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Photo of Suzanne SmithGSW selects Suzanne Smith as new provost and vice president for Academic Affairs

GSW has named Suzanne R. Smith, Ph. D., as its new provost and vice president for Academic Affairs (VPAA), effective July 1, 2018, concluding a nationwide search.

Smith comes to GSW from Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV) where she has been employed for over 20 years. For the past 12 years, she has served in leadership roles including her current position as director of academic planning and special assistant to the vice chancellor.

“I am honored to be joining the team at GSW and look forward to becoming a part of the campus and local community,” said Smith. “I'm excited to have the opportunity to work with such wonderful people, on a beautiful campus that has limitless potential in the years to come. I know that together we will achieve great things.”

As the new provost and VPAA, Smith will be responsible for the instructional program of the university and the daily administration of academic affairs for both faculty and students. She will serve as the chief academic officer for the university, reporting to GSW President Neal Weaver. Working closely with the president and an extensive group of campus colleagues, she will guide strategic planning and policy development as well as promote campus-wide academic initiatives.

“We look forward to having Suzanne join us,” said Weaver. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in academic leadership to the table. Her energy and enthusiasm for student success is fundamental to the university. We are excited to see fresh ideas in how to bring GSW’s campus and the community together.”

Having grown up in the Atlanta area, Smith is no stranger to Georgia. She received her Ph.D. in child and family development from the University of Georgia in 1996. Prior to this, she earned her Bachelor of Arts in behavioral science at Erskine College and her Master of Science in family and child development at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. In 2015, she completed the Management Development Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Smith has over 25 years of experience teaching sociology and human development at the university level. She began her career in higher education as a graduate assistant at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and currently teaches as an associate professor in WSUV’s Department of Human Development.

She has received multiple awards for excellence in teaching and has written numerous journal articles and books, including her latest textbook, Exploring Family Theories (4th Ed), published in 2017.Smith has been active in the National Council on Family Relations, the Family Science Association, and the Northwest Council on Family Relations throughout her career.

Smith and her husband, Brett, have two grown children.

Photo of Jaha DukurehGSW alumna Jaha Dukureh nominated for prestigious Nobel Peace Prize of 2018

Jaha Dukureh, a Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) alumna, has been nominated for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for her work towards ending female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage in her home country of The Gambia in West Africa and across the world.

Born in a small Gambian village in 1989, Dukureh was a victim of FGM at just one week old. Her arranged marriage to an unknown older man at age 15 brought her to New York City. After two months, Dukureh was able to leave her husband and continue her education in the U.S., where she became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 2015.

Dukureh was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Norwegian parliament member Jette Christensen. “ I nominated Jaha because she is living proof that the belief of a single person can cause them to change the world,” said Christensen. “I introduced Jaha as a hero who has done the impossible. Several times. 200 million women suffer every day from the injuries of FGM. If peace is the absence of violence, we won't get it until this is stopped. And if there's someone who can fix it, is it Jaha Dukureh.” (sources: Facebook, Jaha’s PromiseAfrican Leadership Magazine)

There are 329 candidates for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, the second highest number of candidates ever. It is awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses,” according to founder Alfred Nobel’s will. Only 16 women have been awarded the prize since it was introduced in 1901.

“My whole country is celebrating with me,” said Dukureh on her nomination. “This has brought the global FGM movement to the forefront of the conversation. This is not a win for me, but a challenge and an opportunity. An opportunity to get the world to listen and take action. Ending FGM is not a one person journey.” (source: Facebook, Jaha Gambia Dukureh)

Dukureh earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration and management online at GSW in 2013. “We are so proud of Jaha,” said GSW School of Business Dean Elizabeth Wilson, Ph.D. “Even while completing her degree online from her Atlanta home, she was leading the fight against FGM and successfully changing laws. We are proud to have played a small part in this amazing woman's journey and wish her well as she continues to make a difference in the world!”

