Alumna Rebecca Niezen moved to China to teach English after graduation, and during Chinese National Holiday, Oct 1-7, she made sure to take her #TrueBlue spirit to the Great Wall of China in Beijing! #HailSouthern
Perhaps the only passion bigger than travel for alumnus Anton Hughes (’13) is his passion for Georgia Southern. Hughes discovered his thirst for travel during his time as an undergraduate when he participated in Georgia Southern study abroad trips for three consecutive summers. He traveled to Costa Rica and Spain before deciding to pursue a double major in international studies and Spanish.
Upon graduation in 2013, Hughes began an internship in Itajuba, Brazil, as an English Monitor at the Centro de Estudos Lingüísticos de Itajubá (CELIL). He helped students practice conversation and listening skills as well as assisted with homework, teaching and classwork.
“My time in Brazil spanned seven months, and I made the most of it,” said Hughes. “I learned Portuguese, experienced a new culture, made new friends, traveled through South America and got to attend a FIFA World Cup match!”
Hughes made sure to keep his True Blue spirits alive throughout his travels by keeping his True Blue towel with him. He shared pictures showcasing his Eagle Pride at Carnival in Rio de Janeiro as well as from Mount Machu Picchu which he climbed.
“When I made it to the top, the view was spectacular,” Hughes said. “I had a bird’s-eye view of the actual Machu Picchu site, the surrounding mountains, the river and train below.”
These days Hughes resides state-side in Atlanta working as a bilingual sales representative for Verizon Wireless. He hasn’t yet found his dream career, but he knows he wants to help others, use his language skills and travel in whatever field he ends up in.
Hughes is truly grateful for his time at Georgia Southern University. He is a huge fan of the Recreation Activity Center (RAC), calling it “one of the true highlights” of the campus. Hughes is very proud of how the University continues to grow, add and update amenities. He also loves the abundance of resources and opportunities available for students, especially the study abroad trips.
“Those experiences were life changing and taught me things I could not have learned in the classroom,” he said. “Being able to experience another lifestyle and immerse yourself within another culture is truly an amazing experience. It can be scary or uncomfortable at times, but the adventure is so worth it.”
To read more about the exciting adventures Hughes had in Brazil and his other travels, visit his blog at antoninbrazil.blogspot.com.
Don Borowski knows the true meaning of getting up when you fall and trying again. It’s a lesson the 47-year old, non-traditional Georgia Southern student and RAC spin instructor learned after attempting to finish an Ironman contest not once, but twice.
“I first competed in it back in 2012, but I came up short and had to drop out because of being severely dehydrated. So, this time around my goal was properly named ‘Unfinished Business!’”
And he didn’t leave any business unfinished in his attempt this year. He completed the grueling race, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile marathon, raced in that order and without a break, with just 17 minutes to spare. Competitors are given 17 hours to complete the race.
But the race components weren’t the only obstacles Borowski faced. Held in August in Louisville, Kentucky, he and other competitors faced the highest heat index of the summer that day–115 degrees. After the swim and bike portion, it was time for the greater challenge, the full marathon run.
“At the 8-mile mark, I threw up for the first time. What was happening at this point was my body was shutting down on me,” Borowski said. At mile 10, I actually passed out and had to be revived by the medical crew. At first, I could hear them, but I couldn’t see them, which scared me to death. I’m not sure how much time passed, but I remember asking the medical crew if I had enough time to finish,” Borowski said.
Somehow, he mustered up the strength and energy to get back up and keep moving to finish the race. “I saw my wife along the way and she kept motivating me by saying ‘You Got This! Just keep moving forward.’ My friends and Georgia Southern alumni Jordana Childree and Shane Jenkins, walked with me the last 12 miles to help pace me.”
Despite an exhausting day, the experience and reaching his dream goal was all worth it. “I found out what I was made of that day,” he said. “All the sacrifices that not only I, but my family and friends had made during this journey and six months of training was all worth it! A friend of mine, Mike Williams, had called Jordana’s phone at around the 19-mile mark and said ‘Finish and nothing matters tomorrow!’ He was right! That feeling of accomplishment on that one day was overwhelming.”
This achievement in Borowski’s fitness journey probably seemed impossible 10 years ago after hitting a low point. “Growing up and always fighting weight issues, when I reached my maximum of 300 pounds in 2005, I knew it was time for a change,” he said. “I had a newborn son and if I was going to be around to see him grow up, I had to change my lifestyle. I found the Statesboro Pacers, a terrific and supportive running group here in town and started my journey of losing weight and becoming a runner. After losing over 100 pounds and completing the Walt Disney World Half Marathon within my first year, I’d found a passion and became what I’d never thought was possible, I’d become a runner.”
