AAUW of Georgia 2023 Spring Convention
April 22, 2023

The Atlanta Branch had the privilege of being the host Branch for AAUW of Georgia’s 2023 Spring Convention on April 22, 2023.

Featured Speakers / Topics

The Immigration Conundrum –The Problem & Possible Solutions

“The Law”

Keynote Speaker: Kembra Smith, Atlanta Immigration Attorney

Ms. Smith focuses her practice on U.S. immigration and nationality law and on federal appellate practice. Ms. Smith represents foreign nationals in immigration matters before the U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Service and immigration court in seeking asylum, applying for cancellation of removal, or seeking other forms of relief before the immigration judge. She also prepares appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals and federal circuit courts, and writs of mandamus to the federal district court requesting adjudication of applications.

Ms. Smith brings over 35 years of experience in the state and federal trial and appellate courts in agency, civil, and criminal matters. She was previously employed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, and by the state of Florida.

The “Heart” of Immigration

Presenter: Grace H. Hawkins, Transit Angels

Ms. Hawkins engagement with refugees in Atlanta began when she moved to Atlanta with her husband in 2006.  She began tutoring at the International Community School in Decatur with an eye toward partial retirement.   She then became involved in the startup of the Global Village Project and – setting aside her plans for partial retirement – led that project for four years.

Now that Ms. Hawkins has retired, she has become an active member of Atlanta Transit Angels, which is a part of Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden.

Decades of congressional inaction and neglect and underfunding of the judiciary have led to the current state of paralysis at the border and chaos surrounding the flow of asylum seekers.  Transit Angels tries to ease the journey for migrants of all backgrounds with food, toiletries and small courtesies which have included shoelaces and belts for released detainees and other small comfort items.  The national network — through social media and Grannies Respond — can alert other teams along an asylum seeker’s route to expect, for example, a baby in need of medical attention (the organization has a Spanish-speaking pediatrician on call 24X7).

Ms. Hawkins is also involved with setting up a “Home Team” in partnership with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), taking advantage of a new Biden initiative to expand resettlement to private sponsors.   This “Home Team” will be comprised of six to eight people preparing the way to welcome a new family to America.  Ms. Hawkins will outline the process during her presentation and will address questions as time permits.

Public Policy Updates

2023 Legislative Session

Presenter: Senator Sally Harrell

Senator Sally Harrell was first elected to the Georgia Senate in 2018 to serve the 40th District, which includes parts of Dekalb and Gwinnett counties. Sen. Harrell is a member of the Senate Higher Education, Retirement, Government Oversight and State Institutions and Property Committees. Previously, Sen. Harrell served on the Senate Ethics and Natural Resources & the Environment Committees. A champion of women and family issues, she currently serves as the Senate co-Chair of the Georgia Women’s Legislative Caucus and Vice Chair of both the Dekalb Delegation and the Working Families Caucus. Recent legislative accomplishments include reducing the cost of higher education in Georgia, expanding the number of Georgians with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) who receive Medicaid waivers for Home & Community-Based services, and mandating Provider Rate Study Reviews for IDD service providers every four years.

Sen. Harrell was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1999 to 2005, where she was a member of the House Education, Human Relations & Aging, Children & Youth, and Appropriations Committees.

Prior to serving in the Legislature, Sen. Harrell was the Executive Director of the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia.

One Way to Avoid Run-off Elections

Presenter: Bill Bozarth, Board CFO, Better Ballot Georgia

Bill Bozarth is one of the founding members of Better Ballot Georgia, and currently serves as the board CFO. He lives in Atlanta, is retired from a long career in corporate America, and has served in various capacities of public service for the past thirty years including eight years as the Executive Director of Common Cause Georgia. Bill ran as an Independent for the Georgia House in 2014. He sees Instant Runoff Voting as the election reform that is most achievable in today’s political environment.

Presenter: Michael Corbin, Volunteer Speaker, Better Ballot Georgia

Michael Corbin is a twenty-year resident of Gwinnett County, where he lives with his wife and two children. He has an 18-year career in the communications and technology industries, currently serving as the Director of Network Integration for Granite Telecommunications. In 2022, Michael ran for U.S. Congress in GA Congressional District 7. He serves as a volunteer speaker for Better Ballot Georgia to foster support for Instant Runoff Voting. Michael is a strong advocate for Instant Runoff Voting, after experiencing first-hand the negative effects runoffs have in the State.

