You are here

Today@YHC October 2011

Alumni Spotlight: Julie Johnston Tepp


Ali Neese, senior
Communications and Marketing Intern

Julie Johnston Tepp, ’87, first heard about Young Harris College in 1985 when one of her good friends attended soccer tryouts at YHC and spoke highly of the experience she had on campus. Tepp and her twin brother, Matt, ’87, who had already made a pact to attend college together, decided to check out the small college in the North Georgia mountains.

“We were sold when we heard kayaking and camping were a major part of student life,” said Tepp, who was also attracted to the College’s small size and intimate setting. “I loved the idea that it was small, but didn’t fully understand its impact until I became a student.” 

According to Tepp, “YHC’s faculty is its wealth,” and the day-to-day exchanges she had with her professors proved to be some of the most meaningful moments she experienced at the College. One faculty member that made a positive impact on Tepp’s life was John Kay, D.Min., ’56, emeritus professor of religion and philosophy, who always communicated to her that she could succeed.

“Dr. Kay was my academic advisor and, trust me, he earned every penny he made that year,” Tepp joked. “I do not know a person of finer character. He always believed in me and told me ‘You can do this.’”

Tepp also recalls an instance when she was struggling with her history coursework and her professor James Hale, Ed.D., emeritus professor of history and psychology, called his wife and told her to add a pork chop to the grill because he was bringing a student home for dinner.

“It was with his family, breaking bread, that I finally grasped the French Revolution. You just don’t hear stories like that at other schools,” Tepp said. “Not only was he willing to give up his evening, but his wife was, too. It just seemed understood between them that YHC is what their lives were dedicated to.”  

Along with a positive experience in the classroom, Tepp made a group of friends at YHC that remained close long after graduation. When Tepp’s brother, Matt, tragically passed away in an accident in 1993, it was these friends who became her constant support system.

“My YHC friends carried me through the darkest hours of my life. One of them in particular called me every morning for an entire year just to make sure I got out of bed each day,” Tepp recalled. “The friends I made those two years have meant more to me than words can say. I am so grateful to have been part of such a wonderfully loving place.”

Tepp and her friends still make time to see each other every year. “We make an annual trek to the beach, and Alumni Weekend has always been a priority for us,” she said. “We still laugh just as hard at the same old stories we retell each time we are together.”

Today, Tepp is married to Tracy, who she refers to as a “fabulous soul,” and together they have two children, Lillian, 4, and Riley Reese, 2. Along with spending time outdoors with their kids, the Tepps enjoy being active members of Smyrna First United Methodist Church.

The couple founded and run the Atlanta Arts Festival, an art and music celebration that takes place in Piedmont Park each fall. The goal of the annual event is to add to the community’s cultural life by producing a quality fine art and fine craft festival.

Tepp is no stranger to event production. She served as the event manager for the Atlanta Dogwood Festival from 1997 through 2006. During her time there, the festival earned many awards and national rankings, including being named one of the top shows in the country by Sunshine Artist Magazine. Along with consulting for other local and regional festivals, Tepp is also a certified festivals and events executive (CFEE).

“My personal experiences from YHC have proved to be invaluable to me during the last 25 years. It was confidence instilled by a loving faculty that helped prepare me for the work I do today,” Tepp said. “Working with hundreds of volunteers requires one to give the benefit of the doubt to everyone and to believe in people.  I find that when this philosophy is applied, people exceed your expectations.”

Along with giving back to the greater community through the Atlanta Arts Festival, Tepp has also remained a strong member of the YHC community by serving on the YHC Alumni Association Board and the Byron Herbert Reece Society Board of Directors. 

“I feel it is vitally important to stay connected to the school itself,” Tepp said. “My hope is that 25 years from now, my service and support of the College will have made a difference by helping someone else to be so fortunate as me—someone who can say they are a former student of Young Harris College.”

5 Questions for… Rob Dussler

Young Harris College Outdoor Leadership Department Chair and Instructor of Outdoor Leadership Rob Dussler moved to Georgia in 1992 from his hometown of Houston, Texas, and instantly fell in love with the state’s mountains and streams. He eventually made his way to the Enchanted Valley and has spent the last eight years guiding the development of the College’s outdoor leadership program—one of 15 baccalaureate degrees now offered to YHC students. Find out about the exciting journey Dussler embarked on while building this unique program—and the adventures he has had along the way while exploring the great outdoors surrounding YHC.

