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Religion and Public Life Fellow

To highlight its commitment to Atlanta, the Department has launched a new position, the “Religion and Public Life Fellow.”  The Religion and Public Life Fellow is an Atlanta-based high-profile professional who joins the Department for one academic year.  This professional -- who works in the media, politics, the corporate world, the arts, or a non-profit organization -- will explore with us how religion plays a role in his/her profession. The Fellow will present a public lecture; meet with Department alumni, faculty and friends for a private dinner; and work with undergraduate and graduate students throughout the academic year. 

List of Fellows

Juanita and Greg Baranco selected as the 2014-15 Religion and Public Life Fellows!

The Department of Religious Studies is pleased to announce that Juanita and Gregory Baranco, co-owners of Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead, will serve as the Religion and Public Life Fellows for 2014-15. Mr. and Mrs. Baranco are highly successful business leaders in the Atlanta community, and they have offered years of service to numerous state and local government offices, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations in Atlanta and Georgia.

Mr. and Ms. Baranco both grew up and attended college in Louisiana. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, Greg Baranco's work in the automobile industry began when he was a teenager, as an "outside salesman" -- at that time, African-Americans weren't permitted to sell inside the dealership Later, in college, he interned for Ford Motor Company. The couple established the first Baranco car dealership in 1978, the former Smith-Johnson Pontiac dealership. After that, they operated Lincoln-Mercury and Acura dealerships, eventually opening the Mercedes-Benz of Buckhead dealership in 2003.

Prior to owning the car dealership, Juanita Baranco served as the Assistant Attorney General for the State of Georgia. She has also served on the boards of numerous companies in metropolitan Atlanta (e.g., the Board of Georgia Power Company, John H. Harland Company, and Cox Radio). She also served on the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Board for several years. Ms. Baranco has also offered her time and expertise in several volunteer capacities. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees for Clark Atlanta University and as a Director of the Catholic Foundation of North Georgia. Ms. Baranco is a past Chair of the Board of Regents for the University System of Georgia and for the Board of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia.

The Barancos will join the Department throughout this academic year. Their first event will be on Thursday, Nov. 20th, at 11 a.m., to discuss religion and corporate life with GSU students. This event is free and open to the public -- for details contact or

Greg and Juanita have four children, two of whom have attended or are currently attending Georgia State University. We proudly welcome them to our Religion and Public Life Fellows family!

Jason Lesandrini: 2013-2014

Rev. Joanna Adams and Rep. Kathy Ashe: 2012-2013

Dan Gilgoff:  2011-2012

Past event:

Friday, April 5th, Student Service Day with Rep. Kathy Ashe.  The Department of Religious Studies and Central Outreach & Advocacy Center hosted a half-day of service at the Center (9:30-11:30), followed by lunch at Central Presbyterian Church (2 blocks from GSU, 11:30-12:30).  Religion and Public Life Fellow Rep. Kathy Ashe (Democrat), who represented District 56 (the district in which GSU is located) since  1992,  joined us for this event.

Students were invited to work side-by-side with Rep. Ashe at the COAC for a couple of hours in the morning, followed by a lunch hosted by Rep. Ashe.  Rep. Ashe opened the lunch with a few informal comments about what it means to build a “life of service” and to think through how religion is integral to this life. 

This was a STUDENT ONLY event intended to provide an opportunity for intimate, informal conversation with a  respected leader in Atlanta.

Wednesday, Feb. 6th: “Moving Atlanta to Higher Ground: How Religion Inspires Positive Change” with Rev. Joanna Adams and the Higher Ground Group. Rialto Center for the Arts, 5-7:30 p.m.

Religion & Public Life Fellows Rep. Kathy Ashe and Rev. Joanna Adams will discuss integrating public service into their lives in a special session of Dr. Barker’s “Women & Religion” class Tuesday, November 13, 2012.  (Classroom South 328, 4:30-7 p.m.)

"Religion and Civic Engagement in My Life": Brown Bag Event,
Location: Senate Salon, Student Center
Thursday, October 4, 11:00 am - 12:15 pm

Juanita and Greg Baranco