AJC On Campus: Georgia Tech honors CNN anchor, Iceman scholar to speak

A roundup of news and happenings from Georgia colleges and universities
A reconstruction of Ötzi the Iceman, who lived between 3350 and 3105 B.C. (Photo Credit: University of West Georgia.)

Credit: University of West Georgia

Credit: University of West Georgia

A reconstruction of Ötzi the Iceman, who lived between 3350 and 3105 B.C. (Photo Credit: University of West Georgia.)

Georgia Tech is giving CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour a prestigious award, a homecoming of sorts for the international reporter whose career began in Atlanta.

In this edition of AJC On Campus, we also introduce you to an Iceman scholar from Italy, an interim college president returning from Pennsylvania and a Truman Scholar from Georgia College & State University.

Georgia Tech award

Christiane Amanpour accepts a Peabody Award on behalf of CNN for the news network's documentary series "God's Warriors." The Peabody Awards are administered by the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. (MCT)

Credit: MCT

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Credit: MCT

Christiane Amanpour, CNN’s chief international anchor, is the recipient of this year’s Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage.

The annual award bestowed by Georgia Tech recognizes those “who bravely act to improve the human condition, often in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges.” The honor is named after a former Atlanta mayor, Ivan Allen Jr.

The school will host an event Monday to recognize the journalist.

Amanpour spent the first few years of her CNN career in Atlanta, where she started as an assistant on the international assignment desk, and left Atlanta in 1987.

“This is an extraordinary honor for me — especially receiving an award named for the mayor of the city where I began my career,” she said in a written statement.

She covered the Gulf War, the trial of Saddam Hussein, the Bosnian war and other conflicts as well as disasters, including the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2004 tsunami in southeast Asia.

“Christiane Amanpour has risked her life in the relentless pursuit of the truth. She is renowned for her tenacity in holding the powerful accountable, and for her bravery in exposing the human toll of international conflicts and crises,” said Georgia Tech President Ángel Cabrera, in a written statement.

The prize, first awarded a dozen years ago, comes with a $100,000 stipend to the winner or to a nonprofit in their honor. It’s funded by a grant from the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation.

Recent winners include Dr. Anthony Fauci in 2021.

Atlanta’s Black student loan borrowers

A new report found that metro Atlanta’s majority-Black neighborhoods have seen student loan debt grow disproportionately in recent years.

The findings, released recently by the nonprofit Student Borrower Protection Center, use consumer credit data to examine student debt across metro Atlanta.

From 2010 to 2020, when the federal government paused student loan repayments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, debt levels rose nationally and in the Atlanta area.

The study also found higher average student loan balances in Atlanta’s predominantly Black neighborhoods compared to largely white areas. The average student debt in largely Black areas in 2018 was nearly $7,000 more than that of majority-white neighborhoods. In 2010, the difference was roughly $1,500.

“What we really see is specifically this really affecting Black student loan borrowers, Black households and Black communities,” said Kat Welbeck, the center’s director of advocacy and civil rights counsel, in a Thursday call with reporters.

Welbeck said the reasons for rising levels of student debt include a decline in public investments in higher education in recent years, which shifted payments for college more to families. The shift, Welbeck said, impacted Black households and Black families who, in general, have less familial wealth to contribute to their education.

She added that the debt burden cuts into the ability of Black families to build wealth.

“Black students, in the case of this research, are more likely to take out loans, borrow in higher amounts and so leave school with more debt,” Welbeck said.

The center is pushing to enact President Joe Biden’s widespread student loan forgiveness plan, which would cancel to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for borrowers who make less than $125,000 a year. Pell Grant recipients could get up to $20,000 in debt forgiveness, according to the plan announced in August.

That federal loan forgiveness program, estimated to cost roughly $400 billion, is on hold as the U.S. Supreme Court considers legal challenges, including objections from Republican-led states that contend Biden has overstepped his authority.

The court is expected to rule by June.

