Georgia State University Magazine, Fall 2021

Page 1

FALL ’21 | MAGAZINE.GSU.EDU

M. BRIAN BLAKE Georgia State’s new president returns to his home state ready to engineer the university’s next chapter.

+

Carra Patterson (B.A. ’06) is a rising star of stage and screen. An oral history of The Signal, Georgia State’s student newspaper.


Next Up. Donor support builds and bolsters

the initiatives that move Georgia State University forward. We’re on a remarkable upward trajectory. Graduation rates: up. Research funding: up. Enrollment, endowments, scholarships and national reputation: up, up, up and up. WE ARE THE No. 1 PUBLIC UNIVERSITY IN THE NATION IN OUR COMMITMENT TO UNDERGRADUATE TEACHING U.S. News & World Report, 2022

THE No. 2 MOST INNOVATIVE UNIVERSITY IN THE NATION U.S. News & World Report, 2022

COMING OFF THE LARGEST FUNDRAISING YEAR IN OUR HISTORY, $66.7 MILLION IN FY21

Georgia State is poised to pounce on whatever’s up next. Explore how donors are changing the lives of Panthers and advancing Georgia State at giving.gsu.edu/2021.


CONTENTS

12

16

WELCOME HOME

HERE WE GROW AGAIN

After starting his own professional cricket franchise, Mohammed Hasan Tarek (B.B.A. ’99) is working to make Atlanta a major hub for one of the world’s most popular sports.

With academic foundations rooted in Georgia, President M. Brian Blake takes the helm of the university after rising through the ranks of some of the nation’s most acclaimed institutions of higher education.

As we expand our footprint in downtown Atlanta, we’re creating new connections, new spaces and new uses that deepen Georgia State’s impact as a driver of growth in the capital of the South.

CRICKET, ANYONE?

COVER PHOTO BY STEVEN THACKSTON. ABOVE PHOTO BY PAUL MCPHERSON.

28

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

3


FROM THE PRESIDENT

BUILDING ON SOLID GROUND A new era of leadership begins at Georgia State.

“Through my many conversations, I can see there is an enormous sense of pride in the work that’s been done, but that there’s more we can do together to make Georgia State an even more dynamic university.”

IN THESE FIRST FEW MONTHS I’ve been at Georgia State, I’ve been so inspired and moved by the perseverance, ambition and the can-do attitude of the entire university community. Back home in Savannah, Ga., we call that “stick-with-it-ness.” These are most certainly attributes that attracted me to this exceptional university, and I am excited and honored to be back in my home state, joining the Panther family. Today, because of hard work, determination and an extraordinary spirit, Georgia State is uniquely structured to address the next generation through innovation, access and societal impact. Over the past several years, under the remarkable leadership of my predecessor, Dr. Mark Becker, Georgia State has become the national model for student success. We have one of the fastest-growing research portfolios in American higher education. And there have been significant and numerous enhancements to our campuses, including the repurposing of the former Turner Field into our football stadium, and many more improvements are on the way. Because of the pandemic, it has been a challenging start to the fall semester, but we have been thoughtful and adaptive in meeting those challenges. We have worked

4

hard to implement procedures that best serve our community, and I will continue to work with our talented administrative leaders, faculty and staff as we navigate these times. Since my arrival, I have focused on listening and learning. I’ve visited residence halls and student events, and I could feel the energy and excitement. I’ve addressed our incoming first-year class and talked with their parents. I’ve been to each of our six campuses and met with our administrative and academic leaders, students, faculty, staff, regents, legislators, alumni, donors and stakeholders. Through my many conversations, I can see there is an enormous sense of pride in the work that’s been done, but that there’s more we can do together to make Georgia State an even more dynamic university. We are poised to make even greater strides in the areas of research and innovation, student success, getting our students career-ready and making Georgia State a top destination for students, faculty and staff. I am particularly interested in how we can continue to build the university’s identity and sense of place. Over the next few months, I will be engaging our leaders and the entire Georgia State community as we begin a new

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1

strategic plan to take the university to new heights. The next chapter will build on the previous strategic plan with a refreshed perspective. We will take what we have learned, especially during the challenges of the pandemic, and move forward. I hope to hear from you. I also hope you’ll check out president.gsu.edu/first100 to learn more about our plans and how you can be involved. We are an innovative institution dedicated to our students and community, and our spirit has helped us rise as a top research university, shape our students into accomplished alumni and change the face of downtown Atlanta. Our university has so much to offer. I look forward to building upon the transformational work we do and continuing the positive impact Georgia State makes on so many lives around the world. Sincerely,

M. Brian Blake President


CLASS NOTES Your classmates are a successful bunch. From mayors and authors to business owners and judges, there are Panthers out there doing fantastic things. Got a promotion? A new addition to the family? Go ahead, brag a little. Post your good news and read about your fellow alumni at news.gsu.edu/class-notes. You can share Class Notes through Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

COME FLY WITH US

After taking down Kell Hall and part of Library Plaza in 2019, Georgia State began transforming the newly opened space into the greenway, a signature pedestrian artery with lush lawns and a paved and lighted path connecting a host of campus buildings. Completed last summer, the greenway opens the center of campus to the heart of downtown Atlanta. Visit magazine.gsu.edu to take an aerial tour of this outdoor jewel.

Meredith Forrester (MBA ’03) Meredith Forrester has been appointed executive vice president and chief audit executive for Synovus Financial Corp. She was most recently business, strategy and operations leader at Truist, following more than 15 years of leadership in risk management and audit at SunTrust. She has served on Georgia State’s School of Accountancy Advisory Board since 2018.

STAY UPDATED If you need to update your address — or if this issue is addressed to someone else — just send a note to update@gsu.edu. If you’d like to stop receiving the print issue and read the magazine online only, send an email to magazine@gsu.edu, and we’ll take it from there.

Download a pdf of the magazine to your mobile devices by visiting magazine.gsu.edu or issuu.com/gsumag.

Georgia State University Magazine @GSUMagazine Georgia State University

Fall 2021 • Vol. 12 • No. 2 Publishers Don Hale, Andrea Jones Executive Editor William Inman (M.H.P. ’16) Contributors Abby Carney (B.A. ’12), Michael Davis (B.A. ’03), LaTina Emerson Creative Director Renata Irving Art Director Matt McCullin Contributing Illustrators John Dykes, Reid Schulz (B.F.A. ’18) Contributing Photographers Meg Buscema, Stan Demidoff, Robert Gallagher, Paul McPherson, Carolyn Richardson, Steven Thackston, Daniel Wilson Send address changes to: Georgia State University Gifts and Records P.O. Box 3963 Atlanta, GA 30302-3963 Fax: 404-413-3441 email: update@gsu.edu Send story ideas and letters to the editor to: William Inman, editor, Georgia State University Magazine P.O. Box 3999 Atlanta, GA 30302-3999 email: winman@gsu.edu Georgia State University Magazine is published two times each year by Georgia State University. The magazine is dedicated to communicating and promoting the high level of academic achievement, research, scholarship, teaching and service at Georgia State University, as well as the outstanding accomplishments of its alumni and the intellectual, cultural, social and athletic endeavors of its vibrant and diverse student body. © 2021 Georgia State University

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

5


ON CAMPUS / GAME DAY

6

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1


DUAL THREAT

In his first start for Georgia State, Sept. 18 at Center Parc Stadium, quarterback Darren Grainger (3) logged 64 of the Panthers’ nearly 300 rushing yards against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Grainger also threw for 139 yards and two touchdowns to help Georgia State to a 20-9 win, its first of the season.

PHOTO BY DANIEL WILSON

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

7


ON CAMPUS / ALUMNI

8

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1


Carra Patterson Has Range The Alumni Association 40 Under 40 honoree is a star of stage, television and film.

