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Issue 5: February 2022


Renovated Florrie Chappell Gymnasium unveiled as GSW's new student recreation center

The Grand Opening and Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the newly renovated Florrie Chappell Gymnasium at GSW was held Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. The historic 83-year-old building has been brought back to life with this $3.5 million restoration, which began Fall 2020, serving as the new student recreation center.

The GSW campus community showed up for the ceremony in full “gold force,” along with several GSW alumni, retired faculty and staff, and community members recollecting their favorite memories of the building.

“Florrie Chappell has been a part of this campus since the 1930s, and today it’s going to start a whole new life with a whole new purpose, while still holding onto the tradition of what it is,” stated GSW President Neal Weaver, Ph.D. in his remarks at the ceremony.

Read more about the renovation and ceremony here.

Graduate education classes at Georgia Southwestern completely online this summer

GSW's College of Education plans to hold all graduate classes entirely online again this summer. After seeing much success from shifting the program virtually last summer, the decision was made to do so again. The flexibility of online summer classes allows teachers the ability to work within their school systems, serve their students’ needs and restore their own health and well-being before a new school year begins.

GSW’s Master of Education (M.Ed.) and Specialist of Education (Ed.S.) programs, which can be completed in just 13 months, have seen a significant increase in enrollment. Professionals are wanting to further their education, earn advanced degrees, increase content knowledge, grow skill development and become an expert or leader in their field.

Rachel Abbott, Ph.D., dean of the College of Education, wants to accommodate these working professionals by offering a more flexible schedule with online learning.

“Many GSW graduate students have a busy schedule and a desire to teach summer school. I felt it was important to allow more flexibility by not asking them to commute and giving them time to refresh and reenergize over the summer,” Abbott said. “This is our way of saying we appreciate their perseverance during a challenging time and to thank them for all they do for P-12 students.”

Read more about the summer plans for these graduate education courses here.

Education Center exterior


Justin PaynePayne named NCAA Division II Coach of the Week

GSW head women's basketball coach Justin Payne has been named the NCAA Division II Coach of the Week by Payne's squad continued its stellar play last week, taking down the third-ranked team in the nation in one of two victories. The Lady Hurricanes began their week with a 67-60 victory at home over Clayton State on Wednesday, before hosting No. 3 North Georgia on Saturday. The visitors from UNG led by as many as 10 in the fourth quarter, but Georgia Southwestern closed the contest on a 15-2 run to pick up a huge 62-59 win.

Payne, in his third season at GSW, is now eligible to receive the National Coach of the Year Award presented by Capital Elite Agency which will be announced at the conclusion of the 2021-22 college basketball season. This is the third season that has run the Coach of the Week and Coach of the Year programs. 

Read more about Coach Payne here.

Students volunteer at Night to Shine

On February 6, numerous GSW students volunteered their time to participate in First Baptist Church's Night to Shine "Shine Thru Parade." The annual event for local people with special needs was reorganized into an outdoor walk-through parade this year. Participating groups included Hurricane student-athletes, the President Jimmy Carter Leadership Program, and GSW Marshals, as well as individual student volunteers.

Ahead of the big event, volunteers set up decorations for the parade. During the event, more students volunteered as "buddies" and others cheered on the guests to help make a truly memorable experience.

Check out the full photo album here.

Abstract submissions for the Undergraduate Research Symposium now open

Students and faculty mentors are encouraged to participate in this year’s Undergraduate Research Symposium. The Symposium will take place on the morning of Friday, April 22, 2022. This highlights research from students across many majors and disciplines.

Prize money is awarded to students giving the best talk or best poster. Students are encouraged to work with their faculty mentors to prepare projects and presentations for this year’s Symposium.

The deadline for abstract submission is March 11, 2022. The abstract form can be found on the Symposium webpage. All forms should be submitted to GeorgiaView by the faculty mentor. Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to contact Dr. Anne Jacobs at

Faculty and students conduct chemistry demonstrations

The GSW Chemistry Club, the GSW Department of Chemistry, Geology and Physics, and the Southwest Georgia Local Section of the ACS (American Chemical Society), sponsored a chemistry demonstration event for students from South Georgia Technical College (SGTC) on Feb. 4, 2022. Nineteen students from SGTC attended the event. Professor Nedialka Iordanova, Ph.D., performed the demonstrations with the assistance chemistry majors Robert Banks and Kenneth Daniels and Assistant Professor Benjamin Meador, Ph.D.

