University of Georgia
September 2014
Educating Leaders
Deans’ Promise opens doors for student success

CAES Athens ambassadors for the 2016-17 school year.

Deans’ Promise opens opportunities for success

The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences places great emphasis on developing leadership skills.

The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences realizes it takes more than a degree to ensure student success beyond graduation. That’s why the Deans’ Promise was established.

The Deans’ Promise is a commitment from the CAES administration to provide students with enrichment opportunities like study abroad or exchange programs, undergraduate research, internships, fellowships, service-learning projects and leadership-building programs like the CAES Ambassadors program, Ag Hill Council and other student-led organizations.

It’s a promise that students will gain more than just book knowledge—they’ll gain practical skills and connections while using what they’ve learned in real-world applications. It’s a promise to transform students through experiences both in and out of the classroom.

“We work hard to provide experiential leadership learning opportunities for our students throughout their college experience,” said Sam Pardue, CAES dean and director. “Through our commitment to hands-on learning, CAES students plan, organize and implement high-level programs through clubs, organizations and events that build strong resumes of leadership that future employees are looking for in new employees.”

Many students may only be afforded these opportunities while they’re in college, so that’s why the CAES administration, faculty, staff and alumni work to ensure funding is available for these programs, scholarships, research awards and internships.

Ambassador programs

The CAES Ambassador program is a keystone of CAES leadership development. Through the program, students network with faculty, potential and current students, alumni and professionals.

The first group formed on the Athens campus in 1988 to propel college recruitment and foster relationships. Today, these student leaders still serve as the student face of the college by hosting guests and donors, giving campus tours, speaking to groups and promoting events.

In return, the ambassadors receive networking, communication and leadership skills and are mentored by college and alumni leaders.

“In serving the college, the program has continued to develop me into the person I am, cultivated my passion and prepared me for the future of agriculture,” said Sarah Jane Thomsen, a senior double majoring in animal science and dairy science.

Thomsen has already served one year as an ambassador and was selected again for the 2016-17 school year. “I know I will leave UGA confident with my future possibilities, a network of role models and future colleagues and memories to last a lifetime,” she said.

The success of the ambassadors has grown along with the academic programs on the college’s Griffin and Tifton campuses. Each location has its own ambassador group who follow the same principles—to serve the growing needs for recruitment and publicity.

Programs on each campus have specific requirements for applicant selection and accept only individuals who show passion and dedication for their college and are able to fulfill the ambassador requirements in addition to their academic responsibilities.

To find out more about the ambassador programs, visit:

Leadership and service certificate

The CAES Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication offers programs aimed at constructing positive social change in diverse settings through the context of agricultural and environmental principles.

Undergraduate degrees in agricultural education or communication teach fundamentals of their respective fields while the master of agricultural and environmental education hones skills like community development, program planning, teaching and learning, research methods and leadership.

An esteemed, but lesser known, opportunity in the department is uLEAD which is open to all UGA students. It incorporates theory and service-learning activities for students to delve into the philosophy and practices behind great leadership.

“It’s a nice complement to an undergraduate degree that teaches process and facilitation skills for working in a team environment,” said Kay Kelsey, head of the department. “It allows students to understand themselves better as a leader within their own organizations.”

The certificate requires 18 hours of course work, most of which fit core or major requirements. The interdisciplinary approach allows students to take courses from many colleges and departments such as psychology, sociology, political science or speech communication.

Students have the flexibility to design a curriculum that targets particular interests and developmental needs such self-assessment, portfolio development and continuous evaluation of personal and professional growth.

“The curriculum surrounded me with inspiring mentors, speakers and professors who provided me with invaluable life lessons that continue to motivate and challenge me every day,” said alumna Laura Dunlap. “I think any student who appreciates leadership and service should look into this program because uLead can turn that appreciation into a lifestyle.”

To find out more about the certificate, visit

—Josh Paine

(Story updated August 2016)