Crowdfunding Campaign Helps Raise $300K for Columbus State University

COLUMBUS, Ga. — A new method of making fundraising more social has proved successful at Columbus State University, helping to generate more than a quarter million dollars in support of the university’s First Choice comprehensive campaign.

CSU GIVES was the largest concentrated online fundraising campaign the university has ever sponsored. The key focus of the campaign, a 58-hour online fundraising drive, ran during CSU Homecoming last year (Nov. 9-12). Donations totaling almost $300,000 poured in before, during and after the drive, which doubled as a catchy celebration of the college’s founding year, 1958.


Plans are forming for yet another exciting homecoming week (Oct. 16-21), and CSU GIVES will return as part of the festivities. Participants can look forward to interacting with fellow alumni in real time on Give Campus, the national crowdfunding site through which CSU GIVES was managed.

“The purpose of this campaign was to encourage and engage friends, alumni and the community in a way that was more meaningful, within a time frame that was significant to CSU, and on a public platform that was more interactive,” said Ashley Lee, development coordinator for CSU.

All donations benefit the CSU Fund, which provides broad-based support for all institutional priorities and college-based programs, including student scholarships, academic programs, community outreach, student and faculty development, and opportunities for distinction. Donors also can designate their gifts for specific programs or purposes.

“Donors give because they believe in the people at CSU,” said Lee. “They believe in our mission, and they believe in the opportunities afforded to students that are only available at CSU. It’s not just another transaction. These donations are transformative.”

To donate to CSU’s First Choice campaign, visit

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Bean Joins CSU as Executive Director of Development for the College of the Arts

COLUMBUS, Ga. – Cameron Bean (BSEd ’07, MBA ’10) has been named the new executive director of development for Columbus State University’s College of the Arts, Honors College, Library, and Strategic Initiatives. He succeeds Rex Whiddon, who has been promoted to assistant vice president of leadership philanthropy and strategic initiatives.

“I am pleased to have Cameron join us as we continue our legacy of fostering and nurturing long-term, meaningful relationships among donors and prospective donors that contribute to the growth of the College of the Arts,” said Whiddon. “Cameron’s extensive knowledge of the arts and this community will make him a valuable member of our development team.”

Bean will be responsible for collaborating with a diverse group of stakeholders, including faculty, donors, department development officers and others in the solicitation of gifts and reporting back to those donors on the activity supported by their gifts.

“It is an honor to return to my alma mater, a major player in Columbus’ creative economy, to continue my career, which is dedicated to strengthening and advancing the Columbus community,” said Bean.

Bean previously served as executive director of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and executive director of development for the Springer Opera House. He will begin his new position with CSU in April.

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Alumna Stars Opposite Samuel L. Jackson, John Cusack

Cell PosterCOLUMBUS, Ga. — A mysterious smartphone signal mutates users into killing machines, and Columbus State University alumna Erin Elizabeth Burns’ character is caught in the zombie-apocalypse fray.

Her rescuers: actors John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson in this summer’s science fiction horror, “Cell.”

The ’04 voice graduate and former Miss CSU showcases her silver screen chops Friday, July 8, in the Stephen King thriller, which will also show on Amazon Video, iTunes and On Demand.

Burns’ road to cinema success started at CSU’s Schwob School of Music where she studied voice. She followed up this talent by studying acting at the Maggie Flanigan Studio in New York City.

Today, she constantly applies the undergraduate skills developed at CSU on film and TV projects. And before the sci-fi flick debuts, the always-on-the-move actress gives her alma mater the inside scoop about becoming part of “Cell” and its A-list cast and crew:

Q: What character do you play in ‘Cell?’

A: I play Denise — without giving too much plot away. John’s and Sam’s characters find me in the woods surviving from the phoners attacks on the human race.

Q: How did you land this summer thriller?

A: I did a taped audition. The casting director didn’t even see it initially. They sent a few girls to the producers for the callback, and the producers said, ‘Nope. Start Over.’ Casting went back through their auditions, found mine, sent it to producers, and the rest is history. I was the only actress called back for the role. It was kinda surreal. Oh! And I showed up with broken ribs, but that’s another story.

Q: And this film looks physically and mentally taxing. How did you prepare for the part of Denise?

A: After I booked it, I did coaching sessions with my coach in Los Angeles, Victor Villar-Hauser. We’d worked together at the studio in New York City where I trained. He is my go-to coach for any big roles that come up.

Q: How is this role different from others you have played on film?

A: It’s different in every way. I typically get cast as the ‘sweet, girl-next-door assistant.’ Denise is a badass, rifle-carrying, tough girl who also happens to be six months pregnant in the story. These are the roles that I crave.

Q: Well, we have our popcorn ready. So what’s next on acting fronts?

A: I’ll be working on a show on the IFC network next. Currently, I’m on Season 1 of ‘Satisfaction’ on USA. I have a Web series on YouTube called ‘The Adventures of Lizzy Belch,’ and you can see me from afar in the latest ‘Divergent’ film, ‘Allegiant.’

Q: As you know, CSU is now part of the Georgia Film Academy, which is a statewide effort to train Georgians for jobs in the film industry. Why is a program like this one crucial for CSU students entering the entertainment business?

A: Training is everything. Some productions are still bringing crewmembers from Los Angeles to work here in Georgia because — until now — we haven’t had the training for those positions. We have to build an infrastructure of both experienced crew and actors if we’re going to be seen as the ‘go-to place’ for film/TV production in the United States.

Q: Lastly, what advice can you give current CSU students and graduates working hard to break into the film and TV industry?

A: Work your butt off; get on any and every set you can; and talk less, listen more. For actors specifically, 2.5 percent of actors make their living doing this, so if you’re pursuing acting to become famous, you’re living in a fantasy world. It’s one of the most challenging fields to get into with daily rejection. That said: If you’re passionate about acting and can’t see yourself doing anything else with your life, by all means dive in headfirst. Also, create your own content. Buy a camera and some lights, and start writing the roles you want to play. Don’t wait for someone to give you an opportunity. Create it yourself. Just do it.


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Kim Lester: Alumna Inspires 21st-Century Learners with Innovative Techniques

This story was originally published in the Spring 2016 edition of Columbus State Magazine, The Magazine of Columbus State University for Alumni & Friends, formerly Focus Magazine.

Kim LesterKim Lester calls the morning LEGO meeting to order.

“Ladies and gentlemen: You’ve just been hired to work as technical writers and master builders for LEGO,” said the Columbus State University alumna to her fourth- and fifth-grade student writers.

The “Yesses!” “Whoo-hoos!” and “Yays!” erupt from one manila folder-constructed cubicle to the next.

Today’s classroom assignment: Study LEGO shapes, colors and sizes then create instructional manuals using detailed descriptions.

“I love LEGOs,” shouted one builder.

“This is so much fun,” said another.

This type of student reaction and innovative teaching is what led to Lester becoming a top 10 finalist in the 2016 Georgia Teacher of the Year program.

