All posts by Eric Johnson

Immersive installation exhibit to open at Byrd Gallery

Guaranteed: the first thing you notice at artist Ben Sloat’s installation exhibit at the Mary S. Byrd Gallery of Art on the Summerville Campus won’t be the last thing you notice.

Sloat, a New York-born artist whose recent exhibitions include those in Boston, Nashville, and Berlin, has earned a reputation as an exciting young artist whose work is tough to describe.

“The One in the Center Cannot See the Whole,” which opens at the Byrd Gallery on Thursday, Jan. 15, with an artist reception from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 22, is a study in light and color played out against projected photographs of modern-day Beijing and a continuous, highly detailed wallpaper depicting a commercialized and highly idealized version of Chinese history that wraps around the gallery. The result is the creation of an arresting, vibrant, and constantly changing immersive environment.

The longer you look, the more you see.

“Making slight adjustments of light from multiple sources rapidly shifts what the piece does,” Sloat explained while installing the exhibit. “If you’re in an immersive environment like the ocean, it’s not just a visual experience – you’re aware of the texture of the sand; you’re aware of the wind and the changing light from the day and the way the waves crash.”

The question, he said, is how do you create an artistic experience like that, something that is more full bodied and affects more senses than just the eye?

Judging by the number of inquisitive people sneaking a peek through the glass door, his work has answered the question.

“I like the collaboration between the artist and the viewer and the fact that the viewer has to really participate,” he said.

According to Liselott Johnsson, Director of the Mary S. Byrd Gallery, Sloat’s work is something not seen before in Georgia.

“Most galleries avoid installations because they have so many complex components,” she said. “But I think art is risk taking, so if we as a university gallery don’t show our students that you need to take risks and go beyond, what would they do? They would conform.”

Sloat, who was also preparing for a show in Copenhagen, said he was enjoying his time at GRU.

“It’s really exciting to have work at a university because it’s about generating new ideas and having a forum for students to feel empowered,” he said.

Taking time during the installation process, Sloat worked with art students and seemed to draw energy from their questions.

“I’ve gotten a lot of really good questions from the students,” he said. “It’s all on their terms, and I think it’s really important to have the art be very open. Nobody needs to have any kind of art background to connect with the piece.”

In order to connect, however, a modern audience has to be convinced to slow down, which Sloat admitted isn’t always easy.

“In 2015, people are so used to the virtual experience of something, but when they are confronted with something physical, I think they have a kind of glorious experience,” he said. “To be immersed in something actual, I think, has more and more credibility and value in people’s experience.”

As he spoke, the lights changed and different colors were reflected across the walls, at one point forming a crayon-colored honeycomb that surprised even him.

“When you allow for a little bit of flexibility, new things happen,” he said. “That’s the only way you can actually innovate. You only innovate if you’re forced to be dynamic and allow things to change.”

That flexibility, he said, is part of being an artist.

“I’m hoping people don’t think that just because they don’t have a formal art background that there isn’t a lot they can respond to about the show,” he said. “I’m excited about the different populations that may come through here.”

Before the reception, the gallery will host an Art Talk featuring Karen Strelecki, Museum Director for the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art, and Kristi Jilson, Festival Director for the Westobou Festival. Though both speakers will target students with their talks, Johnsson said community members are encouraged to attend.

GRU speakers prepare for TEDx Augusta

When Augusta’s second TEDx event is held at the Imperial Theatre on Friday, Jan. 30, four of the 17 speakers will be from Georgia Regents University.

For those who might not have seen one of the popular videos frequently shared on social media, TED Talks are relatively short and highly accessible speeches given by experts on everything from oceanography to the theremin. Known for their casual delivery and their insightfulness, they’ve become the gold standard for today’s lifelong learners, distributed free across the Internet in easily consumable bites.

Dr. Chris McKinney, Associate Vice President for Innovation Commercialization, said author Simon Sinek’s famous TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” is his personal favorite.

Chris McKinney
Dr. Chris McKinney

“He brings discipline to how I do things,” McKinney said. “I’ve literally changed how I do some of my business based on that single TED Talk.”

Considering McKinney heads up the Office of Innovation Commercialization, that’s pretty high praise. Not only is innovation the currency with which he does business, it figures into his talk, which uses health care examples to talk about how everyone can help innovate and create the future.

