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Issue 11: August 2021


GSW wipes student debt, distributes over $3 million to enrolled students in response to COVID-19

Georgia Southwestern utilized Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds (HEERF III) to discharge over $110,000 in students’ overdue, unpaid balances and will distribute more than $3 million to enrolled students over the coming year.

HEERF III was designed to remedy financial hardships created or made worse by the pandemic. Georgia Southwestern was able to clear the overdue, unpaid account balances of 82 students (those enrolled for the Spring 2020 through Spring 2021 semesters) totaling $110,667.15. Until their balances were paid, these students were unable to obtain official transcripts or complete progress toward their degrees.

An additional $3 million will be allocated to all current GSW students including those exclusively enrolled in distance education. Based upon a student’s eligibility status as of September 10 for Fall term, GSW will distribute amounts ranging anywhere from $150 - $1,350 per academic semester for Fall 2021 and Spring 2022. Eligibility is based on three factors: full-time or part-time enrollment, Pell eligibility for the term, and on-campus housing or commuter status.

“We are happy to be able to provide this much-needed support for our students,” stated GSW President Neal Weaver, Ph.D. “This debt relief effort will help alleviate some of the financial hardships our students are facing as a result of the pandemic, and it will also allow them to reset after a challenging year and focus on their college education.”

Learn more here.

Record-breaking enrollment growth continues at GSW with state’s highest growth in summer semester

Georgia Southwestern made significant gains in enrollment for Summer 2021, recording the highest growth by percentage in the University System of Georgia (USG) with a notable 10.3 percent increase. GSW’s enrollment was up by nearly 200 students over the previous year, with 1,968 students taking one or more classes this summer.

This summer growth continues a trend of increasing enrollment for Georgia Southwestern. In Fall 2020, GSW saw the highest total enrollment since the institution’s founding in 1906. Similarly, in Spring 2021, GSW recorded a 5.6 percent increase from the previous year with a total of 2,871 students.

This increase comes in a year when overall USG enrollment was down 2 percent over Summer 2020 numbers, which marks the first statewide decrease in enrollment since 2014.

“Georgia Southwestern continues to be a leading institution in the state,” said GSW President Neal Weaver, Ph.D. “For the second year in a row, GSW has set an all-time record with the highest summer numbers in the University’s 115-year existence. GSW provides a tremendous value to our students and to our region. When you factor together high-quality instruction and affordability, GSW quickly becomes one of the best values in the state and in the country, making it a desired destination of higher learning.”

Read more about GSW’s summer enrollment numbers here.

GSW’s Day of Giving aims to raise $50,000 and receive a gift from all 50 states on September 16

On September 16, 2021, Georgia Southwestern will host its third annual Day of Giving, a 24-hour giving challenge that raises funds for scholarships, student success, athletics, and campus improvements. Last year’s efforts raised over $34,000, surpassing the $25,000 goal.

This year’s Day of Giving goals are $50,000 in donations made on September 16 and at least one gift from each of the 50 U.S. states. Each contribution will support one of six GSW causes:

Florrie Chappell Gymnasium Renovation
The restoration of this 80-year-old historic building will bring it back to life, creating a recreational center at the hub of campus for students and community to enjoy.

Southwestern Promise Scholarships
These scholarships, created in Hurricane Michael’s aftermath, automatically provide $1,000 and $2,000 to GSW freshmen living in the 56-county region of Southwest Georgia who meet certain academic requirements.

Carter Leadership Program
Contributions to support the Carter Leadership Program will bolster existing programs and ensure enhancement of opportunities and involvement for the Program’s students.

Griffin Bell Conference Center Renovation
The renovation of this popular venue will help foster local entrepreneurs with a makerspace and provide a modernized space for social functions and conferences.

GSW Athletics
Your contribution to GSW Athletics includes, but is not limited to, support for athletic facility improvements, scholarships, and recruiting enhancements.

Southwestern Annual Fund
This general-purpose fund provides a source of support for students as needs arise including conference expenses, extra-curricular learning programs, scholarship funding, emergency expenses, and textbook assistance.

