Campus News

UGA selects two student ambassadors for inaugural SEC Symposium on Renewable Energy

Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia Bioenergy Systems Research Institute and the Office of Sustainability have selected two undergraduate students to serve as ambassadors to the inaugural Southeastern Conference Symposium, which will be held Feb. 10-12 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.

Heather Hatzenbuhler of Lawrenceville, a senior environmental economics and management major in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and Ian Karra of Roswell, a senior majoring in economics with an emphasis in public policy and finance in the Terry College of Business, competed for the honor of representing UGA at the symposium. The two were selected for their outstanding leadership, service and academic scholarship related to advancing renewable energy in Georgia and around the globe.

The first-ever SEC Symposium, titled “Impacts of the Southeast in the World’s Renewable Energy Future,” will highlight the role of the southeastern U.S. in the world’s renewable energy future. The symposium, led by UGA, will showcase academic excellence and educational and economic contributions made by the 14 SEC member universities to positively impact the vitality of the region, nation and world.

“I was blown away by the activism of these two UGA undergraduates and their commitment to renewable energy and environmental sustainability,” said Robert Scott, UGA associate vice president for research and chair of the local organizing committee for the symposium. “They will make superb representatives of UGA as university ambassadors in Atlanta.”

Hatzenbuhler has served as a leader on campus, in the local community and around the world to advance environmental policy through advocacy. Her undergraduate research has been related to clean energy affordability, biofuels production in Georgia and impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water quality. She has developed local campaigns to promote sustainable energy and environmental justice, leading to her selection as a student representative to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change COP17 conference in Durban, South Africa.

“As a native Georgian, I want so badly for the Southeast to capitalize on the vast renewable energy resources available in the region,” Hatzenbuhler said. “It is my responsibility to use the education and opportunities I have been given to be a part of creating a clean energy future for the Southeast and the rest of the world.”

According to Terence Centner, a professor of agricultural and applied economics, “not only is Heather one of the top undergraduate students of the university, but also a very visible leader of environmental and humanitarian efforts…with a unique ability to represent the downtrodden and environmental causes in a professional manner.”

Karra has organized his academic, civic and research experiences around renewable energy and public policy to establish a career path in energy policy and grassroots advocacy. He has applied insights gained from study abroad at UGA Costa Rica and research activities in a UGA ecology lab to promote clean energy infrastructure on college campuses throughout the state as co-leader for GA YES (Youth for Environmental Solutions), a network of over 75 student environmental leaders on over a dozen campuses in Georgia. Karra has been recognized by many foundations and organizations for his efforts in advocating for renewable energy in the Southeast.

“Ian’s life goals are as impressive as his life experiences,” said James W. Porter, Meigs Professor of Ecology and associate dean of UGA’s Odum School of Ecology. “I recommend him to you as one of his generation’s next environmental leaders.”

The symposium is part of the SEC’s academic initiative known as SECU. Through SECU, the conference sponsors, supports and promotes collaborative higher education programs and activities involving administrators, faculty and students at its member universities.

For more information about SECU, see For more information on the SEC Symposium, see

UGA Bioenergy Systems Research Institute
Bioenergy Systems Research Institute unites UGA’s legacies in agriculture, forestry, environmental science and engineering with its strengths in carbohydrate science, genetics and microbiology to provide a scientific and practical foundation to support an economic and sustainable bioenergy future. For more information, see

UGA Office of Sustainability
The Office of Sustainability coordinates, communicates and advances sustainability initiatives at UGA. For more information, see