Remarkably, Dukureh is not the first GSW alumna to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. President Jimmy Carter won the esteemed award in 2002, donating a huge sum of his winnings to the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, a unit of GSW.

The same year Dukureh graduated from GSW, she founded the non-profit organization Safe Hands for Girls, which provides support for survivors of FGM and advocates for an end to FGM practices. She was then part of the movement that successfully banned FGM in The Gambia in 2015, a journey chronicled in the 2017 documentary “Jaha’s Promise.”

By age 25, Dukureh’s activism earned her a place on Time Magazine’s 2016 list of 100 Most Influential People in the World and on New African Magazine’s 2017 list of 100 Most Influential Africans. She won the Humanitarian of the Year award at the African Diaspora Awards in 2017 and just last month, was named the first Regional Goodwill Ambassador for Africa by UN Women. Her appointment coincided with the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

Dukureh lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and three children. She is continuing her work to end FGM, drawing inspiration from her own journey and the need to protect her daughter and the millions of other young women at risk.

New Hires and Promotions

Orton GrissettOrton Grissett promoted to Associate Professor

Dr. Judy Orton Grissett has recently been awarded tenure and will be promoted to Associate Professor of Psychology in August.


Students and faculty travel to Peru for UNIV 4000

Four GSW students and two faculty members recently traveled to La Florida, Peru as part of the Spring 2018 UNIV 4000 course, a 3-credit-hour Study Abroad Service Learning class. The program was led by Catalina Casaru, Ph.D., and Nedialka Iordanova, Ph.D. The class is a partnership between GSW and The Fuller Center for Housing and is designed to introduce students to international cultures by face to face lectures and by helping build homes for less privileged people in different countries as the study abroad component. This year’s study abroad group was able to help with the build a house in La Florida, Peru. They also went white water rafting and toured the country by vising Lunahuana, Iquitos, Cerro Azul, the capital Lima, and the Amazon Rain Forest.

Peru 1
Peru 2



Wu awarded Oversees Conference Grant

On March 1, 2018, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education Chuchu Wu, Ph.D., was awarded the 2018 Overseas Conference Grant in the amount of $5,000. The grant is funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the Republic of China (Taiwan). Wu currently serves as the president of the Chinese-American Academic and Professional Association in Southeastern United States (CAPASUS). She is organizing the 42nd Annual 2018 CAPASUS conference – International Forum on Neuroscience and Children, Intergenerational Parenting, and Healthy Aging, which will take place at the Sonesta Gwinnett Place Hotel in Atlanta on August 4-5, 2018. The grant funding will be used for the facility rental and guest speakers’ travel expenses.






Nursing students travel to Jamaica over Spring Break

GSW nursing students and faculty spent their Spring Break volunteering. The group traveled to Jamaica during the week-long break, touring local hospitals, including the Cornwall Regional Public Hospital and Hospiten Private Hospital, and completing service learning projects at Melody House Home for Girls (ages 14 to 20 years), the Jamaican Christian School for the Deaf (kindergarten through 12th grade), Garland Hall Orphanage (ages 6 to 18 years), St. James Infirmary (a nursing home for men and women), and the Rastafari Indigenous Village.

“My favorite part of the trip was touring different hospitals in Jamaica and comparing them to hospitals in the U.S.,” said nursing major Anna Bryant. “I have been on similar trips before, but this was my first academic study abroad trip. I choose to go to Jamaica to see how their culture and beliefs effect healthcare and how this is similar/different to our health care system in America. I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the beautiful country of Jamaica.”

Nursing students who went on the trip later discussed their experiences in Jamaica at a “Windows to the World” event on April 5.



Volunteers needed for annual Student Appreciation Day

Preparations for the annual Student Appreciation Day have begun and volunteers are needed. For those who have not experienced this tradition, GSW puts on a day (3 hours) of fun activities for the students to enjoy during Reading Day. These include water slides, inflatables, lawn games, corn hole, music, and more. Students who attend receive a free t-shirt and enjoy free food and drinks.