Monetary donations can be made online at, through PayPal, in person at the Newman Alumni Center on campus, or mailed to the GSW Foundation. Gifts made by GSW faculty and staff on September 16 will count towards the Day of Giving and participation in the Give Southwestern Faculty & Staff Fund Drive that runs the entire month of September.

In addition to online giving, those wanting to support GSW on the Day of Giving can dine at one of the participating local restaurants. Carter’s Fried Chicken, Wolf Creek Plantation (Vineyard and Downtown locations), Pat’s Place, 2 Duke’s BBQ, Wok N Wings, The Sheppard House, La Hacienda, Monroe’s Hotdogs, Gyro City Mediterranean Grill, Roman Oven Pizzeria, The Fish House, Floyd's Pub, Rosemary & Thyme, Booger Bottom, and Café Campesino will generously donate a portion of their sales during certain hours toward the $50,000 goal.


GSW alumnus Dr. Kenneth Wurtz '75 endows biology scholarship at University

Kenneth Wurtz, M.D., endowed a biology scholarship recently at Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) commemorating his time there as a student having graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor of Science in Biology.

The Dr. Kenneth Wurtz Biology Scholarship, offered through the GSW Foundation, will provide financial support for students majoring in biology focusing on those who have progressed through introductory courses. The scholarship will be available beginning Fall 2022.

Read more about Wurtz and his gift to GSW here.WurtzEndowment.jpg

Student Recognitions

Madison Hobby
Canes Spotlights announced for August

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 Spotlights were sophomore pre-marketing major Madison Hobby and recent marketing graduate Shannon Griffin.

Madison Hobby associates her decision to attend to GSW with childhood visits to her grandmother's house. "I grew up down here visiting my grandma," she said. "As soon as I set foot on campus, it gave me that same feeling of home from when I would visit her, and I knew this was where I needed to go."

Madison recently served as a 2021 Thunder Camp Student Director and is also a member of BCM, where she is serving on the Leadship Team this year. She previosuly worked as a Student Engagement desk assistant and a Zephyr tour guide with the Office of Recruitment and Admissions.

Shannon GriffinShannon Griffin graduated from GSW in Summer 2021 with an extensive list of campus involvement and accomplishments, including 2021 Homecoming Queen, Student Leader of the Year, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Concert and Pep Band, and Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society.

According to Shannon, the GSW experience is what makes our campus special. "GSW expends a ton of effort into making the campus experience memorable for students," she said. "Don't be afraid to get involved and put yourself out there! Speaking from personal experience, I can say it truly enhances the college experience."

Since her graduation, Shannon has joined GSW's Residence Life staff and now works as a Coordinator of Residential Living & Student Activities.

Canes Spotlights are nominated by GSW faculty and staff.

Accounting student Iliana Yanez lands job after internship

After meeting at GSW’s College of Business and Computing Student Leadership Dinner in March 2021, Iliana Yanez, a senior accounting major, was offered an internship by Danny Adkins, Executive Vice President at Citizens Bank of Americus. Iliana accepted the internship and completed her required internship course from June 8 – July 23, 2021. She was able to shadow employees to understand every function of the bank, including bookkeeping, customer service, loans, compliance, marketing, IT, and bank tellers.

Following her internship, Iliana was offered a bank teller position at Citizens Bank, where she now works. Iliana would like to thank GSW and Danny Adkins for this opportunity.

Iliana Yanez and Danny Adkins


Evan KutzlerKutzler article explores local survivors of the Middle Passage

Assistant Professor of history Evan Kutzler, Ph.D., continued his local history series in the Americus Times-Recorder on August 11 with "Alf Hudson, Perry Grove, and the Middle Passage.”

"Alf Hudson was among a small number of African Americans in this region who survived the Middle Passage and became free in their lifetime. Calling the names of these individuals acknowledges an echo of the middle passage that could be heard long after the United States formally outlawed the importation of enslaved people in 1808. The current national reckoning with race and slavery reminds us that the 156 years between 1865 and 2021 is not so long after all. There was only a 57-year gap between 1808 and 1865."

Yemelyanov and SukumaranYemelyanov chairs section at International Conference and publishes two new research articles together with master's student Rahul Sukumaran

Professor of Computer Science in the College of Business and Computing, Alexander Yemelyanov, Ph.D., D.Sc., chaired a section at the 2021 Virtual International Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics July 25-29, where he presented both of his articles recently published in Springer: Advances in Neuroergonomics and Cognitive Engineering, vol. 259.