And to become an Ironman finisher, Borowski never gave up on his dream. He encourages others to never give up.
“Like any goal, you’ve got to have a plan. Be willing to make the sacrifices it will take to achieve success! Lastly, get your miles in during training and whatever you do, get it on film! One of my favorite hastags is #milesandmemories!”
He added he couldn’t have come this far without his True Blue family. “To my Georgia Southern RAC Group Fitness Family, faculty, staff, students and my faithful spin class patrons, I can’t say THANK YOU enough for all the support and motivation. If you want to achieve great goals, surround yourself with people with the same passion.”
Borowski also recently took over the ownership of local fitness business Swim.Bike.Run, which was owned and operated by two fellow Georgia Southern alumni. He encourages all True Blue fitness enthusiasts and community members to stop by for their fitness needs.
Georgia Southern alumna Sara Teate (‘10) is True Blue, through and through, sharing her spirit in a unique way.
Teate earned her degree from the University in music education with an emphasis in voice. Since graduation, the Powder Springs, Georgia, native has landed jobs performing places like Princess and Carnival cruise lines, DollyWood, Busch Gardens and Stone Mountain. Currently, Sara is performing on land to sold out shows in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, at the Broward Stage Door Theatre in a 60s review show.
And recently, Sara was a performer on Silversea Cruise Line, performing the roles including Sandy in “Grease” and Elsa in “The Sound of Music,” among others. This also allowed her to share her True Blue roots around the world in places like Italy, France and Monaco, and with her fellow crew members.
“There is a walkway where all the ship’s crew pass every day called the I-95. When I wore my Georgia Southern t-shirt with the iconic phrase ‘One More Time,’ I always heard my fellow crew members say, ‘One More Time’ as I pass,” she said. “I explained to them what this means to us and they love it. American football is not as important to them as their cricket or soccer, but they do know the meaning of winning, and the Georgia Southern Eagles are winners! GATA!”
Growing up, Sara was always around music, having been a part of a family of musicians including her father, Gary Teate, a trumpet player and bass singer; her mother, Cindy Teate, a piano player and soprano singer; and her brother, Patrick Teate, a piano player and a tenor singer. Although she grew up around music and cherishes the influence from her family, Georgia Southern is where Sara “found her voice.”
“Before coming to Georgia Southern, I was just a Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Britney Spears wanna-be,” she said. “I owe my whole career thus far to Dr. Tamara watson Harper and Dr. Allen Henderson. They trained not only my voice but also my whole performing being. It’s not just about the beauty of the voice, but the way you can bring the whole audience into your world with your performance.”
So it’s no surprise that Sara got involved in the music scene at the University as a member of the Southern Chorale and Georgia Southern Opera. In fact, one of her fondest memories during her time as an Eagle was performing Randall Stroope’s “Amor De Mi Alma” with Southern Chorale.
“I will never forget the way we all held on to every last second of that performance,” she said. “With just the flick of the amazing Dr. Rod Caldwell’s little finger, we knew exactly how he wanted us to perform every line of the song. We were just as captivated with him and his passion as the audience was with the performance.”
The alumna holds on to her memories of Georgia Southern, taking them with her around the world and sharing her True Blue spirit with many of the people she meets. But what sticks with her the most about her experience in Statesboro is tradition.
“My dad always taught me the value and importance of tradition, and I have come to love most the tradition at Georgia Southern University,” she said. “I have literally been around the world and back, but I always know I can come home to Statesboro and still eat a chicken melt at Vandy’s, watch Freedom fly and get my favorite ‘melt in your mouth’ cookie from Heavenly Ham. Oh, and of course, football!”
When alumnus Chris Bostain (’02) set a goal of climbing to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, he wanted to bring along a special token to ensure his climb to the top was unique.
That’s why he decided to embark on his six day, 37 mile climb to an elevation of 19,341 feet above sea level with a Georgia Southern flag in tow.
“We had discussed an American flag and the state of Georgia flag, but I felt like these things had all been done before, and I wanted to do something that represented Georgia Southern,” Bostain said. “I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to attend the University, but also the chance to be the first person to ever make the Kilimanjaro summit with a Georgia Southern flag. Although I wasn’t sure if I was the first, after many Google searches I have not found another person yet that has done it. I also wanted something very fun to show all of my Georgia Southern friends when I got back as a surprise. No one knew I was taking this flag with me, it made for some very fun reactions.”
Bostain traveled to Africa with fellow Georgia Southern alumnus Trey Yearwood (’00), both wanted to take an adventure trip that was on a “bucket list level and very challenging,” Bostain said. And although highly difficult, the climb was rewarding and humbling, he said.
