Sustainable UGA Awards

Peer-nominated sustainability champions


Sustainable UGA Award winners strive to ensure that all people can thrive, both now and in the future, going above and beyond to create a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable community. With so many actively engaged students, faculty, and staff worthy of commendation, it is significant that Sustainable UGA Award winners are recognized by their peers as having made meaningful contributions to advance sustainability at UGA and in the local community.

Birkley Heynen Whale Fall Award winners do all they can to help people and the environment in creative, exciting, and communal ways. Birkley Heynen was full of life and lived life to the fullest. He cared deeply about people and the environment, and he did all he could in life to help both. A “whale fall” occurs when a whale sinks to the depths of the ocean floor after death, and its presence creates complex localized ecosystem communities that supply sustenance to the deep-sea for decades. In so doing, the whale fall creates more abundant life.

Birkley Heynen
Birkley Heynen, living life to the fullest, studying abroad in Costa Rica to research micro-invertebrates in ephemeral and perennial streams.

Nominate Someone for a Sustainable UGA Award or the Birkley Heynen Whale Fall Award!

Use this form to nominate an outstanding student, faculty member, or staff member who should be recognized for their exceptional efforts to create a Sustainable UGA - or to nominate an inspiring student who lives life to the full and does all they can to help people and the environment in creative, exciting, and communal ways.

Nomination Form


Liora McElvaney is a fourth-yearEnvironmental Health Science major in the College of Public Health.

From leading the UGA Housing EcoReps program to growing food for nutrition-insecure families at UGArden to cleaning up litter from our campus and community through Bag the Bag, Liora is an inspiration to many.

According to one nominator:  “Liora serves as a wonderful example of kindness and compassion. She puts so much effort into the things she is passionate about, and she inspires others to do the same!”

Hunter Scully is a masters student in the  Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Hunter spearheaded the Journey to Zero Waste Weekend at Foley Field, diverting more than 1200 pounds of valuable materials from the landfill, creating lasting change toward a culture of zero waste.

According to one nominator:  “Through deep dedication, tact, strategic thinking, undeterred persistence, and good old-fashioned hard work, Hunter Scully is changing the world - or at least the world of Sustainability and Athletics at UGA.”

Dr. Jenna Jambeck is an associate professor in the College of Engineering. 

As a MacArthur Fellow and National Geographic Explorer, Dr. Jambeck is well recognized for her innovative work to measure and eliminate plastic pollution from our waterways.  

According to one nominator:  “Dr. Jambeck engages the campus as a living laboratory, providing real-world challenges for her students to solve, with a healthy tension between innovation and feasibility. Even with her notoriety and very challenging schedule, Jenna is present, available, and deeply committed to her students' success.”

Andie Bisceglia is the Campus Kitchen Coordinator in the Office of Service-Learning. 

Under Andie’s leadership, Campus Kitchen has recovered more than 330,00 pounds of food that would have been wasted - and provided more than 100,000 nutritious meals to senior-led households in Athens.

According to one nominator:  “Andie Bisceglia is the glue that holds Campus Kitchen together. Everyone who knows her, knows that she genuinely cares for all of us, and is truly passionate about the work that she does.”


Andrew is a fourth-year international  business and management major in the Terry School of Business. One of Andrew's nominators wrote: "Rain or shine for two and a half years, Andrew has worked behind the scenes so the rest of us can turn our coffee grounds and apple cores into nutrient-rich compost that fuels campus and community gardens. He is a humble, collaborative, and effective leader, always quick to lend a hand, speak to a class, or ride his compost bike to an event to inspire others to incorporate sustainability into their lives."

Megan is PhD student in the School of Social Work. Megan's nominator wrote: "Megan strategically and graciously teaches, and she humbly listens and learns. She has educated and inspired  students and staff to value inclusion, reflect on privilege, and use our position and resources to advance equity and sustainability through our work and lives."

Jon is an associate professor in the College of Environment and Design. Jon's nominator wrote: "He is an excellent collaborator, always willing to jump into new initiatives and to lend his expertise to support existing programs. His commitment to sustainability is consistently evidenced through active and engaging teaching, impactful research, and meaningful service to support the communities across the state."

Star is the green labs manager for UGA's Facilities Management Division. Star's nominators wrote: "Star's passion and commitment to sustainability is infectious. With a focus on social justice, Star remains dedicated to supporting impactful science without negatively impacting people and the planet we all  depend upon."