BY WILLIAM INMAN (M.H.P. ’16) | PHOTO BY STAN DEMIDOFF

N AN OPENING SCENE in the first episode of the new Disney+ series “Turner and Hooch,” Carra Patterson (B.A. ’06) — starring as Jessica Baxter, a street-smart U.S. Marshal — and her screen partner Josh Peck (as Scott Turner) set out to nab a cybercriminal on the lam. After a wild chase scene, the duo captures the fugitive. The camera pans up from the point of view of the crook, who’s on his back, to Patterson with her gun drawn. Revealed then, from under her bulletproof vest, is Patterson’s baby bump. “I was very pregnant during filming,” she said. “In a lot of shows, they try to hide it, but they wrote it into this one really well.” Patterson is a bona fide actor on the stage and screen. She can do drama: She portrayed Eazy-E’s wife in “Straight Outta Compton,” the hit biopic about the influential rap group N.W.A. She’s on Broadway: She originated the character Rena in the premiere of the 2017 Tony Award-winning production of the August Wilson play “Jitney.” And she’s funny: In “Turner and Hooch” she plays the wise-cracking buddy cop to Peck, and his big, slobbering dog, in the remake of the 1989 Tom Hanks comedy. Oh, and remember she played that role while pregnant and in the middle of the pandemic. (Her daughter, Cressida, was born on Christmas Day in Vancouver, Canada, where the show was filmed.) Back when she was an undergrad at Georgia State, Patterson says she probably daydreamed about becoming a movie star more than she’d like to admit. “I thought, ‘I just need to get to New

I

York or L.A.’ I didn’t think I needed a degree to be an actor,” she said. “But, looking back, I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not pursued my degree.” While at Georgia State, back before Atlanta was the Hollywood of the South, Patterson — who was Miss Georgia State in 2005 — says she went to every audition she could find. “Then all of a sudden I found myself in my senior year thinking, ‘Well, I haven’t been discovered yet,’” she said. So, to grab the attention of casting directors, agents and managers around town, Patterson teamed up with a handful of fellow actors and Georgia State students to put together a showcase of their performances. In it, she acted in and directed the short play “Goodnight,” written by Shirlene Holmes, assistant professor emeritus in the College of the Arts and one of her mentors. The Alliance Theatre called, and Patterson was cast for the premiere of Tarell McCraney’s “In the Red and Brown Water.” From there, she auditioned for and was accepted into the Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. While studying for her M.F.A., Patterson made her Broadway debut alongside Cynthia Nixon, who starred in the HBO series “Sex and the City,” in the 2012 production of “Wit.” And while that proved to be her entrée to showbiz, she hesitates to call it her “big break.” “I still had four side jobs and two roommates,” she said. “The expectation

of being an overnight success is an illusion that celebrity culture often perpetuates. I had to redefine what success meant to me, commit to the artistic journey and release any unrealistic expectations.” “She was putting in the work,” said Holmes, her mentor. “And she did it. She went from Georgia State to Broadway.” The theatre remains Patterson’s first love, and she works with a couple of nonprofit groups in New York — her home base — that introduce young people to acting, writing and directing for the stage. She’s also made a few trips back to campus to speak with Georgia State students. “The arts are a great way to help transform the lives of young people by giving them the space to find their voice, build confidence and embrace their unique creativity,” Patterson said. Her work in the community is one reason why the Georgia State Alumni Association honored her as one of the most influential graduates under the age of 40. Now that “Turner and Hooch” has wrapped, she’s considering her next move. “I’m grateful to be at a place in my career where I can be intentional about the stories I want to tell,” she said. “It’s a great time — there is so much content now with streaming platforms, on Broadway and in film. The world is craving our stories and finally giving Black creators the space to shine.” But, she says, the next gig she takes will have to be an understudy to her biggest role so far. “I’m staying pretty busy as a real-life mom,” she said.

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

9


ON CAMPUS / ATHLETICS

MARCHING ON The 200-member Panther Band has Hollywood on its mind and Pasadena in its sights as it prepares to perform in the fabled Tournament of Roses parade on New Year’s Day.

BY MICHAEL DAVIS (B.A. ’03) | PHOTO BY MEG BUSCEMA

OR A UNIVERSITY MARCHING BAND, three big performances can signal its arrival as a force to be reckoned with: a presidential inaugural parade, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Rose Parade ahead of the “Grandaddy of them all,” the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day. Barely a decade since its founding, the Georgia State Panther Band is checking the last of those three boxes off its list. Canceled in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Rose Parade is being rebooted for 2022 with the same slate of invitees, including the Panther Band. And the band is performing a decidedly West Coast halftime show this season as it prepares for the big day. “Everything we’re doing is highlighting our excitement about what we’re doing in January,” said Chester B. Phillips, the founding director of athletic bands and interim director of the School of Music. “If we can’t take our local audience with us to California, we can try to bring them on the journey with us by giving them a little flair of Hollywood all season long.” With halftime tunes including The Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin,’” the Eagles’ “Hotel California” and a medley reminiscent of old Hollywood, the show wraps with Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose.” “The end of our season is going to the Rose Parade, so we wanted to tie that in,” Phillips said.

F

10

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1

The Panther Band also has a new look on the field this year, with refreshed uniforms that replace the Georgia State flame logo with an image of the Pounce mascot. Founded alongside Georgia State’s football team in 2010, the Panther Band has been rated by its peers as one of the premier marching bands in all of collegiate athletics. It was ranked among the top 10 by the College Band Directors National Association in 2013 and among the top five in the Southern Division in 2012, 2016 and 2020. Known as the “Sound of Downtown,” the Panther Band has also been invited to the most prestigious events a marching band can play. The band marched in President Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade in 2013 and in the 88th Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2014. In February 2019, as Atlanta hosted Super Bowl LIII, the Panther Band captured the attention of more than 100 million television viewers during the Pepsi Halftime Show at MercedesBenz Stadium. And at 8 a.m. PST on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif., it’ll step off with the 133rd Tournament of Roses parade for a performance in front of yet another worldwide audience. “The Panther Band is definitely ready for Pasadena,” drum major Sarah Harden (B.B.A. ’22) said. “I’m hoping Pasadena is ready for the Panther Band.”


ON CAMPUS / RESEARCH

PREPARING FOR THE NEXT PANDEMIC A new research center led by Richard Plemper in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences will develop critical antiviral drugs to meet the challenge of existing and newly evolving threats, such as coronaviruses. BY LATINA EMERSON | ILLUSTRATION BY REID SCHULZ (B.F.A. ’18)

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC has taught us many lessons, particularly that infectious diseases can have a devastating impact on life as we know it. We’ve seen that it’s imperative to not only have ways to prevent severe diseases, but also treat them. The availability of treatments such as antiviral drugs can often determine whether someone lives or dies. Antiviral medications can ease symptoms, shorten the length of disease and interrupt viral transmission chains in the community. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of these drugs to guard against major disease threats. Richard Plemper, a Distinguished University Professor in the Institute for Biomedical Sciences (IBMS), is on a mission to develop broad-spectrum antiviral drugs to expand our arsenal of therapeutics to treat existing and newly evolving viruses and hopefully stop the next deadly virus in its tracks. In July, Georgia State established the Center for Translational Antiviral Research (CTAR) in IBMS. With Plemper as director, the new center is focused on developing drugs to treat infections by RNA viruses of high pandemic potential, such as coronaviruses and influenza viruses. There is a lack of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs for these RNA viruses as a first-line defense option, Plemper said. The pandemic has also exposed many urban health disparities, and Plemper wants to address this unmet medical need by developing affordable, orally available treatments.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the critical need for next-generation, orally available antiviral therapeutics that are reasonably priced and effective against a wide range of viruses,” said Plemper. “We need to proactively develop applicable antiviral drugs that improve our preparedness against newly evolving viral pathogens before another novel pandemic viral threat emerges.” Often, there is a gap in translating basic scientific discoveries into applicable therapeutic candidates. The CTAR was established to bridge the divide for promising laboratory discoveries and position Georgia State and IBMS as a major hub for essential antiviral drug development. The CTAR will bring together an interdisciplinary group of faculty experts in viral infections and antiviral drug discovery for a common goal: to convert their basic scientific discoveries into therapeutic candidates that will meet the threats presented by existing and newly evolving viruses. They plan to harness the university’s research strengths in drug discovery, RNA viruses and high-biocontainment infectious diseases. Ultimately, Plemper envisions that the CTAR will foster the commercialization of scientific discoveries through biotech startups and partnerships with major pharmaceutical companies. The CTAR provides a new framework, he said, to leverage the outstanding expertise at Georgia State and in the state of Georgia in antiviral drug development to address the major clinical need for effective novel therapeutics.