What are you up to these days?

I’ve never been busier! First and foremost, my wife and I are trying to keep up with our beautifully busy children Gus, 5, and Tillie, 3. At YHC, my colleagues and I are working diligently to get our first group of outdoor leadership seniors through the program of study and into their professional careers.  I am in my fourth year of doctoral studies at the University of Georgia. I am studying the decision-making processes of outdoor leaders in whitewater kayaking accidents. When I have a spare moment, I love to tend to my beehives.

What brought you to YHC, how has your role at the College evolved over the years and what is it about the College that made you want to serve on the faculty for eight years and counting?

When I interviewed at Young Harris College nearly 10 years ago, I was immediately captivated by the genuine kindness that everyone extended to me during my visit. I instantly felt connected to the community and was intrigued by the enthusiasm of the students. I felt like I could make a difference here. My job description at the start included duties as a resident director, intramural director and director of outdoor recreation. All of these roles ultimately helped me really get to know the students and learn about their life goals and interests. The College had an outings club at the time called Quantrek. My charge was to further develop and formalize outdoor recreation opportunities at the College. The interest and involvement in the outdoor program grew quickly and students began to inquire about academic opportunities in outdoor education. I proposed several courses, which eventually grew into an associate degree in outdoor education. As the academic program continued to grow and develop along with the movement to become a baccalaureate degree-granting institution, I proposed creating a bachelor’s degree in outdoor education, which was later renamed to outdoor leadership, and my role switched to a full-time faculty engagement. However, our program is still committed to providing outdoor recreational programs for non-majors while also providing leadership opportunities for students majoring in outdoor leadership. It has been very rewarding to watch students develop their passions and life goals in the program and get excited about their life at YHC and beyond. I feel extremely grateful to be a part of an institution that is highly innovative and evolving at such an exciting pace. It is truly an adventure.

What are some of your fondest memories of your time working at the College?

Many of my fondest memories at YHC have happened outside of the formal classroom setting. As students become interested and technically proficient in a variety of outdoor pursuits, it is not uncommon for them to come into my office and ask me if I want to go with them on some of their outdoor adventures. I like to take these students to some new places that they may not have experienced before. I’ll never forget the students’ smiles when they encounter the Chattooga River for the first time. To be in such a wondrous place with a student or group of students, sharing in exploration and adventure—it is a truly powerful experience. These students stay in touch after they leave YHC and we often recall these times with great fondness.

Many alumni enjoyed spending time outdoors as students at YHC but didn’t have the opportunity to take advantage of the exciting outdoor leadership degree program. What was it like creating this major and what are your plans for the future of outdoor leadership at YHC?

Starting the program involved a lot of faith for me. Frankly, I did not envision that the program would be where it is today when I started to put things together years ago. What I did know was that many of the most transformative experiences I have had in my life occurred while adventuring in the outdoors with others. I received immediate feedback from the first programs I ran here that students were looking for opportunities to be outside, to discover and further define who they are. I had to convince the administration of the viability of the program as an academic endeavor. In essence, I had to define who I was, why I was here and what exactly I planned to do. I feel that the outdoor leadership program asks the same questions of our students. The outdoor pursuits—kayaking, rock climbing, backpacking, challenge courses and so on—are really just the vehicles that provide students with opportunities for discovering themselves, others and the world around them. I believe students in the program are asked to know themselves at deeper levels, to develop and defend their convictions and to go forth in life with a desire to be transformative individuals and leaders. Moving forward, my hope is to begin venturing outside of the southeastern United States, to earn program accreditation, to increase our presence in the scholarly communities of our field and to become even more of a destination for study in outdoor leadership than we are now.

There are so many amazing places to spend time outdoors in the Young Harris area. What are some of your favorite spots in this region and why?

One of my favorites is right here in our backyard: the hike to Brasstown Bald on the Old Wagon Trail. I would say that the section of the Appalachian Trail from Deep Gap to Mount Albert presents some of the most varied terrain and remarkable views of any portion of the AT in Georgia and North Carolina. You can’t beat kayaking or canoeing on the crown jewel of southeastern rivers, the Chattooga. The rappel at Pickens Nose cannot be missed! As for fly fishing… well, let’s just say the opportunities are plentiful but I’m not going to tell you about my secret spots. You’ll have to discover your own.

