About halfway through my scribbled notes for Paul Schrader’s stunning new film, “First Reformed,” I came across the line, “’Taxi Driver’ Meets ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’” Reasonably clever in a “quippy’ way — and dead wrong. Yes, environmental ...
By Guest Columnist SUSAN VARLAMOFF, coauthor of the ‘Laudato Si Action Plan’ and author of ‘Sustainable Gardening for the Southeast’ Nature abhors a vacuum. With the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate accord, ...
MARTA Reach Provides Rideshare Service in Clayton, DeKalb, & Fulton Counties MARTA, in partnership with Georgia Tech, announces an expansion of MARTA Reach, a six-month pilot rideshare service designed to connect riders to-and-from MARTA bus and rail. The pilot, meant to test how on-demand shuttles can be used to make it easier and faster for customers to get to their destinations using MARTA, will be expanded to include the neighborhoods of Dixie Hills, Avondale Estates, and cities of Alpharetta, Roswell, Forest Park, and Morrow. “We have seen significant interest and loyalty from the early riders of MARTA Reach,” said MARTA Chief Customer Experience Officer Rhonda Allen. “Most of our riders take many trips a day, connecting to grocery stores, schools and day care, social activities, and the broader MARTA system. We’re thrilled at the opportunity to expand the program to serve more riders in more parts of our region for the second half of the pilot.” Starting May 16: The current West Atlanta zone expands to include Dixie Hills, alongside the Florida Heights and Collier Heights neighborhoods. New connections will be made to West Lake and Bankhead Stations. The current Belvedere zone expands to include the neighborhood of Avondale Estates. New connections will be made to Kensington Station. Starting May 30: The current West Atlanta zone will expand into the cities of Forest Park and Morrow, including new connections to Route 196, Clayton State University, Southern Regional Hospital, and Southlake Mall. A new zone will be introduced in North Fulton, including Georgia State University’s Alpharetta Campus, Downtown Alpharetta, and the Avalon District. Connections will be provided to Routes 85, 140, 141, 142 via the Mansell Park & Ride. “The North Fulton CID is excited to welcome the MARTA Reach Pilot Program to North Fulton,” said Executive Director Brandon Beach. “This program has proven its effectiveness in other areas of metro Atlanta and we look forward to our members, businesses, and residents receiving the benefits of the program.” Professor Pascal Van Hentenryck and Georgia Tech’s Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISyE) team is providing the technology, including routing logic, and rider, operator, and administrator system apps for the project. “We are really thrilled about this expansion that will give MARTA Reach an opportunity to provide first- and last-mile connectivity to more riders, expanding a growing and loyal customer base,” said Van Hentenryck. “It will also allow us to improve our understanding of the sweet spots for MARTA Reach, and where it best complements the existing MARTA network. The first months of the pilot have been incredibly exciting, and the expansion will build on the great progress MARTA Reach has already accomplished.” To order a ride download the MARTA Reach app from your smartphone’s mobile app store. The app will guide you to designated pick-up and drop-off stops near the beginning or end of your trip. If there’s not a stop where you’d like, you can request additional stop locations in the app. Riders who do not have a smartphone can call MARTA Customer Service at 404-848-5000 to request a ride. All MARTA Reach vehicles are wheelchair and stroller accessible. MARTA Reach debuted on March 1 in West Atlanta, Belvedere, and the Gillem Logistics Center and costs the same as a MARTA fare, $2.50. The service runs from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and is a ridesharing service, meaning other passengers may be picked up and dropped off during a trip. This is sponsored content.
Marchon Community Features Affordable Workforce Housing and Retail Space MARTA, along with H.J. Russell and Place Properties, celebrated the opening of the King Memorial transit-oriented development (TOD) on Friday, May 20. The mixed-use TOD features Marchon, a community of 305 apartments and 11,000 square feet of office and retail space adjacent to King Memorial rail station and historic Oakland Cemetery. “The pandemic prevented a groundbreaking event and we are excited to finally celebrate the opening of the King Memorial TOD and the Marchon community. This is a prime location near downtown Atlanta and one-third of the apartments at this development are affordable workforce housing convenient to transit,” said MARTA Interim General Manager and CEO Collie Greenwood. The $65.3 million development sits on 4.4 acres of MARTA property on the northern edge of the historic Grant Park neighborhood and near the Old Fourth Ward that had previously been used for overflow parking. MARTA’s Transit-Oriented Development Program is committed to re-purposing spaces such as this to provide much-needed affordable housing near transit and its amenities. Over half the units at Marchon are leased, with the first tenants fittingly moving in on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday this year. Among the leased units, over 30 percent are workforce housing, allowing for income qualifications of 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). “The need for centrally located, transportation-oriented and affordable housing is in high demand and short supply in metro Atlanta, especially within the heart of the city,” said H. Jerome Russell, president, H. J. Russell & Company. “Russell is always exploring creative ways in which it can incorporate affordability into these developments because providing affordable housing has been a core component of our company’s mission for 70 years.” Marchon is the first phase of a ten-year development plan for the surrounding half-mile of King Memorial rail station that includes 911 additional living units and over 50,000 additional square feet of retail space. “The King Memorial TOD, along with mixed-use transit-oriented developments with affordable housing at Edgewood/Candler Park and Avondale rail stations, and future plans for TODs at Kensington, Bankhead, H.E. Holmes, and Indian Creek stations, poise MARTA’s East/West line to transform from an underutilized transportation asset to a growth and equity supportive corridor,” added Greenwood. Connecting King Memorial station to Marchon is the Grant Street tunnel which was recently adorned with 200,000 reflectors as part of an art installation organized by MARTA’s public art program Artbound. Reflection Tunnel, by artist Adam Bostic, makes an inviting and well-lit pedestrian connection for residents walking to the station to catch the bus or train. This is sponsored content.