“At any given moment, my students may be found running around the school snapping pictures as photojournalists; creating original characters through puppetry arts; or researching local and global destinations,” said Lester, Ed.D., ’15, who teaches at St. Elmo Center for the Gifted. “We are an active community of learners. I want my kids to learn to look closer, ask thoughtful questions and participate in the world around them.”

Her teaching style is educational, engaging and exploratory.

One moment Lester’s students are role-playing as scriptwriters in a classroom exercise called Shared Journal.

The next moment they recast into international explorers and storytellers to hone sensory detail skills in writing — a technique inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and National Geographic Fellow Paul Salopek.

“The coolest part about coming to class here is that you never know what to expect,” said 10-year-old fifth-grader Kendall Anderson. “She always has us doing different kinds of activities that just keep class interesting.”


Lester values her students’ writing projects and ensures their work publishes in classroom journals and websites as well.

Before teaching, Lester reported and wrote for Tampa-area newspapers. She moved to Muscogee County during 2001 and started teaching grades first through fifth at Downtown Elementary, South Columbus Elementary and Britt David Magnet Academy.

Now at St. Elmo, Lester became teacher of the year at her home school twice, and during 2013, honored Muscogee County’s Teacher of the Year.

“One of the most rewarding milestones in my career was becoming an active participant in some of the good work of the Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation, a community-based group whose purpose is to support quality teachers in Muscogee County,” Lester said. “I’ve been given the opportunity to share my thoughts with many of our community leaders who truly care about educators.”

Lester earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of South Florida and a master’s degree in education from the University of Florida.

She earned a doctorate in education from CSU, which also named her “Outstanding Doctoral Student of the Year” during 2014.

“Kim has a passion for developing collaborative and caring community-based classroom environments, particularly through writing,” said Jan Burcham, department chair of teacher education and professor of early childhood education at CSU. “She is always willing to do whatever is needed to make sure her students are learning at high levels and developing as well-rounded people. She is truly a special teacher.”

The university’s doctorate in education program allows candidates to work with a community of scholars to improve teaching and learning at all levels. The program is designed so candidates can continue working while completing their degrees.

“It has been a joy to work with Kim throughout her doctoral program,” Burcham said. “Achieving a doctorate opens many doors for educators to advance their careers. We are happy that Kim is now teaching as a part-time faculty member in the Department of Teacher Education.”

Whether teaching on the elementary or collegiate level, Lester pushes her students to use their imagination and creativity in writing.

“As educators, we are constantly helping students make sense of the many bits and pieces of a vast curriculum we toss their way in any given day,” said Lester. “It doesn’t matter how old the students may be in the classroom. Teachers have to bring all the creativity and professional knowledge to the table and make our schools collectively more supportive learning environments for our students and our teachers.”


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Columbus State Hires New Vice President for University Advancement

Kettering_fullCOLUMBUS, Ga. — After a nationwide search, Columbus State University has hired Paul “Rocky” Kettering III as its new vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the Columbus State University Foundation Inc.

Kettering is currently the vice president of development and external relations at the Texas State Aquarium who has directed and raised more than $150 million in capital campaigns and fundraising initiatives during his 17-plus years as an institutional leader.

CSU’s vice president for University Advancement is a senior-level administrator reporting directly to the president and is an active participant on the university’s Executive Leadership Team. He directs all of the university’s fundraising efforts and leads a division that includes development, alumni relations and advancement services.

Kettering will be responsible for finishing the university’s comprehensive “First Choice” campaign with a goal of more than $100 million. He will start in early July.

“We had great deal of interest in the position because of this campaign, this university and this community,” said CSU President Chris Markwood. “With his experience and his expertise, Dr. Kettering stood out to many of us as the best person to come in and continue to cultivate the amazing tradition of public-private partnerships here. I am very excited to have Rocky join our CSU family.”

Kettering has been at the Texas State Aquarium since 2013, directing a staff of more than 20 employees and leading a $50 million campaign to expand the non-profit center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Before moving to Corpus Christi, Kettering spent six years in San Antonio, leading fundraising efforts for St. Mary’s University and our Lady of the Lake University. He has also held development positions at the University of Southern Mississippi, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School in Atlanta and Cathedral High School in Natchez, Miss.

“I could not be more excited about this opportunity,” Kettering said. “We were so impressed with Columbus and CSU when we were there. The more I learn about the people there and the legacy that’s been created, the more fortunate I feel about joining the team. My uncle, Dr. Ron Kettering, was a professor in the business school for many years, and still lives in the community. Having family connections in Columbus and Atlanta is not only important to us, but I get a real sense that the family culture is very important and evident at CSU too. My wife, children and I are very excited about joining the CSU family.”

Kettering has a doctorate of education in organizational leadership from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a master’s in philanthropy and development from Saint Mary’s University in Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University. He also is a Certified Fund Raising Executive.


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CSU’s Pasaquan Recognized Among “16 intriguing things” by CNN


COLUMBUS, Ga. — Pasaquan, a colorful cultural site now officially part of Columbus State University, made CNN’s list of “16 intriguing things to see and do in the U.S. in 2016.”

The quirky, artistic community in Buena Vista joins an impressive group of new attractions and breathtaking locations across the nation highlighted on the global news source’s online travel section:

“We expect this to be the first of many recognitions for Pasaquan,” said CSU President Chris Markwood. “We are thrilled to have Pasaquan as part of the university and excited to watch it develop as a cultural site, tourist attraction and educational outreach center.”

Pasaquan staked up against captivating places like Alaska’s national parks; Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington; the Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail in New Mexico; and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Los Angeles.

Self-taught artist Eddie Owens Martin created the 7-acre art environment named Pasaquan. The vibrant project features six major structures and hundreds of feet of psychedelic-painted totems, artifacts and fence.


During 2014, philanthropic organization Kohler Foundation started preserving Pasaquan, which is slated for completion by spring of this year.

The project is one of the largest art environment, preservation initiatives Kohler Foundation has taken on.

The work includes both object and painting conservation with conservators coming from International Artifacts (Houston) and Parma Conservation (Chicago). Local tradespeople under general contractor T.G. Gregory also addressed structural concerns and functionality in Pasaquan’s six buildings.

During 2015, Gov. Nathan Deal presented the Pasaquan Preservation Society (PPS) with the Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities for its efforts to help preserve Pasaquan as well.

Today, CSU Foundation owns the property, which Kohler gifted to the university during December 2015. Renovations to the site are still in progress.


“This CNN news just underscores all the hard work PPS, Kohler and CSU students have been doing at Pasaquan,” said Michael McFalls, associate professor of art at CSU overseeing the site and its programming. “Our students from the Art Department, Department of Communication, and Department of History and Geography continue to be involved in documentation, organization of archives, developing a marketing plan and assisting with the conservation process. Pasaquan has already become a true experiential, interdisciplinary learning environment.”


Pasaquan is set to open to the public mid-May with a grand opening scheduled during October.


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CSU Athletics Officially Opens Key Golf Studio

COLUMBUS, Ga. — With the cutting of the ceremonial red ribbon, the Key Golf Studio was officially opened for the Columbus State University men’s and women’s golf teams on Friday, Nov. 13.