The first article was prepared together with GSW graduate student Rahul Sukumaran from St. Louis, Mo. Sukumaran works as an Associate Software Architect at California-based UST Global Inc, a global provider of digital technology and transformation, IT services and solutions.

The GSW College of Business and Computing has students entering its MS of Computer Science program from all over the country, as well as from a variety of fields and industries. The program is the only master’s program at GSW that offers students a thesis option. 

Rahul is thankful to have chosen GSW for his studies, as the program allowed him to fulfill his longstanding dream of earning a Master’s degree.

Awards & Grants

Donaldson Named NCAA D2 Southeast Region Coach of the Year

The Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) recently named Georgia Southwestern State University head men's golf coach Darcy Donaldson the 2021 NCAA Division II Southeast Region Coach of the Year. This is the second consecutive year Donaldson has earned the honor and the third time overall (2016). He was also named the Dave Williams National Coach of the Year by the GCAA in 2020. 

Georgia Southwestern made a historic postseason run at the 2021 NCAA Division II National Championship in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., that led to a runner-up finish. The Hurricanes earned the fourth seed for medal match play and a spot in the national quarterfinals as a result of their finish in the stroke play portion of the event. GSW advanced to the semifinals with a 3-2 win over No. 5 seed Texas A&M University-Commerce and the finals with a 2-2-1 tiebreaker victory over the top seed, the University of Indianapolis. The NCAA Division II National Championship was decided by the final pairing and the final three holes of the tournament as Arkansas Tech University defeated GSW, 3-2.

Read more here.

Darcy Donaldson

Kutzler and Sumter Historic Trust receive grant to develop Americus digital history tours

Evan Kutzler, Ph.D., volunteering for the Sumter Historic Trust, received a $2,500 grant from the Georgia Humanities Council to develop digital history tours of Americus, Georgia.

Through a user-friendly mobile app, the Americus History Trails project will create overlapping walking and history “trails” to offer Americus residents and visitors an opportunity to learn, at their own pace, more about the history of Americus and its neighborhoods, while also providing an enjoyable exercise experience. Available by 2022, the three guided tours will begin at "trail heads", including a short commercial history tour (< 1 mile) beginning downtown; an intermediate-length longer African American and Civil Rights tour (<2 miles) beginning on North Lee Street; and an advanced "off the beaten path" architectural tour (<3 miles) beginning on the south side of the city. This project will employ a public forum and public comment model to ensure diverse and equitable collaboration.

Angela Smith wins awardSmith receives Rotary award

GSW Alumni Engagement Specialist Angela Smith was recently honored with The Sheffield Leadership Award on August 14 at the Rotary District 6900 Celebration in Sandestin, Fla. The award is presented annually to the District 6900 club presidents (one from each of the five club size categories) who best exemplify the extraordinary leadership traits represented by the Sheffield family and execute their responsibilities in an exceptional manner. It honors John West Sheffield (District 39, 1926-27), John W. Sheffield (District 690, 1961-62), and Langdon Sheffield (District 690, 1975-76), who have each served this Rotary District as District Governors.

Smith served as the President of the Rotary Club of Americus for the 2020-21 year.

Anderson secures $10,000 grant for AAMI

Ervin D. Anderson, Director of African American Male Institute (AAMI), has secured a $10,000 grant for GSW’s AAMI Program in Fiscal Year 2022. “I am thrilled to have maintained this program consistently for 14 years,” said Anderson. “In addition to the $10,000 grant, GSW’s AAMI has also been allocated the funds that were not spent in last fiscal year because of the pandemic.” In addition, the program was awarded end of the year funds by the USG Director of AAMI for meeting the goals and objectives of the program. “We look forward to another successful year,” said Anderson. 

New Hires, Promotions & Retirements

Judy-Grissett.JPGJudy Orton Grissett to lead Experiential Learning

Judy Orton Grissett, Ph.D., has been hired as GSW's first Director of Experiential Learning. Judy has been a psychology faculty member in the Department of Psychology and Sociology since 2013 but moved into the new director position at the start of the 2021 academic year. Although she has fulfilled this Experiential Learning role in a part-time capacity for the past year, this will be her full-time position going forward.