Atlanta was again making waves as the Georgia Aquarium ballroom set the scene for the post-COVID comeback of Families First’s evening of recognizing extraordinary community impact and raising funds for its wraparound social services and innovative behavioral health counseling for children and families. Beginning with the vividly painted story of Families First’s inventive case management model where clients are teamed with dedicated navigators and equipped with tools to manage trauma and mental health, emcee Brooks Baptiste of CBS Wake Up Atlanta put a fast-paced program in motion to pay tribute to outstanding individuals who are shaping our communities, and winning over the crowd of 350+ Families First supporters with his shout-out to his bride on the occasion of their 1st Wedding Anniversary. Wendy Stewart, President, Global Commercial Banking, Bank of America was honored with the Community Impact Award and recognized by Lauren Koontz of YMCA Metro Atlanta and Bentina Terry of Georgia Power Company for her active leadership in pulling together the business community and nonprofits to create a new campus in Grove Park (near Bankhead) neighborhood on Atlanta’s Westside with a new school (run by KIPP), a YMCA early learning center and clinic. Kevin Greiner, President & CEO, Gas South was honored with the Social Equity Award and highly praised by Lauren Koontz, Ivan Shammas of Univision Atlanta and his Gas South team for his “fuel for good” focus on children’s education, especially in helping families in low opportunity communities to catch up with STEM learning and other supportive initiatives. Native Atlantan Dallas Smith, Founder, President & CEO, of T. Dallas Smith & Co. (commercial real estate brokers) was honored with the Making a Difference Community Service Award, and celebrated by Atlanta Housing Board of Commissioners member and Avison Young principal Kirk Rich for living by the Golden Rule and his pivotal role in innovating a new model for community redevelopment that promises to bring positive outcomes and is respectful of longtime neighborhood residents. Past Families First CEO Patricia Whatley Showell was recognized with the Legacy Award and hailed with heartfelt tributes from attorney and community leader Bernadette Weston Hartfield and PricewaterhouseCooper’s Courtney Showell. Pat charmed the audience with her humility and hopeful outlook for better futures, remarking on the flexibility and ingenuity of Families First to ascertain and become whatever the community is wanting in that current time. Community advocate Mary Yates was especially honored with the Montag Family Volunteerism Award and talked about the “bear hug” of services that Families First provides its clients. Peter Williams of BlackRock was one of the first to compliment the Dining for a Difference team on commissioning Sharanda A. Wilburn, who chose the artist’s moniker, “S.A.W., to paint original portraits of all five honorees in the style S.A.W. is known for with such portraits of former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and community organizer Stacey Abrams, as well as the newly painted Families First mural, “Threads of Resilience” located at 80 Joseph E. Lowry Boulevard. This is sponsored content.
