From left to right: Dr. Catalin Baba, political science professor at Babes-Bolyai University, and Dr. Jeff Springston, associate dean of Grady College.

Rural Development And Communication Program For 31 Foreign Visitors

“We have state funds, but we also generate a large percentage of our funds through contracts and fee for services,” Dr. Rusty Brooks, director of the International Center of the Carl Vinson Institute, told a group of 31 visitors from Romania in early April. “Our programs, when compared to consulting groups, are very economical and provide valuable services.  Government officials gain valuable experience and knowledge from Vinson Institute training and also get to network with peers from around the state. We offer an extensive training menu with over 500 different training classes that had over 26,000 attendees in 2018.”

The delegation consisted of seventeen mayors of Romanian towns, nine rural development experts, three farmers and two agricultural engineers. They were members of a Local Action Group (LAG) partially funded through European Union funds. Local Action Groups are partnerships among the public and the private sector and representatives of the civil society that implement projects in rural development.

The program of the group in Athens was organized by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research and by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia. The Cox Center is the international unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“We received a two-year grant from our Office of Research to examine the communication between local government officials and citizens in two rural counties,” said Dr. Tudor Vlad, director of the Cox International Center, during the session in the Grady College. “We will test some strategies to improve this dialog and we think this pilot-study can be later implemented in other regions.”

During the program at the Carl Vinson Institute, mayor Dave Shearon of Watkinsville shared his experiences as manager of a small town.  He described that he was a business person who decided to run for public office and was surprised when he won.  He said it has been a learning experience every day but his customer service orientation as a ‘bed and breakfast’ owner helps him deal with his constituents.  He also talked about how Watkinsville has used the arts as a catalyst for economic development in the community and how much he values the training he has received from the Vinson Institute that has helped him do his job better.

Dr. Tudor Vlad, director of the Cox International Center, speaking with the Romanian guests.

The guests also visited the UGA Innovation Gateway, whose goal is to maximize the impact of UGA research discoveries and foster economic development through industry partnerships and new venture formation. The unit combines the university’s intellectual property licensing and startup support function to streamline the path from the laboratory or field to the marketplace, ensuring that UGA research discoveries reach their full potential for public benefit.

“The first step is fully generating a startup idea,” said Dr. Derek Eberhart, director of Innovation Gateway. “Then, there is an evaluation process, and Innovation Gateway provides the tools to help those with ideas evaluate their prospects. As part of this stage, participants go through the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program to help the ideas move toward commercialization. In the last phase, companies learn how to scale up their business, which can include the product production process and building the right team of employees.”

Before their arrival in Athens, the Romanian group visited New York and Washington, D.C. Their final stop before returning home was Orlando, Florida.