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

11


ON CAMPUS / ALUMNI

MAKING THE PITCH After starting his career at IBM and finding his footing as an entrepreneur, Mohammed Hasan Tarek (B.B.A. ’99) is focusing on his passion for cricket as the owner of one of the sport’s newest professional teams, the Atlanta Fire.

BY MICHAEL DAVIS (B.A. ’03) | PHOTO BY CAROLYN RICHARDSON

S A BOY IN BANGLADESH, Mohammed Hasan Tarek marked the seasons with sports. In the dry winter, cricket was the game of choice. Soccer, less affected by weather, was almost all you could play in the summer rainy season. When he was around 7 years old, Tarek’s father, who managed a textile mill, asked the workers to carve a cricket bat and wickets for his son. “Not everybody could afford the equipment,” Tarek said. “Not everybody had it. I had the bat and the wickets and the ball, and all the kids of my age would wait for me to come out, and then we would start playing.” An entrepreneur and lifelong sports fan, Tarek has gone from organizing pickup games among his childhood friends in Bangladesh to owning his own professional American cricket team, the Atlanta Fire, which joined the Minor League Cricket organization in 2020. The Atlanta Fire is one of 27 teams across the country to play in the league’s inaugural season, which USA Cricket called “the most extensive cricket competition to ever take place in the United States” when

A

WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT CRICKET Cricket has been played for hundreds of years, and its rules, equipment and techniques have evolved over time. Each of the three major forms of the game has its own rules, but the basics are largely the same.

12

it got underway in July. More than 200 matches were scheduled across 10 weekends this year in 21 cities around the country. Tarek moved to the U.S. after his 10th-grade year, and after finishing high school in Decatur, Ga., worked full- and part-time jobs while going to school to earn a degree in computer information systems. With several job offers once he graduated, he joined IBM and spent seven and a half years with the company before leaving to concentrate on building a real estate business that has grown to include more than a dozen gas station and convenience store properties. While growing the business, Tarek helped found the Bangladesh Sports Federation of Georgia in 2000 and spent the next 18 years serving in leadership posts with the organization, which offers youth cricket, soccer, badminton and other sports popular in Bangladesh. He founded the Atlanta Fire in 2018, just prior to USA Cricket’s announcement of a $1 billion deal to roll out a professional structure for American cricket with major and minor leagues. Before joining Minor League Cricket,

the Atlanta Fire logged three championship performances in a row, including the 2019 2X Cricket USA Cup in Houston (beating out 15 other teams) and the Desmond Lewis Cup in Atlanta. The team also won the 2019 National Cricket League tournament in Wisconsin. Over the Fourth of July weekend, the Atlanta Fire was undefeated in the LA Open 2021 Championship, besting 19 other teams. Eleven matches into the 2021 Minor League Cricket season, the Atlanta Fire was in first place in its division. Tarek is hoping the team will be added as a Major League Cricket franchise when the league’s inaugural season starts next year. In addition to helping host high-caliber international players expected to raise the level of competition in America, he said the team has partnered with the league to purchase and upgrade its home grounds, the Atlanta Cricket Fields in Cumming, Ga., to be compliant with rules for international competition. “Once we do that, we can have the U.S. national team play there or even host international teams,” Tarek said. “It’s our goal to make Atlanta one of the top hubs for cricket in America.”

Here’s a short glossary to help you get to know the game.

Pitch:

Wicket:

The 22-yard rectangular area in the middle of the oval field.

The three vertical stumps and two horizontal bails positioned at each end of the pitch.

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1


Wicket Keeper:

Bowler:

Striker:

The fielding player who wears gloves, behind the wicket, to stop balls that pass the striker.

Player who delivers the ball toward the batsman, trying to knock down the wicket and limit runs.

One of two batsmen on the field at a time, to whom the bowler delivers the ball.

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

13


ON CAMPUS / Q&A

THE INSIDE STORY Andrew Gumbel’s prize-winning book “Won’t Lose This Dream: How an Upstart Urban University Rewrote the Rules of a Broken System” recounts Georgia State’s highly successful efforts to level the playing field for students from all backgrounds.

INTERVIEW BY WILLIAM INMAN (M.H.P. ’16) | PHOTO BY ROBERT GALLAGHER

14

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1


WHEN HE WAS FIRST APPROACHED TO WRITE A BOOK about Georgia State’s groundbreaking work in student success, British-born journalist Andrew Gumbel had never set foot in Atlanta. And while he knew that American higher education was plagued by equity gaps, he didn’t know a whole lot about the Southern, urban school that was leveraging its own dataset to exponentially raise graduation rates and improve the lives of thousands. It didn’t take him long, though, to appreciate the incredible sea change that was still unfolding as he first arrived on campus in 2018. His mandate was to cast a fresh pair of eyes on the story of Georgia State’s emergence as a national leader in student success, and it wasn’t long before he had administrators, faculty members, students, advisers, politicians, outside experts and other key players recounting their part in the transformation — in many cases for the first time. “I realized that this university and the work it was doing had grabbed me by the guts and was not going to let go,” Gumbel said. “I could see the revolution in student advising as this extraordinary marriage of data analysis and lives being transformed in real time — the essence, to me, of Georgia State’s achievement.” Below, he talks about the book, how it came together and how people have reacted to it. How did you get involved with this book project? It was a straight-up job for hire, to start with. The love came a bit later. The pitch wasn’t quite, “There’s some university in Georgia that wants you to write a book saying how great it is,” but I did need to be talked into it. Even after I realized that Georgia State had been doing some pretty special, groundbreaking work, I worried that I’d end up in an impenetrable world of acronyms and charts and jargon. So, I wrote a pitch to Mark Becker, then the university president, and Timothy Renick, then the senior vice president for student success, saying this needed to be a dramatic story about people — both those who had figured out how to do things differently and those whose lives were transformed as a result. The book couldn’t just dwell on Georgia State’s results. It had to reveal the story

behind the results and bring that story vividly to life. I’m sure many institutions would have been very nervous at the prospect of an outsider poking about for months on end, but Becker and Renick were enthusiastic — as was the Kresge Foundation, which spearheaded the project. It was the first indication I had that people at Georgia State are not like other university administrators. What was your perception of American higher education, and of Georgia State, when you started? I’ll admit I’d never heard of Georgia State, and my experience of American higher education was limited because I was born and schooled in Britain. I knew from my experience as a classroom volunteer working with lower-income high school students in Los Angeles that far too many young people are denied an opportunity to fulfill their potential and maybe are never encouraged to recognize and nurture that potential in the first place. Without knowing more, though, I also bought into the conventional wisdom that there wasn’t too much to be done about that. The way I saw it, a small number of the brightest and most determined would break through the daunting socioeconomic boundary lines, but the rest would find the challenges — the class barriers, the unfortunate persistence of racial disparities and, of course, the cost of higher education — too great to overcome. Obviously, since writing the book, I’ve changed my mind about all that. And it’s rarely been more exciting and exhilarating to discover how wrong I was. When did you start feeling confident that you were finding the story you were looking for? Conceptually, it didn’t take long at all. Mark Becker opened up immediately and encouraged everyone I contacted to be similarly forthcoming — an absolute gift for a writer. Tim Renick is, at heart, a great teacher, and the overview he started to give me in our very first meeting proved extraordinarily durable — something I fully appreciated only as I went back to my notes after talking to dozens of other people and realized he had long since given me the frame to interpret much of what they had to say.

