VALDOSTA – Georgia Trend announces the second edition of Georgia 500 featuring the state’s most influential leaders.
Georgia Trend recently announced its second edition of Georgia 500, a comprehensive list of the state’s most influential leaders, each one working in their local community to positively impact economic and community development.
Ben Young, Georgia Trend publisher, notes inside the 180-page special publication, that the fun part of creating Georgia 500 is “the process of learning even more about how Georgia ticks and how the state has become such a powerhouse for economic development. It’s not all just our southern hospitality. The coordination among these leaders to advance economic expansion and rise to the challenges that come with serving such a fast-growing population should be a model for other states.”
Young recognizes the reader investment in Georgia Trend’s latest project and shares that “many nominations and suggestions” across 21 different categories were received for the second edition of Georgia 500. He says the process of selecting the honorees is an arduous one, but this work is important because it highlights “how many of these leaders work with each other and their communities to tackle problems and advance opportunities throughout the state, whether advocating for policy or through boots-on-the-ground engagement.”
Georgia Trend’s Georgia 500 list includes a selection of VSU alumni.
“We are incredibly proud of the Valdosta State University graduates listed among this year’s Georgia 500,” says Dr. Richard A. Carvajal, president of VSU. “They are affecting change in their communities and our state, while also playing a critical role in shaping our university’s identity, reputation, and impact on the real world.”
Larry Hanson, executive director and chief executive officer of the Georgia Municipal Association, is recognized in the Georgia 500 Economic Development category. He earned a Bachelor of General Studies from VSU in 1995.
Shannon James, president and chief executive officer of Aerotropolis Atlanta Alliance, is recognized in the Georgia 500 Economic Development category. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management in 2004 and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing in 2005 and was recently honored with the Harley Langdale Jr. College of Business Administration’s 2022 Distinguished Alumnus Award.
Brian Marlowe, president and chief executive officer of the Tifton-Tift County Chamber of Commerce and Tift County Development Authority, is recognized in the Georgia 500 Economic Development category. He was named deputy commissioner for rural Georgia and leader of Governor Brian Kemp’s Rural Strike Team in 2020. He works closely with VSU’s Center for South Georgia Regional Impact to help Georgia’s rural communities develop a roadmap for long-term economic success. He earned a Master of Public Administration from VSU in 1991.
Lonnie Roberts, president of Coastal Pines Technical College, is recognized in the Georgia 500 Education category. He earned a Master of Library and Information Science from VSU in 2005.
Dr. Jermaine Whirl, president of Augusta Technical College, is recognized in the Georgia 500 Education category. He earned a Doctor of Education in Leadership from VSU in 2015.
Dave Wills, executive director of Association County Commissioners of Georgia, is recognized in the Georgia 500 Economic Development category. He earned a Master of Public Administration from VSU in 2007.
Carvajal is recognized in the Georgia 500 Education category. He assumed the role of Blazer Nation’s 10th leader in 2017.
“As the leader of this incredible institution, it is an honor to be included in Georgia Trend’s latest list of the Georgia 500,” he says. “Valdosta State University has a nearly $410 million impact annually in South Georgia. We understand that what we do here is critical to the economic vitality of our region, from stimulating innovation to increasing both the supply of and demand for skilled labor. We are committed to leading solution-oriented transformation — and graduating future leaders — that will continue to support and advance this place we call home.”
Now in his seventh year at the helm of VSU, Carvajal’s major accomplishments include launching the Online College for Career Advancement, establishing the Center for South Georgia Regional Impact, and working to address the critical nursing shortage in Georgia.
VSU’s Online College for Career Advancement is an effort to meet the unique needs of nontraditional learners who want to earn a college degree. It builds upon lessons learned from well-known national online providers to create a best-in-class option in Georgia — at a lower cost — and offers students enhanced access to academic coaches, dedicated tutors, writing and tech support, and more. Students can choose from eight high demand programs.
The Center for South Georgia Regional Impact supports VSU’s desire to positively impact regional progress. The center works with community leaders in the university’s 41-county service area to identify issues they want to confront and then connects those community leaders to VSU faculty, staff, and students with the knowledge and skills needed to develop solutions and accelerate progress toward a better tomorrow.
In May the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce awarded VSU a $446,000 Nursing School Grant to help ensure all Georgians, especially those in rural and underserved areas, have access to high qualify healthcare. The funds support university efforts to train the next generation of pioneers in patient care, make a positive impact in the healthcare field, and change lives.
This is the second consecutive year Carvajal, Hanson, James, Marlowe, Roberts, Whirl, and Wills have earned a spot in Georgia Trend’s Georgia 500.
Visit https://tinyurl.com/Georgia500Blazers2023 to learn more about these top Blazers and the rest of the Georgia 500 honorees.