Abigail is a senior printmaking and book arts major in the Lamar Dodd School of Art. Abigail's nominator wrote: "Abigail makes UGA and Athens better. Throughout her years at UGA, she has worked creatively and tirelessly to lead by example and inspire others to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. From leadership in Bag the Bag, to creating amazing furniture from surplus materials, and engaging broad audiences on and off campus in art, sustainability, and zero waste—Abigail is truly an inspiration."

Sarah is a PhD student in Integrative Conservation through the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Sarah's nominator wrote: "in her research and teaching, Sarah seeks to bridge disciplines from Natural Resources to English and brings an ecological dimension to the course. As part of her teaching certificate work, Sarah studies how our focus on tree-literature can improve student's systems-thinking with sustainability in mind."

Jennifer Jo Thompson is an anthropologist in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Jen's nominator wrote: "Jen's research and teaching encompass the often forgotten 3rd pillar of sustainability—the social component. She raises the awareness of her students about the social impact of food systems and what we can do to make sure food workers are made visible and the health impacts of our food system are improved. Jen is truly an asset to the UGA and Athens community."

Christy is the sustainability coordinator in University Housing. Christy's nominators wrote: "Christy is one of the most passionate people I know. She seeks out opportunities for sustainability everywhere she goes and really makes it fun for people to participate in creating a sustainable lifestyle. Whenever she sees an issue regarding sustainability, she is quick to act. I am grateful for the work that Christy does and for the impact she has had on me."


As a Management Information Systems and International Business double-major in Terry College of Business—and leader of the Eco Reps program with UGA Housing and the Office of Sustainability—Nethra's passion for sustainability is contagious. She works tirelessly to build relationships and inspire others to incorporate sustainability practices into their daily lives—and she makes it fun! According to one nominator, "Nethra's enthusiasm and dedication are truly exemplary."

Berea is a masters student studying sustainable production and distribution of textiles and community development practices through the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. Her work spans from UGArden and the Athens Free School to studying female-led businesses in Italy, Uruguay, and Bolivia. According to one nominator, "By taking her Georgia grown affection for environmental conservation, she is now developing networks at the hemispheric level and beyond."

Dr. Dwivedi serves as Assistant Professor of Sustainability Sciences in the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. He is a creative thinker, prolific researcher, and inspiring role model for his students. According to one nominator, "Dr. Dwivedi has played an immense role in my college career thus far… He pushes all of his students to be their best and to go above and beyond in their research and classwork."

JoHannah Biang is a driving force behind the UGArden teaching and demonstration farm. She works rain or shine to cultivate wholesome foods and conscientious student leaders. According to one nominator, "JoHannah's heart for others is expressed warmly through humor, inspiration, servant leadership, and the kick in the pants we all need to get going."


An environmental engineering major from Atlanta, Melissa has always had a love and passion for sustainability. She has served as an intern in the Office of Sustainability for 2 1/2 years—and she read Dr. Seuss' The Lorax so many times as a child that she still has it memorized. According to one nominator, "Melissa is an extremely dedicated advocate for sustainability around campus. Her willingness to assist others with their own sustainability efforts is unparalleled. She recycles and composts at home—and encourages friends, family, and strangers to do the same. I look forward to seeing what she'll do next!"

Michael is a Professor of Art, and Associate Director of Curriculum, in the Lamar Dodd School of Art. He is on the advisory board for Watershed UGA and an active collaborator on multiple sustainability projects on campus. One nominator said "Michael is instrumental in combining the arts and sustainability at UGA. He reminds us that the arts are not only an effective tool for communicating and visualizing complex issues, but also integral to creative problem solving and enhancing culture to addresses grand challenges."

Wick is the UGA Extension School Garden Coordinator. His program seeks to end poverty and teach sustainable practices through experiential learning. Wick served as a VISTA at Clarke Middle School for two years—installing a large produce garden, supporting teachers, and establishing a summer camp where students care for school livestock, tend the school garden, and plan, prepare and serve pop-up lunches to the community. According to one nominator, "Wick is an inspiration! His program is changing lives and empowering young students. His genuine caring and natural manner of engaging with others makes him an excellent mentor and friend to those he serves."


