Dr. Sarah Young, Assistant Professor of Political Science, has a new role as the Assistant Director of Academic Engagement. She will also retain the title of Assistant Professor of Political Science. The new role officially begins in the fall but she has already begun prep work, including for the Saturday of Service event, which is held August 22, 2020, the first Saturday of the fall semester. This day is a way for UNG students to give back to the community. Due to the current restrictions, much of this fall semester’s Saturday of Service will be held virtually. Dr. Young and the Civic Action Plan Committee developed the campaign #UNGTogether, which is a new virtual component to Saturday of Service that will allow anyone, anywhere to participate. Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the greater communities that UNG resides within are asked to perform a random act of kindness during the first week of the semester and then post it to social media using the hashtag #UNGTogether.

Dr. Young and the Director of Academic Engagement, Dr. Carly Redding, are also preparing an event this Fall to stimulate race-conscious conversations in our communities–hopefully in the form of a Ted Talk and community meal.  Students, faculty, staff and members of the community will be encouraged to submit proposals in the form of short, stimulating presentations about social change and antidiscrimination within communities. The event will highlight 4-6 presentations and culminate with a community meal that will facilitate conversations among participants about the presentations.

Dr. Young and Dr. Redding are also working on preparing the annual volunteer fair, which is to be held in October. Many community organizations will come together to promote different opportunities within their organizations. It is like a “meet and greet” for students to engage with these nonprofit groups regarding internships, resume building and general information about these organizations.

Dr. Young says, “One of the things that I’m most passionate about is really engaging community organizations in the classroom. I think that done well, it’s a trifecta of mutually beneficial relationships between community organizations, students and faculty. I have always had some sort of community engagement experience in my classes…It’s an opportunity for students to build relationships with people that can help them in their career, as well as getting hands on experience in practicing the skills they are learning in the classroom. It can also provide skilled help that benefit the community organization, which is a critical component.” The organizations can gain valuable resources from participating in experiential learning opportunities. For example, MentorMe, a nonprofit in Forsyth County, recently gained new marketing materials by participating in an experiential learning opportunity through Dr. Rana Gautum’s class. MentorMe was connected with Dr. Gautum through the Nighthawk Community Connector, a portal that Dr. Young created that connects community organizations with the unique knowledge, skills and abilities available within UNG.

Dr.  Young believes that we are in a period of history that will be written into history books. Between the global pandemic and the long-coming social movement about understanding the role that racial identities play in our communities, recent events have left our communities hurting, economically, financially, and emotionally. Universities can play a critical role to fill that need. “We have a responsibility as academics, as scholars, as those that are training the next generation to do just that…Universities were developed to be thought leaders in communities; and so we need to lead,” she says.


A photo of Dr. Young with her class last year visiting Hall County Sheriff’s office. Dr. Young says, “That type of experiential learning opportunity is exactly what [her new] position will help to facilitate more of at UNG.”