When my daughter, Grier, ’08, was selecting a college four years ago, I was reluctant to encourage Young Harris College for fear that it would not hold the same magic today that it did for me 40 years ago. When she graduated from YHC, which is also the alma mater of four members of my family, I read one of her posts on Facebook: “Oh, how I will miss these mountains.” I knew then that the magic had indeed happened for my daughter as it had for my sisters and me many years ago.  

Young Harris was not my first college choice. An essay contest and the elegant Dr. Douglas Sasser led me to the decision that this could be my home for a while. For that, I thanked him and held him in the highest esteem for the rest of his life. Because of him, I had found a home.

As a student, I didn’t realize that YHC was academically demanding because the professors took great interest in us and a work ethic was created to make them proud. I also did not realize it was a place that elevated our self-image because we had positive feelings and were fed positive feelings from and for nearly everyone we met.

I was never afraid to walk to my dorm or the library or Cupid Falls because we were in a protective and caring environment that made us feel safe—like we were somebody and could be somebody. I also did not realize at the time that my religion was in a minority because it was always easy to feel God there on campus.

YHC was a pinnacle in many of our lives. This was affirmed for me when I had my 40th reunion this year.  Like many of us, I had lost touch with Young Harris for several years. (Career, family, friends and babies will do that!) Perhaps I felt my image of that time in my life had been idealistic and certainly not as perfect as I remembered. But by reconnecting to former classmates, we all learned from each other that we had definitely been a part of something memorable. On the day of my reunion, one classmate said we felt a belonging to each other now, no matter what our relationship was while we were in school together. Forty years later, we are a family forever bonded by a common love for a place and the people with whom we shared it.

So thank you Young Harris College for the poise and polish of Mrs. Clegg, the heart of Reverend Kay, the humor and love of students shown by O.V. Lewis, Todd Kinsey and Dr. Dotson, the passion for the arts shown by the Sellers and the Foxes, the lasting concerns shown by Billye Jones, Mrs. Moore, Dr. Farley and so many others. Thank you for the influences that would feed us for the rest of our lives.  

On my daughter’s face is a never-ending smile.  I know it well because I wore it when I lived in the north Georgia mountains.  I am so thankful for the role that YHC has played in placing that smile there—no greater gift could any parent want.

All my best,

Ramona Joseph Fricks, ’71

YHC Student Homecoming Committee Plans Week of Exciting Events

A committee comprised of 14 Young Harris College students representing Greek organizations, the Campus Activities Board (CAB), Student Government Association and residential and commuter students, are planning an exciting week of activities for Homecoming 2011. The all-new event, which will be held Friday-Saturday, Nov. 11-12, will be presented in collaboration with the offices of Student Development and Alumni Services and the Department of Athletics.

“I wanted to be on the Homecoming student committee because I was excited to have a traditional Homecoming that allows students and alumni to interact and also boosts school spirit,” said Lacey Cosper, a junior allied health major from Eatonton. “I am looking forward to having a week of fun activities that gets everyone involved and allows students to have a really enjoyable and memorable week.”

Throughout the week, student organizations will compete to earn the title of first-ever Homecoming Week Champions by participating in a variety of challenges. Events include a contest to display signs on the YHC Lawn that best demonstrate the Homecoming theme “Mountain Lion pride,” a trivia game and a lip sync challenge. The organizations will also take part in a car-decorating competition and a challenge to create “spirit signs” that will be displayed in the YHC Arena during the basketball games on Saturday, Nov. 12.

Organizations will be awarded points for attendance at these competitions as well as other events throughout the week, including a block party and announcement of the Homecoming Court, CAB’s Coffeehouse, and the women’s soccer game on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. Students will also be encouraged to attend a casino night hosted by CAB on Saturday evening.

The Homecoming weekend will kick off with a student-led pep rally and bonfire on Friday night and will continue on Saturday with a parade at 10 a.m. that is open to the public and will feature cars decorated by students participating in the Homecoming Week challenge.

In addition, the Office of Alumni Services will host a celebratory pre-game picnic for alumni, while the Office of Campus Activities will host tailgating festivities prior to the basketball games in the YHC Recreation and Fitness Center. The women’s basketball team will take on Reinhardt University on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 2 p.m. and the men’s basketball team will play Bryan College at 4 p.m.