The demonstrations included an ammonium dichromate volcano, elephant toothpaste, observing the effect of liquid nitrogen on fruits, levitation of a magnet by superconductor cooled with liquid nitrogen, explosion of ping pong balls with liquid nitrogen, liquid nitrogen rockets, and making ice cream with liquid nitrogen.

Student Recognitions

Banks DavisCanes Spotlight announced for February

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

The February Canes Spotlight was senior chemistry major Robert Banks. The Cordele native credits his fraternity and his major with shaping much of his experience at GSW. "Through Sigma Chi, I have learned to be better for myself and those around me," Banks said. "I owe a great deal of credit to the fraternity for the many memories and friendships that I have shared ever since I joined."

Banks also notes how GSW's Chemistry program has helped him grow as a student. "Because of my interest in chemistry and the great professors, I have enjoyed all of my major classes and the challenges they come with," he said. "As classes progressively get harder, learning to adapt and form better habits has helped me to where I am today."

Canes Spotlights are nominated by GSW faculty and staff.

Justin SmithJustin Smith named AAMI Student of the Month

Justin Smith of Americus, Ga. has been named the January 2022 African American Male Institute (AAMI) Student of the Month. He is a junior Exercise Science major and currently serves as the Administrative Assistant for AAMI.

According to AAMI Director Ervin Anderson, "Justin has shown the discipline, commitment and drive to the AAMI Program and his academic studies that will lead to him becoming a GSW graduate."

Justin is also a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated and serves as a Residential Leader (RL) with the Office of Residence Life. 

FNP class holds 100% pass rate

Georgia Southwestern's 2020-2021 Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) graduating class currently holds a 100% FNP certification pass rate. These students thrived during COVID challenges and all passed their certification exam on the first attempt. Congratulations to the 2021 FNP graduates!


Sondra Smith presentsSmith presents on helping students succeed in accounting courses

Assistant Professor of Accounting Sondra Smith, D.B.A., made a presentation at the Georgia Association of Accounting Educators (GAAE) on February 4 and was elected Secretary of the organization. She will host the conference in four years at GSW when she serves as President of GAAE. The title of her presentation was "How to Help Students Master the First Principles of Accounting Course." The first principles of accounting course is a challenging class for students that are not accounting majors but are required to take the course.

This past semester (Fall, 2021), Smith embarked on an adventure to change the trajectory of the mindset of her students in her two ACCT 2101 classes. Her purpose was to teach students - on an individual basis - how to study for this class which would hopefully lead to a greater knowledge of the subject matter resulting in higher grades in the class. This presentation specifically addressed the steps she took with each student, along with the subsequent results for both sections of this course. This subject matter is beneficial to all accounting educators because teaching students the tools needed to study and master the learning objectives will help create an environment conducive to learning, retention, and, ultimately, successful careers.


book coverBerggren co-authors study for National Park Service

Associate Professor Jason Berggren, Ph.D., co-authored with Dr. Adrienne M. Petty of the College of William and Mary a special history study for the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park and the National Park Service entitled, “‘Instilling Wisdom, Building Character’: A Study of Segregation, Politics, and Public Education in Sumter County, Georgia, 1930s-1970s” (NPS 2021).

The inspiration for the project came from an academic roundtable held in February 2016 in Plains. The central purpose of the study was to provide a more-rounded, inclusive view of public education in Sumter County during the mid-twentieth century. This involved placing Plains High and the educational experiences and opportunities for students like Jimmy Carter in the context of racial segregation.

The study also covered Carter’s years on the Sumter County Board of Education, the issues of school consolidation and equalization, the eventuality of desegregation, and the challenge of achieving integration. Some of the research findings already appear in the public exhibits at the Jimmy Carter National Historical Park. As of December 2021, the book-length study is now publicly available.

Mark Laughlin at pianoLaughlin releases new album

Music Professor and Chair of the Department of Music, Communication, & Emerging Media Mark Laughlin, D.M.A., released his second of four new albums of the works of Claude Debussy.