“Today we are officially cutting the ribbon on one of the finest golf facilities at any level,” said CSU Director of Athletics Todd Reeser. “To be here today would not have been possible without a clear vision, a committed university and the generosity of many.”

Columbus State University's Key Golf Studio Ribbon Cutting

The Key Golf Studio sits on 13 acres of land along University Avenue and will be the new home of the CSU golf programs. The facility features a large putting surface, two short game areas and a full hitting range to help Columbus State student-athletes develop their game. Also included is the latest in golf technology providing everything needed to hone a player’s skills.

“This facility is out of this world,” said CSU Director of Golf Mark Immelman. “We are doing things that established elite Division I programs do.”

Namesake and longtime Columbus State supporter Billy Key hit the first official shot from the practice facility in front of CSU staff, student-athletes and supporters to wrap up the day’s ceremonies.

Key, now the retired president of First National Bank of Columbus, won the Georgia State Junior Championships in 1946, 1947 and 1948. In 1947 and 1948, he also won the Southern Interscholastic Championships. In 1948, he won the Georgia Interscholastic Championship. Other big early wins for Key include the Florida Intercollegiate Championship in 1951, the Western Amateur in 1958, the Southeastern Amateur in 1962 and the Georgia Amateur in 1968. As a senior, he won the American Seniors Best-Ball Championship five times. In 1989 and 1990, he won the Society of Seniors Individual Stroke Play Championship and, in 1990, Golf Digest ranked him as the No. 2 senior golfer in the U.S.

The Key Golf Studio also features a clubhouse which includes offices, locker rooms and study areas for the two programs.


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Groundbreaking Ceremony Held for Cooper Creek Tennis Expansion

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Partnering with the Columbus Regional Tennis Association (CORTA) and the city of Columbus, Columbus State University helped break ground Monday, Nov. 9 for the new additions coming to the Cooper Creek Tennis Center.

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, CSU President Chris Markwood and CORTA Expansion Project Chair Will White put shovels into the ground as part of the ceremony.

The expansion to the existing facilities will become the new home of the Columbus State men’s and women’s tennis programs.

“This has been a dream come true for me,” said tennis head coach Evan Isaacs. “Since I’ve been the coach here, I’ve wanted to upgrade the facilities. I feel like Columbus State and the City of Columbus deserve a first-rate tennis facility.”

Nearly seven acres of land has been cleared to make room for the new expansion. The expansion will include 12 new hard courts, nine clay courts and four “QuickStart” courts.

A new clubhouse will also be built, providing locker rooms for the two programs as well as coaches’ offices and new offices for CORTA.

“The new facility is going to help us attract future student-athletes that we hope will help us reach our ultimate goal of a national championship,” added Isaacs.

The current clearing of the area is expected to last through October, with an expected opening of August 2016.

The Columbus State tennis programs have made a combined 24 NCAA Tournament appearances during Issacs’ 14 years at the helm. The Cougars reached the second round in 2015, while the Lady Cougars made their fourth appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals.

Tennis Groundbreaking



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Columbus State Cougars Fail to Defend Doughboy Classic Title

Doughboy Classic

COLUMBUS, Ga. The Columbus State Cougars returned the coveted Doughboy Classic trophy to Fort Benning after Thursday night’s football game.

Three different occasions during the game, Columbus State University’s club football team was within inches of scoring but turned the ball over — twice on interceptions and once on downs. Those missteps meant the Cougars never scored, and ended up losing to the Doughboys 21-0. As a result, the men in black and gold took back the Doughboy Trophy from CSU, which defeated the Doughboys 28-12 last year for the first time since the series began in 2010.

An informal term for infantry men, the “Doughboys” were a community tradition for many years before the Classic began, with Fort Benning fielding teams that included now-legendary coaches and participants, such as the 34th President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The tradition eventually died out until five years ago, when Brigadier General Pete Jones restored the team and partnered with community supporter John Hargrove, who brought CSU and its club football team into the mix. The Doughboy Classic is now a way of reminding the community that Columbus, CSU and Fort Benning are interconnected and depend on each other for growth, support and leadership.

“Not only has the university embraced this game, but so has the entire community,” said Lajuan Abraham, a CSU sophomore and the Cougars’ defensive captain.

Club Football Coach Michael Speight promises good times, but he also noted the heated rivalry between the two teams.

“The key for our success is planning and focus,” Speight said before the game. “This will be a very competitive football game. There will be a lot of hard hitting, fast running and, of course, tons of trash talk.”

Kick off was at 7 p.m. Thursday, October 22 at the A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium.

The game included family-friendly activities, tailgating, food and music before the game. Admission was free and open to the public. For more information, visit


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CSU Designated National Center for Cyber Security Education

National Security Agency     Department of Homeland Security

COLUMBUS, Ga. — The National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security has designated Columbus State University a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CD) for advancements made in the defense of the nation’s information infrastructure.

Part of the National Centers of Academic Excellence program, CAE-CD designation is reserved for organizations that promote cyber security in higher education and produce a growing number of professionals with expertise in cyber defense.

“Receiving designation as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education is great recognition for our program and a tribute to the support from the university and our business community,” said Wayne Summers, chair of CSU’s TSYS School of Computer Science. “We are pleased to be part of the effort to defend our nation’s cyber infrastructure.”

The designation comes just months after TSYS announced a $4.5 million gift to Columbus State University to establish a cybersecurity center in the TSYS School of Computer Science in CSU’s D. Abbott Turner College of Business.

CSU’s new TSYS Cybersecurity Center will attract nationally recognized faculty, fund new research assistantships and student scholarships, support faculty and student travel and finance special projects and initiatives.

An added benefit of the program, students attending CAE-CD schools like CSU are eligible to apply for scholarships and grants through the Department of Defense Information Assurance Scholarship Program and the Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service Program.

Columbus State University and Kennesaw State University are the only institutions in Georgia with the Cyber Defense Education designation. The Georgia Institute of Technology is a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research.

A listing of all National Centers is available at

Gov. Nathan Deal, members of Congress and appropriate congressional committees were notified about CSU’s designation. Columbus State University will be recognized during a formal event in November.

CAE-CD designation is valid for five years, through academic year 2021. Summers said the university plans to reapply in order to retain its designation.



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Columbus State University Had Historical Year of Fundraising with More than $33 Million Raised

COLUMBUS, Ga. — With more than $33.5 million raised through private funding, Columbus State University finished one of the most successful fiscal years of fundraising in the institution’s history.

The money raised during Fiscal Year 2015 (August 1, 2014 to July 31, 2015) brings CSU closer to its $100 million First Choice Comprehensive Campaign goal, which was announced in March.

To date, about $66 million has been raised for the campaign, a comprehensive effort designed to raise money to create an academic and collegiate environment that will cement CSU’s status as a favored destination for top students and faculty.

Giving to the annual CSU Fund set a new record last year, bringing in $5.9 million of the total. Last year, the CSU Fund raised a then-record amount of $4.9 million. The CSU Fund provides critical support for scholarships and programming needs within each of the colleges and funding for other institutional priorities that span the entire campus, such as CSU’s Servant Leadership Program, Athletics, the Center for International Education, the Academic Center for Excellence and Student Life and Development, among others. The CSU Fund also provides university leadership with unrestricted funding to address new challenges and opportunities throughout the year.