The mission of the Office of Experiential Learning is to provide students with experienced-based academic learning opportunities, including, but not limited to study abroad, domestic study away, faculty-mentored research, service-learning, internships, leadership opportunities, and other creative endeavors that will add in the learning experience of students at GSW.

Physical Plant bids farewell to longtime employees Chris Fenn and Paul Battle

Two longtime employees of GSW's Physical Plant retired this summer.

Chris Fenn joined GSW in April 2002 and spent over 19 years as GSW's locksmith. Chris has also volunteered his time time and talent as the official photographer for the GSW Department of Athletics since 2002, for which he was inducted into the GSW Athletics Hall of Fame as a Contributor in 2020.

HVAC Supervisor Paul Battle will also be retiring as of August 31. He started in Physical Plant in September 1988 and has spent nearly 33 years keeping campus cool and comfortable.

Melaina GilleyMelaina Gilley and Tammy Middleton join FYE

The Office of First-Year Experience welcomed two new employees this month.

Melaina Gilley will serve as FYE's new Academic Resource Coordinator. Her role will include advising first-year students, coordinating tutors and supplemental instructors, as well as teaching an academic skills course.

Melaina is a GSW alumna, having earned her B.S. in Psychology in 2001. She continued to advance her studies earning a M.Ed. in School Counseling from Albany State University in 2003 and an Ed.S. in School Counseling from Valdosta State University in 2012. Melaina served as a School Counselor for fifteen years in K-12 education and looks forward to working with students at the post-secondary level.

She is married to Scott Gilley, and they reside in Dawson where he manages a family owned manufacturing business, Dawson Tarpaulins. They have a son who is a freshman at GSW and a daughter who is a dual enrollment student at GSW. She enjoys traveling, watching documentaries, and spending time with family. She also has a visual passion for architecture, art, and all things design related.

Tammy MiddletonTammy Middleton has also joined FYE as the new Administrative Assistant as of August 17, 2021. She is an Americus native and has worked with students for at least 15 years. She holds an associate's degree in Business Administation from  American InterContinental University.

Tammy previosuly worked at the Sumter County Health Department as well as Sumter County Schools, where she was the Bookkeeper for 13 years.

She is a married mother of 3 children, ages 35, 21, and 13. Tammy says she has never meat a stranger and is excited to return to her work in education, where she aims to help students achieve their goals and become the best versions of themselves.

Tricia Ferguson joins GSW Pre-K

Tricia Ferguson joined the College of Education and GSW Pre-K earlier this month as an Assistant Pre-K teacher. Tricia comes to GSW from First Baptist Church Preschool.

Rachael Tawbush
College of Education welcomes Rachel Tawbush and Kelsey Evans-Amalu

GSW's College of Education have welcomed two new faculty members in August.

Rachael Tawbush, Ph.D., is a new Assistant Professor in the College of Education as of Augusr 1, 2021. She graduated from the University of Alabama with her Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis on Secondary Science Education in July 2021. She holds undergraduate degrees in Biology and Environmental Science and is a 11-year secondary science veteran teacher.

Her research interests are long-term professional learning communities, preservice secondary science teacher self-efficacy beliefs, and informal learning environments. She is very excited to join the GSW team and looks forward to future collaboration opportunities.

Kelsey Evans-Amalu, Ph.D, joined the College of Education as a Lecturer beginning August 1, 2021. Kelsey Evans-Amalu Her research is grounded in trauma-informed and culturally responsive teaching, where she continues to focus on the use of mindfulness and social emotional learning skills in K-12 and higher education. An Orland, Fla. native who currently resides in Atlanta, Ga., Kelsey is also the the star and producer of Happy, Healthy Kids on PBS where she has put her research into practice.

As a yoga and meditation instructor who will also be teaching yoga at GSW, Kelsey infuses these practices into her service in rural Georgia by forming mindful community partnership both in and outside the classroom.

She earned her Ph.D. in Social Studies Education at University of Central Florida and comes to GSW from Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss.