While McKinney, like most TED speakers, is confortable in front of an audience, he said the relaxed, off-the-cuff presentation is not left to chance. Rather, the rehearsal process is actually fairly rigorous.

“I’ve been to TED, and it does look really well done,” he says. “It’s very disciplined, and for a guy who’s not used to writing speeches out, this is very different.”

That sentiment is seconded by Dr. Samir Khleif, Director of the Cancer Research Center, who is speaking about a sustainable cancer health model for underserved communities. He was surprised by the preparations required by the organizers.

Dr. Samir Khleif

“I don’t rehearse my talks,” he said. “I’ve never rehearsed a talk in my life because I don’t like to give my talk more than once. I just do it when I’m doing it, because if you rehearse a talk, it becomes mechanical.”

While the majority of his talks are for the scientific community or those in health care, he says he’s looking forward to speaking to a wider, potentially limitless audience.

“Clearly, any time you give a talk, it’s either for an education perspective or to intrigue an audience about certain thoughts, to make them think about something,” he said. “Whether you give it to 100 people or 1,000 people, it’s always better to give it to 2,000 people or 3,000 people. It’s the same when you publish something. You want to put it out there. The more people who read it, the better.”

Steven Uhles, Director of Media and Marketing for the GRU Cancer Center, is the only nonacademic of the GRU contingent, but he is no stranger to speaking in front of crowds or giving his opinion. After 15 years with the Augusta Chronicle (he currently writes the “Pop Rocks” entertainment column for the daily paper) he is one of the most recognized contributors in Augusta.

Steven Uhles

“I’m a guy who likes to think about things, so to sort of spend an extended period of time rolling this thing over in my head has been an interesting experience,” he said. “It’s like writing a piece for a newspaper – you write that piece and you are sort of intensely in there for the day or two it takes to get it done, but then it sort of moves on. So, for me this has been a lot like writing an extended column and then being asked to do a reading of it. I’ve written thousands of columns, but I’ve never written them this long, and I’ve certainly never gotten up and said, ‘My Ode to Steely Dan.’”

Writing about how creativity is valued, Uhles is mining the artistic world he has covered for so long.

“Creativity is an abstract, and we’re always asking what something is worth,” he said. “My talk is about how can you value something that really exists on a theoretical level. What is a painting worth? It’s not worth the price of the paint, it’s not worth the price of the canvass. You’re paying for creativity, so how do we value that?”

For Dr. James Rawson, Chair of the Radiology and Imaging Department, the TED Talk process was familiar, since he was involved in the organization of last year’s TEDx TelfairSteet.

Dr. James Rawson
Dr. James Rawson

“This year, when it was moved to TEDx Augusta and the topic was going to be Connections, I thought that was a perfect opportunity to talk about social media, which we’ve been very involved in in our department.”

His talk, “Virtual Communities and Social Media: How Will You Use These Tools to Change the World?,” seems tailor made for a TEDx event, since that’s exactly what TED Talks have done on a large scale since 1984.

“One of the things that’s exciting about our audience is that it’s not a narrowed-focused audience,” he said. “It’s a very diverse group with a lot of different types of thinkers, and the opportunity to interact with them is very exciting.”

In fact, his only disappointment, he said, was the fact that he’s so far only been really able to connect with the speakers rehearsing in the time slots on either side of him.

One thing he finds especially interesting and symbolic, however, is the rehearsal space.

“We’ve been rehearsing to a large extent in something called, which is actually the old Richmond Academy building,” he said. “I drive past the original Medical College of Georgia, turn into the driveway of the old Richmond Academy, walk into a building with a great legacy in education that’s being renovated for computer labs and BattleBots. To me, that’s part of the value of being able to do this in Augusta, leveraging all of the pieces of the community – the people and the organizations and the heritage that’s here – and putting it into this one TEDx event.”

According to Rawson, the exposure the GRU speakers will receive will benefit the enterprise’s reputation.

“For Georgia Regents to be able to share some of its innovative thinkers with a TEDx Augusta that is potentially available to a global population gives us the opportunity to make more connections and have more visibility for what we do, but it also allows us to share our thought processes with others, have them critiqued, and to learn from that interaction ourselves.”

Know someone who would love to attend? Email that person’s name and email address to to give them the chance to win a free TEDx Augusta ticket.


