First Class


Given out by the Georgia Southern University Alumni Association, the 40 Under 40 designation recognizes young alumni that are leading the way in business, leadership, community, educational and/or philanthropic endeavors. The 40 were chosen by a selection committee based on their professional expertise and achievements, as well as dedication to charitable and community initiatives.

Out of our roughly 75,000 living alumni, more than 30,000 are under 40-years-old. Honorees not only represent the excellence of the University’s young alumni, but also demonstrate the positive contributions and remarkable achievements for which Georgia Southern graduates are known.

They also aspire to uphold the core values of Georgia Southern University: integrity, civility, kindness, collaboration, and a commitment to lifelong learning, wellness, and social responsibility.

Trip Addison (’08, ’09)
Trip Addison is the deputy director for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (OPB), where he develops the Governor’s budget and oversees the state budget. Before joining OPB, he served as Governor Deal’s policy adviser for economic development.

Scott Bean (’11)
Scott Bean is the field, cost and scheduling engineer for The Industrial Company/Kiewit Corporation. While attending Georgia Southern University, Bean was instrumental in starting the Student Eagle Club and was its first president.

Lindsey Blom (’99, ’01)
Lindsey Blom is an associate professor in Sport and Exercise Psychology and acting director for the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Ball State University. She has spent years using sports as a vehicle for health and conflict resolution from the local to the international level.

Philip Boldt (’04)
In 2006, Philip Boldt deployed to Iraq, where he served as a platoon leader until 2007. Boldt is the executive officer to the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command G3 for the United States Army.

Salua Brannen (’98)
Salua Brannen was the first student to graduate from Georgia Southern with an International Studies major. She is currently working as an account executive for a Swedish shipping company, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics.

Kate Channell (’01, ’03)
Kate Channell is the director of marketing and media for the College of Business Administration at Georgia Southern. She previously served as director of development for the School of Dentistry at MCG, where she raised around $400,000 for a special fundraising campaign.

Jordan Chester (’08)
After graduating from law school in New Orleans in 2011, Jordan Chester worked as an assistant state attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. He is now the fourth member of the legal team that is part of the Corporate Counsel for Distribution NOW.

Jemelleh Coes (’08 ’10)
Jemelleh Coes is the 2014 Georgia Teacher of the Year and is currently working on her doctorate in special education.

Mario Cruz (’05)
In 2013, Mario Cruz achieved the honor of becoming a Board Certified Sports Specialist. He is currently the physical therapist for Tennessee Tech University.

Amy Dietrich (’11)
In 2012, Amy Dietrich launched the Alumni Association Network, “Eagle Outreach,” alongside other Atlanta-based Georgia Southern alumni who have volunteered more than 600 hours. She is currently the director of communications and continuing education at the Georgia Psychological Association.

Rebecca Elliot (’97, ’03)
Rebecca Elliot is currently the director of the Final Phase Operations at the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation. While attending Georgia Southern, she was awarded a Master of Technology in Industrial Management.

Jason Epps (’99)
At the start of 2014, Jason Epps was appointed to the Kraft Foods Powerhouse Leadership Program. He is currently the senior customer business leader for the Cheese Division calling on Walmart.

Ryan Foley (’03, ’05)
Ryan Foley is vice president for student affairs at Ogeechee Technical College (OTC). He began his OTC career as an intern in 2010, as he was completing his undergraduate degree at Georgia Southern.

Lea Anne Foster (’96)
Lea Anne Foster is vice president for communications at the National Association of Manufacturers. She formerly served as the federal affairs director for the State of Georgia.

John Fulford (’07)
John Fulford is the project manager for Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC. He has helped complete two successful construction projects on the Georgia Southern University campus—the new biology building and Paulson Stadium expansion.

Shannon Halstead (’98)
Shannon Halstead is a Sergeant for the Street Crimes Unit at the St. Petersburg Police Department—Uniformed Services Bureau. She is a 2012 graduate of Leadership St. Petersburg, where she furthered her leadership skills by working in the community.

Kim Hartsock (’99, ’01)
In 2013, Kim Hartsock became a partner at Warren Averett, LLC, becoming one of the youngest women to make partner at the firm. During the same year, she became president of Susan G. Komen of Greater Atlanta.

Susan Herring (’00, ’01)
Susan Herring is the director of initial phase operations finance for Gulfstream Aerospace. For the past eight years, she has been a mentor for aspiring leaders at Gulfstream.

Torri Jackson (’99, ’02)
Torri Jackson is the senior counselor, and the counseling and guidance department leader at Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, Georgia. She has developed a comprehensive counseling program that was acknowledged nationally as a Recognized American School Counseling Association Model Program in 2013.