Debussy: Images and Arabesques" is part of a four-album collection of Debussy’s music that will be released each month during the spring semester (January, February, March, and April).

The new album, along with Laughlin's other albums, "The Music of Enrique Granados" and "Poulenc: Improvisations and Nocturnes," is available on most streaming services, including Spotify and YouTube.

Dehzooei advice featured on WalletHub

Assistant Professor of economics Mohammad Dehzooei, Ph.D., was recently featured on the credit and personal finance website WalletHub. Dehzooei’s advice for consumers who are considering a personal loan was featured in an “Ask the Experts” column.

Read the full piece here.

New Hires, Promotions, Retirements, & Farewells

Oneil Lewis joins Recreation and Wellness

Oniel Lewis recently joined GSW's Office of Recreation and Wellness as the new Intramural and Outdoor Recreation Coordinator, effective January 28, 2022. Oneil’s duties implementing, coordinating, and supervising intramural and club sports programs for recreational purposes. 

Originally from Jamaica, Oneil came to the U.S. on a soccer scholarship and played at the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie for two years. He earned an associate’s degree in 2019 and transferred to GSW, where he played soccer for two years and served as a Residential Leader in Oaks I for a year and a half. He was also a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success and Gamma Beta Phi.

Oneil graduated from GSW in Fall 2021 with a Bachelors of Science in computer science.

BrittanyMcKenzie.JPGBrittany McKenzie joins FYE

Brittany McKenzie recently joined the Office of Frist-Year Experience as the Academic Resource Coordinator. Brittany is a GSW alumna and is currently working on completing her Masters of Public Administration.

Brittany previously worked in GSW’s Office of Recruitment and Admissions for four years as an Admissions Counselor for central and south Georgia counties.

Brittany is located in Canes Central alongside the other FYE staff. She says, “I am excited to work with students who utilize our tutoring services as well as other freshmen throughout their first year! Go Canes!”


Travis Goodman, Painter in Physical Plant, left that role on February 4, 2022.

Ted Norris, System Administrator in the Office of Information and Instructional Technology (IIT), left that role on February 25, 2022. He will remain an instructor for BUSA 2010 through the rest of the semester.

Awards & Grants

Mukkavilli receives access to supercomputer resources

Assistant Professor Sai Mukkavilli, Ph.D., recieved an allocation from the Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE), the supervising agency for supercomputers in U.S. These resources, including 500 GB of project storage, 25,000 ecore hours, and access to a supercomputer, will be used by Mukkavilli for his graduate Distributed Operating Systems course. 

Past Events

GSW hosts Undergraduate History Symposium

Students and faculty from GSW and Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College (ABAC) recently participated in an undergraduate history conference organized by Associate Professor Susan Bragg, Ph.D. and with the support of Dean of the College Arts & Sciences Kelly McCoy, Ph.D., the GSW Department of History and Political Science, and Director of Experiential Learning Judy Orton, Ph.D.

The symposium on February 11, 2022 included a full day of lively undergraduate discussion. Presentations ranged from military history to LGBTQ experiences to African American poetry politics and beyond. The conference was organized into four panel sessions as well as a lunch reception and discussion. Student presenters Brandon Blue (Psychology/History), Nic Cohen (Middle Grades Education), and Martavious Stephens (Sociology) explored historical debates over education in one morning panel while Chandler Bowman (Political Science), Serenity Patterson (Pre-Nursing), and ABAC student Sam Ray traced early American political expressions in another panel.

In the afternoon session, Louanna Crutchfield (History with Teaching Certification), Devaughn Lowe (History with Teaching Certification), and ABAC student Sam Eaton discussed modern military history, while Rachel Gates (Accounting), Chelsea Harper (Sociology/WGSS), and Jamarcus Coley (Art/Digital Media) presented on cultural politics ranging from slave narratives to aesthetic expressions. At the event luncheon, Dr. Evan Kutzler and Conner Vizzini (History with Teaching Certification) shared student research on the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic in Americus. These sessions were well attended by a variety of GSW students and produced useful discussion of the connections between past and present.

A special thank you goes out to faculty and community mentors who attended or led discussion at this event: Marc Arnett, Sara Barrera (GSW ‘14/MA candidate, Valdosta State University), Carmen Gilliam (GSW ’16), Dr. Judy Grissett, Dr. Evan Kutzler, Dr. John LeJeune, Dr. Brian Parkinson, Linda Randall, Dr. Glenn Robins, Dr. Jesse Russell, and Charles Whiting (MA candidate, Valdosta State University).

