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UNG senior named as Newman Civic Fellow

March 26, 2018

University of North Georgia (UNG) senior Brittaney Dyer loved the taste of the natural spring water that supplied drinking water to her grandparents' home. She wants everyone to have the same experience of drinking water free of additives.

That led the 25-year-old criminal justice major from Blairsville, Georgia, to join Georgia Adopt-A-Stream. Every month for the past two years, Dyer has monitored the water's pH, dissolved oxygen level and conductivity for two watershed streams. She also spread awareness about the need to keep waterways clean.

"Water is vital for human life," she said. "Without it, everything goes downhill from here."

This passion led Dyer to join several other environmental organizations to make a difference. Her actions have resulted in her selection as a 2018 Newman Civic Fellow, the sixth consecutive year a UNG student has been recognized with the honor.

"I was excited and speechless," she said. "I didn't think I was going to get it, because I didn't know if I was geared toward what they were looking for in a fellow."

UNG President Dr. Bonita Jacobs nominated her.

"Brittaney's focus on commitment to the community and engagement to the environmental issues, ranging from clean water to healthy hemlock trees make her an excellent candidate for the Newman Civic Fellowship," Jacobs said.

The one-year fellowship is for community-committed college students from Campus Compact member institutions. Campus Compact is a Boston-based nonprofit working to advance the public purposes of higher education. It named 268 students to the 2018 cohort, including Dyer.

"I was humbled and honored to represent UNG at the national level," she said.

Brenda Bishop, faculty records specialist in Academic Affairs and president of the honor society Phi Kappa Phi, believes Dyer is the ideal candidate to represent UNG as the Newman Civic Fellow.

"She has devoted herself to the selfless labor of not only protecting waterways, but going to the root of the problem," Bishop said. "I see Brittaney as a citizen who uses her educational experience and community service to engage the interest of others and make changes to ensure environmental safety for future generations."

Through the fellowship, Campus Compact provides various learning and networking opportunities, including a national conference of Newman Civic Fellows. The program also provides fellows with pathways to apply for exclusive scholarship and post-graduate opportunities.

Dyer plans to use her time to network with other Newman Civic Fellows.

"Rather than a single student on one campus, we can work as a group to accomplish goals on a national level," she said.

Dyer's goals are focused on improving the community through environmental sustainability. She volunteers with Hiawassee River Watershed Coalition to ensure water quality and preserve the environmental resources that sustain the waterways in the Appalachian Mountains. She serves as a certified trained facilitator for Georgia Save the Hemlocks to educate residents about native hemlock tree care and loss mitigation.

At UNG, Dyer is seeking root causes to sustain hemlocks in north Georgia through her work with UNG's Predatory Beetle Lab by planting hemlock saplings. She is also a campus leader, serving as the student initiation officer for Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, vice president of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and president of the Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society. Through the latter, she is collaborating with an environmental organizations to sponsor the implementation of single stream recycle bins on UNG's Dahlonega Campus.

If she had her wish, she would want all colleges to have water bottle refill stations to eliminate the use of plastic water bottles.

"Drinking out of them is bad for your health," she said. "And we need to reduce the plastic water bottles in the landfill, because they do not decompose well."

Dr. Douglas Orr, assistant professor of criminal justice at UNG, explained Dyer is engaged in her project much like she is engaged in class. He said of the 30 people in his class, she is in the top three.

"And it's not just because of her academic work alone, but because she listens," said Orr, who is Dyer's mentor for the fellowship program. "There is a passion with everything she does."

Dyer's passion for sustainability will remain on UNG for some time. After her May graduation, she plans to enroll in the criminal justice master's program at UNG.

"Dr. Orr inspired me to be a teacher," she said. "His teaching style is like my first advisor, Dr. Michael Reese, who inspired me that I could achieve anything. I want to encourage others to find something they enjoy and get involved … and I can be an example of getting things done."

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