In the meantime, federal student loan repayments, paused for most borrowers since March 2020, remain on hold. The U.S. Department of Education has said that borrowers must restart payments 60 days after the agency is allowed to implement Biden’s debt relief plan or the legal cases are resolved.

The Biden administration has said just over 1 million Georgians applied or were automatically eligible for debt help before the court halted the program.

The center’s study also identified the Atlanta-area neighborhoods that stand to receive the most help should Biden’s forgiveness plan proceed.

The metro Atlanta ZIP code with the highest pending student debt relief includes portions of College Park, East Point, South Fulton, Union City and Williamsburg Park. In that area, where 92% of residents are Black, the pending amount of student debt relief is estimated to top $162 million, according to the report.

The center’s full report is published on its website.

Georgia College’s first Truman Scholar

Colin Hall has been named a Truman Scholar, the first student from Georgia College & State University to receive the award. (Courtesy of Georgia College & State University)

Credit: Georgia College & State University

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Credit: Georgia College & State University

Georgia College & State University announced one of its students has been named a Truman Scholar for the first time in the school’s history.

Political science major Colin Hall, of Jones County, is also the only student in Georgia to receive the honor this year. The award is named for former President Harry S. Truman and recognizes college juniors for their leadership, public service and academics.

This year, there are 62 Truman Scholars, who were chosen from more than 700 applicants.

Ötzi the Iceman

A reconstruction of Ötzi the Iceman, who lived between 3350 and 3105 B.C. (Courtesy of University of West Georgia)

Credit: University of West Georgia

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Credit: University of West Georgia

The iceman cometh.

Well, an expert on the topic is coming to a local university.

The University of West Georgia will welcome a noted scholar to discuss research on Ötzi, whose 5,000-year-old mummified remains were found 30 years ago in the Alps.

Albert Zink, who leads the Institute for Mummy Studies in Bozen, Italy, will speak at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Townsend Center for the Performing Arts in Carrollton. The lecture is part of the anthropology program’s annual Distinguished Waring Lecture Series.

The event is free and open to the public. Tickets can be preordered online.

Gordon State’s interim president

Donald J. Green will serve as interim president at Gordon State College. (Courtesy of University System of Georgia)

Credit: University System of Georgia

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Credit: University System of Georgia

After a brief stint leading a Pennsylvania university, a former Georgia college president is returning to helm another Peach State school.

Donald J. Green will serve as interim president of Gordon State College.

The University System of Georgia said his appointment will be effective May 20. Gordon State’s current president, Kirk Nooks, announced several weeks ago he’s leaving to become the president and CEO of the Council on Occupational Education in Atlanta.

Green spent about seven years as president of Georgia Highlands College before leaving in 2021 to become president of Point Park University in Pittsburgh. After about a year and a half on the job, Green abruptly announced he was resigning his Pennsylvania post. In a statement issued Jan. 20, Point Park said Green left “for private, personal and family reasons.”

The University System’s chancellor, Sonny Perdue, cited Green’s past work at Georgia Highlands, saying that he “excelled at prioritizing student success.”

“Those are the very things that will help Gordon State continue to serve its community and the students and families who depend on it,” Perdue said in a written statement. “We thank Dr. Nooks for his service and are glad to welcome Don back into the USG family.”

Nooks became Gordon State’s president in 2018. The college enrolled 3,144 students as of last fall.

Spelman College grant

Spelman College received a $5 million grant to create a new cyber policy program.

The historically Black women’s college in Atlanta is one of four schools to receive funding from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. It’s part of the foundation’s effort to respond to cyberspace and security issues ranging from encryption policies to ransomware attacks.

Spelman said its political science department and its computer and information sciences department will partner to create an interdisciplinary program.

Students will be able to earn a minor in cybersecurity policy, and the school said the grant will help increase the number of Black women working in cyber fields. The college also plans to host an annual speaker series on the topic.

If you have any higher education tips or thoughts, email reporter Vanessa McCray at vanessa.mccray@ajc.com.