New Grady@DC summer study program immerses students at epicenter of public affairs communications

Eight University of Georgia students are learning about the values and practice of public affairs communications in the nation’s capital in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s newest domestic field study program, Grady@DC.

The new Washington, D.C. program is a hybrid of classroom study and experiential learning. Grady@DC students are enrolled in a public affairs communications class taught at UGA’s new Delta Hall on Capitol Hill and are working at D.C. area internships for course credit to amplify their learning with real-world experiences, mentoring and networking with public affairs communications professionals in the nation’s capital.

“This important program extends Grady’s strong suit in experiential learning, a priority of the University, and the college’s tradition of preparing strong leaders in public affairs communications,” said Grady Dean Charles N. Davis. “The fact that public affairs communications takes center stage owes tremendously to the vision and leadership of alumna Carolyn Tieger, a D.C. public affairs veteran who saw the potential for such a program years ago and who has worked with the college to make it a reality.”

The college reunited with Tieger (ABJ ’69), then managing partner at Porter Novelli’s D.C. office, on a 2007 PRSSA trip led by Betty Jones, a senior lecturer in public relations at Grady and the faculty director of the new Grady@DC summer program, Davis noted.

“Carolyn welcomed our students to Porter Novelli where she inaugurated a learning partnership with the firm and relationships with D.C. leaders that continue today and greatly benefit our students and our strong presence in Washington,” Davis said. “Carolyn then came to us with the idea of a formal public affairs communications program, anchored by a chair funded in her name and a certificate, which will give students a leg up on influential and rewarding careers that focus on the communications aspects of public affairs.”

Carolyn Tieger (ABJ '69) created the vision for the public affairs communications program at Grady College.

“I am proud of the launch of the Grady@DC program and commend everyone involved,” Tieger said. “Washington is the epicenter of public affairs, politics, policy, government, and the media, and the communications skills associated with each are the cornerstones for success in these career fields. A program that helps students learn about public affairs communications from faculty and pros while living and working in DC is a dream come true. It benefits our students, the career field itself and our nation,” said Tieger, who will contribute to the program herself as a lecturer. 

Tieger defines public affairs communications as the backbone of public policy, politics and advocacy.   It is a specialized communications skill set aimed at educating, driving or changing public opinion around a public policy, legislation, political candidates or issues.  It includes skills such as understanding and executing public opinion research, political and advocacy campaigns, grassroots and ally development, opinion writing, advocacy advertising, and new media mobilization, among others.

“I say this with a smile, but Washington itself provides almost a supplemental textbook,” Tieger added. “How fortunate our students and UGA are to have the opportunity of Grady@DC.”

“Adding communications to public affairs is the distinctive difference our programs in D.C. and in Athens provide,” Davis added. “We are grateful for Carolyn’s foresight, the newly established Tieger Professorship, the network of alumni she is a part of in D.C., and this new summer program that utilizes and grows that network.”

“Grady@DC extends Grady’s strength in public affairs communications and complements our forthcoming joint certificate with the UGA School of Public and International Affairs that Carolyn envisioned,” said Tom Reichert, head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, who brought the Grady@DC summer program to fruition.

The annual PRSSA trips have led to many jobs and internships for students and connected the college to alumni who applaud the new Grady@DC program and want to help, Jones noted.

“Grady@DC is another opportunity for students to make those valuable professional connections,” Jones adds. “In Spring semester, nine of the UGA Washington Semester students were Grady students. The new Grady@DC summer program provides more students the chance to learn, work and network in DC. It has been gratifying to see students catch the fire of working in an area of communications so important to our government, our democracy and our lives.”  

Journalism junior Charlotte Mabry, who is interning in the office of Congressman Scott DesJarlais (R-TN4), echoed that enthusiasm.

 “The program presents many amazing and invaluable opportunities for networking, specially through the public affairs communications course,” Mabry said. “I look forward to working on the Hill this summer!”

Administered by the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, the competitive Grady@DC program is open to all Grady students. In addition to Mabry, the inaugural class includes Conner Bryan, an advertising junior; Meredith Butler, a PR junior; Emma Cramer, a PR and international affairs senior; Elizabeth Dickerson, a PR and consumer economics junior; Abigail Frye, a PR junior; Kari Saunders, a PR and religion junior; and Gracie Shelton, a PR and consumer economics senior.


“As a professional communicator you’ve got to understand the daily news cycle. A lot of times the news of the day will drive policy planning.”

— Bryan Salas


Retired Marine Colonel Bryan Salas, (ABJ ‘87) and a 2011 recipient of the Dean’s Medal for Communication Leadership, is teaching the Grady@DC public affairs communications course. Salas currently serves as Senior Counselor and Deputy Chief of Staff of Customer Service and Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he brings decades of military communications experience to the classroom.

While serving in the Marine Corps, Salas developed a passion for mentoring, an aspect of the job he looks forward to in his new teaching role.

“I absolutely love UGA and the Grady College. That’s where I started.  The education that UGA provided helped make me who I am today,” said Salas.  

In addition to assignments and presentations, students are compiling weekly news briefs, a skill Salas referred to as “environmental scanning.”

“As a professional communicator you’ve got to understand the daily news cycle,” he explained.  “A lot of times the news of the day will drive policy planning.”

A guest speaker lineup of practitioners from government and private industry is bringing different perspectives to the classroom.

“There are many exciting opportunities to serve here in federal government, in public relations agencies and for nonprofits,” Salas said, “so I’m very excited to help expose (students) to the professional opportunities and develop their network of professional contacts in the city for which their professional success will depend. After all, the college reconnected with me through the outreach of Dr. Jones and Dr. Middleton.” 

Date: June 29, 2015
Author:  Charles Davis,; Parker Middleton,; Stephanie Moreno,
Contact:  Betty Jones,