Not everyone revealed their personality right away. That came over time, as we developed our relationships. But I knew after my first trip that everyone on Tim’s team and in other key parts of the university administration had a personality. It sounds silly to say now, but at the time that came as a huge relief. Emotionally, I found the connection a few months in when I met Crystal Mitchell and Cary Claiborne on the Decatur Campus and started hearing some of the student stories that would later become the heart and soul of the book. There was a moment when Crystal had tears in her eyes, and I had tears in my eyes, and I knew this university and all it was doing had captured my heart. Who are some of the most compelling people you interviewed? That’s like asking a parent to name a favorite child. And there were a lot of children, a lot of people I came to feel strongly about. There was almost nobody I talked to I didn’t connect to in a meaningful way. The stories that moved me most were usually told by people from the toughest backgrounds, but I appreciated many, many others for their insights, their humor, their intellectual chops and, above all, their capacity for empathy, which you’d hope would be the driving force in any educational setting but too often, on other campuses, gets eclipsed by other things. The book isn’t some wonky analysis. It’s a good read because there are stories, and there are some warts, too. What kind of reception has the book had? Overwhelmingly positive. I wanted people to see this not just as a higher-education story but as a quintessentially American story, one that provides more hope for the future than a lot of the news headlines we read these days. And that’s how a lot of readers have reacted to it. I’ve also been contacted by a wide array of people — from nonprofit executives to megachurch pastors – who tell me the book is a great primer on how to run a successful organization of any kind. I’m not sure I intended it that way but managing change with the aim of making the world a better place is certainly an important part of Georgia State’s legacy. I’m glad that theme came through so clearly.

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

15


16

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1


WELCOME, PRESIDENT BLAKE A Georgia native and renowned computer scientist and engineer, M. Brian Blake is Georgia State University’s eighth president.

BY WILLIAM INMAN (M.H.P. ’16) | PHOTO BY STEVEN THACKSTON

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

17


F

IRST-YEAR CONVOCATION

is when the incoming class is welcomed to campus. It’s a formal event — faculty don academic regalia, a keynote speaker delivers a rousing address and the university president officially inducts the students into the Georgia State University family. For M. Brian Blake, Georgia State’s new president in just his second week on the job, convocation is his first chance to see the university’s lifeblood — its students. This group, masked-up and streaming through the Sports Arena on a sweltering August day, is an exceptional one: It’s the largest, most qualified and most diverse first-year class in Georgia State’s history. “You are always going to be extra special to me,” Blake tells them. “We all started together and I’m looking forward to all of us succeeding together.” Blake is Georgia State’s first Black president — just 8 percent of college presidents are Black, according to the American Council on Education — and he’s a Georgia native. He’s back home to lead the state’s largest institution after holding academic posts at Georgetown, Notre Dame, the University of Miami, Drexel and, most recently, as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at George Washington. He succeeds Mark P. Becker, who led the university through unparalleled growth and development during his 12 years as president. Blake is an engineer and computer scientist — another rarity among college presidents — and spent six years as a software architect and expert developer. He was a member of an elite group of consultants working in the private sector and finishing his Ph.D. at George Mason University when he was cajoled by a colleague to consider teaching. “I was hired as an adjunct at Georgetown,” Blake says, “and I just fell in love with it.” At Georgia State, the first public university he’s worked for, Blake leads an institution with an enrollment surpassing 54,000 and a proven reputation of getting students from all walks of life to graduation. “I could not be more excited to play a part in the transformation of the lives of students,” Blake says, “many of whom had beginnings just like my own.”

18

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1

ENTREPRENEURIAL UPBRINGINGS Malworsth and Jeneva Blake owned and operated Blake’s Chevron, a full-service gas station at 2201 Bay St. in an industrial corridor in Savannah, Ga., when Brian and his older sister, Kimberly, were young. Malworsth figures Brian started pumping gas there at around age 9. “Everyone called him ‘Little Blake,’” Malworsth says. “He was just this little guy, but he would earn more money in a day than I would just in tips.” The family was hard-working, community-focused and tight-knit. By age 12, “Little Blake” was in charge of the station’s inventory. “He was basically running the place,” Malworsth remembers. “I’d let him and his sister open and close the station. They could run the place better than I could when they were that young.” The days were long, but the station supported the family and Blake’s Chevron was a fixture in the West Savannah neighborhood for years. “I learned a lot,” Blake says. “My father taught me a great deal about work ethic, and the entrepreneurship training has followed me throughout my career.” A young Blake also discovered he had a knack for picking up new technology. When he was a fifth-grader, Malworsth bought an Apple IIe — one of the very first personal computers on the market — to modernize the gas station’s accounting processes. “Within three months there was an inch of dust on it,” Blake says, laughing. “He never used it.” Before long, Blake was writing programs for video games on his dad’s computer. Soon after, he was winning coding competitions. In high school, he wrote a program that monitored gas delivery to individual stations. Similar


President M. Brian Blake attends a Georgia State football game with his wife Bridget and sons Brendan (left) and Bryce.

programs are now omnipresent in the industry. “There were hundreds of programs I wrote on that old machine,” he says. He attended Benedictine Military School in Savannah, an all-male Catholic school, where the rigors held a few hard lessons but sharpened his leadership. “I was a squad leader, and my squad started singing this inappropriate song and they got caught before I could get them to shut up,” he remembers. “The instructor told me, ‘Hey, that’s on you.’ In military school, you learn about collective liability and taking responsibility very quickly.” Blake moved to Atlanta in 1989, for the first time, to study electrical engineering at Georgia Tech. After graduation, he was accepted into General Electric’s Edison Engineering Development Program, a management training program for some of the country’s top engineers. He earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Mercer University while working his way through the Edison program. While still in graduate school, Blake was hired on at Lockheed Martin in Atlanta as a member of an exclusive 50-person software engineering team. At Lockheed, he traveled across the country to solve software integration issues for major corporations like BellSouth, MCI and Bank of America. “It was such a pivotal point in my career,” Blake remembers. “I thought, ‘I need to go get my Ph.D. because I want to be the guy who runs something like this.’” He earned his Ph.D. in information and software engineering from George Mason University while working full time for Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and eventually The MITRE Corporation, where he worked as an expert-level systems consultant for the Federal Aviation Administration to integrate its databases across air traffic controller units. While working toward his doctorate degree, Blake reconnected with fellow engineer Bridget Innerarity, whom he met when the two were undergrads at Georgia Tech. Bridget was working toward her MBA at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and Blake, smitten with the pretty girl he met

PHOTO BY CAROLYN RICHARDSON

EARLY INVESTMENT

back when he was working as a front desk attendant at Tech’s Campus Recreation Center, recruited her to join M. Brian Blake opened his first bank him at MITRE. account when he was 11 years old That was more than two with tips he earned from his dad’s decades ago, and Bridget gas station. Blake has been with the Year after year, all the way company as an engineer through his time at Georgia Tech, and project manager ever Blake would sock away money he since. Brian and Bridget earned working summers into the have been married for 20 account. By his senior year in college, years and they have two sons, Brendan and Bryce. he’d saved up a tidy sum. “It’s an amazing “So, I bought my first house as partnership,” Bridget says. a college senior,” he says. “I put a “Both personally and down payment on it with money professionally we rely on from the account I started when I each other, and it’s fulfilling was 11 years old.” when we can see each other achieve our goals. It’s been so fun to see him work his way up to this point.” As Blake emerged as a leader in the field, he was sought out by up-and-coming engineers, contemporaries and the well-established alike for his knowledge and mentorship, particularly among a burgeoning community of Black engineers and computer scientists. “Brian was like this mythical entity,” says Raheem Beyah, dean of the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech. “There were always these incredible stories out there about him and what he was doing.” Beyah, a former assistant professor of computer science at Georgia State, says Blake has been instrumental throughout his academic career. “I’ve been lucky to have his ear for guidance,” Beyah says. “Brian is really good at helping you appreciate your strengths. He’s served as a mentor for so many, and he gives advice that he’s lived by.”