We ask that as many faculty and staff as possible sign up to volunteer for various aspects of the day in advance. Everyone who signs up and participates will receive a free t-shirt. If you have not signed up already, you can do so HERE.

GSW named Community Partner of the Year by Sumter County Chamber of Commerce

At the 98th Annual Sumter County Chamber of Commerce Awards Celebration, Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) received the Community Partner of the Year award alongside South Georgia Technical College (SGTC).

“Georgia Southwestern is truly an economic driver,” said Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Rhett Simmons. “In its most recent annual economic impact study, the University System of Georgia listed GSW as having an $89 million impact on the Sumter County region.”

The award is presented to an outstanding partner(s) within the community each year that go above and beyond the call of duty in support of Sumter County, its citizens, and Chamber members. Celebrating 112 years as a key community institution in Sumter County, GSW has been providing higher education services, accommodating local staffing needs, supporting community involvement and graduating a well-rounded citizenry for over a century.

“If you look closely, it may be difficult to see where GSW ends and Sumter County begins,” said Simmons. With nearly 3,100 students and approximately 400 employees, they are all embedded within the community. Another 2,300 alumni reside here serving in industries like education, healthcare, the arts, all manner of business and many other professions.

Simmons further highlighted GSW’s contributions in Americus and the region. The School of Education’s teacher candidates student-teach in local schools. The College of Nursing and Health Science’s nursing students earn their field experience in local hospitals. The College of Arts and Science’s student artists and professors provide cultural enrichment for the community through concerts, theatrical performances and art exhibitions. GSW graduates roughly 800 students each year, many of whom join the local workforce.

GSW President Neal Weaver and SGTC Assistant to the President Don Smith accepted the award for their respective institutions. They were applauded by the 200 guests in attendance which included small businesses, local leaders, Chamber members, and Georgia's ninth Commissioner of Labor Mark Butler who was the keynote speaker for the event.

“We are honored to receive this award from the Chamber of Commerce and are thankful for their ongoing support,” said Weaver. “The partnership between the Americus community and GSW is critical to the university’s success.” “We are blessed at the Chamber to have such strong relationships with both of our post-secondary institutions,” said Simmons. “With these two at the table, the businesses and industries of Sumter County have access to world-class service, training, and educational programs that are second to none. Thank you, South Georgia Technical College and Georgia Southwestern State University, for your outstanding contributions to our region for many, many years.”

The Chamber of Commerce also recognized other local businesses and leaders at the event. Center Stage Market received the Small Business of the Year award, Bill Harris, Jr. of Café Campesino received the Sparky Reeves Sumter Trustee award, and former One Sumter Chairman Ted McMillan received the One Sumter Visionary Impact award.  

Community Partner Award

Ethan Johnson named GSW Officer of the Year at event in memory of two local officers

Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW) Public Safety Officer Ethan Johnson was recently recognized as GSW’s Officer of the Year at the second annual Paint the Town Blue Gala held on March 10, 2018.

A native of Oglethorpe, Johnson has served the GSW community as a public safety officer for over three years. He was present during the tragedy in 2016 that killed two local officers in the line of duty, including one from his own department. The event where Johnson was awarded formed last year to honor Officers Nick Smarr and Jody Smith and raise money for The Smarr and Smith Foundation.

“To win Officer of the Year is a humbling experience,” said Johnson, “and I am grateful for those officers who have encouraged and guided me. I strive every day to be a better officer than I was the day before.”

Johnson is actively involved in the campus community as an advisor to the Student Government Association and a member of the Behavioral Intervention Team who he is working with to form a suicide prevention team on campus. He meets with the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to learn about mental health and discuss suicide prevention options that affect the GSW community. He serves as a GSW IT compliance leader and is a member of GSW’s Cybercrime Response Team.

