On Feb. 1, Jennifer Frum became the fifth vice president for public service and outreach, and the first woman to hold the position. She steps into the leadership role with 17 years of experience in PSO programs and a clear vision for the future. In that vision, Frum sees UGA capitalizing on its assets and land-grant history to become the ideal responsive and engaged university—one that can serve as a model for all land-grant institutions.
“Outreach and service are deeply engrained in UGA history,” Frum said.
Established in 1785 as the first state-chartered institution of higher education in the U.S. and later designated as a land-grant university under the Morrill Act of 1862, UGA has a commitment to service that is long and deep.
“Outreach and service have helped define our heritage and will help define our future as well,” Frum said. “With the support and encouragement of President Adams and Provost Morehead, the land-grant mission has really come alive in the past several years. And now more than ever, scholars across campus are looking for ways to apply their research to real-world challenges and issues in Georgia.”
A key part of Frum’s vision is greater engagement of faculty and students in carrying out UGA’s service mission.
“I want to focus on engaging the entire campus in collaborative partnerships that promote improved quality of life for Georgians,” she said. “It’s important that we be flexible, nimble and creative in how we work across instruction, research and public service boundaries.
“As vice president, I will be directing energy and resources to strategically engage academic faculty in efforts to respond to the state’s needs,” Frum also said. “Similarly, I believe that through service-learning programs and other student involvement in PSO work, we have a role to play in helping students develop as responsible citizens of the state—and the world.”
PSO consists of eight units that work across the state in diverse ways—from offering certification programs for teachers and gardeners to helping foster successful small businesses, more efficient government, thriving downtowns and communities, stronger marine industries and more. Through the work of these units, PSO faculty, staff and students serve every county in Georgia and well beyond. But Frum believes there’s always room to grow and improve.
Frum is passionate that in today’s global context, UGA’s reach needs to extend internationally as well as throughout Georgia.
“As citizens of the world, we have a responsibility to apply our knowledge and expertise to address global challenges that affect us all,” she said. “Through our international work we also can help position Georgia’s communities and businesses as economic players in the global economy.”
UGA’s public service programs themselves are making a big impact on Georgia’s economy. According to a recent study conducted by the department of agriculture and applied economics in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the annual estimated economic impact of PSO programs is $333 million.
Frum is particularly interested in finding ways that PSO can partner internally and externally with programs that support economic development. “With today’s economic realities, Georgia’s leaders have high expectations for UGA, especially in the areas of service and outreach,” she said.
In moving forward, Frum stresses the importance of effectively and accurately assessing PSO efforts, as well as communicating their impact.
“The big picture story is how UGA fulfills its land- and sea-grant status,” she said. “That story rests on the many smaller stories of how UGA is engaged around the state in ways that make a tangible difference in the lives of Georgians. I want to find ways to capture those stories—and to tell them.”