The Homecoming Week Champions and spirit sign competition winners will be announced during the games, and the Homecoming Queen and King will be crowned. In addition, the Office of Alumni Services will host a special reception for all former basketball alumni, and an Alumni Spirit Challenge will also be held during the basketball games.

“Homecoming is a special time for any school, but it's particularly exciting right now for Young Harris College,” said Homecoming student committee member James Dalton, a senior biology major from Augusta. “This first-ever fall Homecoming will give the College a chance to showcase an active campus while also letting alumni witness all the growth that Young Harris has undergone during the last several years.”

Office of Religious Life Hosts Annual Spiritual Life Retreat


Ali Neese, senior
Communications and Marketing Intern

The Office of Religious Life and the Inter-Religious Council sponsored the annual Spiritual Life Retreat (SLR) at Camp Glisson in Dahlonega, Sept. 9-11. The retreat was attended by 85 Young Harris College students, as well as several faculty and staff members.

The theme for the weekend event, “Unity,” was discussed in nine large and small group sessions designed to strengthen and challenge students’ faith in God. According to Campus Minister and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Rev. Dr. Tim Moore, the theme was selected as an extension of the Office of Religious Life’s theme of “One” for this academic year that promotes togetherness within the YHC community.

“The most memorable moments during the weekend were the ones when students took time to care for each other, pray for each other and support one another. This type of generosity of spirit builds a community of faithful students, faculty and staff willing to risk life and faith together,” Dr. Moore said. “It is only within such a community defined by supportive care that vulnerability may be experienced, and, in my estimation, vulnerability is an essential component to authentic growth in faith.”

The weekend began on Friday evening with a large group session that introduced the theme and allowed students to get to know one another, followed by a scavenger hunt that revealed the students’ small group leaders. The night concluded with a worship session in Camp Glisson’s lakeside amphitheater and the traditional late-night run to Waffle House.

On Saturday, the group enjoyed a chilly creek walk to Camp Glisson’s waterfall and each person had the opportunity to take a turn down the zip line or climb the rock wall. That evening, the “tacky prom” dance, a tradition in which participants are encouraged to forgo style and dress in their most zany outfits, was followed by a time of teaching and worship for the entire group.

“Before coming to the retreat, I was a little apprehensive because I didn’t know what to expect,” said Mary Elizabeth Maxwell, a junior biology major from Carrollton and first-time SLR participant. “It ended up being the most amazing worship-filled trip that I have ever been on. It was so much better than I expected.”

Returning SLR attendee Jessie Robinette, a sophomore early childhood education major from Madison, was “excited and honored” when asked to serve as a small group leader for the event.

“By leading my small group, I learned that I am able to take on bigger leadership roles,” Robinette said. “My favorite part of SLR was definitely the fellowship with my classmates. Having two straight days of pure worship and fellowship was amazing.”

The Spiritual Life Retreat is one of many events hosted by the Office of Religious Life this semester that allow students to experience fellowship and grow in faith. On Thursday, Oct. 13, Dr. Moore will lead a trip for students exploring calls to ministry; a summer ministry jobs fair will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 16; and a special Thanksgiving celebration will take place on Sunday, Nov. 20. For more information about these events, contact Dr. Moore at (706) 379-5166 or

To stay connected, follow the Office of Religious Life on Twitter at

Click here to view more photos of the 2011 Spiritual Life Retreat.

Megan Powell, a junior communication studies major from Cleveland, Ga., Erica Neese, a sophomore religious studies major from Marietta, and Sarah Deese, a junior communication studies major from Roswell, attended the annual Spiritual Life Retreat.

On Saturday, the group took the traditional creek walk to the waterfall at Camp Glisson.

Faculty Notables

Assistant Professor of English Dr. Jim Bishop presented a paper, titled “The Big Kill: Transatlantic Influences in Southern Frontier Humor,” at the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment conference in Bloomington, Ind., June 25.

YHC President Cathy Cox served as the keynote speaker for the University of Georgia Alumni Association’s inaugural “40 Under 40” awards luncheon for up-and-coming leaders held in Atlanta, Sept. 15. President Cox also spoke to the Sunrise Rotary Club about the YHC transformation to four-year status at the invitation of YHC alumnus Bud Clegg, ’55, in Dahlonega, Sept. 8.