“[Johnson] is a pleasant known constant that we all agree has a bright future,” said GSW Public Safety Director Mike Tracy. “His involvement in different areas on campus serve as a positive reinforcement to how this department is viewed by our community.”

“I have always found him extremely capable, motivated, even-tempered and helpful,” Tracy said while presenting Johnson with his award. “He has never failed to give his best effort in whatever capacity he is placed.”

Johnson is currently pursuing his master’s degree in Public Safety Administration at Columbus State University and has recently completed Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Instructor Training in Forsyth, Ga. This training will allow Johnson to teach law enforcement to maintain their mandated training qualifications and gain greater knowledge and a broader skill set when doing their jobs.

“Officer Johnson’s awareness of the many different facets of law enforcement make him a constant assistance,” said Tracy. “He always exhibits the qualities of leadership when dealing with fellow officers and can be counted on to make sound decisions in the vast majority of opportunities afforded him.”

Detective Cedric Smith was recognized as Officer of the Year for the Americus Police Department, and Deputy Antoinette Johnson was named Officer of the Year for the Sumter County Sherriff’s Office at the event.


New GSW College of Nursing and Health Sciences restructures health and wellness programs

After two years of preparation, Georgia Southwestern State University’s (GSW) School of Nursing began the transition to become the College of Nursing and Health Sciences on February 1. This restructuring will bring all health and wellness programs under the same college, including nursing, exercise science and wellness, and the most recent long-term care management program.

“This new alignment will facilitate our ability to recruit, advise, and retain highly qualified students who want to pursue health and wellness careers,” said Dean Sandra Daniel, Ph.D. “While the nursing degrees are well established, this restructuring will enhance the visibility of other health focused degrees offered at GSW.”

Nursing is among one of the top majors in the country and admission is extremely competitive. Each year, GSW’s Nursing Program brings in over 100 applications while only a portion of these can be accepted. Organizing health and wellness programs under one college will allow students interested in health care careers to investigate multiple degree options and move from one degree to another more seamlessly.

This change will also bring Leisa Easom, Ph.D., to the College as the new Associate Dean. Easom currently serves as the Executive Director of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving. “Dr. Easom is a nationally renowned expert in the field of caregiving,” said Daniel. “I have full confidence that our new long-term care management degree program will undergo substantial growth very quickly as a result of the expertise that she brings in this field.”

Daniel also hopes the restructuring will appeal to prospective students and those considering the Guaranteed Acceptance Program in high school. “This change represents a commitment to this region and our state to provide degrees that meet their specific workforce needs,” noted Daniel.

“We’re excited to see what growth and opportunities the College of Nursing and Health Sciences will provide our students,” said GSW President Neal Weaver. “Health care plays a very important role in our society and I’m proud to say GSW is helping prepare the next generation in these service-oriented professions. I’m eager to watch our graduates move on to become successful physical and occupational therapists, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals.” Many of the top health care organizations in the region employ GSW nursing graduates, including Phoebe Putney Health System, Columbus Regional Health, and Navicent Health. 


GSW announces first-of-its-kind Long-Term Care Management degree, names Easom Associate Dean

Georgia Southwestern State University(GSW) will offer a Bachelor of Science in Long-Term Care Management (LTCM), the first-of-its-kind in the nation, beginning this fall. The new degree program will bring Leisa Easom, Ph.D., to the College of Nursing and Health Sciences as the associate dean. Easom currently serves as executive director of the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, a unit of GSW.

“A better prepared workforce is needed to care for our nation’s aging and disabled populations,” said Easom. “There is a national crisis with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.” Every 66 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Georgia is the 11th state with the fastest growing 65 and older population. In addition, one in six children have developmental disabilities while one in 68 children have autism spectrum disorder, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Numerous years as a geriatric nurse and working directly with caregivers over the past eight years uniquely prepare me to lead our new initiative,” Easom stated.