Sondra-Smith1.jpgSondra Smith joins COBAC

The College of Business and Computing recently welcomed Sondra Smith, D.B.A., as an assistant professor of accounting. Her primary areas of research include the usage of data analytics in the field of auditing, fraud, time-driven activity-based costing, and online teaching.

Sondra received her doctorate in accounting from Kennesaw State University. She has been teaching accounting at various universities for over 25 years and teaching online classes since 2002. Before she began her teaching career, she worked in both public accounting as an accountant and in private accounting as a controller. She has been active in the Georgia Society of CPA’s for the past 20 years having served as chapter president of the West Georgia Chapter, chaired and co-chaired various committees, completed the leadership academy, served on the state council and served as a director of the educational foundation. In addition to the GSCPA, Dr. Smith has also been active and made many presentations with the American Accounting Association and the Institute of Management Accountants. 

Anne PayneAnne Payne and Abi Swindell join COBAC’s Dublin office

The College of Business and Computing (COBAC) has added two new staff members in its Dublin, Ga. External Programs office.

Anne Payne began working as the External Programs Administrative Assistant in June 2021. In this position she assists students through the COBAC admission process, including online eMajor BBA students, and campus students participating in either the Business, Computer Science, or Information Technology programs.

Anne holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Health Education/Exercise Science from Georgia College and State University and an Associate Degree in Physical Therapy from Middle Georgia State University. As a Licensed PTA, Anne worked in physical therapy for 10 years before pivoting to a new career in education.

Abi SwindellShe came to GSW from Trinity Christian School in Dublin, Georgia where she taught middle school and high school sciences for 14 years. She has been married to Chad Payne for 26 years, has two adult sons, and is an active member of the Dublin Service League.

Abi Swindell started her position as Recruitment and Retention Coordinator in July 2021. As the Recruitment and Retention Coordinator, Abi collaborates with the University System of Georgia's (USG) eCampus marketing team to develop and implement strategies for recruitment and regularly communicates with current COBAC students to offer assistance with academic issues including class scheduling and program selection.

Abi earned an Associate of Business Degree from Georgia Military College and has worked in customer service for several years. She is married to Cole Swindell, and they are enjoying time with their new baby girl, Parker.  


Ashley JonesAshley Jones joins Music and Dramatic Arts

Ashley P. Jones, Ph.D., is one of the new Assistant Professors in Communication and Emerging Media. She graduated in Summer 2021 from Georgia State University with a Ph.D. in Communication through the Moving Image Studies program. She has also earned an M.A. and B.A. in Mass Communication/Electronic Media from the University of Northern Iowa and an M.S. in Media Psychology from Walden University. Her research focuses on the intersections of feminist theory and digital media, specifically digital games.

Ashley's dissertation explored the procedures and mechanics of several games as forms of feminist and queer meaning making. She has also published on the nostalgia of the video game character Lara Croft and the hauntological aspects of the video game Tacoma. Originally from Iowa, Dr. Jones has called Georgia home for the last four years with her husband and son. She currently is serving as the faculty advisor for the student newspaper The Sou'Wester. She is glad to be a part of the GSW community!

Sally-Merritt.JPGSally Merritt joins Psychology and Sociology

Sally K. Merritt, Ph.D., has joined the Department of Psychology and Sociology as an assistant professor of psychology, effective August 1, 2021. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Tulane University in 2021, her master’s degree from Tulane University in 2019, and her bachelor’s degree from the College of Charleston in art history.

Sally has three main areas of research: the social psychology of communication, issues of discrimination in the workplace, and belonging/persistence in STEM for women, girls, and underrepresented ethnic minorities.

Upcoming Events

  • September 1-30: Give Southwestern faculty and staff campaign
  • September 2: Under the Lights
  • September 2: Day of Giving Proclamation Signing & 115 Picture
  • September 3: College Colors Day
  • September 6: Labor Day (no classes)
  • September 7: Hurricanes Season Kickoff
  • September 7: AAMI Keynote Speaker - Alvin Tremble, "Are You the One?"
  • September 9: Day of Service
  • September 16: Day of Giving
  • September 30: Chamber Concert Series: Jordan Bak

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