Dean’s Corner, September 2023

Mark Hunter


Odum School of Ecology Dean Mark Hunter, and his wife MaryCarol Hunter, attend UGA's football game against Ball State University on Sept. 9.

Despite being one of the younger degree-granting institutions on campus, the Odum School of Ecology is rapidly building a strong and vibrant alumni base. Our graduates are dispersed across the world, applying the skills that they learned at Odum to help make the world a better place. Our former students are engaged in an astonishing breadth of activities, including working with nonprofit organizations, conducting ecological research, educating the young (and young-at-heart), and driving sustainability initiatives in the business world. As the Odum School has steadily expanded its degree programs, so too have our alumni broadened and deepened our impact beyond UGA. Our longstanding international reputation for excellence in ecological science is now complemented by our reputation in problem-solving. Odum students, staff and faculty help to keep our rivers clean, our soils productive, our ecosystems biologically rich and our families safe from the spread of disease.

I was reminded of the impact of our alumni recently as our first-ever Alumni Board began its work on July 1st of this year. Serving on our inaugural board, we are privileged to have members of four different federal agencies, four charitable organizations, one member of a research institute, one university academic, and two business leaders. And they are Odum alums, one and all! It’s a testament to the diversity of our degree programs that our school is so well represented across so many disciplines. We are very grateful to our Alumni Board members for their service to the Odum School of Ecology.

I’d like to give a particular thanks to the first group of elected officers on the Alumni Board. The position of chair is held by Elizabeth Blood (PhD ’81), most recently of the National Science Foundation. Our vice chair (and chair-elect) is Stephanie Yarnell-Mac Grory (BS’ 06) who works for Sanofi. And the post of secretary is held by Virginia Schutte (PhD ’14), who runs Real Life Science Media.

In many ways, an Alumni Board represents the nexus where past and future meet. Board members embody the history and experience of the faculty, staff and students whom they meet during their years in the Odum School. But they also guide the future of the school as they help us to understand the opportunities and challenges that lie beyond the walls of UGA. If the Odum School is doing its job, we are looking beyond the current moment to train a new generation who will transform how ecology contributes to the world. The members of our Alumni Board are positioned perfectly to help us envisage the skills and experiences that our future graduates will need to become the change-makers they desire to be.

The board is already hard at work, developing mentoring programs for our current students, and assessing how board members might facilitate our fundraising efforts. I’m looking forward to seeing the bold initiatives that this talented group develops. Our first on-site Alumni Board meeting will take place in the Ecology Building on Friday, Oct. 13th, followed by a social event—Toast to the Coast—on Saturday, Oct. 14th from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. If you’d like to meet the Alumni Board, there are still tickets available for Toast to the Coast, and we hope that you can join us. Our school may be relatively young but, with alumni as loyal as ours, the future looks very bright indeed.