The LTCM degree, offered online and the classroom, will prepare graduates to assist patients and families to connect with community resources, transition from hospital to home, and manage the care of residents in an institutional setting.

As a four year interdisciplinary degree, students will take courses from a variety of disciplines – nursing, caregiving, psychology, sociology, and business. They will become knowledgeable in palliative care, hospice, gerontology, family issues, caregiving support, counseling, health promotion, business management, health funding, and cultural competency.

 “Employers today express the need for a new skill set and are looking for individuals who are compassionate, culturally sensitive, able to communicate well with others and have managerial skills,” said Easom. “Graduates will be fully equipped to help patients and their families better navigate today’s complicated health care system.”

“Dr. Easom is a nationally renowned expert in the field of caregiving,” said Sandra Daniel, Ph.D., dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences. “I have full confidence that our new long-term care management degree program will undergo substantial growth very quickly as a result of the expertise that she brings in this field.”

 “I am proud that Georgia Southwestern is the first university in the nation to offer this exciting and relevant degree program,” said GSW President Neal Weaver. “It is evident to us through our discussions with employers across the country that the time is now for such program and we are excited to expand our current academic offerings to include what we believe will become a highly sought after degree.” 

Organizations in the region looking to employ GSW graduates with this degree include hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, Area Agencies on Aging, home health care agencies, state department of aging services, and more. 

Past Events

Disaster drill trained nursing students to triage in emergencies

Organized by the College of Nursing and Health Sciences and GSW graduate student Laci Martin, the March 28 disaster drill held on campus allowed 67 nursing students to practice responding to potential disasters.

The drill involved a simulated car crash with numerous “victims” with varying degrees of injury. Students arrived on the scene, assessed the injuries, and triages patients based on their status. EMT students from South Georgia Technical College played the “victims” and were “moulaged” with fake injuries by Department of Public Health Nurses from Albany.

First responders from the Americus Fire Department & Emergency Services worked closely with the students during the drill, providing guidance on working the scene and treating patients.

The drill also made use of the Carter I nursing building. Students in the lobby learned how to put patients on backboards, and others on the second floor worked in a hospital simulation.

Numerous other local agencies were also on hand for the event, including GSW Campus Safety, Sumter County Emergency Management, the Air Evac Lifeteam based at Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, and Magnolia Manor.

Disaster Drill

Flint River CARE-NET ribbon cutting held on campus

The Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving, in partnership with Innovative Senior Solutions, held a ribbon cutting for the Flint River CARE-NET on March 20 on GSW’s campus. The Flint River CARE-NET, a volunteer coalition of professional and family caregivers, is the 13th in the state of Georgia and covers eight counties, including Sumter, Randolph, Crisp, Dooly, Macon, Webster, Schley and Clay. The CARE-NETs meet quarterly and carry out educational projects, resource development and advocacy for all types of caregivers. Learn more at

Ribbon Cutting

GSW Incredibles Relay for Life team raises over $1,300 for the American Cancer Society

Relay for Life was held Friday, March 30 on GSW’s Sanford Lawn. The GSW Incredibles, led by Team Captain Josh Curtin, raised over $1,300 for the American Cancer Society! GSW’s team consisted of Darcy Bragg, Sam Miller, Josh Curtin, Beth Morris, Polly Conger, Pam Leverett, Tish Andrews, Jessica Burns, SGA, Taylor Burks, LaToya Stackhouse, Taylor Phillips, and Keba Taylor.

Relay of Life

ISA and SGA host annual Taste of the World

GSW’s International Student Association (ISA) and Student Government Association (SGA) held their annual Taste of the World event on April 4. Student, faculty and staff volunteers gathered on the MSC patio with homemade dishes from a variety of cuisines. Many wore traditional clothing from their countries or clothing that included their national flag. Some of the countries represented at Taste of the World included China, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Vietnam, India, Nepal and Puerto Rico.

Taste of the World

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