“After completing the climb, I felt very humbled, lucky, drained. I felt lucky I was not as affected as so many others who had gotten altitude sickness, so that I could make this journey and reach the summit,” he said. “It also made me realize that there are so many more things I want to accomplish. Honestly it sort of humbled my life and what I thought I had accomplished to this point, and made me think about how many more things out there would be truly meaningful outside of my daily life that I want to do.”
Bostain braved below freezing temperatures, nausea, 25-mph winds and other adversities to make it to the top, where he was amazed by the scenery.
“It was some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever seen in my life,” he said. “Seeing the world from so far above the clouds is something not many people get to do outside of an airplane. When I was at the summit, I was actually high enough to see the curve of the earth as the sun came up, which is something I will never forget.”
Bostain isn’t sure he will try to climb Mount Kilimanjaro again, or any other mountain, although it’s crossed his mind. But there is one thing he would like to do, which is challenge fellow Eagles to represent the University at the summit, or any other place no Eagle has been before.
“Don’t wait—if you have somewhere you want to go or something you want to do, make it happen. Life is so short, if you wait for the right time it may never come,” Bostain said. “If you do decide to make this journey, which I highly recommend, do your research and know what you’re getting into. Share this trip with your friends or people important in your life. Oh, and don’t forget your flag, I want to see another one up there soon. Go Eagles!”
Alumni Kelly Jacobs (’08) has an appetite — an appetite for living a healthy lifestyle and inspiring others, all while remaining True Blue to her Georgia Southern roots.
In fact, Jacobs calls herself a “Georgia Southern gal getting fit and inspiring others.” That tagline greets readers of her Georgia Southern-themed healthy lifestyle blog, “Eagle with an Appetite.”
In June, she started the blog as a way to help keep her accountable for her own healthy lifestyle. She also wanted to connect with other University alumni for encouragement. Jacobs’ blog has an average of 400 page views daily, and she said “Until I started writing, I didn’t realize just how many Georgia Southern alumni were out there and how much we could encourage one another.”
But being healthy to Jacobs doesn’t just mean eating the right foods and exercising. It also means being spiritually healthy, enjoying life and having a positive outlook. She also promotes happiness, helping others and overall self-worth.
“My overall goal is just to inspire others to lead healthy lives and of course I also want to lose weight and get healthy,” she said. “But more than that I think some people just need encouragement. I’ve gotten so many emails and Facebook messages saying ‘Thank you for doing this, you’re encouraging me.’ Some days I’ll have a Bible verse that goes along with my post, or just something silly and fun for people to read. But mostly I do it for encouragement.”
Jacobs said the name for her blog stems from the fact that she’s a culinary arts teacher at Brantley County High School, and of course, because she is a Georgia Southern graduate.
“I always try to mention Georgia Southern in my posts. If I’m giving a recipe, for example, of how to make a frappe, I’ll put it in a Georgia Southern cup,” she said. Additionally, Jacobs posts about return trips with her husband Chris (‘05, ‘08), to football games, and how they both stay involved with the University. She also shares her tailgating recipes, game day outfits and much more.
And while Jacobs’ blog has a lot of Georgia Southern followers, she loves mentioning Georgia Southern to her readers to introduce them to the spirit of the University, and to show her true appreciation for her experiences here.
“Georgia Southern to me means family, and it’s a large part of my heart,” she said. “It’s what made me who I am today by the leadership skills and knowledge that I got from the University. I went in as an 18-year-old baby and came out ready for a career. I look back now and I’m blown away at how much I learned about myself just from Georgia Southern.”
Visit Kelly’s blog at www.eaglewithanappetite.blogspot.com.
Georgia Southern University holds a special place in the hearts of newlyweds and alumni Marc Snyder (‘07) and wife Erin (‘08).
Not only were they students at the University when they met in August 2006, but their experiences at Georgia Southern instilled a True Blue spirit in them so deep they didn’t leave for their destination wedding at Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, Scotland on May 24, without it. The Canton, Ga., residents have also adorned their new home with a Georgia Southern flag to boast their Eagle Spirit to passersby.
“I will forever bleed blue and white and I am constantly running into alumni who come up and say hello to me whenever they see me wearing Georgia Southern gear,” Erin said. “Georgia Southern was the best college experience that I never knew I could have. I am so glad I was able to get such a great education and experience where I made lifelong friends.”
Marc agreed, saying attending Georgia Southern “was by far the best experience and I wouldn’t trade it to go to any other school. GSU is a fast growing school, but you wouldn’t know it by the small feel of the campus and classes, and you can’t find the football game experience anywhere else like at Georgia Southern.”