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

19


20

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1

PHOTOS BY MEG BUSCEMA, CAROLYN RICHARDSON AND STEVEN THACKSTON


AN ACADEMIC LEAP Blake was hired by Georgetown in 1999 as an adjunct professor of computer science, and he continued his consulting work. Four years later, he was named the “most promising engineer/scientist in industry” by U.S. Black Engineer and Information Technology Magazine. A year after that, Blake became the youngest Black tenured computer science professor in the country. In 2007, he was chosen to chair Georgetown’s Department of Computer Science — the first Black chair in the university’s history — and was named the inaugural director of graduate studies in computer science. More accolades poured in as he shifted to scholarly research, and Blake was in high demand in the academy. The University of Notre Dame hired him as associate dean to lead its research and graduate education mission in the College of Engineering in 2009, and, once again, he became the first Black tenured professor in the department. At Notre Dame, he leaned into mentoring students and addressing systemic problems he saw in higher education. “I wanted to improve the climate for the Black and Latino Ph.D. students so, each month, I would take a group of them out to dinner,” he says. “They gave me insight into their challenges, and I was able to effect change on some of the things that they were experiencing.” In 2012, Blake joined the University of Miami as vice provost for academic affairs and dean of the Graduate School. At Miami, he moved into a larger administrative role overseeing graduate programs in 12 of the university’s schools. He was hired by Drexel University in Philadelphia just three years later as the Nina Henderson Provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. As the university’s highest-ranking academic officer, he helped recruit the school’s most academically gifted class, achieve the highest retention rate in its history and increase research activity to its highest level. Blake made the lateral move in 2019 to become provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at George Washington University after being encouraged by President Thomas LeBlanc, his mentor and old boss at the University of Miami. When the Georgia State job opened up, Blake says, “it immediately felt like the perfect match.” “Georgia State will excel under Dr. Blake’s leadership,” says former University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley. “He has outstanding experience and understands the university’s mission to provide students everything from access to a college degree to top-tier research opportunities.” (Clockwise, from top left) Georgia State President M. Brian Blake readies for First-Year Convocation with a little help from his wife Bridget; Speaks during a program at Center Parc Stadium; Tosses the coin ahead of the Panthers’ first game of the 2021 season; Takes a selfie with members of the 1913 Society; Gives Bronzie’s nose a rub on his first day; Helps students move into the Piedmont Central residence hall.

Beyah, his friend up the road at Georgia Tech and the former Georgia State professor, agrees. “He’s a strategist, a leader and he cares deeply about students and seeing that they succeed,” Beyah says. “He’s a brilliant mind, but he’s also humble — he’ll learn and take advice. He’ll be a dynamic president at Georgia State.”

THE FIRST 100 DAYS About a week after he got his official Georgia State email address, Blake helped unload cars and haul suitcases into the Piedmont Central residence hall on move-in day. When the Panthers football team kicked off its season Sept. 4, Blake tossed the coin after he and his two sons rushed onto the field with members of the first-year class. “I stayed upright, thank goodness,” Blake says, laughing. “And the boys loved it.” Bridget Blake says Brian is a huge sports fan, and that he’ll make it to every Panthers game possible. “There are always footballs flying around the house,” she says. In early September, he embarked on a listening tour of Georgia State’s six campuses, speaking to faculty, staff and students and spending more than an hour after each talk engaging one-on-one with members of the audience. He shook hands and elbow bumped everyone who lined up to meet him, introducing himself as Brian and warmly chatting with each person for several minutes. Students snapped selfies and asked for advice. Faculty members raised questions about pay equity and tenure. He fielded questions on parking, internships and mask-wearing, taking notes and promising to follow up. Of the hundreds he met, most were well-wishers offering their congrats and assistance during his transition. He is making the rounds with legislators, donors and external audiences as well, with plans to meet with restaurant owners and city leaders. In every meeting, email and communication, he’s asked for feedback and has incorporated what he hears into actionable items. He wants to attend church services to get to know the community and he’s passionate about building the Georgia State culture locally and globally. “We’re the anchor institution for the city,” Blake says. “We graduate more students than any other school in the state. If you look across the country, I don’t think there is a place that has both the access and the research outcomes that we have. That’s a unique feature, and it provides perspective to the community. “We can solve problems that other places can’t,” he says. He recently joked about getting lost on campus, telling a group how challenging it was for him to get from the Student Center through the new greenway and back to Centennial Hall. He found himself on the Library North terrace looking out over campus when a student, not realizing she was talking to the new president, offered to give him some directions. He’s still finding his way, he says. There’s no doubt he will.

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

21


The

georgia state university

EVERY TUESDAY • GEORGIA STATE UNIVERSITY, ATLANTA, GA.

STORIED PAST

For 88 years, Georgia State’s student newspaper, The Signal, has shone a light on campus life and given young journalists the pages to ply their trade. In this oral history, a handful of Signal alumni tell their tales from the newsroom. BY ABBY CARNEY (B.A. ’12)


Signal COVERING AND UNCOVERING GEORGIA STATE SINCE 1933

PHOTO COURTESY OF JIM AUCHMUTEY (B.A. ’77)


“The paper will be published by the students, for the students and about the students.” — Ray Brandes, editor-in-chief, in the inaugural issue of Georgia State’s student-run newspaper.

T

he weekly publication now known as The Signal has existed under several names since its founding in 1926. Until 1932, it was known as The Technite during a period when the university was Georgia Tech’s night school. From 1933 to 1943, it was The Evening Signal before merging with its sister day-school paper and becoming simply The Signal. Run independently by a mostly volunteer staff of student journalists, The Signal has a long history of breaking important news and producing features and investigations about pressing issues affecting Atlanta, the region and the state. Along the way, it’s earned numerous accolades, including awards for general excellence from the Georgia College Press Association and the Southeast Journalism Conference, as well as National College Media Pacemaker Awards for overall paper, design and layout, and individual stories. The Signal has also launched the careers of many notable journalists, including D.W. Pine (B.B.A. ’92), the creative director of TIME Magazine who was editor-in-chief of the paper in the late 1980s, and Rebecca Burns (B.A. ’89, M.A. ’08), the longtime editorin-chief of Atlanta Magazine and a recent inductee into the Atlanta Press Club Hall of Fame. Others, like Evan Grant (B.A. ’93), parlayed the experience he got at The Signal into a career covering the big leagues. Since 1997, he’s been the Texas Rangers beat writer for The Dallas Morning News. And more than one couple met and fell in love while learning the inverted pyramid style of journalism while on staff at The Signal, like Jim (B.A. ’77) and Pam Auchmutey (B.A. ’76). Jim went on to spend almost 30 years as a writer and editor at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) during an award-winning newspaper career. Pam recently retired as an editor for Emory University. The Signal is also where I got my start, too, as a sports reporter from 2008 to 2011. As budgets shrink and mainstream news publications close at a rapid pace, student journalists inhabit an increasingly vital role as truth seekers, and student papers like The Signal continue to provide an important training ground for the next generations of media innovators. Here, we look back at how The Signal shaped and was shaped by some of those who wrote under its banner.