Each year, the Metro Atlanta Chamber (MAC) hosts the region’s most prominent and innovative business leaders for frank discussions through the Insights on Leadership speaker series, sponsored by Delta Air Lines. In February, MAC President and CEO Katie Kirkpatrick sat down with Inspire Brands Co-founder and CEO Paul Brown. Brown serves a multi-brand restaurant company whose portfolio includes nearly 32,000 Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s, Rusty Taco and SONIC Drive-In restaurants worldwide. Inspire is supported by more than 650,000 company and franchise team members. Its brands achieved more than $30 billion in global system sales, making Inspire the second largest restaurant company in the U.S. For Brown and his team, this creates unique opportunities and challenges with brand management. “It is critical to find the balance of keeping the rich essence of the brand and keeping the culture that goes along with it, particularly in the franchise business,” Brown said. “What we do at the beginning of every acquisition is we go through a process of stepping back and defining the target customer, a clear brand purpose and the values of the brand.” “We’re very careful with what are the values of Inspire, and what are the values of the particular brand. It is really important to find how we work together as a defined entity and not operate as silos.” Inspire Brands announced the new location of a global headquarters in Sandy Springs in 2018, at the same time creating 1,100 jobs for the metro Atlanta region spread out across the following years. “Atlanta is a phenomenal place. It’s very easy to attract people to Atlanta, particularly people who want to be in a consumer-oriented business and there are a lot of companies in restaurant/hospitality already,” Brown said. “The main talent we are hiring is in data and technology and there’s just a great source of that talent here in Atlanta.” In addition to a ready supply of talent, Brown and his team have also been embraced by metro Atlanta’s inclusive innovation ecosystem. The community of innovation inspired the company and it’s leadership to navigate newfound challenges differently through the course of the pandemic. “Regarding technology innovation, it accelerated a lot of trends. It is a gamechanger to move this industry into more digital spaces. We’re now over 50 percent digital with Jimmy Johns’ and 45 percent digital with Buffalo Wild Wings,” Brown said. “We’ve also learned how to be agile and flexible – that was a massive operational transformation.” “During COVID-19, we learned bad management habits. Things were happening all the time, and we were having to make flash decisions and it seemed like everything was changing. That is not how you run an organization like this in the long term. We talked as a team about how we un-learn that and how we move back to best practice management.” In 2021, Inspire Brands launched the Alliance Kitchen in Atlanta. Featuring food items from across Inspire’s brand portfolio, the kitchen also focuses on innovation in the culinary space and provides other forward-looking benefits to operations. “With the Alliance innovation kitchens, let’s find a way to get real efficiencies. Let’s find ways to fundamentally share equipment, share labor, share work stations, and it forced a lot of innovation around the design of kitchen equipment and staffing models. The result is 75% less equipment cost and a large reduction in energy consumption,” Brown said. Brown and his team are optimistic about the trends they are witnessing in the restaurant industry as a whole. Looking ahead: “I do think we will see more consolidation in this industry. A lot of what we’re focused on is baking in the culture, baking in the systems integration and getting the organization fully up-staffed. We’re going to try hard to hire about 400 people here this year,” Brown said. “We’re feeling supply chain challenges and staffing challenges. What makes it difficult right now is length of time that these challenges have been going on from the start of the pandemic. There’s a real fatigue out there, particularly on the frontlines. So keeping employees motivated, and knowing that things will eventually get better – that’s a lot of what we’re focused on.” For more information on Delta Air Lines Insights on Leadership, visit https://www.metroatlantachamber.com/events/featured/insights-on-leadership This is sponsored content.
On Monday, May 16, the Downtown community gathered to pay tribute to the public safety agencies that serve throughout the city and state with a public ceremony and memorial service hosted by Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District (ADID), as well as the Atlanta Police Department, and in partnership with the Atlanta Bar Association and the Atlanta Bar Foundation. In recognition of National Police Week (May 15-21, 2022) and Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), members of the Atlanta Interagency Law Enforcement (ILE) Partnership held a public ceremony in Woodruff Park, next to the site of the Give Our Police A Hand Monument. The monument, created by Steve Steinman, was dedicated by the Atlanta Bar Association in 1980, during the 1979-1981 Atlanta Child Murder crisis, to honor slain police officers and commend the efforts of the city’s law enforcement. Law enforcement agencies that participated in the March 16 ILE event include the Atlanta Police Department; Georgia State University Police; Georgia Institute of Technology Police; Georgia State Patrol, Capitol Division; MARTA Police; Georgia World Congress Center Authority Police; the Federal Protective Service; the National Park Service; Fulton County Sheriff’s Office; Fulton County Police; and Emory University Police. The Atlanta Interagency Law Enforcement (ILE) partnership was formed in 1996 with the explicit purpose to bring together the 11 law enforcement agencies headquartered in Downtown and the private sector to share in collaboration for police services, joint operations, event support coordination, monthly activities, and homeland security concerns. There are over 450 police officers in the aggregate serving in Downtown, and over 3,000 private security personnel. About Central Atlanta Progress / Atlanta Downtown Improvement District: Central Atlanta Progress, Inc., is a Downtown business association with approximately 250 members. Its mission is to champion a vibrant community with strong leadership and sustainable infrastructure that is safe, livable, diverse, economically viable, accessible, clean, hospitable and entertaining. The Atlanta Downtown Improvement District is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, charitable corporation created by CAP to make Downtown safer, cleaner and more hospitable. This is sponsored content.
