Campus News

15 students discuss faculty, staff who have impacted them

At UGA, students work with world-class faculty and staff every day. These graduating students talk about the university faculty or staff member who most impacted their academic experiences and their lives.

Read their stories about their hands-on learning experiences at

Has there been a particular faculty or staff member who’s had a big impact on your time at UGA? If so, who and why?

Shelby Holsomback
B.S. in Agricultural Engineering with an emphasis in Electrical Engineering
Hillary Tanner. She was the first engineering professor that I ever had. She is also the faculty adviser for the Society of Women Engineers, which was the first engineering club meeting that I ever attended. I didn’t know then that she would quickly become my friend, my role model and one of my biggest supporters. She saw my passion for engineering, she encouraged my hard work and dedication, she shared my excitement in my successes and she always had encouraging words after my failures.

Juan Da Silva
B.A. in Landscape Architecture
One person who has had a large impact is professor Shelley Cannady. She has been an amazing teacher in design as well as life in general. She has shown me the importance of professionalism, and her diverse background has provided me with many different perspectives to view my work and my life. 

Corinne Klemenc
B.Mus. in Music Education and B.Mus. in Music Composition 
D. Ray McClellan was my clarinet professor for six years. He was the main driver of my musicianship. If it wasn’t for him, I would not be able to understand, create and perform at the level I can now.
My other highly influential professor is Adrian Childs. My composition professor for my junior and senior years, he was directly involved with the creation of my Super Senior Recital. He helped me write the music that I had performed, and he guided my thoughts in ways that made my music better.  

Denise Pleasant
A.B.J. in Public Relations 
On my first day on campus, I went to Diane Miller’s office to sort out my schedule. Although she may no longer be my adviser, I still consider her my mentor.
Miller has given me invaluable advice over the more than two years I have been at UGA. I’ve arrived at her office with pre-career fair jitters, excitement over an internship acceptance email and confusion and worries about my future after my time at UGA ends. No matter the situation, I am met with overwhelming encouragement and support. 

Christopher Snyder
B.B.A in Marketing
Laura Richardson, Jen Osbon and Kevin Ellis. Richardson was my amazing advisor all four years and kept me on track to graduate. Osborn helped me really get involved in my major by networking with business professionals through the American Marketing Association. Ellis helped me channel my inner salesperson. He encouraged me to compete in numerous sales competitions and work to improve my selling skills.

Thaurice Milloy
B.S.Ed. in Early Childhood Education
Stephanie Jones in the educational theory and practice program has been an amazing mentor and friend throughout my college career. She has been extremely supportive in all my endeavors. She has been a constant source of encouragement and always lends a helpful listening ear. I cannot imagine my college career without her.

Amber Flanigan
Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health
Jennifer Gonyea was an integral part of me pursuing the MSW program at UGA.
Trina Salm Ward has been an amazing, supportive and available advisor who has helped me navigate the MSW/MPH dual degree program and has ensured that I stayed on track to reach my goals.
Zoe Johnson, director of multicultural services and programs at UGA, has been an inspirational mentor and has provided support and guidance as I begin to make post graduation career plans.

Faustine Sonon
B.S.A. in Food Science
I have worked for the food science and technology department as a lab assistant under assistant professor Anand Mohan. His guidance through projects has been great and will benefit me in the future.
Outside of the technical aspects of working in the laboratory, Mohan has taught me many valuable lessons that apply to both the workplace and everyday life. One particular lesson has been ingrained in me since I’ve started working for him-to be true to my word.

Carmen Kraus
B.S. in Ecology and B.F.A. in Scientific Illustration
Wendy Zomlefer, an associate professor in the plant biology department, cemented my interest in botany and always brought food to class from the plant family we were studying. Additionally, Zomlefer is a scientific illustrator; she helped me with my botany illustrations, and I am happy to have an example of a professor who has successfully integrated science and art.

David Guzman Urick
B.S.F.R. in Management of Natural Resources, Recreation and Tourism
Since the beginning, the professor who made me feel at home was Bynum Boley. He was very understanding about my difficulties of being a foreign student learning in a non-native language. He encouraged me to not be embarrassed about asking questions in my broken English. He let me know that it is a faculty member’s responsibility to ensure every student understands the concepts about any subject no matter what.

Elizabeth Benyshek
B.S. in Geology
The one faculty member who always has supported me in my educational endeavors is Sally Walker. She was one of my first professors in the geology department and the first to introduce me to real fieldwork. Walker and I share an overflowing enthusiasm for science, and this has aided me in surviving many perils over my time at UGA. The experience I have gained under the guidance of Walker had the most impact on me during my time at UGA.

Robert Hood
Master of Public Health with a concentration in Epidemiology
Dr. Mark Ebell is my adviser and has provided a lot of guidance on becoming a good epidemiologist. He has really helped me to grow.
Sara Robb has been my instructor and my capstone adviser. She has provided a lot of support and encouragement as I began researching more and more. She has also opened my eyes to the field of environmental epidemiology.
Nina Cleveland helped me to find a wonderful field placement. She has also helped me to continue to persevere when things got tough during my program.

Funmi Jemilugba
B.S.F.C.S. in Human Development and Family Science and B.A. in Psychology
The professor who has had a big impact on me would be Melissa Kozak. Her class was the first class I ever took at UGA and it was an 8 a.m. class that I looked forward to going to every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
During the first semester of my freshman year, I was still unsure if I wanted to continue my education at UGA or transfer to a different school, and Kozak was just always willing to listen to me. I remember always going to her office hours even when I didn’t need help and just having conversations with her; her door was always—and is still—open.

Chen Gong
Master of Public Administration
I have to say everyone in the MPA program impacted me, particularly Deborah Carroll, Andrew Whitford, Robert Greer, Melody Herrington and Aaron Redman.
I have stories about everyone and how they impacted my study here at UGA, so it is impossible to name just one. I appreciated all the help and support from everyone I met here.

Jenna Malek
Ph.D. in Ecology
I have had the privilege of working as a teaching assistant with Jim Richardson in the Odum School throughout my time at UGA. He has an amazing wealth of teaching experience and a love for educating students. Working with Richardson has made me realize that there are more ways to be influential in science than through just research. I am looking forward to continuing teaching in the future and sharing with students my own excitement for science.