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– Year of Growth and Impact Celebrated by Georgia Women Give

Freshman student Trang Nguyen was uncertain about what to expect in her first year at the University of Georgia. She never imagined she would have the opportunity to explore Moroccan cities and ride a camel in the Sahara Desert with fellow freshmen and UGA faculty members. However, last month, she found herself immersed in these extraordinary experiences.

Thanks to the generosity of a group of donors who came together around the time Nguyen was admitted to UGA, she and 20 other students were able to partake in this unforgettable journey.

Georgia Women Give, a highly successful fundraising initiative at UGA, marked its one-year anniversary with an on-campus event on March 21 and 22. The event concluded with a luncheon where GWG donors and students like Nguyen, who participated in Connect Abroad, a novel study abroad program for first-year students, gathered. This program, the primary recipient of GWG’s campus priorities fund, organized its inaugural trips during this year’s spring break.

During the event’s luncheon on March 22 at the Richard B. Russell Jr. Special Collections Libraries Building, Lotenne Nwokolo ’27 shared her Connect Abroad experience with attendees of the Georgia Women Give spring event. (Photo by Justin Evans)

Expressing her gratitude at the event, Nguyen stated, “I am truly thankful for the opportunities provided by Connect Abroad and the support from Georgia Women Give. It has allowed me to explore a completely different world, broaden my perspective significantly, and enhance my cultural awareness and knowledge.”

Connect Abroad programs offer first-year students the chance to connect with peers, faculty, and unique experiences in Cuba, Italy, the United Kingdom, or Morocco over UGA’s spring break. These programs emphasize immersion and community for a demographic not typically engaged in study abroad—only around 1% of participants are freshmen each year—aligning with the priorities of Georgia Women Give.

Launched in March 2023 by a group of UGA Foundation trustees, GWG is a nationwide fundraising initiative led by women, encouraging more women to participate in philanthropy and deepen their involvement with the university. In its early stages, GWG hosted small events nationwide, fostering a culture of community, dialogue, and impact-driven philanthropy that defines the group.

GWG operates on the principle of collective philanthropy, aiming to maximize impact through focused giving. Donors are encouraged to allocate their contributions to one of three specific funds: a merit-based scholarship endowment, a study away endowment, or the campus priorities fund. While both endowments provide different forms of student support, the campus priorities fund channels assistance to vital university programs at the discretion of the group’s executive committee.

To date, 118 donors have collectively donated nearly $3 million to GWG’s three funds, surpassing the group’s initial target of 50 donors by June 2024.

During Georgia Women Give’s spring event on March 21 at the UGA Chapel, UGA Vice Presidents Jill Walton (development and alumni relations), Kathy Pharr (marketing and communications, also chief of staff of the Office of the President), Marisa Pagnattaro (instruction, also senior vice provost for academic planning), and Jennifer Frum (public service and outreach) participated in a panel discussion, addressing questions from attendees. (Photo by Justin Evans)

Expressing her pride and gratitude, Jill S. Walton, UGA’s vice president for development and alumni relations, remarked, “I am immensely proud and grateful for these dedicated women. As a donor to Georgia Women Give myself, witnessing the growth of this group and the impact of our contributions has been truly inspiring.”

With a year of accomplishments behind them, the group used their March event to reflect on the impact they have achieved. Connect Abroad staff and students delivered the keynote address at the event’s closing luncheon, where Connect Abroad students shared their personal experiences with attendees.

Currently, GWG donors are focused on expanding both their influence and their membership. Georgia Women Give aims to reach 150 donors by the end of June, a target they believe is achievable given their momentum and the commitment of their donors.

Elizabeth Correll Richards, chair of the GWG executive committee, emphasized the group’s unique approach: “This is a group that was built and grown by women connecting to women through honest conversation, a willingness to grow and learn, and a commitment to making a difference. That combination is rare.”

She added, “I intend to work closely with current members to identify more women interested in impacting students’ lives so our group can make a greater difference each year. The larger our group, the greater our impact.”