“I continue to be amazed at the level of support that’s shown for Columbus State University,” said President Chris Markwood, who started in June. “When my wife and I were applying here, we were impressed by the partnerships that had been created, and the story that was being told about how the university is a catalyst for community development. To see that reflected in a $33 million fund-raising year is just fantastic.”

Some highlights for FY 2015:

— $19.25 million toward a goal of $25 million was secured for the new College of Education and Health Professions building in downtown Columbus on CSU’s RiverPark campus at the site of the former Ledger Enquirer building.

— $5 million was secured from TSYS, $4.5 million of which will support startup cost, a professorship and scholarships for a new cybersecurity center in CSU’s Turner College of Business. The remaining $500,000 will be used for other CSU programs.

— Significant upgrades are in store for Cougar Athletics with the recent completion of the Key Golf Studio on University Avenue ($3.5 million) and the new Burger King Stadium at Ragsdale Field, now under construction on main campus ($1.15 million)

“It is very reassuring to see this kind of response from donors when we outline our needs and talk about the impact that Columbus State University already has on this state,” said Phil Tomlinson, retired CEO of TSYS and volunteer chair for CSU’s First Choice Comprehensive Campaign. “People are hearing our story and investing in our future in record numbers.”

Tomlinson also noted how validating it was to see that faculty and staff giving was up again. In 2011, about 57 percent of CSU employees gave private gifts to the university. That figure was up to 69 percent this year.

Another positive fundraising year is expected in FY 2016. Several important requests are being considered that will move the university closer to the ultimate campaign goal, said Markwood.

“The good news is that we are not starting over,” said Alan Medders, vice president for University Advancement at CSU. “So many relationships have been cultivated over the years, and more projects are already in the works. The tremendous support and successful year of giving is what allowed us to launch the public phase of the First Choice Comprehensive Campaign much sooner than we had anticipated.”

Caption: The future home of Columbus State University's College of Education and Health Professions is undergoing a $25 million renovation with funds raised during a record-breaking fiscal year.

Caption: The future home of Columbus State University’s College of Education and Health Professions is undergoing a $25 million renovation with funds raised during a record-breaking fiscal year.


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Gov. Deal Awards Pasaquan Preservation Society for Contributions to Arts, Humanities

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Gov. Nathan Deal presented the Governor’s Award for the Arts and Humanities to the Pasaquan Preservation Society Tuesday, Oct. 6 for outstanding contributions made to Georgia’s civic and cultural vitality through the preservation of Pasaquan, which will be gifted to Columbus State University upon completion of preservation activities.

Professors and students from Columbus State University have been working closely with the Pasaquan Preservation Society and preservationists employed by the Kohler Foundation to restore and preserve the colorful seven-acre art environment created by Eddie Owens Martin, known as St. EOM, near Buena Vista, Georgia.


The Society, which has maintained the site the since 1986, deeded Pasaquan last year to Kohler Foundation, who is leading the preservation of the site’s painted masonry fences, totem poles and other art artifacts.

“The Governor’s Award recognizes the hard work and perseverance of the Pasaquan Preservation Society for the last three decades,” said Mike McFalls, an associate professor of art at Columbus State University.

When preservation is complete, the site will be gifted to Columbus State University Foundation for use by the university under the direction of McFalls. The university will breathe life into the site with events, programming and educational activities, as well as tours.


(L-R) Chris Markwood, president of CSU; Richard Baxter, dean of CSU’s College of the Arts; and Mike McFalls, professor of art at CSU, discuss the preservation of Pasaquan during a site visit in May 2015.

“This award confirms our confidence that through its operation of Pasaquan, the stature of the Art Department will rise to a national and potentially international level,” said Richard Baxter, dean of CSU’s College of the Arts.

The Pasaquan Preservation Society joins twelve other recipients of this year’s Governor’s Award, presented in partnership with the Georgia Council for the Arts and Georgia Humanities.


Columbus State University is scheduled to assume ownership of Pasaquan in December, with programming to begin in late spring, when restoration is anticipated to be complete.


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Alumni Duo Hosts St. Augustine’s Premier Classical Music Concert


Caption: Jorge and Jin Kim Peña host the St. Augustine Music Festival for free each year to encourage community members to attend the classical concert.

Jorge and Jin Kim-Peña were two Columbus State University international students who connected through their love for classical music.

That 1990 musical bond accounts today for the St. Augustine Music Festival, which attracts thousands of music lovers to the nation’s oldest and, some say, most charming city.

“Both my dad and I knew there would be no future in music for me in Honduras,” said Jorge, who now lives in Jacksonville, Fla., with Jin and their children. “It was music that allowed me to travel, study and prosper outside a third-world country.”

Jorge was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras — dubbed last year as the top most dangerous city of the world.

He studied music there as a child but knew he needed more musical experiences than the city could offer.

After touring CSU with his school orchestra, Jorge earned a full scholarship into the university’s music program and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music in 1991.

He honed his passion for performance and built lasting relationships with influential mentors. He also became principal viola during his college career.

“My former viola teacher was and still is one of the most innovative persons I have met,” said Jorge. “He was an inventor, always thinking about something new.”

Jin’s journey to CSU started in Seoul, South Korea, where she was a member of the Korean Youth Symphony.

A family member recommended CSU, and she too earned a full music scholarship to attend the university.

Jin became principal cello in CSU’s orchestra.

The duo created beautiful music together, and within a year, they married.

“All the teachers in music school were very supportive,” said Jin, who graduated in 1986 with a bachelor’s in music. “I’ve also met lifelong friends who are very successful in the classical music world today as performers and teachers.”

After college, Jorge began a decorated career as a professional string player, playing with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. He also played for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra for nearly 19 years.

Like her husband, Jin has performed in recitals across the country and her native country of Korea. Her orchestral experience spans from the Columbus Symphony Orchestra to Maryland Symphony Orchestra and New York Festival Orchestra.

Jorge and Jin continue to play in orchestras professionally and became chief organizers of the Ancient City’s St. Augustine Music Festival in 2007.

“There comes a time in your life when you want to give back,” said Jorge. “Give back to society, to the city you live in, to your friends and musicians, to the country. We have been very fortunate that many people along the way have helped us.”

The coastal festival lures thousands of visitors to the city every summer. Held in the Cathedral Basillica of St. Augustine, the nearly 1,100-seat venue fills each year.

St. Augustine Concert

Caption: Jorge and Jin Kim-Peña give a standing-ovation performance at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Augustine.

“We extend the classical music to people who are unlikely to attend classical concerts by offering it for free,” said Jin. “The energy created by the musicians and audience is very special and hard to explain unless people experience it in person.”

This year the festival celebrated St. Augustine’s 450th anniversary by featuring music essential to the city’s history. Both Jorge and Jin gave standing-ovation performances.


Outside of the festival, Jorge serves as music director of the Golden Isles Youth Orchestra in Brunswick, Ga.

Jin coaches the Jacksonville Youth Symphony and teaches a small studio of cello students.