MLK Birthday Celebration slated for January 16

The annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Celebration will be held on Friday, January 16, at noon in the Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel on the Paine College Campus.

Though this year’s event, which is being hosted by Georgia Regents University, Augusta Technical College, and Paine College, will occur on the Paine College campus, GRU will play a significant role in the day’s activities.

Dr. Mark Allen Poisel, Vice President for Enrollment and Student Affairs, will give the Call to Order, and the Invocation will be given by the Rev. Dr. W. Jeffery Flowers, Director of Pastoral Care and Counseling.

Later in the service, Dr. Gretchen Caughman, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, will introduce the speaker, Dr. William H. Harris, President Emeritus of Alabama State University and former Paine College President.

“Our annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is such an important event for our colleges and community,” Caughman said of the celebration. “It brings students, staff, and faculty together to remember Dr. King’s life and legacy and his struggle to bring unity and harmony to a broken nation.”

Harris was brought in as speaker after the Rev. Dr. Julius S. Scott, Jr. suffered medical issues that prevented him from tackling the demands of being speaker. In spite of that setback, however, Scott is scheduled to attend the ceremony and will provide a special Commemorative Litany.

Scott, who met Martin Luther King, Jr. at Brown University in the 1960s and served for three years as the Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, has the distinction of being a two-time president of Paine College as well as the interim president of the Medical College of Georgia.

Interim Paine College President Dr. Samuel Sullivan will present Scott with a special honor.

As in previous years, music will be an important part of the celebration.

“The whole idea behind this is to present a unified front and to show that there is broad, diverse support for the initiatives Dr. King championed in his day and the work that still needs to be done,” said Dr. Bill Hobbins, GRU Professor of Music, who is one of the directors preparing the students to sing for the event. “We’re not there yet.”

Hobbins said the musical selections comment on and focus attention on King’s work and the culture from which he emanated. He also spoke about the symbolism of local schools participating in the event.

“I think the educational institutions represent an important symbol for the community that we take time out of our class schedule and set aside time where we all choose to come together to do this,” he said.

Native dance ensemble to perform at Maxwell Theatre

While it might be tempting to view the performances of the Kevin Locke Native Dance Ensemble, which will be performing at the Maxwell Theatre on Saturday, Jan. 24, as part of the 47th annual Lyceum Series, as cultural history brought to life on the stage, the troupe’s namesake would ask you to do otherwise.

“Ostensibly, people might view it as a cultural presentation, but if you take it out of the realm of looking at things through a cultural lens, then what it is is the presentation of traditional arts, or folk arts,” he said.

According to Locke, folk arts portray universal themes, like the longing for beauty, symmetry, harmony, rhythm, and balance – all things showcased by the ensemble.

“To me, what it’s really all about is affirming universal, unifying aspects of humankind,” he said. “It accentuates the nobility of the human spirit.”

Locke, recognized as one of the leading representatives of Native American Hoop Dancing as well as an expert in the indigenous Northern Plains flute, considers himself a bridge figure. Though his Lakota name, Tokaheya Inajin, means “the first to arise,” he makes it clear that he is part of an unbroken line of Native American artists.

“My mentor for the flute was born in the 1870s,” he said. “He passed away in the mid-1970s and was something like 100 years of age,” Locke said. “He was my mentor, so I got it from the source.”

Though Locke’s flute music may come from the source – he uses a traditional Native American flute rather than the more melodic version used on most recordings since the 1980s – not all the dancing goes back to early days, though it does remain authentic.

Wayne Silas, one of the ensemble members who was also voted Best Male Artist at the 2013 Native American Music Awards, dances a more contemporary style that developed out of the wild west shows, when audiences craved more spirited entertainment.

“When they were doing a lot of reenactments, the younger dancers and the people who directed the shows wanted something more energetic and more entertaining for the audience, so this style of dance was starting to kick up a lot higher with a lot faster style of song and more and more of an eye-catching style of dance.”

Like Locke, he considers his dancing less of an act of preservation and more of an evolving form of artistic expression that touches everyday life.

“Evolution is a perfect word for it,” he said. “It evolved into who we are today. We hold strongly to a lot of our teachings, a lot of the cultural and social aspects of our lives.”

Kelly Thomas, who is the Director of the Maxwell Theatre, said the ensemble is exactly the type of event he looks for when developing the Lyceum Series.