On May 19, ULI Atlanta hosted its 26th Annual Award for Excellence program recognizing 12 outstanding real estate development projects that exemplify ULI’s mission to shape the future of cities, while also amplifying ULI’s three new mission commitments. All 12 project finalists were evaluated by a jury of ULI members with a diverse range of expertise and broad perspectives. The jury considered how a development demonstrated leadership, innovation, market success, sustainability, resilience, and meets the current and future needs of its surrounding community. It was through that criteria and the lens of ULI’s mission commitments that winners of the Awards for Excellence showed a commitment to positively shaping the Atlanta region. While there were only five Award categories, there were actually six winners. The nomination and jury process uncovered two projects whose achievements stood alone in their specific and unique alignment with ULI’s core mission priorities. The first, Rodney Cook Park demonstrated a community focused public realm development characterized by equity and parks, open space, and equitable development. While the second project, ASHRAE Net Zero Energy Headquarters exemplified ULI’s commitment to addressing the built environment’s role in reaching net zero. Both of these projects were Awarded the ULI Mission Advancement Award. The other Award Winners by category: Excellence in Small Scale Development Winner: 395 James P. Brawley Avenue Excellence in Civic and Institutional Development Winner: Atlanta Mission’s Restoration House Excellence in Adaptive Reuse and Repositioning Winner: Colony Square Excellence in Commercial Mixed Use Development: CODA Tech Square In addition, three individuals were honored for their service and commitment to ensuring not only our city, but also our region is a better place to live for all its residents. Noel Khalil was posthumously awarded the Frank Carter Community Achievement Award and Bill Bolling was awarded the Dan and Tally Sweat Community Leadership Award. Sarah Kirsch was awarded the Leadership Appreciation Award for her years of commitment to advancing ULI’s global mission – and her impact in shaping the future of the built environment here in Atlanta. About ULI Atlanta: ULI is a global non-profit education and research organization with a mission to shape the future of the built environment for transformative impact in communities worldwide. With more than 1,400 members throughout the Atlanta region, ULI Atlanta is one of the largest and most active District Councils. ULI Atlanta brings together local leaders from across the fields of real estate and land use policy to exchange best practices and serve community needs through education, applied research, technical assistance, events and programs. See atlanta.uli.org for more information. This is sponsored content.
Michael Halicki, Executive Director for Park Pride, and George Dusenbury Georgia State Director for the Trust for Public Land Atlanta’s reputation for its parks and recreation system is getting a lot of attention. Last week The Trust for Public Land (TPL) released the 2022 ParkScore ranking, which compares the park systems of the 100 largest cities in the US based on how they are meeting the needs of the communities they serve. Since TPL began ranking cities, Atlanta has never fared well. But this year, Atlanta vaulted from 49th to 27th out of 100, raising questions about the current state of our park system and where we are headed. View Atlanta’s ParkScore results here. While Atlanta’s movement on the ParkScore is promising, no one has ever been satisfied with coming in 27th place. A lot of challenging work lies ahead to achieve the park system that Atlantans want and deserve. Below, Michael Halicki (Executive Director of Park Pride) examines the categories upon which the ParkScore is built to better understand the local context of Atlanta‘s standing and identify the opportunities to progress. Then, George Dusenbury (Georgia State Director of The Trust for Public Land) frames Atlanta’s ParkScore ranking within a national context and provides insight into how Atlanta compares to other leading and peer cities. The Local Context Michael Halicki Acreage Over the last few years, Atlanta has done big things well, adding significant acreage to the park inventory. In 2021 alone, the City opened Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve and Westside Park (among other acquisitions and expansions), making 496-acres of greenspace accessible to the community through these two projects alone. Despite these wins, the overall area dedicated to parkland in the city (6.2%) is still well below the median of the 100 ParkScore cities (19%). Atlanta’s population is exploding, and strategic greenspace acquisition of all sizes must similarly accelerate to meet the park and natural space needs of current and future residents. Access The 2022 ParkScore indicates that 77% of Atlanta’s population lives within a walkable half-mile of a park, a sizable increase from 72% in 2021, and above the median for the 100 ParkScore cities, which is 75%. This is great news. While the progress made is noteworthy, however, everyone deserves to live within walking distance of a park. And we still have a distance to go to accomplish this vision. Investment It is not enough that Atlantans simply have access to trails and parks, though—they need to be quality trails and parks. Parks that look nice, are well maintained, and that are comfortable to be in. The City of Atlanta must appropriately fund the park budget to achieve a level of maintenance that neighborhood parks need and have so far not seen, a level of investment which is not accurately reflected in this year’s ParkScore. Amenities According to the ParkScore data, Atlanta ranks above average in the Amenities category. The primary takeaway is clear and simple: great parks are those whose amenities meet the needs of the communities they serve. We must do what we can to ensure that as communities evolve, so do our parks. Equity Atlanta has work to do in terms of equity of access to parks along the lines of race and income. Data from the ParkScore indicates that: residents living in neighborhoods of color have access to 48% less nearby park space than those living in White neighborhoods, and residents living in lower-income neighborhoods have access to 33% less nearby park space than those in higher-income neighborhoods Atlanta must do better. The Department of Parks & Recreation will soon make available to the public a park equity tool which they’ll use to ensure that investments and acquisitions are made equitably, prioritizing neighborhoods that have the most urgent need for park space and improvements. I am hopeful and optimistic that, with enhanced use of data in decision making within