As a junior, I have to admit that before I attended UGA I only knew two things about the university: it’s a very large school, and it’s famous for football. However, in the fall of 2015, I was accepted into the Public Service and Outreach Student Scholars program. I was excited for the guaranteed internship in the spring, but little did I know that my vision of UGA would drastically change for the better.

I was excited for the guaranteed internship in the spring, but little did I know that my vision of UGA would drastically change for the better.

The University of Georgia’s Public Service and Outreach (PSO) organization is comprised of eight separate units: the Carl Vinson Institute of Government; the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development; the State Botanical Garden of Georgia; UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant; the Center for Continuing Education; the Archway Partnership; the Small Business Development Center (SBDC); and, the Office of Service Learning. Each unit is responsible for reaching into the communities of Georgia and assisting them through university resources. In many cases, this may include applying UGA research or student work to each particular issue.

A major component of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant is research. Georgia Sea Grant offers thousands of dollars in funding for marine-focused projects, and Marine Extension applies the results of these studies to present and future Georgia coastal needs. For example, shrimping represents a large portion of Georgia’s coastal economy. Within the past three to four years, fishermen have noticed a decrease in the amount of shrimp in their nets, as well as a black discoloration of the gills of the shrimp they do catch. This phenomenon was identified as an infection known as black gill, and in 2014, Georgia Sea Grant funded a project that investigated the cause, distribution and transmission of the condition. This ongoing investigation demonstrates the two units’ dedication to helping improve Georgia’s coastal communities.

The Small Business Development Center is a PSO unit that is helping to make big things happen for “small” people. Men and women throughout the state come to the SBDC for assistance in establishing a business, as well as tips and advice on how to keep it thriving. At a recent Board of Visitors meeting, two successful business owners joined a panel to speak about the PSO mission and how the SBDC helped them get to where they are now. A woman described how her passion for film and television inspired her to start her own company, and years later, with the help of the SBDC, she is responsible for a company worth over a million dollars.

If your small community is trying to get the ball rolling on a few projects, but can’t seem to get the job done, the Archway Partnership is a wonderful resource. Archway must be invited into a community, and it doesn’t just provide “fix-its”; instead, it works to gather a team of leading individuals within the community and teaches them to work together, one project at a time.

Metter, a small town about 60 miles from the Georgia coast, hosted the PSO student scholars and spoke about the program’s impact on their town. Two community leaders explained that they were just normal guys who decided they needed to help push the community forward. One of their major projects was getting the word out about the school nurses’ abilities to provide premium care for students, so Archway paired the project with University undergraduates who needed class credit.

Working together, the community and UGA created advertisements and provided information that appealed to different audiences in the area. The great thing about Archway is that once they are invited in and have taught the leaders to work together, they silently back out of the room (or, community). One project down, Metter is now looking to put up their welcome sign: “Everything is Better in Metter!”

Although I could continue on about all the wonderful things the Fanning Institute is doing by working with food banks and Peer Court, or how the State Botanical Garden is building an educational area for kids to play in the dirt, or even how Campus Kitchen, under the Office of Service Learning, is directly impacting the Athens area, I think I can leave you all to find out about those for yourselves by visiting the UGA Public Service and Outreach page.