Age: 27 //
Occupation: Management Analyst, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention //
Major at GC: Fine Art
Why did you come to Georgia College?
If I’m being totally truthful, Georgia College was my second choice at the time. But during my first visit to Milledgeville, I knew in my heart it was where I was supposed to be. It just felt right. I think most people who go to Georgia College have that same feeling once they’re there. There’s just something intrinsic about Milledgeville; the small town feel of it, and everyone’s relationship with one another. It always felt like home to me.
Any favorite memories from your time there?
One of my favorite times at GC was when I lived in the blue house on the corner across from the dining hall. It was the greatest two years of my life, living in that house, to be so close to campus activities and feel like a part of the university. The other great thing for me was, at that point, the art buildings were right across the street. I literally just had to walk across the street and I was in almost all my classes.
Another pivotal experience for me was when I studied abroad in Montepulciano, Italy through one of the trips sponsored by Georgia College. That was one of most life-changing experiences for me. I would say that really solidified my love for art and shaped me into who I am today, both spiritually and culturally.
Finally, I’d have to say my Senior Fine Art Exhibition was the true highlight of my GC experience. In order to be a fine arts distinction in the arts program, you’re required to present a solo art exhibition at the end of your capstone, which I completed in Mayfair Hall in May of 2012. It was another pivotal experience for me...to be able to build an art show from the ground up, work on pieces for over a year, showcase it to all my friends and family and give an art talk on my work. It was beautiful to see how my journey at Georgia College unfolded and all come to a close in front of everyone that mattered to me. I had an entire week to be in the spotlight, have a voice and show all of campus what meant a lot to me. You don’t often get that chance.
Tell me more about your art show.
I was a print-making concentration, so all of my pieces were done with either screen prints or print installations. The basic idea of my show was to make a few statements on standard education and how it is affecting young people going into their careers in higher education. How are we teaching and going about education? How is that shaping the way learn? How is that shaping the way we become later in life, after we’re educated? I made these pieces that spoke to different topics on standardized education and how it was maybe not so effective long-term in people’s futures moving forward. I did a lot of screen prints, but also a lot of installation art, which is still one of my go-to’s as an artist. I’m very interested in involving attendees in the space. I will never forget it: I had installed 938 pencils suspended from the ceiling of Mayfair. It took me almost a whole weekend of set-up just for the pencils alone. I did an installation on the floor where I actually screen printed directly onto the floor that people walked on.
But to be honest, I didn’t come to Georgia College thinking I would be a fine arts major. A week into college, I changed my major on a whim from business management to fine art. I had never even taken an art class before, but I could feel in my soul that I was meant to do this. I literally walked straight to the art building, specifically to director Bill Fisher, and changed my major without thinking twice. It was the best decision I ever made. And that’s the primary sentiment I have in regards to my GC education. My time at Georgia College was nothing like I expected, but everything I needed.
As someone who hadn’t taken an art class before, what made you decide to take that leap of faith?
I had a dream about it me changing my major the night before my first Monday of classes freshman year, and started looking into Georgia College’s art program that day. I was used to really big art programs that were intimidating, but Georgia College’s art program was, and remains, so different. The relationships and the connections that we were able to build in that environment were unlike big universities. The professors were so engaged with each individual student
s, I never felt like I was one in a crowd. I never felt that way at Georgia College in general, but I really felt that I found my niche in the art program. I was an individual. I had my own voice, and it mattered. The professors cared about who I was and where my career is was going. You could feel that from the moment you walked in the building. It was a very real and hands-on experience, where I was really able to navigate my self-exploration.
Tell me more about your position at the Centers for Disease Control.
I’m a Management Analyst for CDC’s Sustainability Office, which is a fancy name for a human resources manager in the federal government. I manage all things relating to sustainability across CDC’s campuses including budget, hiring, training, policy, project management and travel for sustainability staff. We manage sustainability initiatives and outreach for the entire agency – which is 15 campuses across the country and close to 15,000 people. Our primary focuses are water, waste and energy management to try and conserve our resources, while also providing sustainability outreach and awareness to our staff and how our agency is working to tackle these concerns. We have a lot of buildings, with most of them running 24/7 based on the nature of CDC’s laboratory work, so what does that mean in terms of resources we are using against tax-payer dollars? It’s our job to ensure that CDC is using our resources wisely, both for purposes of the American tax-payer, but also but for our agency’s mission. From my perspective, I’m the umbrella that liaises with the rest of the agency to enact policy change, start projects from the ground up and initiate educational awareness of these projects. I wear a lot of hats, but it’s all in terms of sustainability. How do we promote health amongst our staff? How do we help protect our planet? And how do we preserve our resources as a federal agency? We live by the three P’s: people, planet and preservation of resources.
It’s really fun and creative, honestly. We’re a relatively new office in terms of government; we’ve only been an office as part of the agency since 2008 and we’re one of the very few sustainability offices in the federal government in general. CDC is leading that fight, because we have a lot of passion to build the case for resilience measures, to bridge the gap between sustainability and public health. We hope to continue making a face for sustainability in the federal government.