the department, we’ll see movement toward greater park equity in the future. *** The National Context George Dusenbury Nationally, the City of Atlanta should be very proud of its 2022 ParkScore. In moving from 49th to 27th, Atlanta was The Trust for Public Land’s biggest mover. Continuing this momentum and getting to the top means overcoming a 100-year head start by the highest rated cities. Minneapolis and St. Paul invested early and heavily in their park systems – starting in the 1880s. Washington, DC was planned in the 1790s to provide access to parks, plazas and public spaces, and benefits from its many parks owned and maintained by the National Park Service. If Atlanta is to catch up to these national leaders, we will have to do two things. First, we must continue to invest in innovative new parks that address our acreage gap while ensuring that all Atlanta residents have access to the outdoors. The Chattahoochee RiverLands, South River Forest and Community Schoolyards, for example, will allow Atlanta to continue to improve its park system and its ParkScore. A closer look at TPL’s Community Schoolyards program illustrates how this could be done. In Atlanta, we partner with Park Pride, Atlanta Public Schools, and the Urban Land Institute to increase access to park-like space through community schoolyards that are designed by students, teachers, and neighbors as nature-rich hubs for outdoor play, community health, and climate resilience. They are open to the community as parks after school hours, on weekends, and over the summer. TPL launched the Atlanta Community Schoolyard program in 2019, opened our first two schools in February, and will complete the ten-site pilot program within a year. Seventy three of the 100 cities ranked by ParkScore allow some use of schoolyards to function as park-like space. The City of Cincinnati greatly increased park access for its residents by converting all schools to community schoolyards – and moved from 8th to 4th in the national rankings. Similarly, increased public investment in Atlanta could allow the pilot to expand system-wide, increasing access and providing new greenspace to tens of thousands of residents. Second, Atlanta will have to continue to …
Conference Aims to Encourage Companies to Sign Investor Bill of Rights and Launch First Cryptocurrency Financial Literacy Curriculum May 23 — Last Week, Operation HOPE hosted a Cryptocurrency + Digital Assets Summit that gathered a distinguished group of leaders from the regulatory community and digital finance space to examine the role of digital assets in today’s economy. Themed “The Crypto Revolution: For Better or For Worse,” the event was co-hosted by Operation HOPE Founder and CEO John Hope Bryant and Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu. During the inaugural HOPE Global Forums Cryptocurrency and Digital Assets Summit, leading voices from the public and private sectors explored the opportunities and challenges associated with crypto and digital assets such as NFTs and tokens. Regulators in the U.S., including the federal government’s top three officials who are responsible for advising on matters involving policy affecting crypto and alternative currencies, discussed creating a set of rules that prioritizes consumer protection without stifling innovation. “The rise in digital assets creates an opportunity to reinforce American leadership in the global financial system and bridge the gap for all— especially those who have historically been disenfranchised. But we must do it right,” said John Hope Bryant, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE. “Education, transparency, and a long-term commitment from key partners is essential to ensuring a win for all.” Key takeaways from the conference included: The announcement of a first-of-its-kind Cryptocurrency Financial Literacy Curriculum. Operation HOPE CEO John Hope Bryant and Professor Tonya Evans, Penn State University School of Law, will chair a blue-ribbon panel consisting of a diverse group of technology, business and finance leaders to develop the curriculum. A challenge to other industry leaders to sign on to Operation HOPE’s Investors’ Bill of Rights, a national effort that encourages organizations and large institutions to commit to transparency and financial education for investors. The 10-point Bill of Rights is based on more than 20 years of experience that Operation HOPE has garnered through providing free financial literacy coaching and credit counseling services to more than 4 million individuals and small businesses. To view images click here. *photo credit: Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Operation Hope “The future of America depends on how we proactively address new digital assets. I am excited to work with some of the most accomplished and innovative minds in America who are willing to help educate our next generation of leaders so that they can harness the full power of technology to build strong communities,” Bryant added. “Their unique experiences and areas of expertise will help us find a path forward that benefits anyone who wants to explore— and ultimately take advantage of – this new digital frontier.” Digital assets, including cryptocurrencies, have seen explosive growth in recent years, surpassing a $3 trillion market cap last November and up from $14 billion just five years prior. Surveys suggest that around 16 percent of adult Americans – approximately 40 million people – have invested in, traded, or used cryptocurrencies. Over 100 countries are exploring or piloting Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), a digital form of a country’s sovereign currency. About HOPE Global Forums HOPE Global Forums is a key initiative of global financial dignity and economic empowerment nonprofit Operation HOPE, Inc. The purpose of the annual HGF is to reimagine the global economy so the benefits and opportunities of free enterprise are extended to everyone. All participants are charged to commit to an action that will further the Forums’ purpose. For more information, visit hopeglobalforums.org. Join the conversation at #HGF2022. About Operation HOPE, Inc. Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been moving America from civil rights to “silver rights,” with the mission of making free enterprise and capitalism work for the underserved—disrupting poverty for millions of low and moderate-income youth and adults across the nation. Operation HOPE has received seven consecutive 4-star charity rating for fiscal management and commitment to transparency and accountability by the prestigious non-profit evaluator, Charity Navigator. For more information visit OperationHOPE.org. Follow the HOPE conversation on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedInand Instagram. This is sponsored content.
