Campus News Georgia Impact

Staff Dream Award recipient gives voice to students

Staff members of the Division of Academic Enhancement interact outside of Milledge Hall. From left are Bernard Green, Sherontae Maxwell and Latricia Gaston. (UGA photo)

Sherontae Maxwell has dedicated her career to ensuring that students from disadvantaged backgrounds not only have a seat at the table but also a voice.

Maxwell is the assistant director of access programs in the Division of Academic Enhancement. In this capacity, she oversees six federally funded TRIO programs: Educational Talent Search, Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement, Student Support Services, Upward Bound Math-Science and two classic Upward Bound programs. The programs identify and assist individuals from underserved communities, be it first-generation students, Pell grant-eligible students or students with a disability. 

Maxwell grew up in Savannah, where her love for serving others was born. She graduated from Mercer University with a bachelor’s degree in Program in Service-Learning and a minor in sociology. She continued her studies and received a master’s degree in social work from Savannah State University. 

Of the nearly 20 years that she has been involved with TRIO programs, 15 of them have been at UGA. In her current position, she works to improve and expand support to students, all while securing grant funding, managing a $6.5 million budget, acting as the liaison between the university and the U.S. Department of Education and building community relationships.

Recently, Maxwell was awarded the President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award for her dedication to creating a diverse and even playing field for underrepresented students.

The ceremony, part of the 2020 Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Breakfast, featured a display by local students who used artwork and writing to discuss the importance and applications of King’s mission. For Maxwell, it served as a reminder that the work she does makes a difference in the community.

“It was absolutely fantastic to see the students and hear their stories. They brought some of Dr. King’s teachings to life,” she said. “Our programs actually work with middle schools and high schools in Clarke County, so the video brought it all home, that students from all different backgrounds can come together and incorporate his messages into where we are now in 2020.”

Maxwell experiences this same fulfillment working with older students, too. She recently worked with a college senior who was interested in pursuing a graduate degree. After speaking with her, Maxwell recommended that she stay a couple more semesters to raise her GPA and increase her chances of acceptance.

“She transformed from a student who didn’t even know if graduate school was in the picture to a student who had her pick between schools,” Maxwell said. “Watching her have that opportunity has been a transformative process [for me too].”

These are the moments that keep Maxwell fulfilled in her role with the Division of Academic Enhancement, but her passion for advocacy extends to her personal life and community work, too.

Maxwell serves on numerous committees across campus. She has also held several leadership positions within various TRIO professional organizations as president of Georgia TRIO Programs, chairing numerous conferences, secretary for her regional association (SAEOPP) just to name a few. Additionally, she trains TRIO professionals across the nation and regularly evaluates programs on best practices. She serves in a ministry role at her church, Emmanuel Community Church in Conyers.