Nine University of Georgia faculty and staff members are being honored for exemplary service to the state during 2019-2020.
Walter Barnard Hill Fellow
Comparable to a distinguished professorship, the Walter Barnard Hill Fellow Award for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service and Outreach is UGA’s highest award in public service and outreach.
Carl Vinson Institute of Government
Walt McBride is a senior public service associate in the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the institute’s representative to the state in the area of governmental education. In that position, McBride develops new certificate and certification programs, courses and curriculum, and organizes and facilitates conferences and events, evaluates programs and monitors contracts.
In his 21 years at the Vinson Institute, McBride has led more than 800 leadership and development and strategic planning sessions, providing relevant topics related to current and emerging trends and issues. He has worked with 15 statewide associations, 18 state agencies and regional commissions, three University System of Georgia institutions, the Technical College System of Georgia, dozens of cities and counties and 12 electric membership cooperatives.
McBride’s achievements have continued to grow since 2011, when he was presented the Walter B. Hill Award. In 2015, he oversaw the resurrection of the Georgia Certified Public Manager® (CPM) program, which the institute offered from 1976 to 1998 before it was discontinued because of a lack of interest.
To restore the program and gain accreditation from the National Certified Public Manager® Consortium, McBride developed 300 hours of curriculum covering seven competency areas and added a service-learning component, which allows participants to make an impact on communities throughout the state while earning their certification. Since its relaunch in 2017, the Georgia CPM® Program has drawn participants from 92 different state agencies and local governments, while also bringing inquiries from other states on how they can incorporate elements of the program into their own teachings.
His other major accomplishments since 2011 include the development of a training program for federal administrators in Brazil, the creation of a leadership program for the Georgia Public Library Service and a close collaboration with the UGA College of Engineering and the American Public Works Association that resulted in an APWA-funded graduate research assistant position.
“Without a doubt, Walt has been instrumental in leading the way for developing leadership and management programs and curriculum for the public works profession, not only in the state of Georgia, but throughout North America,” said Stan Brown, director at large for APWA. “With sustained, distinguished and superb achievements in public service and outreach, and his lasting contributions to improving the quality of life in Georgia and throughout the nation, Walt McBride is most deserving of the Hill Fellow Award.”
College of Engineering
Stephan Durham is a professor and the assistant dean for student success and outreach at the College of Engineering. He joined UGA shortly before the creation of the College of Engineering in 2012, helping to shape the current direction of the civil engineering degree program through the implementation of curriculum, hiring of faculty and the designing and building of instructional and research facilities.
Durham has worked closely with Public Service and Outreach throughout his time at UGA, helping to improve the educational experience of engineering students while also benefiting Georgia communities. He began working with the Archway Partnership in 2014, connecting civil and environmental engineering capstone students with Georgia communities in need of engineering analysis, guidance and solutions. Since then, more than 150 students in 50 separate design teams have worked on projects throughout the state, including recreational parks, structural assessments and redesigns of historic buildings, site designs for industrial developments and more. This unique partnership has allowed students to complete real-world engineering designs while helping Georgia communities that might otherwise not have access to engineering work.
In 2016, Durham partnered with the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development on the creation of the Emerging Engineers Leadership Development, or EELD, program. The program has since been implemented throughout the college, ensuring that every engineering graduate will be introduced to professional engineering and leadership development ideas—concepts not traditionally represented well in engineering curricula.
Additionally, Durham has worked with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, helping place engineering students with public works divisions internships in cities throughout Georgia. This includes a recent collaboration between the College of Engineering, the Vinson Institute and the American Public Works Association that funds a graduate student to work on a larger statewide or nationwide project selected by APWA.
“The value that the students’ work and Dr. Durham’s guidance brings to communities, especially rural communities such as Hart County, cannot be overstated,” said Dwayne Dye, director of economic development for the Hart County Industrial Building Authority. “We are grateful for the time and energy Dr. Durham pours into his students and our community and look forward to our continued partnership with him (and his students) for years to come.”