24

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1

AS TOLD BY: Jim Auchmutey (B.A. ’77), former writer and editor, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Pam Auchmutey (B.A. ’76), former editor, Emory University Rebecca Burns (B.A. ’89, M.A. ’08), publisher, The Red & Black. Former editor-in-chief, Atlanta Magazine Evan Grant (B.A. ’93), writer, The Dallas Morning News Bryce McNeil (Ph.D. ’09), director for Student Media, Georgia State University Clay Neely (B.A. ’01), managing editor and co-publisher, The Newnan Times-Herald D.W. Pine (B.B.A. ’92), creative director, TIME Magazine Sheena Roetman (B.A. ’11), education manager, the Native American Journalists Association Chris Shattuck (B.A. ’14), associate vice president, FINN Partners Daniel Varitek (B.A. ’20), associate manager of Strategic Programs and Operations, The New York Times Sabastian Wee (A.S. ’12, B.A. ’14), director of Marketing and Public Relations, Drive Brand Studio

LEARNING AS YOU GO

Sheena Roetman (editor-in-chief, 2010-11): At The Signal, you’re not just a student journalist, you’re a journalist. There are so many things you can report on that might not be directly tied to Georgia State, but they’re still relevant to your readership. You can take national or statewide stories and localize them. D.W. Pine (sportswriter, sports editor, editor-in-chief, 198789): I remember weeks where we’d finish up classes or even skip classes to get back to The Signal offices on a Friday afternoon and not leave until Monday morning. We would basically just produce for three straight days, trying to put stuff together, writing the stories and laying it out. We almost used it as a dorm because, back then, there weren’t any dorms. Rebecca Burns (staff writer, assistant editor, features editor, 1986-88): For the staff, The Signal office was the clubhouse and the place on campus to hang. During production, we’d be there overnight. There was always music blaring, and I just didn’t sleep for a 48-hour period during production. Sabastian Wee (editor-in-chief, 2012-13): Frank LoMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center, said the thing


about youth is that we still have the capacity for outrage. We haven’t been beaten down by life yet. I wanted to tap into that. I knew that was key in doing this job; you have a chance to fail and be OK with it. You can really try things. You can push all the limits of your journalism skills. You can’t really do that in the professional world. Evan Grant (sportswriter, sports editor, editor-in-chief, 198488): I was so nervous about walking in there and applying that I probably walked past the doorway three or four times before I actually went in. When I mustered up the courage to go in, Paul Newberry (B.A. ’85), who is with The Associated Press in Atlanta now, was sports editor. And he was nice enough to give me a Georgia State soccer game as an assignment. I had never covered soccer in my life. Clay Neely (staff writer, 2000-01): I remember my first experience interviewing subjects for stories, going over notes with an editor, getting copy kicked back to me and getting it ripped up. Daniel Varitek (digital editor, editor-in-chief, 2017-20): I had to learn quickly. We were a scrappy team. Whenever the editor was writing a breaking news story, she would call and say, “I need someone to take photos of this event going on right now.” And I lived on campus, so I’d say, “I’ll be there in 10 minutes.” And then we would both hop on a Google Doc. She would type her story, and I would help edit it live. That was out of the scope of my responsibilities as a digital editor, at least initially, but that was how I learned what a lede is and how to structure a story.

Pam Auchmutey (staff writer, sports editor, 1974-76): Jim got free tickets and backstage passes to shows, and he’d invite people from The Signal to go with him. Who could turn down a free concert? I remember sitting backstage with him while he interviewed Billy Joel and members of Fleetwood Mac. We saw Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Fox and Paul McCartney at the Omni and all sorts of people at Alex Cooley’s Electric Ballroom and the Great Southeast Music Hall. I knew we were hitting it off when he asked me to cut class and go with him for peach daiquiris at the top of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel. We’ve been together ever since and just celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary.

THE STORIES

Pine: For one issue we put a thousand condoms in the newspaper along with an editorial about the health benefits. I worked with a health clinic in downtown Atlanta and they supplied us with the condoms. You can imagine all the students at the time, they just grabbed a bunch of them, but the message got out there. Jim Auchmutey: My most memorable interview for The Signal was with Steve Martin. He was performing one miserable winter night, and there were no more than a dozen people in the audience. He had a cold and was feeling awful and confided to me that he was thinking of quitting showbusiness. I sent him a copy of my story and received a hand-written note in return that said, “Thank you for making me sound funnier than I was that night.” A few months later, he was on “Saturday Night Live,” caught fire, and was soon starring in movies. I guess he can thank The Signal for that career turnaround.

Bryce McNeil (director for Student Media, 2008-present): Student journalists are in a unique place. Universities don’t operate on commercial interests as much. Because of that, college newspapers can get important information to young readers that the local publications might not be daring enough to. Burns: We had to review a Poison album – the record was terrible. So we took the LP and melted it in my oven at home and turned it into an ashtray. We took a photo and then, for the story, we wrote a step-by-step craft project of how to turn a bad record into an ashtray. We were just winging things. Grant: There were opportunities for you to do just about anything you wanted to do, but there was just so much that I could do in sports. I just gobbled that all up. Chris Shattuck (editor-in-chief, 2013-14): What drove me was the amount of experience I was getting, the people I was meeting and that I really enjoyed the writing. But there were some long days, and it can be difficult when, you know, the pay is minuscule. Jim Auchmutey (staff writer, entertainment editor, 1975-77): The Signal really changed my life because that’s where I met my wife, Pam. She was the sports editor and I was the entertainment editor, and we started dating during her last semester at Georgia State.

For one issue we put a thousand condoms in the newspaper along with an editorial about the health benefits ...You can imagine all the students at the time, they just grabbed a bunch of them, but the message got out there. — D.W. Pine

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

25


(Top Photo) Current Editor-in-Chief Matt Siciliano-Salazar (A.A. ’20, B.I.S. ’21) works on a new issue in The Signal office. (Center Photo) Bryce McNeil (Ph.D. ’09), director for Student Media (center), is shown with students from a number of Georgia State media outlets. (Bottom Photo) D.W. Pine (B.B.A. ’92) is pictured during a campus visit with Christina Maxouris (B.A. ’18), editor-in-chief of The Signal from 2017 to 2018, and then-Perimeter College student media adviser Alice Murray.

26

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G TOP A Z I NPHOTO E FA L L BY ’2 1MEG BUSCEMA. MIDDLE AND BOTTOM PHOTOS COURTESY OF BRYCE MCNEIL.


Grant: I remember the university was considering dropping the baseball program, which I thought was insane. So, I wrote, “No, no, no, instead of dropping the baseball program, just fire the coach.” That didn’t go over real well with the coach at the time. Burns: I was in the office one day hanging out, and we got a call about a part-time Georgia State professor who was found murdered in his bathtub. I didn’t have a car, so I rode MARTA — somehow — to his neighborhood, interviewed a bunch of his neighbors and did a crime story. I ended up scooping the AJC and I won an investigative reporting award for it. I was an 18year-old kid. McNeil: In 2012, they covered the Student Government Association election to a fairly extensive degree, which they had not done in a long time. They did an exposé about accusations of hazing within a particular fraternity that, to this day, is the most extensive open records request The Signal has ever done. They weren’t doing soft and fluffy things. They were going out there and investigating. Varitek: We saw some photos of Henry Grady in the university library’s collection and uncovered some unsettling racist and white supremacist beliefs that he would preach about to large audiences in the late 1800s. There’s a statue of him in downtown Atlanta, and we were troubled a man who believed such racist ideologies would still be publicly revered. We wrote an open letter to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms asking that it be relocated to the Atlanta History Center. There were stories all over about the letter — in the AJC, in Newsweek. Turns out, it was illegal under state law to move the statue, and still is, so we had a secondary request to place a plaque in front of the statue contextualizing his beliefs. A plaque was never placed. Burns: We’d have to type in the manuscripts of stories that the writers dropped off. What a pain. We’d also type up the playlist from WRAS and run it. The day the paper came out, we’d take the playlist to Turtles, the record store, because people would come in and buy records based on that list. That playlist and [the comic] “Bloom County” were the two most popular things in the paper. I told that story to my students at The Red & Black and there were just these blank looks. Pam Auchmutey: Jim and I were at Georgia State for a library board meeting in 2019. We wandered around campus and decided to go by The Signal office. We walked in and found a stack of copies of the Sex Issue, with a bare-breasted woman on the cover. You wouldn’t have seen that on the front of The Signal when we were there!