Both Marc and Erin credit their experiences at the University for helping with their new careers, making lifelong friends and receiving a quality education.
“I think my education from Georgia Southern was top notch. I still use what I learned in my current job,” said Erin, who is a student nurse extern at Wellstar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta, Ga. “I also feel like I was so involved when I was at Georgia Southern and it has allowed me to have an ease with balancing tasks in everyday life now.”
While at Georgia Southern, Erin stayed involved with the athletic training program and was a student athletics trainer with the volleyball, softball and football teams. She was involved with Campus Recreation and Intramurals (CRI) and the Recreation Activities Center (RAC). Some of Erin’s best memories, though, were during her time as a SOAR leader during the summer of 2005.
“I made lifelong friends that summer and still keep in touch with them,” she said. “SOAR taught me so much about Georgia Southern history, present and future. That was when I really fell in love with Georgia Southern.”
Marc credits his involvement in the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Georgia Southern chapter with his current role as a project engineer at the civil engineering company Paulson Mitchell Inc. in Roswell, Ga.
“Being a part of ASCE definitely helped me because it was a good way to teach me leadership that I used later on in my career where I helped coordinate projects and worked with city and county officials,” Marc said. “It also helped me by giving me connections within the engineering field when I began looking for my current job.”
Memories at Paulson Stadium are some that Marc will cherish forever.
“I had a group of friends that would all get together and tailgate before the games, and sit in the same seats every game, which we still do to this day and I’m looking forward to the season coming up,” he said.
And just what does the University mean to the Snyders?
“Georgia Southern means walking on Sweetheart Circle in the summer with Marc, working in the athletic training room with all the student athletes in Hanner Fieldhouse, working out at the RAC and seeing all your friends,” Erin said. “It means scorekeeping flag football games at the intramural fields and watching your friends play, going to football games to cheer on the greatest team on earth and teaching all of the freshman why Georgia Southern is the greatest time of your life at SOAR.”
“From the beautiful campus and small classrooms to the fun and huge football game days, Georgia Southern is an incredible place to be,” Marc added. “GATA EAGLES!”
Not only is Maj. Gen. Leslie “Les” Smith (’85) Army Strong, he also has a Red, White and True Blue spirit that he has carried proudly since his time as a student at Georgia Southern University.
As a student, Smith was actively involved in the ROTC and was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity. He received his commission in 1983 as a Field Artillery Officer, and in 1985 was selected as a distinguished military graduate and branched as a Chemical Officer.
“The entire Georgia Southern experience helped me to see something broader than myself,” Smith said. “Being from Atlanta, I think the courtesies, customs and traditions that we learned at home were reinforced in college and still used today. I learned how to build coalitions with people I did not know, understand cultures and traditions that I had no appreciation for and basically spread my wings and fly.”
Smith is now the commanding general for the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., that trains between 80,000 and 90,000 soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen in in Engineer, Military Police and Chemical military occupational specialties. In addition, the Army base also trains the largest contingent of motor transport operators from across all military services, has the largest noncommissioned officer training academy and is home to the Army’s only live chemical agent training facility.
Smith also met his wife of 25 years, Vanedra, at Georgia Southern. The first time he saw her in the student center before a Kappa Alpha Psi party is perhaps one of his favorite memories during his time as a student, he said. But Smith is also thankful for the preparation he gained for his future at the University.
“I think that everything you do prepares you for what you will do next, even if you do not know what that next step is yet. For example, we had ROTC instructors who helped prepare us for an Army that we were not yet part of, but they knew what we were going to face in the future,” Smith said. “GSU played a significant role in the life that Vanedra and I have today. It helped us find our way and set us on a path to the blessings we enjoy today, and has no doubt prepared us for those we cannot see in the future.”
The major general said it is important for him to try to visit Georgia Southern each year to talk with the ROTC students and leadership of the University.
“Basically, we have to take the time to invest in those who took the time to invest in us. If you step back and look at the blessings that you receive, you must know that we have the same responsibility to bless others,” Smith said.
While Smith began his journey as an Eagle when the University was home to only about 7,000 students, he still believes Georgia Southern is an ideal place to get an education. “If you are looking for a complete education with a small-town feel pick Southern,” he said. “There is something about learning how to treat others with dignity and respect, dealing with people who think differently than you to accomplish a stated goal and yet still have lots of fun.”
And despite future growth, Smith said it is important not to forget the University’s beginnings.
“It is important that people understand and appreciate what they have in Georgia Southern. It is not every day that you have a large university with a small-town family feel,” he said. “It is critical, regardless of how large we grow, that we do not forget that. Southern Pride and Southern Style are more than words, it is a way of life. EAGLES SOAR not squawk on the ground!”