The Peñas attribute much of their successful musical careers to their undergraduate education at CSU. And Jorge offers advice to current student — music majors or not:

“There are many opportunities to be made as long as you have imagination and passion to put in time and to commit,” said Jorge. “Do whatever you have to do to make your projects succeed no matter what anyone says.”

Jorge Peña prepared for the classical music concert with his daughter, Gabriela.

Caption: Jorge Peña prepared for the classical music concert with his daughter, Gabriela.


Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Fall 2015 edition of Focus, Columbus State University’s alumni magazine.
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Game On: Business Student Develops Breakthrough Brand in Global Gaming World


League of Legends teams like Team Fusion compete for millions of dollars during the game's League Championship Series.

Caption: League of Legends teams like Team Fusion compete for millions of dollars during the game’s League Championship Series.

The game plan: Destroy the opposing team’s territory.

Navigate labyrinthine battlefields of devious sorcery, mystical monsters and legendary warriors, knowing when to attack, hold back, read maps and cast magical spells.

The popular online video game known as League of Legends has become the latest team sport gaining global traction with electronic game players and spectators alike.

Pro gamers, including Columbus State University student Ethan Smith, have taken the video game challenge and competed in the virtual warfare on an international platform.

“It’s an adrenaline-rushing video game that requires a lot of team strategy to get far,” said Smith, a 22-year-old business major. “Each player selects a ‘champion’ or character, and together each team member has to figure out the right roadways to take in order to reach the enemy and destroy their Nexus, or turf.”

Smith and his friend and business partner, Alden Haight, formed California-based Team Fusion to compete against other League of Legends teams for millions of dollars.

“Our team failed twice to gain entry into the game’s League Championship Series, which is the major leagues of League of Legends,” Smith said. “We decided to disband our team, focus on our strengths and pivot our company into a new direction.”

Team Fusion became Fusion eSports Sponsorship & Branding — a 13-member marketing agency that helps clients build unique brands in the now billion-dollar gaming industry.

“We represent all kinds of organizations and individuals, including eSports teams, streamers, popular YouTube personalities, talk shows and pretty much anything else involved in the ever-evolving world of eSports,” said Smith, Fusion eSports’ founder, co-owner and COO. “The majority of our clients are located in Los Angeles — the heart of eSports — but we represent organizations in several different parts of the United States. We firmly believe this will become a multimillion-dollar business for us.”

The Brand Design

Fusion eSports provides clients with branding strategies to attract sponsors.

After building or establishing a client’s brand, Fusion eSports seeks out sponsors willing to invest into their clients in return for advertising and marketing the sponsors’ products, said Smith.

“In return for our services, we either charge a monthly rate or take a percentage of sponsorship revenue,” he said. “Sponsorships provide our organizations with financial or product support in return for advertising their brand and products. It’s the same concept used in football or baseball. Intel, AMD, SteelSeries, NewEgg, HTC, Razer, MSI, Corsair, Kingston and Dell are just a few of the many brands currently sponsoring teams in eSports.”

Throughout the academic year, Smith flies from one end of the country to the other for personal and professional eSports matters.

“I went to Texas this summer for vacation,” said Smith, who is originally from Phenix City, Ala. “As for L.A., I have traveled there 18 times in the past six months, two of which have been during the summer. While I’m in L.A. or at conventions that happen across the United States, I am either attending meetings; working with our clients; or networking with companies and important people in the industry.”

Ethan Smith is a business major in CSU's Turner College of Business

Caption: Ethan Smith is a business major in CSU’s Turner College of Business

The Business Degree

Smith hones his eSports entrepreneurial skills at CSU, studying general business in the D. Abbott Turner College of Business.

“I felt that as an entrepreneur I needed to have a firm grasp of all the different areas in the field of business,” he said. “Specializing in just one area of business would not be beneficial in the world of entrepreneurship where you wear many different hats. Several of my professors have always said running a business never goes as planned and you have to be flexible. This is by far the most important thing I have learned in college.”

These classroom lessons have primed Smith for his leadership position in his growing company.

“I’m prepared for all of the times the unexpected has happened in my business,” Smith said. “Having this knowledge ahead of time has kept me steady and focused to avoid panicking when things go wrong.”

Smith completes his degree at the end of fall semester.

“I’m on the Paul S. Amos Aflac Scholarship,” he said, “so I haven’t had to pay for the majority of my classes.”

The scholarship assists students working full time in the Columbus and Phenix City areas and also earning their first academic degree.

Between homework and course projects, Smith always found time to play video games — a hobby he started perfecting since age 8.

“I have been an avid, competitive gamer for most of my life,” said Smith. “I got into eSports when Alden approached me with an opportunity that I was very interested in. He wanted to invest in eSports team ownership and for me to come on board to run the business end of the company.”

The Big Dollars

The duo’s first venture in eSports: Build and become team owners of a professional League of Legends team, which is how Team Fusion originated.

Along with bragging rights, a team has the potential to earn millions through sponsorships and prize money by competing in national and international tournaments.

“An entry-level pro gamer can easily make higher pay than most American corporations offer,” he said. “If you’re a good gamer and popular in eSports, you can make big money. Some of the best players make seven figures. That’s how serious this industry has gotten.”

Playing video games competitively and against players across the globe has opened up new lines of communication and cultural connections for Smith.

“Video games are fascinating because with today’s technology you’re able to play with people from around the world,” he said. “You’re forced to communicate with people of different personalities and cultures. You have to learn to work with them, and people on the Internet can be harsh. They aren’t censored and always say what is on their minds.”

Nevertheless, the virtual reality realm of video games remains “fun and interesting” to the business student as he continues to champion the industry and develop his company.

“It’s an environment that can truly prepare students for the professional world,” he said. “My experience and time as a competitive gamer has been invaluable throughout the entire process of starting and running my company. I’ve learned I’m capable of doing almost anything as long as I’m dedicated. As for the world of gaming, it’s apparent that while extremely competitive, it’s still a young industry with a lot of maturing to do.”

Video Game Industry

Caption: The video gaming industry is now a billion-dollar business.

Visit to learn more about Fusion eSports. During May, The Los Angeles Times featured Ethan Smith and Team Fusion’s quest for living the eSports dream.


Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Fall 2015 edition of Focus, Columbus State University’s alumni magazine.
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Columbus State University Announces ‘First Choice’ Comprehensive Campaign with $100 Million Goal


COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University today officially announced its “First Choice Campaign,” a comprehensive effort designed to raise at least $100 million to create an academic and collegiate environment that will cement CSU’s status as a favored destination for top students and faculty.

First Choice Campaign Kickoff

Goals for the campaign have evolved over the past 18 months after extensive collaboration and discussion with academic deans and their departments. While there are some building projects in the plan – such as a new downtown home for the College of Education and Health Professions, the Bo Bartlett Center, a private match for a new state laboratory science building, and a business building addition – the underlying goals of the campaign are to create a solid infrastructure within the university to attract and retain leading faculty and students, fund student scholarships, and develop and enhance academic programs to solve real-world problems. The campaign also aims to help Columbus State University’s quest to distinguish itself on a national scale and become a first choice for discerning students and faculty.