Staff Award for Excellence
State Botanical Garden of Georgia
Cora Keber has been the director of education for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia since the summer of 2017 and has worked within the department since 2007. In her roles, she has developed and expanded children’s and adult programming, overseen summer camps and developed relationships with UGA colleagues and members of the local and statewide community that have proven beneficial for all.
In advance of the opening of the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, Keber worked alongside the design team and led plans to introduce the new education space to the public. This included tours to various interested groups and volunteer training for the grand opening, which drew 3,500 visitors. She mentored teams to develop the Garden Earth Explorers program that has served 1,700 participants and the Georgia Discovery Quest field trip curriculum. Additionally, she helped launch the children’s garden performance series, which has engaged and entertained more than 800 people.
Since Keber joined the garden’s education team in 2007, the education department has hosted 2,350 programs serving 88,000 people. As education coordinator, Keber managed all adult education program communication and logistics, led field trips, organized festivals and served as co-director for summer camps. Throughout her time at the garden, Keber has built strong relationships between families and schools as well as UGA professors and students.
In addition to her role at the garden, Keber is an active member of the Athens community, helping organize and facilitate fundraisers for local nonprofits and serving as board chair for Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful.
Keber manages Learning by Leading™, an experiential learning program offering leadership skills and real-world opportunities for students as they address Earth’s most important environmental issues.
“I have partnered with the State Botanical Garden for the past three semesters to provide service-learning opportunities to students taking my course in leadership and service, and as the point person, Cora has been accommodating, energetic and forward thinking about experience that would develop my students as leaders and stewards of our land,” said James Anderson, lead certificate coordinator for Learning by Leading and a faculty member in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “She exemplifies the characteristics of a servant leader and has had an indelible impact on my students who volunteered at the garden and how they view the importance of serving the economy.”
Staff Award for Excellence
T. Clark Stancil
Carl Vinson Institute of Government
Clark Stancil serves as a creative design specialist with the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. There, he uses his first-class design skills and his knowledge of Georgia’s history to create unique plans and designs for local governments across the state, helping communities envision new possibilities while maintaining their history and character.
Working in the Vinson Institute’s Planning and Environmental Services unit, Stancil creates professional landscape designs, plans and renderings for the Georgia Downtown Renaissance Partnership, an award-winning program that combines the resources of the university, the Georgia Municipal Association, the Georgia Cities Foundation and the Lyndhurst Foundation to help communities revitalize their downtowns. As a student Downtown Renaissance Fellow in the College of Environment and Design and since joining the institute full time in 2015, Stancil has worked on numerous projects around the state.
One project that stands out among his colleagues is his work with the city of Fitzgerald. As a Downtown Renaissance Fellow, Stancil worked with Fitzgerald leaders to create designs for their historic downtown. The city has since worked to implement these concepts, including a mural honoring Fitzgerald native and civil rights advocate Morris B. Abram. Using Stancil’s design, the city obtained a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts to commission the mural. The city was so pleased with his work, Stancil was invited back for the mural’s 2019 dedication.
Stancil has shown a rare ability to identify the unique character and values of every community with which he works. Whether coordinating with city leaders, Vinson Institute faculty and staff or UGA students, Stancil leaves a lasting impression with his work ethic, creativity and his love of Georgia.
“Clark Stancil has impressed me from the moment I interviewed him,” said Chris Higdon, GMA community development manager. “His passion for both design and public service was immediately evident. In the years I have worked with Clark since, his dedication to Georgia’s communities, as well as his poise in representing the University of Georgia, go well beyond his age.”
Walter Barnard Hill Award
Five faculty members and service professionals are 2020 recipients of the Walter Barnard Hill Award for Distinguished Achievement in Public Service and Outreach. The award recognizes their contributions to the improvement of the quality of life in Georgia and beyond.
• Jennifer Ceska is the conservation coordinator for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. For the past 25 years, Ceska has played a significant role in plant conservation efforts at the garden and throughout the state.
Ceska also serves as the statewide coordinator for the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, a network of private and public organizations, state and federal agencies, universities and gardens working together to prioritize state plant conservation needs.
