Before Ben Davis ever stepped in front of a class, he found ways to engage his students.
The new assistant professor of mechanical engineering was on the 2014 New Faculty Tour of the state. During a stop at the Kia Motors Manufacturing plant in West Point, he spotted an opportunity to show his students the kind of jobs they could look forward to after graduation.
“It is hard to find something more connected to mechanical engineering than an automobile, and the Kia factory was the most impressive manufacturing facility I have ever seen,” Davis said. “Their use of robotics and just-in-time manufacturing techniques is like something out of a science fiction novel, and I look forward to taking my students to the facility to expose them to what a truly state-of-the-art manufacturing facility looks like.”
Davis, who was an engineer at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, before joining the UGA faculty this summer, was one of about 40 academic and service faculty on this year’s tour, which was coordinated by the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach and made possible by support from the Office of the President, the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost and the UGA Alumni Association.
Over five days, the group traveled through 14 cities and 48 counties learning about the culture, geography, economy and people of Georgia.
From Jaemor Farms in Alto, where tour participants received an overview of the role agritourism plays in the North Georgia economy, to the Warner Robins Air Force Base, the economic engine for Warner Robins, to the Georgia Port in Savannah, the second largest container exporter in the Southeast with 13.3 millions tons shipped out a year, faculty saw the diversity of the economy as they moved from one region to another.
At the state Capitol in Atlanta, they heard UGA President Jere W. Morehead, University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby and Georgia Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Gretchen Corbin talk about the relationship between education and the economic health of the state.
“A strong state of Georgia is good for UGA,” Morehead said. “A strong UGA is good for the state. Our goals are aligned; they support each other.”
The tour, which was revived last summer after a five-year absence due to state budget cuts, is intended to help faculty members who have been at UGA less than two years identify ways to connect with a program or community in Georgia.
“We encourage all of our faculty, whether from academics or service, to find ways to use their expertise to help us create jobs, develop leaders and address critical challenges in our communities,” said Jennifer Frum, vice president for public service and outreach.
At each stop, faculty members identified ways their expertise could benefit a Georgia business or community.
Henry Young, the Kroger Professor of Community Pharmacy, saw the link between an educated and healthy workforce and a strong economy.
“My work deals with the prevention and management of chronic medical conditions and outcomes,” Young said. “The work that I do could be used to help individuals prevent health problems or manage current conditions. In turn, these efforts may help improve work productivity, for example reduce sick days and reduce organizations’ health care expenditures.”
“The New Faculty Tour is a reminder that each of us, in one way or another, plays a role in enhancing the economy and quality of life in Georgia,” said Pamela Whitten, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “It also demonstrates to communities that while our main campus is in Athens, our reach extends across the state.”