The 2016 Sustainable UGA Outstanding Student Award was given to Kirstie Hostetter, a senior environmental economics major from Memphis, Tennessee. Kirstie is co-founder of the UGA Energy Concept, a student organization dedicated to interdisciplinary energy innovation that transcend political viewpoints, and president of the Lunchbox Garden, an after school program engaging children in issues concerning healthy, sustainable food choices.

According to one nominator, "Kirstie is incredibly passionate about sustainability, and works hard to enable her peers to be part of the discussion of our future. I, and many others, have learned so much from Kirstie about what it means to be a caring steward of our planet."

The 2016 Sustainable UGA Outstanding Faculty Award was given to Dr. Cecilia Herles, assistant director of the Institute for Women's Studies and recipient of UGA's 2016 Creative Teaching Award. Dr. Herles is an active member of the Sustainability Across Curriculum initiative and her service-learning course led to the establishment of Campus Kitchen at UGA, a student-powered food recovery and distribution program which has provided over 50,000 meals to community members in the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren program.

"Cecilia inspires her students and peers to creatively engage in their communities," said one nominator. "She is a shining example that through meaningful dialogue and thoughtful actions we all can have a role in lifting up others."

The 2016 Sustainable UGA Outstanding Staff Award was given to Bryan Varin, interim executive director of UGA Food Services. UGA Food Services typically serves over 95,000 meals a week in support of the learning environment at UGA. With a farm-to-table background, Mr. Varin combines a passion for delicious, nutritious and sustainable foods with a commitment to providing exceptional and economically viable food offerings to the University community. UGA Food Services composts all organic materials from all dining halls, and the shift to trayless dining in 2015 leads to annual savings of 150,000 gallons of water and $2 Million in food waste.

According to his nominator, "Bryan's commitment to sustainability permeates his staff and their massive daily operations. While change can be slow in a large institution, Bryan remains open and forward-thinking toward innovative solutions that nourish both people and the planet."


Tiffany Eberhard, a senior Environmental Health Science major from Athens, GA. As leader of the Bag the Bag initiative, Tiffany has led the effort to encourage each of us—and our legislators—to reduce our use of disposable plastic bags. She is dedicated to improving health and quality of life in our communities, and empowering others. According to one nominator, "Tiffany is one of my biggest inspirations… She's constantly looking to support positive change while simultaneously being rooted in her culture, faith, and community… She is a shining example of the future of environmental activism, research, and innovation."

Jane Diener, a UGA doctoral student in the Warnell College of Forestry and Natural Resources, is extremely productive in her part-time role as sustainability coordinator for University Housing. From implementing the EcoReps peer mentoring program to advancing recycling, composting and much more, Jane is dedicated to inspiring others and leading by example. One of her nominator's applauds, "She gave up her car, eats vegan, and reduces, reuses, and recycles whatever she can. An exhaustive list of Jane's individual sustainable actions could fill a book of its own."

Dr. Malcolm Adams is distinguished professor and head of the Mathematics Department in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. His sustainability credentials range from the 2009 Working Group on Sustainability, serving as a founding member of the Committee for the Integration of Sustainability Across Campus, working to strengthen the Environmental Literacy Requirement on the University Council Executive Committee, and supporting the Sustainability Faculty Learning Community. Dr. Adams' efforts are underscored by a deep personal commitment to living, teaching and serving others well. According to one nominator, "Malcolm works tirelessly and humbly behind the scenes. UGA would not be the same without his tremendous efforts."

Jason Hubbard serves as a Horticulture Assistant in the FMD Grounds Department. He has a certificate in permaculture design and has been studying and practicing permaculture principles for more than 15 years. He works hard to develop a more holistic approach to grounds maintenance at UGA. The annual flower beds which he installs and maintains are done so with a soil first approach, replacing synthetic chemicals with organic and biological fertilizers and compost teas. According to his nominator, "The other half of his professional life is devoted to deep nature connection and mentoring." Jason helped to start Wild Intelligence and currently serves as a youth and teen mentor where he co-facilitates a year-long teen program and a summer backpacking camp for youth.


Landon Bubb, a senior anthropology major from Lilburn, Georgia, is being honored with the 2014 Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award. As a leader of Students for Environmental Action, member of Speak Out for Species, an intern at the Athens Farmers Market and other roles in the community, Landon demonstrates exceptional commitment to environmental issues and improving quality of life. According to one nominator, "He has a holistic vision of sustainability for improving the quality of life, including health, socioeconomics, and minority rights…. Landon is a wonderful embodiment of what we aspire for a sustainable community: enthusiastic, committed, and engaged."