GSW hosts American Legion Oratorical Competition

The Department of Music, Communication, and Emerging Media hosted the annual American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Competition on Sunday, February 27 in the Fine Arts Theater. The topic of the competition was "A Constitutional Speech Contest" and the competition was available to students in 9th through 12th grades.

AAMI student and speakerAAMI hosts annual Black History Month Program

GSW’s African American Male Institute (AAMI) held its annual Black History Month Program on February 15, 2022 in Room 127 of the Administration Building, which was open to the campus and was a Windows to the World event. Willie Greene LPC, NCC, ACS, Chief Clinical Officer of Middle Flint Behavioral Center was the keynote speaker to a very large crowd. Greene’s speech: “Yesterday – Today and Tomorrow,” was clear and precise on the expectation of our students historically. He spoke of how the things students can’t control in their lives effect some of them drastically. “If you need help, there is someone to help you,” Greene expressed. His manner of tone and secureness had the undivided attention of everyone. He told each individual student that this world needs new leaders with new ideas for the future and that world is depending on them. He was greeted with a thunderous applause by the students and approached by many at the end.

Pictured from left to right are AAMI Administrative Assistant and Student of the Month for January Justin Smith, keynote speaker Willie Greene, and Director of AAMI Ervin Anderson.

Career Readiness Week and Senior Day prepare students for their future professions

Throught the week of February 21, the Office of First-Year Experience hosted Career Readiness Week. Open to all students, Career Readiness Week included daily sessions covering career readiness, resume building, and more.

Senior Day, held on Friday, February 25, was designed to prepare Spring, Summer, and Fall 2022 graduates for the next steps in their career journey with workshops on resume building, interview skills, and networking, a professional ettique lunch, professional headshots, and celebratory senior photos with a professional photographer.

Thank you to all Career Readiness Week and Senior Day presenters, including GSW faculty and staff from across campus. We'd like to extend special thanks to our alumni who participated, inlcuding Lou Chase, GSW alumna and GSW Foundation Chairman; Will Peterson, GSW alumnus and VP of Operations at Phoebe Putney Health System; and Dr. Everett Byrd, GSW alumnus, educator and former Board Member of Miss Georgia Scholarship Pageant, for volunteering their time and expertise at Senior Day.

Milestones, Birthdays & Life Events

Grimes reaches 15-gallon blood donation milestone

Mark Grimes, Ph.D., donated his 120th unit of blood this month, reaching a milestone of 15 gallons donated over his lifetime. He has donated at GSW blood drives in the past but primarily donates at First Baptist Americus through Phoebe Sumter, which is where his most recent donation was made on February 18.

Grimes first donated blood in college in the early 1980s and hopes to reach his next goals of 20 gallons (160 donations) and then 200 donations. “At 5 a year, I'll be in my early-mid 70s when I retire from donating,” Grimes noted.

Hurricane Gratitude

Submit a thanks to other members of the GSW community for their outstanding dedication, commitment, or support. Email at any time or during the monthly call for Breeze submissions.

Where do I even begin!! Big big thank you to GSW Physical Plant and IIT team for their hard work with helping the construction team remove items from Florrie Chappell Gymnasium, add super cool things, setup equipment and wifi (YAY) and everything else possible.

Also, shout out to the ICS Team for ensuring Florrie was sparkling for opening day and every day after.

Thank you Dr. Laura Boren for making her vision of a larger fitness facility on this campus and putting in the nitty gritty work. I can't think of another VP who will pick up the treadmill herself and adjust wires until the very last second. Thank you for your hard work on this project!

To my awesome coworkers for always checking in and helping me tackle projects as they come. I love you all!!

And lastly, to my fabulous students for never failing to make me smile and being super awesome during this transition process. You all are so awesome and I appreciate you all more than you know! Even the students I don't directly supervise. Thank you all!! Let's rock Florrie Chappell!!

Arianna Stegall, Fitness and Wellness Coordinator


Upcoming Events

Find more events on the GSW academic calendar, on CanesConnect, and on the Community Events webpage.