Campus News Georgia Impact

Experience UGA wins 2024 ITGA Presidential Excellence Award

More than 40 UGA students serve as Experience UGA ambassadors. (Submitted photo)

The University of Georgia’s Office of Service-Learning announces that its collaborative program, Experience UGA, was recently recognized for its impact in the community with the 2024 International Town & Gown Association (ITGA) Presidential Excellence Award.

Experience UGA, a program coordinated by University of Georgia’s Office of Service-Learning in partnership with the Clarke County School District, received the award at this year’s ITGA Annual Conference, “The Power of Partnerships: Solving Grand Challenges Together,” held at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland.

“Experience UGA was created with the mission to introduce more children in our community to post-secondary opportunities,” said Shannon Brooks, director of the Office of Service-Learning. “This program united town and gown to achieve this mission, and it is an honor to be recognized by ITGA for over a decade of success. I am proud of our collaborative efforts to build and sustain this program that provides opportunities for every child in our local school district.”

ITGA is a nonprofit association that joins university, city and local leaders to collaborate and address community issues such as economic development, sustainability, housing and civic engagement. Members meet regularly to share knowledge and research and recognize the accomplishments of their peers from communities across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The ITGA Presidential Excellence Award was created in 2013 to highlight ITGA members who demonstrate exceptional performance in volunteer services, leadership or educational achievement.

“Out of all the nominations this year, Experience UGA stood apart from others by encompassing the award values of leadership, volunteerism and service,” said ITGA President Cory Peterson. “Experience UGA is an impressive program bringing together community leaders, university staff and students, and local schools on a yearly collaborative program, inviting K-12 students to discover the possibilities of attending college on a fun, educational field trip. It’s a simple program idea that takes a lot of coordination and has a tremendous impact for generations to come.”

Experience UGA was launched in 2012 with the mission to bring every student from the Clarke County School District, from Pre-K to 12th grade, to the University of Georgia for an educational field trip every year. Experience UGA collaborates with university partners in schools and colleges across campus to design and host grade-specific trips that introduce students to life on a university campus and connect what students are studying in their classrooms with higher education. Since the program began, more than 85,000 local students have visited UGA’s campus on an Experience UGA trip.

“This program would not be possible without our student ambassadors, volunteers and partners,” said Josh Podvin, assistant director for community partnerships with the Office of Service-Learning. “We have over 40 UGA students who serve as ambassadors, 1,000 UGA students who serve as volunteers, and over 40 departments and units across campus that partner with us. On the school side, we have an advisory board and more than 100 teachers who serve as liaisons and collaborators. As you can imagine, bringing about 10,000 students to campus for over 100 field trips is quite a feat, and it wouldn’t be possible without all of them.”

“Clarke County School District values this continued partnership with the University of Georgia through Experience UGA,” said Robbie Hooker, superintendent with the Clarke County School District. “This program helps us expand the mindset of our students from kindergarten to high school seniors and allows them to see the career and educational opportunities that exist right here in Athens. Preparing our students for life beyond high school is critical not only for our students, but for the well-being of our entire community.”

To learn more about Experience UGA, visit