Campus News Campus Spotlight

Creating a happier and healthier Athens

Rebecca Bacon, , a contracts and grants professional, helped with the College of Public Health receiving 52 awards in fiscal year 2019, amounting to nearly $12 million in grant funding. (Peter Frey/UGA)

Whether Rebecca Kiel Bacon is a work or at play, she’s focused on making Athens a better place.

Bacon, a contracts and grants professional in the College of Public Health, moved to Athens a little over a decade ago. She fell in love with the culture and community and doesn’t think she’ll ever leave.

“Athens has a lot of resources that other communities don’t,” she said. “Not to say that we couldn’t be doing more, but it’s hard to compare because we’re such a community-minded place.”

In her job, she ensures that faculty, staff and students in the College of Public Health are able to secure grants to help create healthier communities. She oversees that process through its entire lifecycle, from coordinating the development of a grant to submitting proposals to advising on requirements and compliance.

“I really enjoy working with all our faculty and working with other institutions to collaborate on projects,” said Bacon. “It’s always very exciting to see a new faculty member or students get their first major award and help them with the processes of actually accomplishing their dream proposed project.”

With Bacon’s help, CPH received 52 awards in fiscal year 2019, amounting to nearly $12 million in grant funding. These grants are funding research investigating causes of male infertility, developing programs to reduce obesity in Georgia’s rural communities, disaster management training for Georgia’s healthcare systems, implementing methods to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission in Africa and exploring the links between Zika and preterm births—to name some projects that come to Bacon’s mind.

“There are so many interesting projects,” said Bacon. “I’ve learned that public health encompasses everything that we deal with in our daily lives and how our environment affects us.”

Bacon sees her work as an integral part of the work that CPH does to make communities better.

“My job is to be a small part of them helping to save the world,” said Bacon.

Since becoming an Athenian, Bacon has volunteered with several organizations, including Advantage Behavioral Health, Project Safe, Athens Land Trust, the Firefly Trail and Rivers Alive. Bacon even found herself involved in the local school system when she and her husband, Buck, hosted a 17-year-old high school student from the Ukraine, who was studying in the U.S. on scholarship through the Department of State’s Future Leaders Exchange Program.

The project she’s most excited about right now, though, is serving on the Advisory Council for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Working on the council allows her to connect with the community through her professional field. She was appointed by the mayor and Athens-Clarke Unified Government Commission to be one of the three people representing Athens-

“We meet and talk about gaps in services to meet community needs,” she said. “Or maybe there’re things we’re doing great in our community that we can share with others in the region or state.”

Bacon appreciates that the position focuses on public health and said that the field is expansive, covering everything from what people consume to health care and disaster management.

When Bacon is not volunteering or working, she enjoys hiking and biking Athens’ many trails with Buck, who’s a local civil engineering project manager.

“We’re both passionate about what we do and where we live, and it’s nice to share that with each other,” she said.