Kimberly Reeves, a graduate student in the College of Environment and Design from Lilburn, Georgia, is being honored with the 2014 Outstanding Graduate Student Award. Through two years of service in the Office of Sustainability, Athens-Clarke County Recycling Division, College of Environment and Design, and other local organizations, Kimberly has made a significant and positive impact in the Athens community, encouraging us to recycle more, drive less, compost more, eat better and get involved in our local communities. According to one nominator, "Life and work are better with Kimberly around. Her smile and zest for life are contagious, she is all-in when serving others, and she has a knack for leading by example that it's not only feasible—but also a whole lot more fun—to live and work sustainably."

Dr. Ron Balthazor, senior academic professional and professor of English in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, is being honored with the 2014 Outstanding Faculty Award. Ron is a scholar of Thoreau, expert in Environmental Literature and Eco-criticism, avid gardener, and committed leader in the Sustainability Across Curriculum movement at UGA devoting his time and creativity to planning faculty workshops, leading the Sustainability Faculty Learning Community and advancing the interdisciplinary certificate in sustainability. According to one nominator, "He continually works to bring together faculty from diverse disciplines towards a common goal, inspiring others through anecdotes, literature and poetry… He is an inspiration to his colleagues and collaborators."

Jeanne Fry, director of UGA Food Services, is being honored with the 2014 Outstanding Staff Award. Many know Jeanne for her ability to keep thousands of students well-nourished through the award-winning UGA dining halls, but she is also a champion of sustainability initiatives at UGA. Her nominator wrote, "From providing local and sustainable foods for campus events to supporting curriculum initiatives, Jeanne's a tremendous partner for sustainability at UGA… Her efforts to reduce water and energy use in food service operations are commendable; her commitment to eliminate all plastics from the waste stream in order to compost every organic item leaving UGA dining halls is simply extraordinary."


Matt is a junior Honors student and Foundation Fellow from Atlanta pursuing a dual bachelor's and master's degree in political science from the School of Public and International Affairs.

As leader of Students for Environmental Action, Matt helps to spearhead hands-on projects aimed at improving quality of life on campus and in the community. From The Lunchbox Garden Project which teaches gardening and nutrition to elementary school students to a student-led energy audit of UGA's Park Hall, Matt inspires positive consistent and positive action among his peers.

According to one nominator, "Matt is able to see well beyond himself to make a positive contribution to the people and communities around him. His vision, care for others, and comfortable yet passionate style make him a leader that is easy to follow."

Zach is a first-year MLA student in the UGA College of Environment and Design from Nashville, Tennessee.

With the help of the Tanyard Creek Chew Crew, Zach and his lovable goats are restoring the riparian forest along Tanyard Creek and engaging the community in meaningful conversations about land use, water quality, and innovative solutions to everyday challenges.

"Zach Richardson is a model example of making a positive impact as a leader with sustainable-minded goals. He ensures that every person he talks to feels special, and he answers each of their questions as if it was the first time he had heard them," wrote one nominator; he's "the guy in charge with a huge smile, double high-fives, and words of gratitude for all who help."

Alfie Vick, associate professor in the UGA College of Environment and Design, is being honored with the 2013 Outstanding Faculty Award. Alfie's passion for establishing healthy communities through appropriate ecological design is conveyed to students and community members alike in willing collaboration and thoughtful service. From the Athens Land Trust to the Institute of Native American Studies and the US Green Building Council, Alfie generously shares his time and expertise beyond campus boundaries to improve quality of life and the natural environment. "His dedication to sustainable (solutions) and community engagement totally inspires and encourages us," said a student nominator. According to one of his peers, "Alfie's depth of knowledge and hip manner make him a favorite partner in any effort to engage people and the environment in meaningful ways."