Russell Keen (’99) (’14)
Russell Keen is vice president for governmental relations and community engagement at Georgia Southern. He has previously secured support for local community affairs projects and Georgia Southern building projects.

James Kicklighter (’10)
James Kicklighter is a writer/director for JamesWorks Entertainment. He is currently working on the film “Erk,” based on the life of legendary football coach Erk Russell.

John Kile (’10)
Currently a Captain in the United States Army, John Kile was the lead of the first Afghan Uniform Police Mission in Afghanistan.

Mychael Knight (’02)
Mychael Knight was a finalist and “Fan Favorite” winner on Season 3 of “Project Runway,” a reality TV show on Lifetime, previously on the Bravo Network, focused on fashion design. Knight is currently fashion designer and stylist of his own fashion company, Mychael Knight Inc.

Jason Lawrence (’06, ’07)
Jason Lawrence is the deputy chief of staff for Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. In 2011, he was a U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee Staff Representative.

Malcolm Lee (’99)
In 2012, Malcolm Lee started his own nonprofit, the AAU Girls Basketball Program “Georgia Flight.” He is currently the organization’s head coach as well as a music executive with the UEMG Music Group.

Teresa MacCartney (’99, ’01)
Since starting at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (OPB) in 2001, Teresa MacCartney has been the state leader for the Federal Stabilization and Education Jobs programs, and is currently Georgia’s Chief Financial Officer and director of the OPB.

Kameelah Martin (’00)
Kameelah Martin is an assistant professor of African American Literature at Savannah State University. She was a member of the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program while attending Georgia Southern and was the first McNair scholar to earn a Ph.D.

Robert Mikell (’07)
Robert Mikell is currently an attorney at Brown Rountree PC and serves on several Boards, including the Board of Directors of the Georgia Southern University Alumni Association, the Statesboro Kiwanis Club and the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce.

Jennifer Mock (’04)
Jennifer Mock is an officer in the State Bar of Georgia’s Young Lawyer Division and has volunteered with Georgia Legal Services and the Georgia High School Mock Trial Program. She is currently an attorney and partner for The Mock Law Firm, LLC.

Thomas Mullis (’99)
Thomas Mullis, M.D., is currently a physician at Dublin ENT Associates. He was a member of the Bell Honors Program while attending Georgia Southern and graduated summa cum laude in chemistry in 1999.

Becky Owen (’99)
Becky Owen was a member of the Bell Honors Program while attending Georgia Southern. She is currently a supervisory chemist at the FDA.

Yvonne Parkhurst (’04, ’06)
Yvonne Parkhurst was hired in 2007 as the women’s national teams administrator for USA Rugby. She is now the team services manager, which includes management of all National Teams and the newly created Olympic Residency Program for Rugby at the Olympic Training Center.

Nick Pearson (’10)
Nick Pearson is the director of federal government relations for the Tennessee Valley Authority. He also devotes multiple hours a week to mentor students and help them improve their reading skills.

Matt Ramsey (’98)
Matt Ramsey was first elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 2007 and was elected in 2013 to serve as the Majority Party Whip in the State House. Ramsey is currently an attorney at Warner, Hooper and Ramsey, Attorneys at Law and a state representative.

Blain Rhodes (’10)
Blain Rhodes began his career in the music business working as the merchandise manager for country singer and songwriter Luke Bryan. Rhodes is currently the manager of A&R for Warner/Chappell Music.

Brad Sheffield (’01, ’03)
Brad Sheffield is the senior vice president and retail lead for Sea Island Bank. In 2014, he was awarded the Sea Island Bank CEO Award, which is one of three that have ever been given.

Liz Stephens (’99)
Liz Stephens is executive director of MedBank Foundation, Inc. Under her leadership, the organization has been able to amplify their amount of medication provided from $250,000 to $10.6 million, cut organizational costs and spread their reach geographically.

Dennette Thornton (’01)
Dennette Thornton is senior manager of the Atlanta Braves Group and Premium Sales Department. In 2013, she was no. 1 in the Department in all of Major League Baseball. She is also an Eagle Football Alumni Association board member.

Jacob Warren (’02, ’03)
Jacob Warren was the first Georgia Southern University Honors Program graduate to receive a Ph.D. He has received more than $6 million in funding to improve health within rural communities. He is currently the associate professor of Community Medicine at Mercer University.

Justin Wright (’02, ’03)
After two years of working at Great Southern Wood Preserving, Justin Wright became the youngest general manager at one of only 15 plants. He is currently the company’s director of independent sales.

To view more information about the 40 under 40 award please visit

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