I loved it. I honestly feel like I earned my undergraduate degree at The Signal. It was so meaningful for me and it shaped my career as a journalist. It was a life-changing experience working there. — Rebecca Burns

Varitek: The Signal played such a formative role, not just in my love for journalism but also my time in college. Part of the reason I applied to The Signal was because I wanted to find a group that I really resonated with, the people I would call my family. The Signal really became my life for the second half of college. Grant: It wasn’t just a newspaper, it was a family. We may not have been the biggest athletic department in the state, and we may not have been the biggest school in the state — at least back then — but I think we did a great job of covering both the university community and athletics. I’m really proud to say that I worked there. Burns: I loved it. I honestly feel like I earned my undergraduate degree at The Signal. It was so meaningful for me and it shaped my career as a journalist. It was a life-changing experience working there. We didn’t know what we were doing, and we didn’t have permission to do a lot of things, but we just figured it out. That’s the thing about student media that’s so fantastic — it teaches you leadership, and it teaches you how to be creative and resourceful. Pine: We would go out to a restaurant or a bar or something and come back and sleep, and by sleep, I mean like three hours and then you’re up working again. It was just really great camaraderie with the group. Really, it was kind of my fraternity.

COMMUNITY ON CAMPUS

Shattuck: When you’re in school, you try to find community. Some people do that through sports or Greek life. Others do it through clubs. For me, it was The Signal.

Pine: I have never missed a deadline in my entire life to this day, but one time, I forget the issue, we couldn’t get it done. We had worked three straight days on creating the whole newspaper, and a bunch of us drove it down to the printer in south Georgia in the back of my car to have it printed that night. It was just an amazing time.

Abby Carney (B.A. ’12) is a freelance writer in New York. A former cross country runner at Georgia State, she’s written for The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Texas Monthly and many other publications since her days covering sports for The Signal.

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

27


28

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1


Spreading Roots As Georgia State continues to expand the Atlanta Campus with new open space, new buildings and new uses for historic structures, it remains true to a legacy of existing hand in glove as part of the city.

BY MICHAEL DAVIS (B.A. ’03) | ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOHN DYKES

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

29


W

oven into the fabric of downtown Atlanta since its founding, Georgia State’s first classrooms were in rented space, vanishing into the existing landscape of offices and retail outlets. As it grew over the ensuing decades, the university remained enmeshed among its neighbors rather than an enclave unto itself. Over the last 10 years, as Georgia State has undergone the most dramatic period of growth in its history, it has continued to blend into the city even as it has expanded. That Georgia State is part of downtown rather than apart from it is nowhere more apparent than in some of the university’s recent and ongoing projects, which reimagine, repurpose and reinvigorate its campus and the community surrounding it. While transforming the space occupied by an outdated building and an awkwardly raised plaza at the center of campus last summer, Georgia State had already started construction on a new 8,000-person capacity convocation center a few blocks south. And as the convocation center project wraps up next August, the university will be in the midst of renovating a century-old structure in the heart of downtown, writing a new chapter for a space at one time critically important to the city’s businesses and residents. The projects elevate the spaces they occupy on campus and further cement Georgia State’s position as a driver of downtown development — and redevelopment. GEORGIA STATE’S LATEST ADAPTIVE-USE PROJECT will inject vitality into a building in one of the city’s most important historical corridors, transforming it into the new Student Success Center. At 25 and 27 Auburn Ave., what are collectively known as the Bell buildings were acquired by the Georgia State Foundation with the 2007 purchase of the 25 Park Place complex from SunTrust. The buildings were recently transferred to the university. Mostly vacant since the 1980s, the first of the two structures was built in 1907 by Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company to house a switchboard operation, with an expansion to the building’s east added in 1922.

30

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1

Thanks in part to a transformational gift from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation of $15 million — one of the largest in Georgia State history — the building will gain new life through a $30 million renovation project. Expected to be complete in early to mid-2024, the Student Success Center will house a number of student-facing services including Admissions, Supplemental Instruction, Student Financial Aid and the Truist Student Financial Management Center, which was made possible with a 2016 gift of $2 million from the SunTrust (now Truist) Foundation. The Student Success Center — which has also received support from the SunTrust Trusteed Foundations — will also be the home of the new National Institute for Student Success (NISS), established last fall. “We’ve grown student success operations immensely over the last decade and we’ve got one of the best student support models in the country, but we’ve been doing it with inadequate space,” says Timothy M. Renick, the founding executive director of the NISS and former senior vice president for student success. “The office that hosts 70,000 financial aid counseling sessions a year only has space for one or two students at a time to meet privately with a counselor. The offices


The buildings at 25 and 27 Auburn Ave., which have been mostly vacant since the 1980s, will undergo a $30 million renovation to become the Student Success Center.

that serve student success on the Atlanta Campus alone are currently spread out across seven different buildings.” The Student Success Center will allow the NISS to expand its work designing, testing and disseminating the next generation of innovations in student success. It’s the type of work that has made Georgia State a national leader, led to support from the likes of the Kresge Foundation and attracted the attention of higher-education institutions across the U.S. and around the world. Over the past six years, more than 500 institutions serving more than 3 million students have sent teams to Georgia State to learn more about the university’s approaches to helping students graduate. “In many cases these are presidents, provosts and deans who are coming to learn from Georgia State,” Renick says, “and we are cramming them into small spaces and bouncing them around from one location to another over the course of the day.” At the Student Success Center, the NISS will have space and equipment to accommodate large-group presentations and room to facilitate

firsthand observation of counseling sessions in action. In the buildings’ heyday, they housed the latest communication technology — a telephone exchange run by legions of operators patching calls in and out, to and from other telephone exchanges. According to Timothy Crimmins, professor emeritus of history, such exchanges in the early 20th century were centers of employment, particularly for women, because of all the operators needed to field calls. But while the Bell buildings offered job opportunities to women, those opportunities were limited to white women. The buildings sit on Auburn Avenue but in what remained a predominantly white business district as a thriving Black-owned business district developed further east. Anchored by the Odd Fellows Building, the Herndon Building and the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge, the first home of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference co-founded by Martin Luther King Jr., the district is known as Sweet Auburn. That the next chapter for 25 and 27 Auburn Ave. will be one of advancing educational equality and ensuring opportunity for all shouldn’t be overlooked, says Crimmins. “There’s a story to be told about the ceiling that existed for workers in that building, the workers who couldn’t get jobs in that building and the effort to do things to overcome the legacy of that,” he says. Adds Renick: “It’s fitting that this building, at the very gateway to the Martin Luther King Jr. historic district, be dedicated to equity and the promise of a better future for students from all backgrounds.”