By Paige Alexander, CEO, and Dr. Kashef Ijaz, Vice President-Health Programs, The Carter Center We at The Carter Center are grieving the unexpected passing of our friend and colleague, Dr. Stephen B. Blount, who had only recently retired after a remarkable career in global public health. Steve was the former director of the Carter Center’s Special Health Projects, leading the Hispaniola Initiative, which seeks to eliminate malaria and lymphatic filariasis from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and the Public Health Training Initiative, which provides training in maternal and child health for health workers in developing countries. Dr. Blount also served as the chair for the Center’s WHO-recognized International Task Force for Disease Eradication, which plays a leading role in setting the agenda for global disease eradication and elimination. Dr. Blount’s compassionate leadership and willingness to mentor others in public health earned him admiration that runs deep and wide. Before he joined us at The Carter Center in 2013, Dr. Blount worked for 25 years at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, finishing an outstanding career there as associate director for global health development. Before that, he directed the CDC’s Office of Global Health and the Coordinating Office of Global Health. Importantly, he provided oversight for the Global AIDS Program, global immunization, and disease eradication activities, as well as malaria, TB, and tobacco control efforts. During his time working with the CDC’s polio initiative, the number of polio-endemic countries fell from 41 to four. He also was a leader of the Global Measles Partnership, which reduced measles mortality worldwide by 39%. Beyond his professional accomplishments, Steve’s clear thinking, humility, and gentleness will always be remembered here at The Carter Center and throughout the public health community. He loved jazz music, and he was a proud father and grandfather who was delighted to show off pictures of his family. Dr. Blount’s warm demeanor, incredible expertise, and far-ranging experience left their mark on all of the Center’s health programs, and he was a mentor to many public health professionals, both here and at the CDC. He taught and practiced mindfulness in a way that helped everyone around him. In his farewell note to staff upon his retirement on Feb. 28, Dr. Blount gave us this gift: I offer these words from the island and culture of Trinidad – which have nothing to do with baseball, but everything to do with the challenges we face today and tomorrow — to all of you: “Go brave.” We will never forget that advice, and we will always fondly remember Dr. Stephen Blount. We extend our deepest condolences to Steve’s family, friends, colleagues, and all whose lives he touched.
Westside Future Fund (WFF) is excited to be supporting thought leadership in the SaportaReport on Atlanta’s Historic Westside. At the October 15 Transform Westside Summit we announced the Westside Future Fund (WFF) PRI Program! A program-related investment (PRI) is low-cost capital that not-for-profit organizations can use to spur community development. Thanks to charitable support from Truist and PNC banks, WFF will provide low-cost loans to small, minority-owned businesses based in or serving the Historic Westside. This program builds on a pilot initially funded by AT&T and the Beloved Benefit. Our goal is to mobilize people with current, historical, or aspirational ties to the community to organically support the Westside’s economic development. The October 15 Transform Westside Summit highlighted the importance of economic empowerment of African American entrepreneurs with three special guest panelists – Courtney Smith from PNC Bank, Paul Wilson, Jr. from the Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs (RICE), and Keitra Bates of Marddy’s Shared Kitchen and Marketplace. A common theme from the panelists was the need for equity in access to capital for Black business owners. Keitra Bates noted that white startups have access to $100,000 from family, on average, while for black startups, it’s only $11,000. In June 2020, PNC Bank announced its bold $1 billion commitment to playing a role in combatting racism and discrimination. During the Summit, Courtney elaborated on PNC’s commitment to the Westside by helping end systemic racism by donating to WFF for program-related investments. Keitra Bates is a recipient of a WFF PRI that she used to renovate and expand her shared kitchen. Marddy’s focus is on economic inclusion, business development, and growth opportunities for local food entrepreneurs with their primary service groups of people of color, women, and other marginalized populations. With the help of RICE, the PRI recipients will have access to resources to innovate, grow, create jobs, and build wealth. Part business generator, innovation lab, and museum, RICE invests in African American entrepreneurs, strengthens businesses, and creates community. We have many miles to eliminate the wealth gap between white and black startups. Thanks to our panelists and the organization they represent, we are making progress and hopefully serving as models for others! Check out our newsletter to learn more about the October 15 Summit. This is sponsored content.