Katy Smith, Water Quality Program Coordinator in the UGA Marine Extension Service, is being honored with the 2013 Outstanding Staff Award. Katy is an inspiration to co-workers and community members in Georgia's Brunswick County area. From reusing and recycling to improving water quality and marine ecosystems, Katy teaches students of all ages how to make a difference through simple, tangible actions that each one of us can integrate into our daily lives. "Life is overwhelming and busy as it is," she says, "You don't have to do everything, just pick one thing that matters to you." According to her nominators, "Katy has a knack for communicating concern for a healthy planet with a good dose of creativity and a liberal dash of inspiration. From classroom conversations with third graders to mentoring local business owners and providing a role model for her own co-workers, Katy embodies the extension idea of ‘each one, teach one'."


Mary Carlson, a senior art history major in the UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art, is being honored with the outstanding undergraduate student award. In her four years at UGA, Carlson has been an active member of the Go Green Alliance and a founding member and co-president of UGArden, UGA's campus community garden. Carlson helped start UGArden in May 2010, and since then has been involved in expanding its reach past local, pesticide-free vegetables to include beehives, mushroom logs, an aquaponics system and a fruit tree orchard. "Mary Carlson is one of the most articulate, engaging and fearless people I know. Without any real gardening experience at the time, Mary willingly jumped with both feet into the creation of UGArden, becoming one of its spirited leaders and selfless supporters," wrote Carlson's nominator for the award.

Chris McDowell, a master's student in landscape architecture in the UGA College of Environment & Design, is being honored with the outstanding graduate student award. McDowell has been involved with several projects on campus that have created working, useable structures made entirely from reclaimed materials. With the help of a 2012 Sustainability Grant, he created the UGA Material Reuse Program, which converts construction waste material such as wood and scrap metal into works of art and function. McDowell has created a passively-heated greenhouse for UGArden, raised garden beds and compost bins for local schools, a shelter for the goats of Tanyard Creek and tables for Athens' first Food Cart Festival, all from construction material that would otherwise have been destined for the landfill. "With a whole lot of know-how, passion and sweat, Chris McDowell is creating a better Athens. Not only has he saved tons of construction materials from our local landfill, but he's used them to create objects of functional beauty," stated McDowell's nominator for the outstanding student award.

David Berle, an associate professor of horticulture in the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences, head horticulturist at the State Botanical Garden and faculty advisor for UGArden, is being honored with an outstanding faculty/staff award. Berle is the head of the local food systems certificate program, which began in 2011 and allows undergraduate students to learn about the policies, production issues and cultural implications of producing local food, and is also an advisor in the organic agriculture certificate program. "When I think of the tremendously positive impact of student engagement and service-learning at UGA, I immediately think of David Berle," his nominator said. "It's nearly impossible to pass through any neighborhood in Athens without seeing some aspect of David's heart and handiwork. His efforts inspire countless many and often make me wonder, ‘What the heck am I doing with my own life and time?!?'"

Susan Varlamoff, director of the Office of Environmental Sciences, is also being honored with an outstanding faculty/staff award. Within the office, Varlamoff works to coordinate research, extension and teaching programs addressing environmental issues within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Varlamoff has promoted water conservation, local foods and renewable energy on campus, and also helped create the Georgia Initiative for Climate and Society. As stated by her nominator, "Susan Varlamoff is a pillar in the sustainability movement on campus and throughout the state of Georgia. From her efforts to promote water conservation, local foods and renewable energy to envisioning a socially-responsible organic farm in the heart of Atlanta and buoying the UGA Climate and Society Initiative, Susan's work remains characterized by an impeccable grace and style."


UGA Honors Student majoring in Ecology and Biology with an emphasis on sustainable design, and president of Students for Environmental Action. From developing feasible recommendations for renewable energy and alternative transportation at UGA to spearheading Earth Week 2011 events on campus, Sheena is already a proven leader toward a more sustainable future. One nominator referred to Sheena as "a shining example of why we should be hopeful for the future."

Assistant Dean in the Odum School of Ecology. From developing a multi-disciplined environmental practicum course that has been lauded by multiple state-level agencies for its effectiveness in ecological preservation to initiating the Odum School of Ecology Sustainability Committee and spearheading sustainable living practices among students, faculty and staff in her department, one nominator stated, "Laurie is sustainability at its best!"

Research engineer in UGA's Engineering Outreach Services in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Jason is acknowledged specifically for his efforts to conserve energy and save the University money through targeted education and research in campus buildings, as well as his tireless efforts to provide bicycles to underserved members of our community through the BikeAthens Bike Recycling Program. In addition, one nominator stated, "He's also just a heckuva nice guy."