Campus News

Four named to SEC Academic Leadership Development Program

This year’s SEC ALDP Fellows are, from left, Spencer Johnston, Maritza Soto Keen, Phaedra Corso and David Okech.

Four University of Georgia faculty members will hone their leadership skills as the university’s 2017-2018 SEC Academic Leadership Development Program Fellows. Phaedra Corso, Spencer Johnston, Maritza Soto Keen and David Okech began the fellowship this fall.

Created by the Southeastern Conference in 2008, the fellowship program seeks to identify, develop, prepare and advance academic leaders for roles within SEC institutions and beyond.

Throughout the year, the participants will engage with senior administrators at UGA based on their areas of interest and attend two SEC-wide workshops that will include training, mentoring and the opportunity to network with their counterparts from other SEC institutions. The fall SEC ALPD workshop will be held Oct. 23-25 at Louisiana State University, and the spring workshop will be held Feb. 21-23 at Auburn University.

“One of the biggest strengths of the SEC ALDP is that it gives the fellows an opportunity to compare how UGA and other SEC institutions approach the goals and challenges that they have in common,” said Sarah Covert, associate provost for faculty affairs and UGA’s SEC ALDP liaison. “The varied interests and experiences of this year’s fellows will expose them all to a range of campus issues and expertise, while also providing them with opportunities to learn from each other.”

Corso, a UGA Foundation Professor of Human Health in the College of Public Health, is the associate director of the Owens Institute for Behavioral Research as well as founder and director of the Economic Evaluation Research Group at UGA.

Corso spent the first 15 years of her career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where she served as the senior health economist in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. She was a U.S. Fulbright Scholar for the 2015-2016 academic year, conducting research and teaching in Quito, Ecuador.

In 2014, she was the recipient of UGA’s Creative Research Medal and in 2016 received the College of Public Health’s Outstanding Teaching Award. Her research interests focus on the application of economic evaluation to the prevention of substance use, violence and childhood obesity.

Johnston, a professor in the College of Veterinary Medicine, has served as head of the small animal medicine and surgery department for the past six years. Under his leadership, the number of faculty in the department has grown by nearly 33 percent.

Johnston has served on various committees and boards for the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. He is a member of the Council on Education for the American Veterinary Medical Association and also serves on the leadership committee of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges.

His research interests include the treatment of osteoarthritis, particularly with nonsteroidal and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Keen is a senior public service associate at the university’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, a public service and outreach unit. She is an expert in nonprofit leadership and multicultural community engagement, with a particular focus on board development, strategic planning and program assessment.

Before coming to UGA in 2002, Keen spent 17 years as the executive director of the Latin American Association, a nonprofit based in Atlanta. Keen is the creator of the Leadership sin Limites program, which was the state’s first leadership program focused on underrepresented communities. In 2012, she received the university’s Walter Barnard Hill Award, which recognizes distinguished achievement in public service and outreach.

Okech, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, directs the university’s Master of Social Work program. He has served as the school’s director of global engagement and has co-led numerous study abroad programs to Ghana and Northern Ireland. He spent nearly 10 years working in domestic and international nongovernmental organizations, including serving as the national director of a child development program that served more than 3,000 children in Kenya.

Okech’s research focuses on the socio-economic well-being of economically disenfranchised families and children. Specifically, he is focused on programs and services for vulnerable children and families; evidence-informed programs for victims and survivors of sex and labor trafficking; and the interaction among globalization, human rights and justice and its implications for poorer households or nations.

More information on the SEC Academic Leadership Program is at

The application deadline for nominations for the 2018-2019 SEC Academic Leadership Development Program is April 6, 2018.