Top 15 tips for success from GS’s 40 Under 40 Award recipients


Allison Graham, Culture Editor

Georgia Southern University has produced some truly incredible alumni that have accomplished the unthinkable. On Tuesday, January 18, five of GS’s 40 Under 40 Award recipients held a virtual conference to talk about success. 

GS describes this award as an honor and recognition for the most influential and successful graduates who “have made significant strides in business, leadership, community, educational or philanthropic endeavors.” The award recipients in attendance were Dr. Jemelleh Coes, Rahman Anjorin, Mary Githens, Dr. Kathryn Lanier and Major Joe Quenga.

During the virtual conference and in follow-up emails, these five recipients of the award shared a few of their top tips for success that we can all learn from.

Dr. Jemelleh Coes

Dr. Jemelleh Coes, a daughter of immigrants and a first-generation university graduate, was Georgia Teacher of the Year in 2014. She is an Educator Speaker, a UGA Clinical Professor, an Equity Conversation Facilitator and the Director of Teacher Leadership at Mount Holyoke College.

Dr. Coes shared these tips for success in an email:

  1. “Write down all of the things you do professionally. Start building/recording your resume and never stop.”
  2. “Find your people! This can be in-person or online. Stay connected to them!”
  3. “Cheer other people on and make room for the person who will come after you, genuinely. Everybody loves a cheerleader! Be that. It will come back to you perpetually.”

During the virtual conference, Dr. Coes said that the biggest factors that helped her to be successful are involvement and connections. She said that the opportunities she has taken have led to connections that furthered her success. Dr. Coes also shared this powerful, anonymous quote, “I either succeed or I learn.”

Rahman Anjorin

Rahman Anjorin, who is working on his Ph.D. from the University of Idaho, has a career at the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).

In an email, Anjorin shared these tips for success:

  1. “Your plans for after college may work. And they may not. If they don’t, there is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong with you. In fact you are like 98% of the rest of us!” 
  2. “Remain diligent, remain patient but most importantly; be kind to others.”
  3. “Remember, we LOVE people and USE things.”

Anjorin shared, during the virtual conference, that the biggest factors for success in his career are persistence and perseverance.

Mary Githens

Mary Githens, an entrepreneur, is originally from Peru and arrived in the United States at 17-years-old. She owns the restaurant Latin Chicks, the food truck Vida Fresh and the bar, Mint to Be Mojito Bar and Grill.

Githens shared this tip for success during the virtual conference:

  1. Do not take no for an answer. Take “not right now” or “maybe” but never accept a no. 

Dr. Kathryn Lanier

Dr. Kathryn Lanier, hosts the PBS television show “Alabama STEM Explorers” and serves on the Alabama STEM Council.

During the virtual conference, Dr. Lanier shared these tips for success:

  1. Say yes to every opportunity presented to you. 
  2. Try new things.

Major Joe Quenga

Major Joe Quenga is a United States Army Force Management Officer. He serves as a mentor for the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) and has completed a Defense Fellowship and a Defense Logistics Seminar.

Major Quega shared these tips for success during the virtual conference:

  1. Do not be a toxic leader. Treat people with dignity and respect, and be a compassionate leader.
  2. Think a couple steps ahead in everything you do. 

Major Quenga also shared these tips in a follow-up:

  1. “Instead of focusing on the desired end results, set small wins and focus on what is needed to achieve bigger goals. Don’t expect to achieve overall personal and/or professional goals instantly, it’s called a journey for a reason.”
  2. “Setting realistic goals upfront and earning small wins can help young professionals stay committed to achieving their goals.”
  3. “Financial security and freedom are critical factors to being committed. Money isn’t everything in life. However, being financially sound and understanding expected economic gains in career fields play a major role in staying committed to the journey.”
  4. “Have fun on the journey! Keep having fun, gain and be open to perspectives from different cultures, demographics, and leaders, and learn more about oneself and capabilities. It can be surprising how much you learn and achieve by having fun on the journey.”