Issue 11: August 2020


GSW continues momentum with Fall enrollment increase

The largest freshman class in the past 50 years highlights an enrollment surge at Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW). One week into a return to face-to-face instruction, GSW's enrollment has jumped more than 11%, bringing the total student body to 3,158.

The freshman class of nearly 500 students represents a 29% increase from one year ago and validates the ongoing investment in campus facilities, new academic programs and increased scholarship support.

"We are very excited to have students back on campus after a long five months," said Weaver. "The first day of class excitement is still lingering in the Hurricane atmosphere, and these students are more eager than ever to learn and get engaged on campus. While things may look a little different around here with a few modifications in operations, our students have been incredible in following the safety protocols and remaining open-minded and flexible to these changes. Our students want to be here learning in the classroom, and I think our numbers for fall indicate that."

Read more about GSW enrollment increase and the efforts that contributed here.

College of Business and Computing renews prestigious AACSB Business Accreditation

GSW’s College of Business and Computing (COBAC) has maintained its business accreditation by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) International. Founded in 1916, AACSB International is the longest-serving global accrediting body for business schools that offer undergraduate, master's and doctoral degrees in business and accounting.

"Over the last 10 years, the College of Business and Computing has strived to develop innovative ways to engage our students, support our faculty, and continuously improve the educational experience we provide," said Gaynor Cheokas, DBA, interim dean of the College of Business and Education. "We are dedicated to delivering high-quality business and computing education that meets the needs of our students, community partners, and future business trends. This was a team effort, and I am so proud of everyone's hard work and support in helping achieve this distinction."

AACSB Accreditation is the hallmark of excellence in business education. Today, there are 870 business schools in 57 countries and territories that maintain AACSB Accreditation.

Read more about COBAC’s reaccreditation here.


Second annual Day of Giving set for Sep. 10

GSW's second annual Day of Giving will be held on Thursday, September 10, 2020. In this 24-hour giving challenge, we will bring the campus and community together to raise money and awareness for special University projects such as facility enhancements, scholarship funds, and student success in academics and engagement.

Alongside traditional monetary gifts, you can also participate in the Day of Giving by spreading the word on social media, RSVPing to the Facebook event, and eating at your favorite local restaurants on September 10.

At 10am on September 3, Americus Mayor Barry Blount will join President Weaver and members of the Day of Giving Committee on the steps of the Wheatley Administration Building to sign a proclamation declaring September 10 GSW's Day of Giving. The campus community is invited to attend the signing. Masks are required and gold clothing is preferred as we also celebrate Gold Force Thursday. 

Throughout the day on September 10, the following local restaurants will be donating a portion of their proceeds towards the $25,000 goal!

All Day

    • Carter’s Fried Chicken: 5am – 9pm
    • The Farmhouse: 10am – 10pm
    • 2 Duke’s BBQ: 11am – 7pm
    • Wok N Wings: 11am – 8pm


    • Café Campesino: 7am – 3pm


    • Sheppard House: 11am – 2pm
    • Pat’s Place: 11am – 3pm
    • La Hacienda: 11am – 3pm


    • Gyro City: 3pm – 8pm
    • Monroe’s Hot Dogs: 4pm – 8pm
    • Toboggan Steve’s: 5pm – 8pm
    • Roman Oven: 5pm – 10pm
    • The Fish House: 5pm – 9:30pm

Mark your calendar and help us spread the word! Learn more at

Snyder member of South GeorgiaLEADS 2020-21 class

Stephen Snyder, Assistant Vice President for University Advancement and Executive Director of the GSW Foundation, will be part of South GeorgiaLEADS 2020-2021 leadership class. The 32-member class includes participants from across South Georgia who have committed to investing in the future vitality of the region. The group will gather for a kick-off retreat in late August and continue with eight months of activities.

Read more about this year’s South GeorgiaLEADS class here.

Cross Country, Golf, Tennis start October 1; Soccer pushed to Spring

The Peach Belt Conference Board of Directors announced several decisions on Friday which will impact Georgia Southwestern State University athletic teams this fall. The Peach Belt will allow members to compete in a limited fall season in several sports. Georgia Southwestern men's and women's cross country, women's tennis and men's golf may participate in events this fall while the men's and women's soccer seasons will be delayed until spring of 2021. The Board's decisions come following the NCAA Board of Governors additional requirements and the cancellation of the 2020 DII fall championships as the results of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cross Country, golf and tennis competition for those institutions who can meet the Resocialization of Sports guidelines can begin on Oct. 1. Men's and women's cross country will run three regular-season meets followed by the PBC Championship in late November. The date and location of the PBC Championship will be announced at a later date. The GSW men's golf and women's tennis teams have the option to compete in fall events, although both programs have the championship portion of their schedule in the spring.

