April 10, 2024 | Spotlight

Six Institute of Government Student Employees Honored as Top 100 UGA Student Employees

Six Institute of Government student employees have been named as top 100 UGA Student Employee of the Year honorees. Carl Vinson Institute of Government honorees include: Disha Adama, Hannah Brown, Hayat Abdulla Asad Cue, Kailani Restrepo, Micah Shannon and Garrison Taylor.

Writer: Staff Reports

Two Institute of Government student employees were named as UGA Student Employees of the Year. Garrison Taylor, a graduate research assistant with the Infrastructure and Community Resilience division, was awarded Graduate Student Employee of the Year, and Hannah Brown received runner-up for the Undergraduate Student Employee of the Year Award. An additional four students from the Institute of Government were recognized as Top 100 UGA Student Employees of the Year honorees: Disha Adama, Hayat Abdulla Asad Cue, Kailani Restrepo and Micah Shannon. 

Hayat Abdulla Asad Cue is a second-year graduate student in electrical and computer engineering. She joined the CyberArch program in spring 2022 and now works as the program’s graduate assistant. Abdulla has identified opportunities for grant funding and is leading an initiative to expand the UGA CyberArch Academy. The CyberArch program launched the UGA CyberArch Academy in Fall 2023 with the goal of training prospective interns in the basics of cybersecurity. Abdulla felt that the academy could be expanded to include cybersecurity training for high school and middle school students through a summer camp. She is now working with a UGA CyberArch planning team and the Georgia Center for Continuing Education & Hotel to plan a pilot summer camp program.

“Hayat Abdulla Asad Cue excels in her leadership role and exemplifies the mission of the Institute of Government to inform, inspire and innovate,” Lupo said. “She continues to inspire, mentor, and guide new interns in the program, cultivates an environment for research and is a model for others to emulate.” 

Disha Adama is a fourth-year student at the Terry College of Business, pursuing a major in Management Information Systems with an emphasis in informational security, a minor in Law, Jurisprudence, and the State, and a certificate in personal and organization leadership. On top of her academic pursuits, Adama is a CyberArch Team Lead. Since joining the CyberArch Program in the fall of 2022, she has coordinated her team in conducting a cybersecurity risk review of a county K-12 school system and a large city government, including on-site visits and final recommendations.

After attending a guest lecture hosted by the CyberArch program, Adama was inspired to establish a UGA chapter of Women in Cybersecurity, a national organization focused on recruiting and advancing women in the cybersecurity field. She chartered the group in October 2023 and organized the first monthly meeting in November.

Faculty Mark Lupo, who oversees CyberArch, said, “We have a saying in the UGA CyberArch program that goes like this, ‘Leadership is never given. It’s taken.’ [Adama] took the leadership role upon her initial entry into the UGA CyberArch program and has not slowed down. She continues to inspire, mentor, and guide new interns in the program and is a model for others to emulate.”

Hannah Brown is a fourth-year student majoring in Management Information Systems and is a CyberArch Team Lead. Brown started with the CyberArch program in 2022 and immediately rose to the top of her intern class. In addition to coordinating her team in conducting cybersecurity risk reviews for county governments, Brown was one of two students selected by Google to represent UGA CyberArch in Washington, D.C., for the launch event of the Google Cybersecurity Clinic Funding initiative the summer of 2023.

Brown also led one of the key secondary projects of the UGA CyberArch program, developing a monthly webinar series focused on cybersecurity for city and county governments. She coordinated both national and statewide speakers to present at these webinars, with an average of more than 50 attendees per webinar.

Lupo noted that Brown was part of the initial CyberArch intern cohort in 2022. Her “diligence and her focused, organized approach” stood out from the beginning, Lupo said. And she continues to shine. “Brown has made a profound impact on the success of the UGA CyberArch program,” Lupo said. 

Kailani Restrepo is a fourth-year student in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, majoring in psychology with a neuroscience emphasis and a minor in Spanish. Restrepo serves as a student trainer and external presenter with the Institute of Government’s Survey Research and Evaluation Support Division. Restrepo began as a student assistant in 2022 but was quickly promoted due to her dedication, organization and commitment.

Restrepo’s proficiency with the Spanish language and leadership capability positioned her as the division’s lead translator, allowing the team to be more culturally competent and inclusive in the services they provide. Beyond direct translation of surveys, her talent for communication, creativity and cultural awareness has allowed for the development of flyers, letters, emails and other communications materials that resonate with and appeal to the Latino community. She also co-leads a course for government leaders about data storytelling and data visualization through the Institute of Government’s Georgia Data Innovation Hub.

“In the two years she has worked with us, and especially within the last year, Kailani has gone from simply assisting to being an authority within her knowledge base and leading research efforts that greatly bolster the performance of the survey team,” said Brian Simmons, Institute of Government faculty.

Micah Shannon is a third-year student pursuing majors in political science and geography with minors in public policy and law, and certificates in Geographic Information Science and Data Analytics in Public Policy. Shannon is a student assistant in the institute’s Workforce and Economic Development Division, working primarily with the applied demography unit. 

In his first 12 months, Shannon worked on projects for the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Georgia Department of Education. His work has helped improve internal data processes. He has automated tasks and built data tools that were not in place prior to his tenure, helping his team become more efficient and effective in serving partners across the state. 

“Throughout his time at the Institute of Government, Micah has been a key contributor on multiple applied research projects that help leaders in Georgia make informed decisions,” said Taylor Hafley, institute applied demographer and faculty. “In the simplest endorsement I can offer, Micah is an undergraduate student who contributes work we would expect from a staff member.”

Garrison Taylor is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Landscape Architecture. Taylor serves as a graduate research assistant with the Institute of Government’s Infrastructure and Community Resilience Division. In this position, she contributes her skills and expertise to diverse projects across the Institute of Government.

Taylor joined the Institute in 2022 as a Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fellow. The fellowship pairs graduate-level students from the College of Environment and Design with partner cities to address design challenges over a 12-week summer fellowship. During this time, she worked directly with Cornelia Community Development Director Jessie Owensby to reimagine a number of vacant and underperforming areas as opportunities to enhance downtown development and attract a signature event space. Taylor exceeded all expectations throughout the fellowship, completing all the designs requested by the city and delivering many more.

Taylor’s successful fellowship led to her position as a graduate research assistant in our community design studio. In this role, she has provided vital design support for projects across Georgia. Her work supporting the River Valley Community Compatible Development Plan provides an impactful example. Taylor’s stellar record led to a second Georgia Downtown Renaissance Fellowship in 2023 with Baxley. The Baxley fellowship emerged from the city’s participation in the PROPEL rural development program housed at the Institute of Government. Taylor once again delivered more than the Institute team and partners envisioned.

“Since joining our team in May 2022, Garrison has continually impressed peers, supervisors, and clients across the state with her creative problem solving and unwavering dedication to our community clients. Her design assistance has brought creative solutions to projects in Cornelia, Lumpkin, Baxley, Ringgold, and many more, representing millions of dollars in economic development in underserved rural communities and small towns across Georgia,” said Danny Bivins, institute faculty.