Over the past 24 years the GPCA network has continued to expand under Ceska’s leadership and now includes 51 partner organizations, including Georgia Power, The Nature Conservancy and Zoo Atlanta. Thanks to Ceska’s collaborative approach to building a state-based network, 101 imperiled plant species are in active recovery and 99 species are in safeguarding collections for conservation and research. In her role as statewide coordinator, Ceska contributed to the development of the State Wildlife Action Plan in 2005 and 2015, which is considered one of the best in the nation. Additionally, The GPCA serves as a national model for how to build state-based plant conservation alliances, and Ceska has worked with colleagues in 16 states to help build their own plant conservation alliances.
Ceska was a central figure in the creation of the Georgia Native Plant Initiative at the State Botanical Garden. She initiated Connect-to-Protect, an education and outreach program that establishes gardens of native pollinator plants at schools, businesses and in communities. Ceska helped develop the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies where students, volunteers, interns and garden staff propagate Georgia native plants for use in habitat restoration, endangered species recovery, and introduction to the gardening and green industry community.
Ceska’s dedication and passion for plant conservation has made an impact not only at UGA, but statewide and nationally.
“Jennifer’s commitment, creativity, and ability to inspire collaboration through the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance has been a tremendous example for the national and international botanic garden community,” said Abby Meyer, executive director of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, U.S. “Under her leadership, the alliance has developed into a well-oiled machine that builds regional capacity to conserve local species.”
• Kris Irwin is a senior public service associate and associate dean for outreach at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Since joining UGA in 1996, Irwin has spent the past 23 years building sustainable environmental education programs for university students, K-12 students and teachers, private landowners and natural resource professionals.
Irwin co-founded the Advanced Training for Environmental Education in Georgia, or ATEEG, program, making Georgia the first state in the country to have an environmental education certificate program accredited by the North American Association for Environmental Education. The three-year program, which provides high-quality professional development for formal and non-formal environmental educators, has graduated 43 participants since its accreditation in 2012.
He is also the co-founder and co-director of the UGA Environmental Education, or EE, Certificate Program, which supports UGA undergraduate students interested in pursuing an environmental education career. Irwin utilized his Foundations of Environmental Education service-learning class to help develop the EE certificate in 2016, with his students conducting surveys, analyzing data and preparing needed documents in support of the EE certificate proposal.
Additionally, Irwin has been involved with the national environmental education program Project Learning Tree, or PLT, since 1997, serving as the Georgia state coordinator since 2006. His contributions to PLT have been recognized with the Outstanding Service Award (1997), the Outstanding Educator of the Year (2001), the Facilitator of the Year (2003, 2004) and the National PLT Outstanding Educator Award (2002). Irwin is also the author of Science of Forestry Management, which is used nationally to teach forest science curriculum to high school and middle school students in the agricultural education program.
“I have always found Dr. Irwin to be extremely dedicated, dependable, organized and the type of professional who brings the best out in others,” said Amanda Buice, science and math science partnership program manager at the Georgia Department of Education. “He goes above and beyond for the work he is so passionate about. Georgia students and educators are truly fortunate to have such an advocate working on their behalf.”
• Shana Jones is program manager of planning and environmental services at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. In that role, she created the Georgia Sea Grant Law Program and conducted research on the impact of increased coastal flooding and sea level rise on local governments and coastal management and policy.
Through her work with the Environmental Policy Academy, a project funded by the Dobbs Foundation, Jones has provided key legislators detailed information on the state’s most critical environmental issues. Under her leadership, the academy has developed a reputation for providing quality programming and encouraging important discussion. The annual event draws current and new members of the House and Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Committees to locations where they can get a hands-on look at the state’s environment successes and concerns.
Jones created the Georgia Sea Grant Law Program in 2015 in partnership with Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. The program addresses critical environmental, economic and hazard mitigation concerns in coastal Georgia. Each year, two to three law students work as Georgia Sea Grant Legal Fellows, conducting law and policy research to support coastal projects. Since the program’s establishment, Jones has mentored 12 fellows.