“We try to find something you’re not going to see in the community without us,” he said. “And by reaching to this event, in some ways we’re exposing our students and our community to things that are really closer to home. The native cultures are all around us, but we often don’t open our eyes to see what’s right here, and this is a way for us to do that.”

Though many shows at the Maxwell Theatre are general admission, Lyceum events like this one are reserved: $15 for the general public, $10 for GRU alumni and military, and $5 for GRU faculty and staff. GRU students are free with a valid JagCard.

“The sooner you get your ticket, the better your seat will be,” he said.

Tickets can be purchased at the box office or online.

Locke and Silas will also participate in a series of workshops that are free and open to the public.

At noon on Friday, Jan. 23, Lock will hold a Native American Flute workshop at the Fine Arts Center, C-1.

On Saturday, Jan. 24, at 10 a.m., Locke will be on the stage of the Maxwell Theatre for a Hoop Dancing workshop, and at 11 a.m., Silas will follow with a drumming workshop. Both are appropriate for all ages, including kids and families.

Heart Walk: True Stories. True Success.

On October 15, 2011, Mike Oates experienced a plaque rupture while in the midst of training for a half marathon. In just 66 minutes, he went from lying on the ground without a pulse to leaving surgery with the rest of his life ahead of him.

Last year, the American Heart Association gave more than $7 million to GRU in research funding, making us eighth in the nation – and, more importantly, helping us to save lives like that of Mike Oates. The Heart Walk gives us the chance to give back to AHA. Click here for information on the Heart Walk and fundraising events, as well as to buy the official shirt, register a team, and submit a fundraising event concept.

Contact name: Anna Aligood
Contact email:
Contact phone number: 706-721-8484


Students entertained by inaugural Education Day basketball game

With a bottle of syrup in hand, a highly energetic Buddy the Elf accompanied Santa Claus in welcoming over 2,000 Richmond County fifth graders to the inaugural Education Day event at Christenberry Fieldhouse on Thursday, Dec. 18.

Forty-four buses brought students from 34 schools to the Peach Belt opener against the Georgia Southwestern Hurricanes. The special 11 a.m. start was followed by the Jaguar women at 1 p.m.

“GRU Athletics, in particular our men’s basketball program teaming up with our College of Education in providing the Richmond County Board of Education and its fifth-grade students a unique experience centered on education and basketball, is the kind of positive collaboration and partnership that we all should be seeking in the shaping of young minds and attitudes,” Director of Athletics Clint Bryant said. “This is truly something special, and we look forward to its growth and development in future years.”

Before the tip-off, Bryant looked on with a smile as Georgia Regents University President Ricardo Azziz counted down the students to an enthusiastic, if high pitched, “Go Jags!”

Halftime entertainment included a performance by the Jumping Jaguars youth jump rope team and a Chinese lesson from representatives of the Confucius Institute.

The No. 23 ranked Jags won, 68-58, to claim their first Peach Belt win.

Click here for photos.

Commencement gives graduates time to reflect and celebrate


Moments before Saturday’s Fall Commencement ceremony, Brad Ellis, a member of the Clinical Nurse Leader program in the College of Nursing, was in the men’s room of the James Brown Arena tying his tie and reflecting on the master’s degree he was about to be recognized for.

“I’ve been impressed with how hands-on the faculty is, how much they coddle each person’s success, and how they promote that within the institution,” he said. “It’s a family.”

A graduate of USC Aiken, Ellis chose to join the 16-month accelerated nursing program because of its proximity to his home and the quality of the instruction.

“It’s been very convenient for me to shoot across the river and get a great education,” he said.

For sociology major Edward Boadie of Atlanta, GRU offered a second chance for academic success.

“In my previous school, Georgia Perimeter College in Dunwoody, I was doing well, but then something happened that caused my grades to go down low,” he said while standing in the alphabetized line before marching out to “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the GRU Brass Quintet. “This school gave me the chance to come back from the whole academic suspension thing.”

Each of the graduating students who crossed the stage had their own story, of course, and all received words of wisdom from Dr. Ricardo Azziz, GRU President, and Thierry Roques, the Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Coca-Cola of Greater China and Korea, who gave the commencement address.

Roques, who has lived in 12 countries and has visited over 100, spoke passionately about the opportunities awaiting the graduates.