Talent is equally distributed, but opportunity is not. At United Way of Greater Atlanta we are working to create opportunity for our community’s youth. Meet Hannah and Hanna to understand how zip code can determine a child’s potential. Like Hanna, today in Greater Atlanta, nearly 500,000 children live in communities lacking the basic opportunities and resources needed for them and their families to thrive. June 9th, you can help change that. Access to food, shelter and transportation is fundamental for children to learn and thrive. Families building financial literacy skills, access to job training and affordable healthcare creates economic stability and equitable growth in the most challenged communities. #UnitedGivingDay is the opportunity for you to help children, families, and communities thrive. Join individuals, local communities, and corporations for 24 hours of giving to help children, families, and communities throughout Greater Atlanta in need. In one day, YOU can make a difference. In one day, YOU can impact a lives. United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being mission is to ensure every child and family have equitable opportunities and access to resources to reach their full potential regardless of race or zip code. You can support #UnitedGivingDay by donating to United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Child Well-Being Mission Fund, one of four Child Well-Being Investment Priority Areas, or to the 2-1-1, Contact Center, which connects individuals and families with the community-based resources they need to survive and thrive. Join us now or on June 9 for Giving Day! You can even host your own fundraiser on social and help spread the word. And if you or someone you know needs help, visit here, or text your zip code and need to 898-211 or dial 211. This is sponsored content.
Will robotic home health aides ever possess the compassion and technical expertise to care for the most vulnerable among us? Can artificial intelligence (AI) adequately recover the voiceless from the historical record? What can we do to make sure AI revolutionizes our world for the better? For Ravi Bellamkonda, Emory University provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, questions like these are at the heart of AI.Humanity, a major university-wide initiative launched this academic year. “Emory seeks to realize the full potential of technology to shape the human endeavor,” Bellamkonda says. “We want to put AI into the service of humanity by using it to guide health, law, business, arts and humanities in thoughtful, ethical and wise ways.” Led by an advisory group of Emory faculty with diverse expertise in the field, the AI.Humanity initiative aims to recruit 60 to 75 new, leading faculty over three to five years. Hired through each of Emory’s nine schools, this broad range of AI scholars will be poised for interdisciplinary work in four major focus areas: business and free enterprise, human health, law and social justice, and arts and humanities. The initiative will be sustained by a focus on community-building to encourage scholarly collaboration, as well as educational opportunities for faculty, students and the Emory community. “AI has limitless opportunities as well as many grave challenges,” says Emory President Gregory L. Fenves. “Emory faculty and students have the multidisciplinary expertise needed to develop creative and thoughtful innovations so that AI can be a force for good — improving our world and the human experience.” “The most urgent research challenges in AI right now are complex and multifold, and they will require true interdisciplinary collaboration in order to be addressed — not just within the sciences but with the humanities and social sciences as well,” adds Lauren Klein, Winship Distinguished Research Professor of English and Quantitative Methods. “It’s thrilling to see the AI.Humanity initiative take shape at Emory, an institution that has long valued precisely this kind of transformative research.” Enhancing a cross-campus network New hire Anant Madabhushi performs the kind of work Klein describes. A bioengineer by training, Madabhushi will join Emory’s School of Medicine in July. Madabhushi uses artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques to improve outcomes for individuals with cancer and other diseases, as well as to help tackle racial health disparities and global health. With ethics at the core of the AI.Humanity initiative, the inaugural James W. Wagner Chair in Ethics will be another early hire primed for interdisciplinary work. While the AI.Humanity initiative is new, these and other faculty recruits will join an established network of AI scholars — and ready collaborators — across campus. “The intellectual and physical geography of the Emory campus are highly conducive to collaboration,” notes Lance Waller, a professor in the Rollins School of Public Health and leader of the Woodruff Health Science Center’s strategic initiative in data science. “I’m a biostatistician, trained as an engineer, but when I want to add a new dimension to my research, I don’t have to go far to find art historians, epidemiologists, environmental lawyers and others with interesting ideas. “AI.Humanity is building on that in exciting new ways by recruiting a significant cohort of new colleagues who not only bring expertise in AI, but intentional focus in fields where Emory is already strong,” Waller adds. “The scope and the potential of the community we’re creating is truly powerful.” Earlier this semester, Emory researchers met to learn about each other’s work in data science and artificial intelligence through the Constructive Collisions program, run through the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research. The office is also providing seed grant funding to connect Emory and Georgia Tech faculty to “spur new research collaborations and expand existing partnerships to leverage the artificial intelligence to improve society and our daily lives.” Building on these beginnings, the AI.Humanity community subgroup Waller leads is actively working to create new opportunities for collaboration. These include offering pilot