Better Ballot Georgia is a 501 (c) (3) corporation formed in 2020 with the objective of educating Georgia citizens on our existing and alternative electoral systems, and to encourage reforms that will ensure confidence that election results reflect the will of the electorate. BBG is currently focusing its efforts on creating awareness and support for the use of Ranked Choice Voting /Instant Runoff Voting in Georgia’s elections.

Presentation: Ranked Choice Voting Instant Runoff Voting

Silent Auction

Funds raised during the silent auction were donated to organizations presenting at this year’s convention.


December 2022 AAUW Cobb County Branch Holiday Book Discussion and Luncheon

For the AAUW Cobb County 2022 holiday book discussion, members gathered in December at the festive home of Barbara Hammond to share a potluck luncheon and to discuss the book West with Giraffes by author Lynda Rutledge. It was a joyous time brimming with holiday cheer and the warmth of friendship.


Holiday Greetings to All!

Stay warm, bask in the warmth of family and friends … and best wishes for a healthy and happy 2023!

2022 Fall Board Meeting

AAUW of Georgia will hold its Fall Board meeting on Saturday, October 8th, from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM. It will be held at the Central Congregational United Church of Christ, located at 2676 Clairmont Road, Atlanta.

The agenda includes reports from each of the Branch presidents, revisiting our Bylaws and Working Policies and Procedures, and planning for our 2023 Annual Convention.
All AAUW of GA members are invited to attend. There is a registration fee of $20.00. If attending, please RSVP to Mary Lynn Merkle by Thursday, October 6th.

AAUW of Georgia 2022 Convention

                   Mary Lynn Merkle Co-President and Cathy Cox, Keynote Speaker

          It had been three years since our last AAUW of Georgia Convention when we gathered at the Byron Welcome Center on April 23rd.  It was, indeed, a day worth celebrating.

          Our keynote speaker, Cathy Cox, is an amazing cheerleader for women in leadership.  She was the first woman to be elected and to serve as Georgia’s Secretary of State.  She shared with us several examples of the “glass ceilings” she overcame as she successfully pursued leadership positions.  She continues her leadership role as the president of Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.  She let us know how important our efforts as AAUW members are.  We all felt new enthusiasm for continuing to work toward AAUW’s mission of equity for women and girls.

          We had lots of fun and found lots of bargains with our Silent Auction.  Rosette Stone, president of Valdosta, has a personal connection with people who are providing aid to Ukrainian refugees who have been resettled in Germany.  With that information, we gladly agreed to send our proceeds ($175) to help.

          All in all, it was a fine day for informing, enthusing, and reconnecting.

A Look at Conventions Past

Georgia State Convention – April 12 &13, 2019

The annual AAUW Georgia State Convention was held on April 12th and 13th at the Hilton Garden Inn Wildwood. A big shout out to Yetta McMillan and Beatriz Potter for all of their efforts putting this year’s convention together! The meeting featured information regarding the AAUW Work Smart program from National as well as Dr. Zoe Spencer spoke about her challenges fighting racism and sexism in her AAUW supported lawsuit against Virginia State University.

A couple of pictures from the state convention are shared below.



Fall Board Meeting August 24, 2019

On Saturday, August 24th, AAUW of Georgia members gathered together at Valdosta State University Center to attend the Fall Board Meeting.  This meeting allowed the state leadership team to focus on goals and events for the coming year.  With Co-Presidents Beatriz Potter and Wilhemenia Sibley presiding, the group tackled important details that included finance and budget review, Working Policies & Procedures review, preparations for state by-laws review at spring convention (big thank you to Evelyn Merk), Work Smart projects for branches, state convention planning as well as nominating committee volunteers.

  • Rosetta Coyne of the Valdosta Branch presented an awesome slide show and detailed the successes that have grown with the Sister to Sister Program. This is the keystone of community involvement that Valdosta focuses on each year.
  • An antique voting box served as a focal point to generate ideas to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Many ideas and suggestions found their way into the box during a brainstorming session.  A committee is being formed to work on the details for an amazing 2020 AAUW of GA State Convention.
  • Co-President Beatriz Potter presented a slide show focused on AAUW strategic goals in partnership with state and local branch programs and activities. Work Smart programs within the community as well as getting the word out about the free online Work Smart opportunity available through AAUW has loft goals of reaching a million women.  Work Smart provides tools and techniques to assist women in the workplace to promote themselves with confidence when opportunities for advancement open the doors.  Resources are readily available to meet these goals.