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Georgia Southern duo spark conversation at TEDx Savannah 2018

On May 11, two Georgia Southern University Armstrong Campus community members shared “Ideas Worth Spreading,” at TEDx Savannah 2018, an all-day, immersive networking event held at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center.

Instructor of Communication Karla Jennings and recent magna cum laude psychology graduate Tina Nelson (‘18) were both selected, along with 13 other featured speakers, to interpret this year’s TEDx Savannah theme “Legacy by Design,” with the intention of sparking discussion at the sold-out gathering.

Jennings explored the various reasons humans fear speaking in front of an audience and shared ways to help overcome that fear. She drew on the power of research-backed inoculation messages, or pre-emptive messages designed to prepare individuals for possible challenges.

“‘How can we change the way we think about and respond to the fear of public speaking?’ she asked the crowd, the iconic red block TEDx letters illuminated just behind her. “The key is in designing a response to fear. Inoculation messages can reframe our response to fear of public speaking.”

Nelson, a high-school dropout and mother at 16 who returned to pursue a formal education at age 40, shared her personal story of overcoming an intense fear of rats while working as a Georgia Southern research assistant, and how her new-found closeness to the animals changed the way she sees human behavior.

“As humans, even the most nurturing and animal-loving of us think of ourselves as being pretty high on the evolutionary ladder, and in a lot of ways we are,” she stated. “But one of the things I learned about working with rats is that our higher-order thinking and consciousness puts a greater burden of caring for others on us. Can you imagine what it would be like to not be able to communicate with the only other living species you interact with?”

Specifically, she was referring to Rizzo, a rat she cared for in the lab, who employs body language and behavioral cues to communicate.

“How this translates to us as humans interacting with each other, that’s the lesson that Rizzo and his brothers taught me,” Nelson said. “When humans interact or respond to each other we respond to situations from our own perspective. The lesson for me was in acknowledging that Rizzo’s awareness comes from a different experience than mine. What I learned is that we could reach deeper within ourselves than our spoken or written language.”

Georgia Southern decorated Army ROTC grad heads to U.S. Army Aviation school, leaves unique legacy at alma mater

Madison Nicole Stewart, a Georgia Southern University Army ROTC leader and aspiring linguist from Senoia, Georgia, will proudly walk the commencement stage in Statesboro this weekend to earn dual diplomas in international studies and Arabic, as well as a minor in military science.

Stewart, who initially chose to attend Georgia Southern for its award-winning ROTC program, is grateful to the University for support of her educational and professional paths from day one.

“I have always wanted to become an Army Officer and Georgia Southern offered the best option to achieve that goal,” she said. “I was very fortunate to be awarded a three-and-a-half year scholarship from the school to attend.”

In her first year as a military science cadet, Stewart was introduced to Army customs and characteristics of the profession. She was also allowed the opportunity to have a small leadership role within her squad and attended Basic Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, which provided further leadership training.

By her second year, Stewart was bumped to a squad leader and the Cadet Association’s President, tasked with managing funds, fundraising and volunteer events for the Eagle Battalion. She and her team successfully organized the annual ROTC Blood Drive, conducted post-football game stadium clean-ups and hosted car wash fundraisers. She was also the only female competitor on a team of nine who participated in the grueling Brigade Ranger Challenge Competition, which pushes cadets through tough mental and physical challenges while encouraging the tenets of leadership and teamwork.

The following year, Stewart attended the Cultural Understanding and Language Program in Hungary, where she and a team of cadets taught English to the Hungarian Armed Forces with the mission to improve relations between the U.S. and Hungarian militaries.

“The ROTC Cultural Understanding and Language Program was an incredible opportunity for me not only as a future Army officer, but also as an international studies and language student,” noted Stewart. “It was an awesome experience and opened my eyes to the greater international military community, who, more often than not, work together hand-in-hand to preserve and protect peace efforts.”

She rounded out that year with a second-place Ranger Challenge win and completion of the ROTC Advanced Camp, a required month-long test on tactics, soldiering skills and leadership at Fort Knox.

Stewart’s final year has been the most demanding — and rewarding — as she served as the Eagle Battalion’s Command Sgt. Major, the most senior enlisted cadet who coordinates all training events, classes, labs and field training exercises, and sets and enforces standards. It was her distinct honor to work alongside the Battalion Commander, who attends Georgia Southern’s Armstrong Campus in Savannah.

“The Battalion Command split between two campuses required careful coordination through our leadership,” she said. “We were proud to bring the two campuses together through the ROTC program.”

Stewart, who earned placement on the President’s List with a 4.0. GPA each semester, three Platinum Eagle Awards for maintaining a perfect physical training score and garnered the Alumni Association Award in April, is most honored to leave her own special University legacy, as the Superior Cadet Decoration Award will be named in her honor from this year on.

On track to commission as a second lieutenant soon, Stewart is “beyond excited” to attend the U.S. Army Aviation Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Rucker, Alabama, in June to complete flight school. It is her hope to fly UH-60 Black Hawks and attend the Defense Language Institute, which supports Army officers in learning a foreign language in the country of origin.

“Without the incredible support of my ROTC cadre and professors, and the amazing faculty of the international studies and Arabic departments, I would have never succeeded to the extent I have in ROTC, school and in life,” said Stewart. “I owe everything to the people who supported my efforts here.”

More than 4,000 degrees conferred during Georgia Southern’s 2018 Spring Commencement Ceremonies

On May 4 and 5, more than 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students from Georgia Southern University’s Statesboro, Armstrong and Liberty Campuses received degrees in three Spring Commencement ceremonies.