“Opportunities have never been so many or so big,” he said. “We are living in very exciting times, and you are lucky to be graduating today.”

In Chinese, he said, the word “crisis” is comprised of two characters. The first means danger, the second opportunity.

“With challenges come opportunities, but it’s up to us to identify and leverage those opportunities,” he said.

Azziz urged the graduates to remain curious and to cultivate their creativity.

“It has been said that curiosity is the wick of the candle of learning,” he said. “There would be no spark of learning without curiosity. Be curious. Ask questions, and never accept the easy answer. Stretch beyond your comfort zone.”

That curiosity, he stressed, should be a way of life, not just a moment in time.

Tying in Roques’ Asian experience, Azziz emphasized the importance of thoughtfulness by telling the graduates to deliberately give themselves time to think.

“It is said that in the Japanese business culture, if someone enters your office and they find you gazing out the window absentmindedly, thinking, they will quietly retreat to allow you to complete your thought,” he said. “In the U.S., our business culture really calls for interrupting that person because we are sure that a thoughtful moment is of no value. We are a nation of action, not always a nation of thoughtfulness.”

And yet those eureka moments come, he said, when our brains are allowed to process information and make new connections.

For Ellis, who contemplated not walking, the ceremony offered him a time to reflect on his accomplishments.

“After talking with my 81-year-old grandmother, who reminded me that I’m the first master’s graduate in our family, I decided to do it,” he said. “I’m grateful to her for bringing that to my attention, because I’m not just representing myself, I’m representing my family, too.”

For a slideshow of commencement photos, click here:



PRESTIGE program helps student land teaching job


Because her mother, aunt, and uncle are all lawyers, Ashley Zappitell had always toyed with the idea of attending law school, but her love of science steered her toward chemistry and then forensics – at least until she realized she didn’t like the solitude of lab work.

“I like social interaction,” Zappitell said. “I loved chemistry; I have this strong love for forensics, but I love being around people, too.”

So she talked with Dr. Chad Stephens, Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry, who suggested the PRESTIGE program, a scholarship program that allows students to simultaneously earn a Bachelor of Science degree in one of the STEM content areas (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree in just five years.

Now, Zappitell is preparing to start her new job teaching forensics to high schoolers in Gwinnett County, and she’ll be doing it earning master’s degree pay.

“January 5 is my first day,” Zappitell said. “It was really awesome getting the job before I even graduated. The fact that a job was available in my field was really cool, and it was in forensics, which I really love. It is perfect.”

The program, supported by the National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program, is designed to increase interest and participation in teaching middle or high school science and mathematics. According to Stephens, who along with Dr. Steven Page and Dr. Rebecca Harper helped spearhead the grant writing effort, it developed because of the overall need for science teachers and the fact that the existing academic structure didn’t attract many science teacher candidates.

“I think the problem was it was a science degree with added-on education classes, and because of that, it was hard to do in four years,” Stephens said. “Students could have taken five years to do it. But in five years, you graduate with only a BS, and that’s just not that appealing. But when you do this, you get a BS and an MAT, so you’ve got the graduate degree, which also bumps up your starting salary.”

To participate in the program, which awards qualifying students approximately $17,500 a semester, students agree to teach two years in a high-needs county for every semester of scholarship money they receive. For Zappitell, who was on an expedited track, that means she owes four years, which she found more appealing when the requirements changed to allow for opportunities in high-needs counties rather than the four partnering counties that were part of the original requirement.

“In the past six months, it has changed so that you don’t have to work in a high-needs school, you just have to work in a county that has a high-needs school,” Stephens said. “This change greatly increases the number of schools that students can complete their payback in.”

By broadening the definition, students are allowed to teach almost anywhere they want, Stephens said.

Part of the program’s recruitment strategy is to provide students opportunities to be supplemental instructors, which Stephens said is similar to a teaching assistant but with more classroom instruction.

“The idea is that if we can get students to do this, it would give them a chance to see what being a teacher is like, and if they like it, we tell them they might want to check out our program,” Stephens said. “It’s a chance for them to get their feet wet.”

Historically, an SI was meant to benefit the students taking the class, but when they wrote the grant, they decided to fund the positions with an idea that those who were teaching might also get some benefit. And for Zappitell, that’s exactly what happened.