More than $61 million has already been raised toward these objectives.

Phil Tomlinson, chairman of the board of TSYS, is the volunteer leader for Columbus State’s campaign.

“I saw firsthand how Columbus State University helped our company, how our partnership with the university literally kept TSYS in Columbus,” Tomlinson said. “I can testify as to how a successful university here is good for the community, its people and the economic vitality of this region. I’m very excited about the vision for this campaign.”

Each CSU academic unit, including the new Honors College, is seeking funding for student scholarships and to enhance programs and professorships. Additionally, annual giving is built into each unit’s fundraising goals to support ongoing expenses such as student travel, study abroad, faculty development, athletics, lab costs and outreach education efforts at CSU’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, Coca-Cola Space Science Center and Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians.

“The fact that this campaign has such a strong focus on academic programs makes it very special,” said Interim President Tom Hackett. “Deans have worked with faculty members to identify what it will take to make Columbus State a leader in higher education. In addition to what is planned in the comprehensive campaign, over $50 million in construction projects are planned for main campus through state funding or public-private ventures.”

Alan Medders, Columbus State’s vice president for university advancement and the main architect behind the campaign, said the time is right to announce the public phase of this campaign.

“We are already almost two-thirds of the way toward our goal,” Medders said. “Based on the history of private giving to Columbus State University, we have no doubt that we’ll be successful. We have built a compelling story that we think will resonate with our alumni, community and supporters.”

He noted that CSU’s last campaign, called an “Investment in People,” had an original goal of $67 million that turned into a goal of $85 million. When the fireworks exploded in November 2005 marking the end of that campaign, gifts and pledges totaled just more than $100 million.

Jimmy Yancey, retired chairman of the board of Synovus Financial Corp., led the Investment in People Campaign. He said he is assisting Tomlinson with the First Choice Campaign because he knows how much the previous campaign accomplished for CSU and believes this campaign will build on that momentum.

“I believe CSU can continue to grow into an institution of regional and national prominence – to truly be a ‘first choice’ for top students and faculty members,” Yancey said. “I saw the tremendous support we had in the last campaign. That sentiment still exists. And with all the projects now planned or under way, and a new president coming in later this year, there are many reasons to be excited about Columbus State University’s future.”

One major campaign project already under way is moving Columbus State’s College of Education and Health Professions to downtown Columbus, a move that will further expand the university’s popular RiverPark campus with an extra 1,800 students, faculty and staff.

Entirely with private donations, the university’s real estate foundation, Foundation Properties, Inc., purchased the home of the Ledger-Enquirer newspaper just before Christmas and is working with Barnes, Gibson & Patel Architects to preserve and renovate the historic part of the building, with demolition and new construction planned at the corner of Broadway and West 12th Street.

The project is estimated to cost up to $25 million. More than $18 million has been secured so far.

“Obviously, finishing the fund-raising for the new education building is an immediate priority,” Tomlinson said. “Also important is educating our alumni and friends that these projects – and the other renovations or constructions planned – are not just about new buildings; they are about providing our university with learning spaces that will allow faculty in all programs to engage students, embrace students and educate students in the best possible ways.”

For more information about the First Choice Campaign, please visit


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CSU, Alumni Association Honors Graduates and Friends Wednesday During Homecoming Week

Alumni Awards program coverCOLUMBUS — Columbus State University’s Alumni Association will honor four distinguished graduates and two valued alumni associate friends Wednesday evening during the Annual Alumni Awards Program, part of this year’s homecoming festivities.After the recognition program, CSU will honor former Columbus Mayor Robert “Bob” Poydasheff for his community service, support of the university and his contributions to CSU, his community and his country.This year’s alumni recognition program is on Wednesday (10/22) at 6:30 p.m. in the President’s Club at the Lumpkin Center. The event, which is free and open to the public, will honor:•    For Alumni Service, Paul Holmer-Monte, a test consultant on the Clearing and Settlement System for the TSYS Merchant Segment. In 1996, he joined CSU’s Intellectual Partnership Program that began Holmer-Monte’s legacy with the university and with TSYS. In addition to his business pursuits, Holmer-Monte actively contributes to his community by serving on the Board of Directors for the Russell County Child Advocacy Center and as the leader of the Strategic Development and Facilities Committee. Holmer-Monte has served on the Alumni Board for Columbus State University since 2005, served as president of the Alumni Association from August 2012 to October 2013, and is an active Tower Society member. Holmer-Monte is currently assisting CSU to launch the Friends of Honors College Committee which aims to foster unique partnerships that include alumni, parents, and friends of the college.•    For Excellence in Alumni Achievement, Dr. Peter D. Rumm, a special project medical officer in the Division of Orthopedics and formerly the Deputy/Clinical Director of the Divisions of Surgical, Orthopedic, and Restorative Devices, Office of Device Evaluation, and Center for Devices and Radiological Health in the Food and Drug Administration. Dr. Rumm has also served as a special advisor to the assistant secretary for health and was a White House level appointee to the National Advisory Committee on Children and Terrorism while he served as a state epidemiologist, chief medical officer, and lead state health officer for Wisconsin. He has received more than 30 military and public health commendations, medals, and has served on over a dozen federal or international committees promoting preparation and awareness for dealing with health issues arising from conflict and natural disasters worldwide. Dr. Rumm graduated magna cum laude from CSU with a Bachelor of Science in 1981. Since then, he has made innumerable contributions to the field of medicine and continues to distinguish himself in the community, the country, and the world for his service.•    As outstanding Young Alumni:o    Jason (Jay) Alexander, a 2001 graduate and the current CEO and president of Alexander Electric Co. After earning a Bachelor of Business Administration from Columbus State University, Alexander assumed leadership of one of the country’s largest and most respected electrical contracting companies, which was established by his grandfather in 1948. An active supporter of the arts, charities, youth organizations, and community projects, Alexander is a committed and active community volunteer and serves on the board of directors for various organizations. Alexander has been selected as a presenter for the 2014-2015 D. Abbott Turner College of Business Executive Speaker Series based on his exemplary performance in business and his commitment to the community.o    Gina Sederstrom, a 2011 graduate who now works as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch. After earning her bachelor’s degree in finance and a minor in marketing, she began a business career while also pursuing her passion for service and her willingness to help her community by providing invaluable financial guidance.  Sederstrom also works as both a chartered retirement planning counselor at the College for Financial Planning and a registered financial advisor for the Finance Industry Regulatory Authority. Sederstrom is an active alumna of Columbus State University and is very involved with Young Professionals, the Chamber of Commerce, and Historic Columbus.

•    For Distinguished Military Service, Col. Barry Creed (Ret.).
Creed serves as an exemplary model of selfless leadership in his community as well as his country. Before he was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army, Creed served as a police officer and a field training officer in Columbus from 1978 to 1983. During his tenure in the military, Creed contributed his management expertise through various positions within different divisions in the military, including the United States Joint Forces Command, Battalion Commander, Counterdrug Action Officer, Chief of Joint Operations Center, and Operations Officer. He recently served at the Joint Chiefs of Staff-Force Coordination Division, through which he carried out the multi-faceted roles of deputy chief, force analysis branch, and joint staff. Over the course of his career in the United States Army, Creed was awarded two Bronze Star Medals for his wartime service in Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2012, Creed was also awarded the Department of Defense’s Joint Meritorious Service Medal. Creed earned both a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and Bachelor of Science in general studies from Columbus State University.