For more on fall sports, click here.

11th annual President’s Classic set for October 2020

Make plans to grab your clubs and head to Griffin Bell Golf Course in Americus on Friday, Oct. 23 to take part in the 11th Annual President's Classic Golf Tournament benefiting GSW Athletics. With a four-person scramble format, the tournament entry fee includes a cart, lunch, and tee gifts.

Click here for more information and to register.

Mike Leeder discusses new Training Facility & Locker Campaign in “Eye of the Storm” ep. 3

In Episode 3 of Athletics’ “Eye of the Storm” series, Director of Athletics Mike Leeder discussed the new baseball & softball indoor training facility project as it nears completion and a new sponsorship campaign that will allow for the baseball locker room to be constructed.

Watch Episode 3 here.

Student Recognitions

Madison Hobby
August Canes Spotlight announced

Canes Spotlights highlight Georgia Southwestern students who hold leadership roles, are involved in extracurricular activities and/or excel academically in their degree programs. The August Canes Spotlight was:

Canes Spotlights are nominated by GSW faculty and staff.


Grissett featured in AAC&U article

Director of Experiential Learning and Associate Professor of Psychology Judy Orton Grissett, Ph.D. was recently featured in an article in the Association of American Colleges and Universities' (AAC&U) latest issue on "Making Learning Affordable in Georgia." The piece, titled “Affordable Learning Georgia: Increasing Equity and Improving Pedagogy through Open Educational Resources,” explained how Grissett started using open educational resources—free, open-access, peer-reviewed textbooks—to help students keep costs down.


Toteva has paper presented at virtual conference

A working paper titled “The Effects of Trolling Behavior on Engagement in Online Communities” and authored by GSW Assistant Professor Irina Toteva, Ph.D., and a co-author, Gina Brynildsen, was virtually presented in the poster session at the national marketing conference INFORMS Society for Marketing Science, June 11-13, 2020. The abstract of the paper can be seen here. Toteva extended special thanks to Jonathan Hobbs, Manager of IT and Faculty Support for COBAC, for helping with the scraping of YouTube comments to be used in the data analysis.

Dehzooei presents poster at annual meeting

Dr. Mohammad Dehzooei, assistant professor of economics, presented a poster at the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Annual Meeting in August 2020. In this research, Dr. Dehzooei studies how infrastructure allows rural households to cope with shocks to weather. He shows that households living in villages with good road access, are able to increase their work in a good year, when rainfall is plenty. This effect is seen for those who work in agriculture sector as well as those who work in industry. This study is important for sustainable development programs. 

New Hires, Promotions & Retirements

GaynorCheokas.jpgGaynor Cheokas named Interim Dean

Gaynor Cheokas, associate professor of management in the College of Business and Computing, has been appointed Interim Dean of the college. Cheokas replaces Liz Wilson, who retired in May of this year.

“Gaynor is a proven leader who has been part of the GSW community for 16 years,” states Suzanne Smith, GSW provost and vice president of academic affairs. “Her extensive leadership experience, ties to the community, and devotion to the college will be tremendous assets.”

Before joining the College of Business and Computing in 2004, Cheokas spend 21 years in private industry. At GSW, she teaches courses in small business management, entrepreneurship, and organizational leadership and behavior. Cheokas has been award the Teacher of Excellence (2019) and many other university honors while in her service. In addition to serving as an associate professor at the college (2013-present), Cheokas serves as director of the Center for Business and Economic Development at GSW. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Columbus State, a master's degree from Georgia Southwestern, and a doctorate from Georgia State. She is a member of the Americus Chamber of Commerce, the Americus Rotary Club, and is active with other local organizations. She is also a member of the Academy of Management.

TiffanyAldridge.JPGTiffany Aldridge joins Health Sciences

The College of Nursing and Health Sciences recently welcomed Tiffany Aldridge (left) in the role of Support Specialist. Tiffany is from Ellaville, Georgia and went to Americus- Sumter High School. She attended Valdosta State University and received a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Physiology.

