Writer: Staff Reports
Greg Wilson, an assistant director at the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government, was awarded a 2023 Walter Barnard Hill Award for Distinguished Achievement at the 32nd annual Public Service and Outreach Meeting and Awards Luncheon. Wilson received the award as a part of UGA’s Honors Week, an annual tradition dating back to the 1930s designed to recognize outstanding members of the university community.
The Hill Award recognizes faculty and service professionals for their outstanding contributions to the improvement of the quality of life in Georgia. Wilson, the state’s leading expert in economic and workforce development, leads a team of committed faculty and staff who provide workforce development, economic analysis and applied demographic projects to governments and organizations around the state.
Photo: (L-R) Jennifer L. Frum, Vice President for University of Georgia Public Service and Outreach; Jere W. Morehead, President for University of Georgia; Greg Wilson, Assistant Director for University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government; Rob Gordon, Director for University of Georgia Carl Vinson Institute of Government; S. Jack Hu, Senior Vice President for University of Georgia Academic Affairs and Provost (Photo courtesy Shannah Montgomery)
A Georgia native and UGA graduate, Wilson started his career in Washington D.C. He said he later answered the call to return to Athens and knew soon after he began working for the Institute of Government that he’d found his home.
“Even in my first project at the Institute of Government, I could point to lives that were affected, policies that were changed, and communities that were strengthened because of our work,” Wilson said.
Under his leadership, the Institute of Government’s workforce development portfolio has grown exponentially. Wilson was hired in 2014 to work primarily on fiscal analysis, but after his first workforce development project with the Governor’s Office, he was determined to continue pursuing community-based workforce development projects.
Wilson explained, “It’s been really fun to build something and see it go from one-person part-time to a sustained area of work. But it’s proven to be crucial for the state. Right now, our team is in a really good position to help our state partners and communities address workforce needs.”
Wilson manages the institute’s Workforce Development and Economic Analysis Unit, which handles research and strategy projects worth nearly $1.3 million per year. He has led 45 projects totaling more than $3.3 million in external funding in his time at the institute.
In 2022, Wilson launched the Planning Rural Opportunities for Prosperity and Economic Leadership (PROPEL) program to support workforce and economic development projects in rural communities around Georgia. The program recently brought together all eight of its original counties for a one-year progress check and announced three additional areas joining the program in 2023.
“We’ve seen some incredible growth in those communities.” Wilson explained “And the data bears out what we already knew, which is that our model works and it’s having a significant impact in these communities.”
Since the development of PROPEL, Wilson has secured nearly $500,000 in USDA Rural Development awards and a $250,000 gift from the UGA Foundation that was used in part to create the PROPEL Rural Scholars program.
Former partners have been enthusiastic about Wilson and his work.
“There are many definitions of leadership,” said Barbara Rivera Holmes, president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the University of System of Georgia Board of Regents. “But at its core, leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust. Trust in competency and trust in character. Greg inspires this trust and provides this leadership.”
“I’ve had a lot of great leaders that have invested in me and mentored me, and I hope to be that for my team,” Wilson said. “I know we can have a greater impact if I build up and encourage others around me.”
At the moment, Wilson and his team are working on multiple workforce and economic development projects around the state, including partnerships with the Georgia Department of Economic Development and the Georgia Department of Education’s Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) division. The ultimate goal in these projects is to facilitate cross-boundary collaboration to cultivate workforce development and economic success.
The Hill Award is named in honor of Chancellor Walter Barnard Hill, who led UGA from 1899 until his death in 1905 and first articulated the university’s modern public service and outreach mission. Hill Award winners receive a medallion and a framed certificate and become eligible for the Walter Barnard Hill Fellow Award, UGA’s highest award in public service and outreach.
View more information about PSO’s amazing award winners and their unique work.