Over the past four years, Jones has overseen $2 million in contracts and grants. Her research agenda focuses on four main areas: coastal hazards and risks; oyster aquaculture; local property rights; and environmental law and policy. Her research collaborations include UGA colleagues as well as faculty members from other states, including the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary.
“Shana is a great listener and organizer with invaluable outreach and public service skills. She is a pleasure to work with and a quick problem solver whenever unexpected situations arise,” said State Rep. Lynn R. Smith, chair of the Georgia House Natural Resources and Environment Committee. “She fulfills the university’s public service mission in all regards in her work to make the academy the success it has become.”
• Eleanor “Ellie” Lanier is the associate dean for clinical programs and experiential learning and the mediation clinic director for the School of Law. She has spent her career working to improve the legal services available to Georgia’s most vulnerable populations, while also preparing the next generation of lawyers to carry on that effort.
Lanier joined the School of Law as an adjunct professor in 2004 and began looking for ways to expand experiential learning opportunities for law students. She added a service-learning component to a course on elder law by pairing students with practicing Georgia lawyers to provide service to low-income seniors.
Lanier was a driving force behind the creation of the Athens Access to Justice Initiative, or AATJI, in 2017—a program through which local attorneys, assisted by law students and volunteer paralegals, staff pop-up clinics to provide legal assistance to low-income and underserved members of the community. Since the first pop-up clinic in 2017, more than 1,000 clients have received free legal assistance. Another initiative driven by Lanier, Court Help, which provides free assistance to low-income litigants who are representing themselves in court, served over 500 community members during 2019.
Last year, Lanier participated in fundraising and oversaw the distribution of $133,000 to support law students doing summer public service and outreach throughout Georgia. One of those programs, Rural Access to Justice Fellowships, supports students going into rural communities to practice law.
As associate dean, Lanier has overseen the expansion of experiential learning at the law school to include 18 different clinics and externships. For each of the past several years, 90% of law school graduates have participated in at least one semester-long experiential learning program that was not part of the required curriculum. More than half have participated in two or more semester-long experiential opportunities.
“Dean Lanier has educated and equipped a multi-generational, statewide network of advocates (for elder care),” said Aimee E. Stowe, an adult guardianship specialist at the Georgia Department of Human Services’ Division of Aging Services. “Dean Lanier is an outstanding professor and academic in all the traditional ways, but she is also an outstanding champion of human rights. She has set up the networks, pathways and tools that advocates must have to close the gap between what the law requires and what happens in practice.”
• Mara Shaw is the interim associate director for governmental training, education and development at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government. For nearly seven years, Shaw has dedicated herself to improving education for elected local government officials, appointed local government officials and future local government policy makers or managers. Working with several organizations, Shaw has made a significant impact locally and statewide through her work.
Shaw has worked in partnership with five organizations in recent years to develop programs that address the educational needs of their members. Shaw helped develop expanded session programming for the National Forum for Black Public Administrators Executive Leadership Institute. She also helped create new courses for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association, expanding learning opportunities for local government officials throughout the state.
Shaw serves as the lead faculty member for the Georgia City-County Management Association’s education program. Working with GCCMA’s board of directors and its educational program planning committee, she has helped improve the overall quality of educational programming available for Georgia’s city and county managers. In 2017, Shaw developed a professional skills workshop series for Master of Public Administration students in the School of Public and International Affairs. Seventy students have completed the workshop series.
Shaw’s passion for continuing and professional education is clear in all of her work not only as a unit and program manager, but as a course instructor. She has led classes for 2,198 newly elected municipal officials and 423 newly elected county commissioners.
“Mara possesses the characteristics one looks for in a leader—she is a person of great integrity and character, a highly driven and motivated professional unafraid of challenges and committed to making a difference in service to the public,” said Larry H. Hanson, executive director of the Georgia Municipal Association. “She has a collaborative leadership and management style and possesses a unique ability to bring groups of people together from different backgrounds, experiences and socioeconomic factors, and create a sense of team to find common ground on solutions.”