Tiffany will serve in an administrative assistant support role for the Exercise Science and Long-Term Care Management programs and will also serve as the clinical placement specialist for the Family Nurse Practitioner Program.

Michele McKie named Assessment Director and Lecturer

Effective August 1, 2020, Michele McKie became the Assessment Director and a lecturer in the College of Education (COE). In this role, McKie will provide leadership for the COE Quality Assurance program. McKie has been employed at GSW since 2014 and previously served as the Director of Field of Experiences.


LisaHensley.jpgLisa Hensley, Wei Ding, and Bill Hamby join College of Business and Computing

Lisa Hensley recently joined GSW as a part-time Administrative Assistant for the College of Business and Computing.

Lisa comes to GSW with a wealth of experience in both the private and public sectors, paired with life experiences gained from living and working in five states (Indiana, Illinois, Florida, Kentucky, and now Georgia). Over the course of 25+ years, her work has focused on administrative assistant and office management roles, including for a large insurance company, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the United States Postal Service.

Lisa and her husband Mike are settling into their home in the Buena Vista area after moving to southwest Georgia in late 2019. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her family and taking walks with Mike and their two Brittany Spaniels, Persimmon and Willow. Lisa is excited to join the GSW family and is looking forward to building deep ties here.

WeiDing.jpgWei Ding, Ph.D., is a new Associate Professor of Computer Science. Before coming to GSW, he was an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Florida Polytechnic University. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science with a minor in Economics from the Louisiana State University in 2006. Ding has 14 years teaching experience at U.S. four-year universities. He is an IEEE senior member, and member of ACM, IEEE Communication Society, and IEEE Computer Society.

Ding worked as a senior software engineer in China before coming to the U.S. for his Ph.D. His recent research covered cybersecurity, health informatics, wireless networks, cyber-physical systems, and the internet. He has published two books, five book chapters, and many peer reviewed papers, most as the first author in IEEE/ACM international conferences or journals. Ding served on the Technical Program Committee for many IEEE international conferences, e.g. IEEE WCNC, IEEE GLOBECOM, IEEE ICC, IEEE ICNC, etc. He also served as reviewer for IEEE transactions.

Bill Hamby recently joined COBAC as an Associate Professor of Accounting.

SusanStephens.JPGSusan Stephens and Amber Ward join College of Education

Susan Stephens recently joined GSW as a lecturer in the College of Education. Susan will be teaching in the elementary education program with a focus on early literacy, language arts, and classroom management.

She and her husband live in a neighboring county and have two grown sons, two wonderful daughters-in-law, and the blessing of a new grandson.

She is a twenty-five-year veteran of the Georgia public school system. She completed her BS, M.Ed, and Ed.S degrees at GSW.

AmberWard.jpgAmber Ward recently joined the College of Education as Director of Field and Clinical Experiences.

Amber has worked in the College of Education since 2017 as a course assistant.

Before joining GSW as an employee, she attended GSW and obtained her BSED and MEd degrees in Early Childhood Education and taught second grade in Crisp County. Amber lives in Cordele and enjoys all of her free time with her son, Cannon.

Hurricane Gratitude

This newest section will allow students, faculty, or staff to submit thanks to other members of the GSW community for their outstanding dedication, commitment, or support. Submit a "thank you" anytime via email to or during the monthly call for Breeze submissions.

“I recently had a problem getting a scholarship posted to my student account and Mrs. Kina Davis In Financial Aid helped me to secure it very quickly. She made me feel like I was a priority and not just a number.”

– Jacob Peed, Student


“We’d like to thank Mary Cooper for sewing Surge his own mask for a quick photoshoot, and for sewing numerous other masks for members of our campus community. Thank you for helping keep GSW safe!”

– Department of University Relations


“Thank you to the Physical Plant staff for their hard work getting banners placed around campus for Thunder Camp, Move-In Day, and students’ return to campus.”

– Department of University Relations and Division of Student Engagement and Success

Upcoming Events

  • September 3: Day of Giving Proclamation Signing
  • September 7: Labor Day (no classes)
  • September 10: Day of Giving
  • September 17: Canes Kickoff
  • October 7: Midterm for full term courses

Find more events on the GSW academic calendar and on CanesConnect.