“I loved the interaction with the students,” she said. “I loved it when they understood an idea I was teaching them. When that look gets in their eye, when it just clicks for them, it’s just the most amazing sight in the world.”

Though she found some of the education classes a little difficult, since they were sometimes filled with early childhood teachers and those with varying degrees and interests, she said the assistance she received in job searching was very beneficial.

“There are a lot of resources at our school for finding jobs,” she said. “I’m kind of a go-getter, so I just kind of have a tendency to do things by myself, but if you had no clue what to do, there’s a plethora of resources and a lot of people who are willing to help.”

While Zappitell is an example of a more traditional student, Stephens said the program is particularly attractive to older students who have a good foundation in science and realize that teaching can be a good career.

It’s also earning a reputation outside of Augusta. In the summer of 2013, chemistry major Hannah Wingrove transferred to GRU from the University of Georgia specifically for the opportunity to participate in the PRESTIGE program.

For more information on the PRESTIGE Program, click here

Ndhlovu wins OUC Half Marathon on way to Olympic dream

For most runners, winning a half marathon would qualify as a lifetime achievement, but for GRU graduate student Pardon Ndhlovu, winning the 38th OUC Half Marathon in Orlando on Dec. 8 represented a step along the way to an even bigger dream.

Ndhlovu, a graduate student and assistant coach for cross country and track and field, has his sights set on the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, and Men’s and Women’s Cross County Head Coach Adam Ward thinks he’s on course to get there.

“I think things are running in the right direction for him,” Ward said.

Running for his native Zimbabwe, Ndhlovu, known simply as “Coach P” to the student athletes he trains, would have to meet the Olympic qualifying standards rather than go through the trial system used by the U.S. and other larger nations.

“When you run the qualifying standards, like any other country, they choose the best people with the fastest times that have met the standards,” Ndhlovu said. “That’s what I’m trying to do, just hit the qualifying A standard of 2:15 or faster.”

According to Ward, who has coached him since the UNC Pembroke graduate arrived in August 2013, the next step along the way comes next month in Houston, where Ndhlovu will compete in the Chevron Houston Marathon. A good showing there would move him that much closer to his dream, though Ward was careful about calling it a dream.

“For him, it’s not even really a dream,” Ward said. “I get the sense when I talk to him about it that his mind’s made up – he’s going to the Olympics; it’s just a matter of what race he’s going to qualify in. He’s so sure he’s going to do it, but the great thing about Pardon is that he’s not cocky about it.”

That kind of attitude is impressive in anyone, but considering Ndhlovu didn’t own his first pair of running shoes until he was in college, it’s even more remarkable.

“I had to work with what I had,” Ndhlovu said. “Just put on some shorts and a T-shirt and go out the door. Actually, most of the kids do that, and it didn’t hold me back from pursuing the opportunities that running would create for me. That’s just what life was.”

Now, he said he couldn’t remember the last time he ran barefoot.

“I think I’ve become more of a softy now,” he joked.

Ward said having a runner of Ndhlovu’s caliber on his team makes his job as a coach much easier, and should Ndhlovu reach the Olympics, it will do a lot to enhance the reputation of the program and the school.

“To have someone who works here and is also a student – it puts our program on the map,” Ward said. “People can point to us and say they have an Olympian training with them and that the coach got him to the Olympics. They can say that guy can get me there, too, and that school can get me the education I need to make sure that when I leave, not only did I get out of there with a lot of good athletic goals, but I got a really good academic reputation behind my degree.”

For Ward, that’s one of the benefits he sees from consolidation.

“We’re getting a slightly different caliber of student who is interested in the medical field or is just wanting an institution that has a slightly higher academic standing,” he said. “We’re getting a lot more of those kinds of individuals applying and looking at transferring. Recruiting is never an easy process, but it’s getting a little easier with what we’re able to offer students nowadays, and having someone of Pardon’s stature helps even more.”

Ndhlovu said he eventually hopes to use the MBA in business he earns to create a nonprofit organization that gives back to his community in Zimbabwe, and he credits GRU with giving him the tools and experiences to be able to do it.

“I’ve been able to travel a lot and meet new people, and I’ve had the support of the people around me as I continue to chase the dream,” he said. “And I’m getting the opportunity to get a great education from one of the best business schools in the country, with awesome professors who are willing to work with you and understand the person that you are and what you’re trying to achieve.”