•    For Faculty/Staff Appreciation Award, Derek Olson, lead web developer for University Information & Technology Services department, where he designs, implements, and maintains CSU’s 150+ websites. He provides primary support and training for faculty, staff, and students in the use of CSU’s content management system, allowing departmental personnel the opportunity to edit their websites directly using a graphic user interface. He was instrumental in the domain implementation, as well as every other major website update put into place over the past five years. He has been with CSU since 2009 and has worked as a web developer since 2003, previously employed by a web and publishing firm in Olympia, Washington.

Following the Alumni Association’s program, the university will present “Cougar Madness,” the ceremonial start to the basketball season that also serves as a pep rally of sorts for all CSU Athletics. During this event, Columbus State University will recognize the Honorable Robert S. Poydasheff, former mayor of Columbus and a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, for his “incredible array of contributions to our university, this community and the nation,” said CSU President Tim Meson. Poydasheff served as mayor of Columbus from 2003 through 2006, after serving on Columbus City Council from 1994 through 2002. It was during this time that Columbus State University began to develop its RiverPark campus downtown. Poydasheff has been a longtime supporter of CSU athletics and has been a board member of the CSU Athletic Fund for more than 30 years.

Anyone interested in attending the Alumni Recognition Awards Program and/or Cougar Madness is asked to email Visit for a full listing of Homecoming activities during the week.


SOURCE: Jennifer Joyner, director of CSU’s Office of Alumni Engagement, at 706-507-8956 or by email at

WRITER: John Lester, University Relations, 706-507-8725/JLester@
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Retired TSYS CEO to Lead Columbus State’s Comprehensive Fund-Raising Campaign

Tomlinson_PhilCOLUMBUS, Ga. — Friday during the Columbus State University Foundation Board of Trustees meeting, it was announced that retired TSYS chief executive officer Phil Tomlinson will chair the university’s forthcoming comprehensive campaign.

“We are ecstatic. Phil was an obvious choice from the beginning as we started developing the framework for this campaign,” said CSU President Tim Mescon. “Because of his character, reputation and business success, his name kept emerging as we were asking others for recommendations to lead this campaign.”

Now that Tomlinson is on board, he will work to develop a campaign leadership team and coordinate with university officials to finalize the university’s First Choice Campaign plan. Each college at the university has identified several priorities to further enhance the reputation of CSU as a “first choice” institution for high-achieving students and nationally talented faculty. Among the early goals for the campaign are to fully fund CSU’s new Honors College, provide endowments for student scholarships and professorships in each college, continue the UTeach program that trains math and science teachers, and purchase and renovate the Ledger Enquirer building downtown for the College of Education and Health Professions.

Final campaign priorities are still being developed as new donors are identified, more alumni input is gathered, and leadership changes, said Alan Medders, CSU’s vice president for university advancement and executive director of the CSU Foundation. He also said a goal for the campaign would not be announced until all priorities are completed for the campaign, which is anticipated to last about five years.

“Having Phil officially on our team is a tremendous validation of the hard work and success we have already achieved, and of the plans for where we’re headed as an institution,” Medders said. “He will bring instant credibility to our efforts as we reach out to friends and alumni around the country.”

Tomlinson retired from TSYS on July 31, 2014. He will continue to serve as executive chairman of the board of TSYS until the 2015 annual shareholders’ meeting.

His business career began when Tomlinson joined Columbus Bank and Trust Company in 1974. He was part of the early credit card team, became executive vice president of TSYS in 1983 when it was spun off as a public company, and then was elected its president in 1992. Over his tenure, TSYS won numerous awards for its ethical standards and service to the communities where it operates. Chief among the company’s attributes, which Tomlinson instilled in its culture, are integrity and treating people right.


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Private Giving to CSU Sets Another Record, Reaching $12.7 Million

COLUMBUS, GA — Alumni and friends again demonstrated their support in record numbers for Columbus State University, giving about $12.7 million in 2013-14 to fund projects, programs and people throughout CSU.

The Columbus State University Foundation ended its fiscal year on July 31 with an increase of $4.1 million from the $8.6 million total collected during the 2013 fiscal year.

“Simply put, private giving is behind many of the major strides we are making at Columbus State University,” said President Tim Mescon. “This level of support is phenomenal, and is supporting key initiatives that are designed to continue our emergence as a university of regional and national distinction.”

Giving to the Columbus State University (CSU) Fund also set a new record last year, bringing in $4.9 million of the total $12.7 million raised. The annual support raised via the CSU Fund (formally the university’s annual fund) soared well above the goal of $3.5 million.

“I continue to be impressed by the depth of support that we have for Columbus State University,” said Lynne Philips, a Synovus executive who chairs the CSU Foundation Board of Trustees. “Obviously the Foundation Trustees and all our other supporters are energized by the strides that have been made here, and are excited about the future of Columbus State University. We realize that private support is no longer a luxury; it’s vital to our ongoing operations and absolutely necessary if we want CSU to truly become the kind of university we all think it can be.”

Annual giving to the CSU Fund supports many needs across campus, including:

  • Student scholarships
  • Academic programs
  • Community outreach (including Columbus Regional Math Collaborative, Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center and CSU’s  Coca-Cola Space Science Center)
  • Student and faculty development (including athletics, research, servant leadership and study abroad)
  • Opportunities for distinction (including music and theatre performances and athletic events)

Alan Medders, CSU’s vice president for University Advancement and Executive Director of the CSU Foundation, said all the money collected last year will count toward the university’s ongoing comprehensive campaign, which is now in a quiet phase as priorities are developed and goals are established.

He credited the foundation’s trustees for creating momentum for the current private fundraising priorities. He said logging almost $13 million in one year is a great testament to what’s planned.

“I think the message in these numbers is that the foundation trustees, the faculty and administration, the alumni, and friends see the difference our university is making in the lives of our students and in the community,” said Jack Key, a retired real estate executive who now chairs the foundation’s development committee. “It’s clear evidence that people recognize the substantial and vital contribution that CSU makes to the quality of life in Columbus and the region.  We’re providing first-rate education and enjoying the benefits of seeing this new generation of talent and leadership emerge from our campus.  These increases in giving indicate that our supporters believe that our best days are ahead!”


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Homecoming Moving to Fall for Enhanced Experiences

Cover of Spring 2014 Focus magazine, tiltedEditor’s Note: This first appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Focus, Columbus State University’s twice-a-year magazine. (This schedule reflects a move in the Doughboy Bowl game date and location decided after print publication by CSU and Fort Benning.)

Homecoming, traditionally held in February at Columbus State, is moving to the fall and combining with Alumni Weekend for festivities on Oct.

“It is going to be the biggest and most comprehensive homecoming CSU has ever had, involving  alumni, students, faculty, staff and the community at large,” said Jennifer Joyner, director of alumni relations.