Georgia Southern President Jaimie Hebert, Ph.D., welcomed the graduates and their families to Spring Commencement and recognized the University faculty members who helped students along their academic journey.

“I extend to you my personal congratulations on your academic success,” said Hebert. “I would like to pay special tribute to our faculty, who are collectively the heart of this University and who are individually mentors of these graduates. Each graduate will have his or her own special story about a professor whose inspiration and interest influenced that student’s success not only in college, but also in ways that will be appreciated even more as the future unfolds. Caring faculty, committed to the success of students, is the hallmark of Georgia Southern University.”

During the Statesboro Campus graduate ceremony held in Hanner Fieldhouse on May 4, Georgia Attorney General Christopher Carr congratulated the Class of 2018 and challenged the group of roughly 800 students to define what success means to each of them.

“While today is about celebrating the successes of the past few years, starting tomorrow and for the rest of your lives you need to decide what success will mean to you,” he said. “I hope that everyday you are excited to get out of bed, to tackle the day and to serve others. Be passionate. I hope you give it your all. I hope you give of yourself. Because that is the best way to find success.”

That evening, W. Ray Persons, senior litigation partner at international law firm King & Spalding and Armstrong State University alumnus, applauded the more than 200 graduate and 600 undergraduate students at the Savannah Civic Center ceremony and shared that they would now join a long list of alumni from one of the finest academic institutions of higher learning in the U.S.

Persons encouraged the graduates to practice their virtues, be honest and candid in their dealings with others and to always treat others the way they want to be treated.

“Do whatever you can to help those who are coming behind you,” he said. “Make your teachers proud.”

In closing, he implored, “Remember this: you have something no one can ever take away from you — your education.”

On May 5, cheers for approximately 2,700 undergraduates erupted throughout the Allen E. Paulson Stadium commencement ceremony on the Statesboro Campus. Hala Moddelmog, a Georgia Southern alumna who is the first female president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber, delivered the opening address and encouraged graduates to hold firm to who they are.

“First and foremost, I want you to know that who you are is enough,” she said. “Embrace all that you are. Only you are equipped with your special gifts and passions.”

Moddelmog pressed the importance of curiosity, authenticity, empathy and risk-taking.

“Step out with confidence,” she said. “Be bold. Be proud of who you are and take a risk that might change your life. I promise you, you can do more than you think you can.”

Student research recognized during 2018 CURIO Symposium

Thirty undergraduate students in the College of Arts and Humanities and College of Behavioral and Social Sciences at Georgia Southern University presented their research during the 2018 Center for Undergraduate Research and Intellectual Opportunities (CURIO) Symposium on April 10 at the Carroll Building on the Statesboro Campus.

Students designed and implemented their project with support and guidance from faculty members in one of the two colleges. Their research represented a variety of topics ranging from an analysis of the film “Hairspray” to finding a balance between sustainability and economic development in the Brazilian Amazon.

“This was my first time presenting research. It really prepared me going forward because I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, but I feel it has prepared me to go forward and do this again,” said Cedric James, whose poster presentation on “Near Repeat Victimization” won the Katherine Johnson CURIO Student Award for Best Poster.

In addition to James, three other students and one faculty member were recognized for their work.

The Katherine Johnson CURIO Student Award for Best Presentation in the Fine Arts was presented to Brigette Jenkins for her research project titled, “A Musician’s Creative Process.”

The Katherine Johnson CURIO Student Award for Best Presentation in the Humanities was presented to Jackson Turner whose research focused on “Comparing the Poetry of Sassoon and Owen to the Pro-War Poetry of World War I.”

The Katherine Johnson CURIO Student Award for Best Presentation in the Social Sciences was awarded to Elizabeth Stovall who presented her project, “Recruitment of American Citizens to International Religious Extremist Groups Via Social Media.”

The Faculty Mentor Award was presented to Nancy Malcom, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Each student received a $250 award in recognition of their scholarly achievements due to a generous donation from Jim and Elaine Johnson. The awards are named in honor of their daughter, Katherine. The CURIO Symposium began in 2008.

Criminal Justice and Criminology faculty to travel to Finland on Fulbright scholarship

The J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board recently awarded Georgia Southern Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology Associate Professor Bryan Lee Miller, Ph.D., a grant to travel to Finland.

Miller was awarded the Fulbright-University of Tampere Scholar Award 2018-2019, which is funded jointly by the University of Tampere and the Fulbright Finland Foundation in Helsinki. For five months, Miller will teach a graduate-level qualitative methods course and an undergraduate drugs and society course. He will also conduct research on Finnish practitioner responses to emerging drug problems.

“I am extremely thankful for my department’s support and greatly look forward to this opportunity to conduct my research and teach in Finland,” said Miller.

The Fulbright Program aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and of other countries. Fulbright alumni have gone on to pursue careers as heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers and CEOs. In addition, 59 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 71 MacArthur Fellows and thousands of other successful leaders have graduated from the program.

Miller is the author or co-author of more than 40 peer-reviewed publications, including PediatricsJournal of Research in Crime and DelinquencyPunishment & SocietyJournal of Criminal Justiceand the Journal of Drug Issues.  He is also the author of the book Emerging Trends in Drug Use and Distribution. In addition, Miller was the 2014 recipient of the Georgia Southern University Award of Excellence in Contributions to Instruction.