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

31


WHILE GEORGIA STATE PLANS TO ADAPT the existing Auburn Avenue property for a new use, it’s constructing a new building on an underutilized lot south of Interstate 20 that once was home to a collection of mobile Department of Driver Services offices. Travel north along Hank Aaron Drive from Center Parc Stadium, the home of Panthers football, and you’ll find the $85.2 million multiuse convocation center under construction at the corner of Fulton Street and Capitol Avenue. It’s expected to be complete in summer 2022. Eventually, between the stadium and the convocation center, there will be a new baseball and softball complex situated on the site where Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium once stood — the stadium where the late Aaron famously broke Babe Ruth’s record with his 715th home run. Georgia State Athletics Director Charlie Cobb says bringing baseball in from its eastern outpost in Panthersville and moving basketball from the downtown Sports Arena to the larger convocation center is the realization of former President Mark P. Becker’s vision for consolidating athletics closer to the downtown campus. The university also recently finished renovating the football team’s former practice facility at 188 Martin Luther King Jr. Dr., converting it into the new home of men’s and women’s soccer in time for both teams to host their first exhibition matches of the 2021 season. “The idea is creating an athletics neighborhood,” Cobb says. “If we can bring the facilities where our kids practice and compete closer to campus, it gives us a chance to build fan support from our students, faculty and staff. I think on any campus, athletics plays a big part in student engagement and certainly making it convenient for kids to come to games and providing them an opportunity to enjoy the experience is something we’re about and really interested in accomplishing.” With a capacity of 7,300 people for basketball, 7,500 for graduation events and 8,000 for concerts, the convocation center will far exceed the seating

32

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1

available in the Sports Arena, which was built in 1972 with a capacity of 3,500. Cobb notes its location just off Atlanta’s major interstates makes it easily accessible to alumni and their families, sports fans and concertgoers, with limited traffic impact on the neighborhood, an area known as Summerhill that’s in the midst of a redevelopment renaissance. Since Georgia State’s 2017 purchase of the Atlanta Braves’ Turner Field and the property that surrounds it, much of what sat as largely unused parking lots most of the year is also being transformed. Along with converting the former baseball stadium into the college football venue now known as Center Parc Stadium, Georgia State’s partnership with Atlanta-based developer Carter & Associates has brought mixed-use residential and retail buildings to Summerhill. What was once a food desert will soon have a Publix grocery store. The convocation center, the football stadium and the baseball and softball park mean Georgia State will have a 24/7/365 presence in the neighborhood. “At the end of the day, facilities speak commitment,” Cobb says. “If you want to have a top-notch science program, you need facilities. If you want to have a top-notch law school, you need facilities. If you want to have a top-notch athletics program, you need facilities. It’s another piece of the evolving, growing puzzle that is Georgia State.”


(Left) The multiuse convocation center, just south of Interstate 20, will host graduation ceremonies, as well as men’s and women’s basketball and special events like concerts. (Above) The greenway connects the center of Georgia State’s Atlanta Campus with the heart of downtown.

ANOTHER PIECE IN GEORGIA STATE’S EVOLUTION forms an artery through campus. The greenway, completed last summer, reimagines the university’s central outdoor gathering space. Where once stood an elevated L-shaped plaza and an outdated hulk of a concrete classroom structure built as a parking garage, the greenway helps people move. And it offers them a place to relax. Students, faculty, staff and visitors can walk from Peachtree Center Avenue — at ground level — into the beating heart of Georgia State. Rather than kicking back on a brick-and-concrete planter box, they can sprawl on a lush, freshly cut lawn. The greenway’s boulevard-style path links the core of the city to the core of Georgia State, with access to important facilities like Sparks Hall and Library North, which has a reconfigured entrance featuring a rooftop terrace. According to Ramesh Vakamudi, vice president for facilities management, the idea for a campus greenway dates back to the strategic development blueprint known as the Main Street Master Plan, which was adopted by the institution under former President Carl V. Patton in the late 1990s, and updated in 2012 under former President Becker.

Along with adding student housing downtown, the goals of the plan included creating a sense of place and establishing a central core made up of campus facilities. “Since we could not create any large, open areas because we’re in downtown Atlanta, we have to be very creative in how we accomplish that goal,” Vakamudi says. “What the master plan suggested was to create and utilize pedestrian circulation paths, and that’s exactly what we did with this project.” To make room for the $9.5 million greenway project, Georgia State removed the eastern part of Library Plaza and took down Kell Hall, a process that took several months to complete in part due to the building’s sturdy construction. Built in the mid-1920s as the city’s first multistory parking garage, it had been converted into a multiuse building by George Sparks, an early director of the school that would become Georgia State. As the school grew into the building and outgrew it, some of the departments and classrooms remained in what was named the Wayne Kell Science Hall in 1964, after its first dean. Long recognized as an outdated, inefficient and frankly bizarre structure, Kell Hall somehow persisted in avoiding the wrecking ball until 2019, when it made way for another chapter in Georgia State’s evolution. “From the day I arrived on campus, I thought Kell Hall was antiquated and really should be torn down,” Patton, the former president, told this magazine as part of an oral history of the building. “Removing Kell Hall opens up the campus to the city and allows the city to look in. … It goes back to a concept from my time at Georgia State: ‘We want to be a part of the city, not apart from it.’”

M A G A Z I N E. G S U . E D U

33


FROM THE CRUCIVERBALIST

Samuel A. Donaldson SIDE HUSTLES

SIDE HUSTLES

By Samuel A. Donaldson ACROSS 1. Israeli military figure Moshe ___ 6. Tennis legend Andre and family 13. Letter-shaped skirt (hyph.) 14. “Friends” star Matt 15. Lack of musical talent (2 wds.) 16. Site of Georgia State’s largest campus 17. Require (2 wds.) 19. Forest moon in “Return of the Jedi” 20. Whirlpool 21. Texting format letters (abbr.) 23. Motown superstar Marvin 24. Keeps mum (2 wds.) 27. Gymnastics legend Mary ___ Retton 28. Life line? 31. Shorter spelling of a restaurant freebie 33. Fertility clinic collection 34. Brooklyn on “Grace and Frankie” 36. Tiny quibbles 38. Brynner of film 39. Egyptian cross that’s an anagram of HANK 43. Like some exclusive communities 45. Restaurant offering with a fixed price 47. Subways that stop in Washington Heights (2 wds.) 49. One who’s sore 50. Savory “Great British Baking Show” offering (2 wds.) 51. Harder to find 52. Wives, in Spanish 53. “Cross my heart” DOWN 1. Hustle, for one 2. Take ___ off (sit) (2 wds.) 3. Triangular street sign

1

2

3

4

5

6

13

14

15

16

17

18

20

21 24

28

29

22

25

34 37

43 47

12

41

42

27

35 38

39 45

44 48

40

46 49 51

52

53

G E O R G I A STATE U N I V E R S I T Y M A G A Z I N E FA L L ’2 1

11

32

50

4. Study closely, as data 5. Soft ball brand 6. Morning annoyances 7. Comprehend 8. Qualified for the job 9. Words not yet in the dictionary 10. Beach shoes 11. 2016 hit for Ariana Grande (2 wds.)

10

23

31

33

9

26

12. Hustle (2 wds.) 18. Fish-eating hawk 22. Tool with a curved blade 25. War zone danger, for short (abbr.) 26. ___ kwon do 28. Hustle (2 wds.) 29. Wings it? 30. Seedy dwelling (2 wds.) 32. Mine transport (2 wds.)

A professor at the College of Law who creates crosswords on the side, Samuel A. Donaldson has published more than 120 puzzles in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and more. Donaldson is now regularly contributing a crossword to each issue of Georgia State University Magazine. Check your answers at magazine.gsu.edu.

34

8

19

30

36

7

35. Swears 37. “From ___ shining...” (“America the Beautiful” lyric) (2 wds.) 40. India’s first prime minister 41. Prepare for knighthood 42. Hustle 44. Small declines 46. Like some apples 48. “Third Watch” star Long


STAY CONNECTED WHETHER YOU ARE A NEW GRADUATE OR MANY YEARS REMOVED, IN ATLANTA OR ACROSS THE GLOBE, A STOCK BROKER OR A CHEF, WE ARE HERE FOR YOU.

Stay connected, wherever you are. Learn how we support all of our alumni through our programs and events at alumni.gsu.edu. • Career development • Social outings and networking events • Lifelong learning opportunities • Special interest, regional and corporate networks • Student and alumni mentorship


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATION U.S. POSTAGE

PAID

LIBERTY MO PERMIT NO. 219

Georgia State University Magazine Division of Public Relations and Marketing Communications P.O. Box 3999, Atlanta, GA 30302-3999

JOIN THE ACTION!

#GSUnited