McCollough and Thomas Named Rising Stars in the Community by Young Professionals and Columbus and the Valley Magazine

Associate professors Dr. Chris McCollough (Communication) and Dr. Joy Thomas (Health and Excercise Science) have been named among five 2018 Rising Stars in the Community by the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals and Columbus and the Valley Magazine.  The recognition is meant to identify a rising group of young leaders in the community who are helping to enhance the quality of civic, economic, and community life in the region. Both McCollough and Thomas do so in their respective fields, and have a healthy history of collaboration that brings them to this shared achievement.

Dr. McCollough earned the recognition for his past and current work in bringing his public relations classes into the community and working with many of the nonprofit organizations that collaborate with the Department of Communication and the Non Profit and Civic Engagement (NPACE) Center. Among the key projects he and his students have completed have been collaboratively promoting Pasaquan, helping Marion County revitalize its economic prospects through promotions and community relations, supporting the university's current collaborative partnership with Muscogee County's School District, and ongoing work with organizations like Ferst Foundation for Early Childhood LiteracyFeeding the ValleyThe American Cancer Society, and Habitat for Humanity.

Dr. Thomas's work shares a parallel in bringing her classes into the community as her students in health and exercise science address issues of community health disparity. Her efforts in bridging gaps in community health disparity have led her to serving as the Director of the Center for Healthy Disparity and Community-Based Research. The center offers support in helping underserved counties in Georgia to meet community health needs in diverse ways through collaborative work with local non-profit organizations. Thomas and her staff have recently expanded to providing support to 28 counties in 2018 from the 16 counties previously served. The work of the center opens learning opportunities for her students in the classroom and through individual internships.

Mentioned earlier, McCollough and Thomas have collaborated in the past and continue to do so now. In 2015, they partnered with professor Rylan Steele in the Art Department to support and promote the Big Brother, Big Sisters mentorship program of the local Boys and Girls Club through participation in the mentorship program, photovoice documentation of the work of students with participants in the program, and putting on an exhibition of the photography in UpTown Columbus, which students promoted and put on to the public.

Recently, McCollough and Thomas built on their past collaboration to get together with professor Nicholas McMillan in the Art Department to provide support to one of the many counties Thomas supports through on site health disparities and public relations coursework, while also providing a fresh face to the Center through the work of graphic design students, and allowing students to build experience in venue design, organization promotion, and event planning and promotion.

The shared work of the colleague's three classes will go live in fall 2018, and represents the kind of interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty unique to CSU that yield results which improve community life in the region. McCollough and Thomas continue to collaborate and are working to identify additional projects which will no doubt keep them at the forefront of working to improve community life in the region.