funding and incubators in which projects and workgroups can grow, as well as lecture series and workshops. A second AI.Humanity subgroup is focused on expanding educational opportunities across campus. “We believe in ‘Al for all,’” says leader Vaidy Sunderam, chair of the Department of Computer Science. “As the digital age advances, it’s becoming more and more important to have an understanding of what AI means, what it can and can’t do, how to interface with it and when to be wary of it.” Infusing AI into both curricular and co-curricular spaces, the group is tasked with everything from promoting basic AI/ML (machine learning) literacy that allows students to answer questions like “What does it mean to be a citizen in a digital world?” to creating new interdisciplinary major, minor or certificate programs for those who want to focus more deeply. Connecting AI to everyday life The ongoing AI.Humanity Ethics Lecture Series is already bringing both educational and community-building opportunities to Emory. Held in April and May, it features world-renowned scholars approaching AI ethics from their own respective fields — computer science, philosophy and law — and highlights how critical ethical inquiry is to shaping the future of these fast-advancing technologies. “Ethics is intrinsic to AI,” says Paul Root Wolpe, director of Emory’s Center for Ethics and Raymond F. Schinazi Distinguished Research Chair in Jewish Bioethics. “By that I mean that the purpose of AI is to make decisions, and decisions themselves are always based on some set of values, and the consequences of those decisions have ethical implications. “You cannot create AI without AI ethics,” Wolpe continues. “Emory’s ethics scholarship throughout its schools, its singular Center for Ethics and the promise of ‘ethical engagement’ in its vision statement situates Emory as the premier university to take AI ethics into the future.” It’s precisely this kind of broad perspective that will distinguish Emory’s approach to artificial intelligence research and education in a highly technical age, according to Bellamkonda. “We want technology to help us realize the full potential of …
By: John Hancock, President & CEO, JA of Georgia As the economy and world have shifted, so have the skills and experiences that are necessary to build a solid foundation. The next generation of leaders will be entering a workforce that is progressively more reliant on a strong collective of soft skills – things like communication, cultural agility, collaboration, and emotional intelligence. Only 11 percent of business leaders strongly agree that graduates have the needed skills and competencies to be successful. That leaves a large gap to fill in order to effectively prepare students for the realities they will face after they leave the classroom. How do we ensure that we are arming students with the skills they need to be successful, not just for their own well-being, but for the overall success of our communities and economy? Junior Achievement (JA) has spent more than a century helping to build foundational skills that prepare students for their futures, and we’ve been serving Georgia students since 1949. JA is one of the largest educational nonprofits in the country and our focus has shifted along with these changes. We are intently focused on serving as a business-integrated education partner with expertise in experiential learning that successfully develops key mindsets and skills for students to lead meaningful and successful lives. We execute on that vision through our incredible partnerships with the business and education communities; by integrating key life and career readiness skills that ignite mindset shifts like higher levels of inspiration, hope and motivation. We are proud to do this work regardless of a student’s background, and regardless of their socioeconomic status, geographic location, race, or past academic history. We offer students in many communities in Georgia equitable access to high-quality educational experiences. Our physical footprint in the state is becoming more reflective of this year-after-year; we have expanded to five JA Discovery Centers, and a sixth is underway. These centers are intentionally designed to embody the communities they serve, and to serve middle school students throughout the entire community. These centers are authentic environments where middle school students connect knowledge gained in the classroom to real-world concepts, and they allow students to experience life as an adult for the day. JA Discovery Centers expose students to industries, companies and pathways they may have never heard of. They spend the day with an adult outside of their usual network – oftentimes someone who represents a life that they didn’t know was achievable for ‘someone like them’. These authentic experiences, that are diverse and representative of the real world, help students to explore new possibilities for their futures. At the high school level, 3DE by Junior Achievement is redesigning high school education to expand economic opportunity for all students. The innovative case methodology approach, coupled with a focus on competencies like critical thinking and emotional intelligence allows students to develop the competencies for economic competitiveness, while increasing learning engagement and strengthening academic comprehension. The model is beneficial for all students, regardless of background, and the results speak to that – the 2020 graduation rate for 3DE students was 94 percent versus the statewide rate of 82 percent. The overarching goal of all our programs is to set students up for success in their adult lives. Our continuum of programming – JA BizTown, JA Finance Park, and 3DE by Junior Achievement – engage students at key inflection points in their education to have the deepest impact. These programs are intentionally designed to elevate student engagement and outcomes because more prepared and experienced students have more competent and successful futures. Building a generation that is well-rounded and positioned to thrive is important for us all. From where we stand, the future is bright. This is sponsored content.