“The entire university has taken a look at what activities could be combined and enhanced to bring everyone a wonderful week  and weekend of engaging events.”

Party Nation, an Atlanta-based band, will keep homecoming participants dancing Saturday, Oct. 25, continuing Alumni Weekend's popular Evening on the Top tradition of food and fun atop a Front Street parking garage that's transformed for the event. The band plays a wide range of music, including class rock, Motown, disco, '80s and contemporary Top 40.

Party Nation, an Atlanta-based band, will keep homecoming participants dancing Saturday, Oct. 25, continuing Alumni Weekend’s popular Evening on the Top tradition of food and fun atop a Front Street parking garage that’s transformed for the event. The band plays a wide range of music, including class rock, Motown, disco, ’80s and contemporary Top 40.

The preliminary schedule includes:

Thursday, Oct. 23

6 p.m. – Alumni Recognition Awards, celebrating alumni achievement in five categories: outstanding  service to CSU, the community, career, military and distinguished young alumni.

Time TBA – Doughboy Classic at Fort Benning’s historic Doughboy Stadium, featuring CSU’s club tackle football team vs. the Fort Benning Doughboys.

Friday, Oct. 24

6 p.m. – Homecoming Parade down Broadway

 7 p.m. – Live concert as part of the Uptown Columbus Outdoor Concert Series

Saturday, Oct. 25

7:30 a.m. – Columbus State ROTC’s Cougar Madness 5K Run

10:30 a.m. – Tailgating

7 p.m. – Evening on the Top, a popular Alumni Weekend event for three years, featuring Atlanta’s
Party Nation band and fireworks over the Chattahoochee River.

Joyner said more information on homecoming would be released closer to the October events, and some plans are subject to
change. For more information on homecoming plans, visit

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Bit by Bit: Love of Learning Leads Alumna to Digital Media Success

Cover of Spring 2014 Focus magazine, tiltedEditor’s Note: This first appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Focus, Columbus State University’s twice-a-year magazine.

By Bill Sutley

t-2014-06-02_1506wenty-three years after graduating summa cum laude from Columbus Col­lege, Pam Siddall is still obsessed with learning.

“My favorite phrase is, `I don’t know what I don’t know,’” says Siddall, whose thirst for knowledge serves her well as executive vice president for one of America’s largest media groups. “I know I’m rarely the smartest person in the room, so I learn from other people. The only way is to listen and ask questions.”

Pam Siddall returned to the South and became the Birmingham News' first female publisher in 2010.

Pam Siddall returned to the South and became the Birmingham News’ first female publisher in 2010.

Siddall’s success also is a product of a work ethic that has her jetting regularly between offices in Birmingham and New York City as executive vice president of Advance Local, a media empire that reaches more than 30 million consumers through 12 local news and information websites scattered from New Orleans to New York, all ranked No. 1 among local media in their respective markets.

Advance Local’s largest presence near Siddall’s roots in rural Lee County, Ala., is, which combines the newsgathering muscle of Advance Local newspapers in Birmingham, Mobile and Huntsville with other resources.

“Journalism is vital to the community, no matter what platform you’re on,” Siddall says. “If you want to consume news on your iPhone, Twitter feed or  print product, our job is to make sure it’s there.”

Despite the fact she’s plugged in 24/7 to online and social media that didn’t exist when she was in college, Siddall credits her alma mater  with playing a role in her success. “Everything I learned at Columbus State is woven into everything I do,” she says.

Newlyweds Greg and Pam Siddall enjoy a Florida beach about the time she was a Columbus College student.

Newlyweds Greg and Pam Siddall enjoy a Florida beach about the time she was a Columbus College student.

An accounting major, she worked full-time at a Columbus CPA firm while attending school full-time.

“I had an amazing boss who let me have the flexibility to take classes during the day and get my work done at night,” she said. “That forces you to manage your time.” 

Fonda Carter, associate dean for un­dergraduate programs at CSU’s Turner College of Business, was a novice faculty member when she first met Siddall as one of her accounting students.

“You knew even back then she would be very successful,” Carter said.

Time-management is especially crucial now as Siddall balances the de­mands of her professional life with that of being mother to two teenage girls, Haley, 18, and Annika, 13. She credits Greg Siddall, her husband of 25-plus years, with helping her maintain that precarious balance.

Siddall first got into newspapers when she was hired in 1997 at age 29 as chief financial officer at the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. She says she’s grateful for the confidence expressed in her so early by then-publisher John Greenman, un­aware then that she would move into his job in seven years.

“I was pretty willing to do anything they asked me to,” she says. “There were challenges, but I was willing to jump in and solve problems. I learned that at­titude matters.”

Her ascension at the Ledger-Enquirer and beyond coincided with a painful pe­riod for newspapers, but Siddall remains bullish about the promise of the medium.

“Newspapers play a special role in a community,” she says. “I knew that within the first few months of working with John Greenman. It goes beyond a job. You have an amazing opportunity to leverage good in a community.”

After nearly three years as president and publisher at Columbus, Siddall moved to the same role at another McClatchy newspaper, the Wichita (Kan.) Eagle. She returned to the South and left McClatchy as 2010 dawned, becoming president and publisher of the Birming­ham News. By 2012, she was overseeing operations of that newspaper, as well as Advance newspapers in Mobile and Huntsville.

“It was a challenge, but it proved to be the right decision,” Siddall said of her moves from Columbus to Wichita to Bir­mingham. “They were all wonderful.”

In her current role (promoted to executive vice president in February after only nine months), which she assumed in mid-2013, Siddall has a much deeper commitment to the digital side of her privately held parent company, serving a much broader geographic area.

Siddall, from left, daughters Haley and Annika, and husband Greg pause during a family vacation in Italy in March.

Siddall, from left, daughters Haley and Annika, and husband Greg pause during a family vacation in Italy in March.

“I’m working across all our markets on strategy,” she said. “As soon you think you have something figured out, there’s something new. It’s like putting together a different puzzle every day. When you’re talking about the digital space, you’re talking about mobile tech­nology, video, desktop, tablet – every­thing. If you can’t appreciate technology and the value it brings to readers and advertisers alike, you’re in the wrong line of work.”

That appreciation is tempered by her caution as a parent; her daughters didn’t get cleared to dive into the Facebook pool until mom had swum a few laps.

“The one piece of advice I offered is not to put anything up you don’t want to be seen by the world,” Siddall says. “That’s critical and applies to everybody. Don’t play out your emotions on social media.”
Social media is one of the primary ways Siddall now keeps in touch with friends and family in the Columbus-Lee County area and beyond. That’s helpful since most of the time she’s on the move  — spending many workweeks shuttling between several Advance markets where she talks strategy with local market leadership.
Asked what advice she would of­fer today’s college graduates, Siddall mentioned the importance of believing in yourself, listening to others and, yes, to keep learning what’s necessary to reinforce that self-esteem.

“Folks are always going to tell you why something can’t be done,” she says. “But at the end of the day, you do what you’re passionate about. And never stop learning. That intellectual curiosity is crucial. Be vulnerable and willing to learn from other people, regardless of their position in the company.”


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