Alumni Open House

Alumni and friends are invited to stop by and see what’s new at Grady on Friday, March 22, 3:30-5 the Peyton Anderson Forum. This reception coincides with the Alumni Weekend sponsored by the UGA Alumni Association.

Grady Ambassadors will be available for tours of the building. Light refreshments will be served.

Alumni Weekend

All alumni and their significant others, friends, family (come one, come all!) are invited for a weekend to return to campus. With hotel blocks on site and events held on campus and around town, you won’t want to miss it! Price ($150/person and $250/couple) includes four meals, activities, a reception and tickets to TEDxUGA, not to mention some awesome swag!

Register by: Monday, March 4.

Eric Baker: from Grady College to Walt Disney Imagineering

It should come as no surprise that the son of a building contractor and a junior high school art teacher, would spend time sewing and designing his own Halloween costumes at 8-years-old and molding his own Yoda masks a few years later; or, that he would grow up to work in the design playground of Walt Disney World.

Eric Baker (ABJ ’90) is a creative director for Walt Disney Imagineering, responsible for storytelling and playscaping the look and feel of everything from Disney cruise ships to its newest land, “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge,” scheduled to open in this year.

The Rossville, Georgia, native has always had a can-do attitude, which has propelled him throughout his life.

“Never say ‘no.’ Say ‘yes, I can do it,’ then try to figure it out,” Baker advises about a technique he learned from his mother.

Eric Baker addressing a group of students in Studio 100 in April 2018.

As a Grady College film production student and theater minor, he knocked on the door of the local cable 13 offices asking if they had a job. When they told him the only opening they had was doing make-up, he said “I can do make-up,” even though he knew little about it.

“It didn’t pay much, but for me it was amazing because I had total access to the equipment,” Baker said. He worked his way up to the role of studio camera operator for the Larry Munson show and was able to use the equipment during off hours, which gave him experience to add to his resume.

His first paid job in an art department came after graduation and after completing the CareerStart Program sponsored by Disney. Following the program, Baker knew he wanted to stay in Florida, which was bustling with film production. He found out that some of the production crews at Nickelodeon went out to enjoy a drink after work, so he would show up at the same bar to network with the crew. He has never been afraid to talk with people, and the next thing he knew, he was working at Nickelodeon.

“For 10 years, I probably did every television show that Nick did,” Baker recalled of his days of creating the crazy buildings that Clarissa’s father was always building on “Clarissa Explains All,”  and trying to think about how to gross people out for “Double Dare.”

His resume also included Disney Channel shows like “The Mickey Mouse Club” and numerous projects with the Muppets.

“One of the highlights of my career was working with The Muppets,” Baker said. “They are incredibly talented people to work with. Jim Henson got everyone thinking collaboratively.”

When Baker wasn’t working, he was tinkering.

“On my own time, I built stuff,” Baker admits. “I would sit at home at night and build space ships and stuff like that.” Baker admits that he is most creative at night, sometimes waking up at 3 a.m. with his best ideas.

His work with children’s television led to more mainstream entertainment, including work on “From the Earth to the Moon,” a mini-series that earned Emmy nominations for actor Tom Hanks and for the special effects team that Baker was a part of.

The lure of children’s entertainment and theme parks were calling again. This time it was Universal Studios and they were building a new theme land based on the beloved Harry Potter book series.

Baker recalls his start at Universal Studios: “They called and asked if I could build models. I said ‘yes, I can build models,’ so I built them a castle. I didn’t know what it was, but it turned out to be Hogwarts Castle.”

Baker spent the next two years building concept models for “The Wizarding World of Harry Potter” before becoming the decorator for each of the four parks that were building, including parks in the United States and Japan. As a decorator, he focused on props and set dressing, like the 106,000 props used in Diagon Alley.

“I’m incredibly fortunate to have such a great career. It’s show business and it’s never been like work to me.”

— Eric Baker (ABJ ’90)

The Harry Potter parks changed the landscape of theme parks because of their totally immersive experience.

“It was a game changer for the whole theme park experience,” Baker said. “It became the new bar that everyone was trying to reach.”

