Campus News

VP for public service and outreach reflects on UGA’s impact

Jennifer Frum

Jennifer Frum’s first job at UGA shares many similarities with the one that she has now.

She traveled a lot. She helped connect UGA professors and research to places where they could solve problems. She helped businesses create jobs and governments train leaders.

But a lot has changed in the two decades that she’s been here. Frum has worked her way up from a research coordinator I in the Office of International Development to become UGA’s first female vice president for public service and outreach.

The mission is much the same, but the scale is much larger. She oversees eight units that have a combined economic impact of $344 million annually.

“I had a long leash to create new and interesting international programs, which was rewarding,” Frum said of the early days in her career at UGA, where she brought experience from working in the office of Rep. Bob Wise. “From putting together faculty teams to navigating cross-cultural differences and negotiating bureaucratic processes—that early work taught me a lot about how to move a project from A to Z.”

In her role as a research coordinator, Frum was tasked with helping professors on proposals develop programs and research outside of the U.S.

It was exciting work developing relationships with businesses and other programs in Mexico, Eastern Europe and, later, East and West Africa. Frum got to travel and network, helping create Georgia’s international reputation even before the Summer Olympics in 1996 brought it to the forefront.

And the travel was a precursor to her current role, where she travels through the communities of Georgia, working on issues of economic development, leadership training and solving challenges.

“My best days are the days I’m out interacting with the people we serve,” she said.

While earning her doctorate from the UGA Institute of Higher Education, Frum worked her way up the career ladder to become assistant director of the Office of International Public Service and Outreach before joining the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, one of the eight units that report to the vice president for pubic service and outreach. She served as director of the Vinson Institute before being named vice president for public service and outreach in 2012.

She sees the university’s public service mission as critical.

“We have a responsibility to take the vast knowledge we have here and apply it to the world around us,” she said, pointing out that through the eight units that report to her—the Archway Partnership, Carl Vinson Institute of Government, Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Georgia Center for Continuing Education, Marine Extension/Georgia Sea Grant, Office of Service-Learning, Small Business Development Center and State Botanical Garden of Georgia—UGA touches every county in the state. “I think anyone can say to the taxpayers of Georgia we are a good return on investment.”

She said she appreciates the attention UGA President Jere W. Morehead and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten have placed on creating a pipeline for women leaders at the university.

As a woman in the male-dominated world of politics, she said, she credits much of her success to good advice from male and female mentors, but she added that she believes that women have to be themselves in their positions to be successful and not try to emulate men.

“Growing up, it never occurred to me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl,” she said, adding that she worked hard, followed good advice and had a little luck to help her get to the place where she is today.

“The most successful leaders are people who are willing to make hard decisions that are in the best interest of the organization, even though they might not be the most popular choices,” Frum said. “Sometimes you have to be a little fearless to make great things happen.”