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Dr. Eric Dickman facilitated a discussion panel between sophomore history major Alyssa Lowery, of Conyers, Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Jennifer Schroeder, and Vice President for Planning and Assessment, Chief of Staff and Instructor of English Rosemary Royston, ’89, titled “Does higher education enhance or undermine our personal religious commitments?” at the inaugural meeting for SIGHT (Seekers' Interfaith Group for Honoring Thought), Aug. 23. Dr. Dickman also recently reviewed numerous articles for two prestigious philosophy and religion journals, Erkenntis: An International Journal of Scientific Philosophy and Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy of Religion, Metaphysical Theology and Ethics. He submitted a manuscript to the journal Literature and Theology titled “The Questions of Jesus: Human or Divine?” that he presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in November 2010. Dr. Dickman also presented a paper, titled “Faith or Friendship: On Integrating Possibilities for Self-Realization in Kierkegaard and Aristotle,” at the 6th Annual Conference of Religion, Literature and the Arts held at The University of Iowa, Aug. 26-28.

In June 2011, Dr. Joy Goldsmith, communication studies department chair and associate professor of communication studies, signed a contract with Brazos Press, a division of Baker Publishing, to coauthor the book Speaking of Dying: Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death.Coauthors include Dr. Fred Craddock, who spoke at YHC’s first Baccalaureate Service in May, and Dr. Goldsmith’s father, Dr. Dale Goldsmith, an independent scholar and retired faculty and academic vice president at McPherson College and Oklahoma Panhandle State University. The manuscript, which has been in process for three years, is expected to be included in the summer 2012 catalog. Dr. Goldsmith’s coauthored research, titled “The COMFORT Initiative: Palliative Nursing and the Centrality of Nursing,” was included in presentations at a summit co-hosted by the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Nursing Research in Bethesda, Md., Aug. 11. Two of Dr. Goldsmith’s research projects, titled “The Impact of Family Communication Patterns on Hospice Caregivers” and “Palliative Care and Hospice Nurses as PhotoVoice Researchers,” have been accepted for the International Conference on Communication in Healthcare meeting in Chicago, Ill., Oct. 16-19.

An essay by Dr. Steve Harvey, titled “Blood Mountain,” first published in Ascent, was recognized as one of the Notable Essays of 2010 in Best American Essays. A remembrance written by Dr. Harvey in honor of mountain fiddler J. P. Fraley is featured in a recent edition of Sing Out.

Instructor of Religion Adam Neal graduated summa cum laude from Liberty University with his second master’s degree, a master of arts in theological studies.

Adjunct Instructor of History Kyle Owenby will present a lecture, titled “The Coming of Churches to the Mountains in the 1800s,” at the Union County Courthouse in Blairsville, Oct. 4. The lecture will discuss how various Protestant groups who were heirs to Luther’s Reformation established themselves in the north Georgia Mountains.

Foreign Language Department Chair and Associate Professor of Spanish Dr. Diana Santiago co-presented a session, titled “Study Abroad and Developing Global Citizens,” at the Harlaxton Conference for Partner Colleges and Universities in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, June 28-30. Dr. Santiago also received a contract for her second book, titled Voz narrativa e ironia en la obra de Juan Garcia Hortelano, in Madrid, Spain, that is scheduled to be released in winter 2012.

Assistant Professor of History Dr. Natalia Starostina will present a paper, titled “Making a Ski Resort Chamonix and Reinventing a New Woman in Post-1918 France,” at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Convention in Atlanta, Nov. 4. At the same panel, her advisee and senior history major Connie Wallace, of Hiawassee, will make a presentation, titled “French Women on Citizenship and Equality in the Epoch of French Revolution,” that is based on a paper written for Dr. Starostina’s “Modern France” course.

History Department Chair and Associate Professor of History Dr. Thomas Stearns will present a paper, titled “Adaptation Ideal:  Aldous Huxley’s Edgy Pride and Prejudice Script of 1940,” at the national conference of the Literature and Film Association (LFA) in New Britain, Conn., Oct. 12-14. This is his second paper that will be presented before the LFA, an organization that includes both national and international film scholars.