business

thinking within business education

that Georgia Gwinnett College had

education network connecting

globally and, as a result, has been

earned accreditation for its School of

students, educators and businesses

earned by less than five percent of

Business. Founded in 1916, AACSB

worldwide. Synonymous with the

the world’s business schools.

Engage Spring 2018  

Spring 2018 issue of GGC's Engage magazine

Engage Spring 2018  

Spring 2018 issue of GGC's Engage magazine