As far as policy goes, has there been any particularly interesting case that has stuck out for you?
I would say, in terms of public health-related sustainability, the biggest project that we have going on right now is a new building certification. Many have heard of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) building certification, a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation and maintenance of green buildings. My office recently partnered with GSA (General Services Administration), the Center for Active Design and the city of New York to establish a new building rating system called Fitwel, which is similar in idea, but is more of a cost effective, high impact, health promoting building certification. Fitwel focuses on how our surrounding environments affect the wellness of the occupants. It’s not just about building with basic conservation methods, but it’s about creating living buildings that are keeping the occupants happy and healthy. It’s affecting more than just the CDC – it affects the world. It’s about getting these public health resiliency best practices included in policies moving forward for all communities.
Another thing that’s big right now is integrating renewable energy into our campus operations, like installing solar panel arrays. Solar panels have been around for a while, but the reality is that solar panels are expensive. It’s one of those challenging questions – how do we make an argument for how expensive solar panels are upfront, when we know they’ll pay themselves off and will save resources over the course of decades? We’re coming up with creative contracting mechanisms to purchase solar panels and other energy conservation measures efficiently. We now have solar panels at both of our Atlanta campuses. Our next large project includes breaking ground on our first Net Zero building at our Lawrenceville Campus, meaning the facility will create the amount of energy that it needs to in order to function – it’s cyclical in terms of creating and using any energy, water or waste. CDC will be the first federal agency to have a net-zero building.
What’s your favorite part about your job?
Our scope. CDC has a great reputation, luckily, as a federal agency. The amount of people that we reach across the world is vast. While I may not directly affect people that are suffering from Ebola in Guinea, I am supporting the campuses that support those who are. Working for CDC in general carries the honor of being a face for public health and wellness. Sustainability takes it a step further into wellness of the planet. My job is to educate others on what that means and encourage them with easy ways they can be a part of that movement.
As a CDC employee, I’m honored to have the great responsibility of managing agency resources and assets, to support our mission and touch individuals across the globe. Not everyone may have that opportunity in their career. For me, that’s my main goal. Sure, I thought I wanted to be a fine artist when I graduated, but at the core of what I’ve always really wanted is to have the capacity to affect the world in a positive way, to help people live better lives and to provide a support system for others that don’t have the means to help themselves. Working in sustainability at CDC gives me that. In a weird way, everything that I’ve done up to this point has always been around that idea: to help myself and others live more fulfilled lives.
What’s it like going from the art world to the corporate world?
It was different at first. I had days where I said “What am I doing in the public-sector, corporate world?” But honestly, sustainability is a really creative and challenging field, especially in this environment. You have to be very creative with how to go about getting things done. Especially in the federal government, when your spending is based on the American public's tax dollars. It’s really the connections with others that make those things happen. Art was like that too: you really have to have personal connections to have a basis for your art. They are similar in terms of creative thinking, but very different in terms of lifestyle.
I personally need to have both. I like the stability of a career in government, but I also need the whimsy of an entrepreneurial side project. For the past year, I’ve started the process of establishing my own business for fine art screen-printing. It’s a way to get back into making art. I have a studio in my house with all types of printmaking equipment. I’m still making art when I can make art and always will. It’s always going to be a huge part of me. My main goal in my business is to create prints that reflect and support already established non-profit organizations in Atlanta. I want to support those working hard to make a difference in my community, and build beautiful work in the process. Holman Studios: Handmade, Made Whole will launch in spring of 2018.
What would you consider your biggest success?
The federal government has an official, certified work group called the Young Professionals Network (YPN). It’s the only official federal work group that is specific to the development of young professionals and has been around for almost 10 years now. I am the president of this organization, and have served since June of 2016. Since my presidency, we have built close to 1,600 members across 15 campuses nationwide. We coordinate and host all types of opportunities that relate to social, professional development and community service events for YPN members. It’s been such an eye-opening experience to be in this position, and being able to hear the stories of so many young people that want to work in the public-sector. To serve the pioneers of the next generation of government, to work alongside them, and all while having the opportunity to give back to the city of Atlanta, has been so amazing. To be the face of this organization and help the young people of CDC move forward in their careers is undoubtedly one of my most prized accomplishment thus far. It’s not even about being president, it’s more about being able to help others navigate and build successful careers.
Any advice for current GC students?
Don’t go to college just to check off the boxes that you think you’re supposed to check off. When you’re at Georgia College, if you’re able, I encourage you to explore what calls to you…even if it’s uncharted territory. I took multiple world religion classes when there was no major for it. I wasn’t going to get anything out of that other than personal gratification and awareness, but those were my favorite classes at Georgia College: the ones that didn’t necessarily get me closer to graduation.
Whatever speaks to your heart, do that thing – even if you’ve never done it before, even if it doesn’t really make sense, even if you have some people saying, “What are you going to do with that after you graduate?” You don’t know, but you’ll figure it out later. You may not always know what the next step is, but trust that your next step will find you.