Baker and his team won industry accolades for their work, including the Paragon Award, the first of its kind for excellence awarded by the Themed Entertainment Association, and one that they said would not be given out again until someone tops the Harry Potter park. The award citation included praise for creating a “a completely seamless storytelling experience without parallel that is unmistakably superior to anything.”

But, it is the emotion and joy that families experience that brings the greatest reward to Baker. One of the most vivid experiences was the time he went to Hogwarts Castle as a spectator to watch the families enjoy the Castle just after it opened. He started focusing on two young fans who were dressed in Harry Potter robes, soaking in the experience.

“I knew I had done a good job when they dropped to their knees and cried,” Baker recalls. “I thought ‘we did it.’”

Eric Baker talks about his excitement when he sees families enjoying his work at the theme parks. He spoke with a group of EMST students in September 2018.

Just when it seemed that the pinnacle of his career had been reached, Baker received a call from Disney, offering him a job to create a similar experience for an unknown project. For the past three years working with Disney, Baker has been creating the new Star Wars themed lands in Florida and California, a project that even has him visiting movie sets including “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” to do research.

“Taking from film and creating something people can see and touch is so rewarding,” Baker explains of his work, which includes not only creating the look and feel of what people take away from the film, but also building sets and props for durability and longevity.

Baker is the first to admit that he has a pretty neat job. “This Star Wars project that I’m working on…it’s what I grew up with.” He describes visiting Skywalker Ranch, the production facility created by George Lucas, and getting to photograph all the props from the original films he grew up watching. “I was getting to see all the stuff up close from the films that pretty much changed my life. It was pretty emotional.”

He continues: “I’m incredibly fortunate to have such a great career. It’s show business and it’s never been like work to me.”

When the Star Wars lands  open next summer, Baker is confident it will be a multi-generational experience for families. He also has aspirations to be the only person to win two Paragon Awards. While he is on a good trajectory to do that, he doesn’t lose site of the emotions of bringing families together. “That’s the most rewarding thing about what we do…we make people happy.”

Bulldog 100 interview: Harold Hayes Jr.

We are honoring our Grady College alumni included in the 2019 Bulldog 100.

Bulldog 100 celebrates the 100 fastest growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni.

We interviewed honorees about their experience, advice and expertise for the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

Harold Hayes Jr. (ABJ ’ 01) is co-founder and producer of SunnyBoy Entertainment. He is being honored with Craig Phillips (ABJ ’01), co-founder and creative director for SunnyBoy Entertainment.

What is the greatest piece of advice you received from a professor or staff member while at Grady?

HH: I remember professor Barry Sherman writing two words on the chalkboard that rightly changed my perspective into the endeavor ahead.  The two words were: “Show Business.”  That is the profession we were entering, a profession that entertains successfully only if the business portion is solidly executed.  It was the first lesson of of his Entertainment Law course and one that I remember every day while being and entrepreneur in the field of content media.

What is the most important skill an entrepreneur must master?

HH: I believe the most important skill as an entrepreneur is to be ready to strike and seek out opportunities to make earnest connections wherever they present themselves.  Some of my best connections in my career are a result of attending a non-industry event or cold calling someone I thought I’d never be able to gain a connection.

Bulldog 100 honorees will be celebrated with a ceremony in Atlanta on Jan. 27.

See our other Bulldog 100 profiles with Matthew Allen and Marc Gorlin.

Bulldog 100 interview: Marc Gorlin

We are honoring our Grady College alumni included in the 2019 Bulldog 100.

Bulldog 100 celebrates the 100 fastest growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni.

We interviewed honorees about their experience, advice and expertise for the next generation of entrepreneurs. 

Marc Gorlin (ABJ ’95) is co-founder of Kabbage. He is also the founder and CEO of Roadie.

How did your experience at Grady College help prepare you for post-college work?

MG: Grady taught me how to tell a story and how to make people care. I really think Grady grads are the best at connecting with an audience, bringing an idea to light and, most importantly, making people care. If you’re raising money for things, starting a business, hiring employees or bringing in customers, you have to make sure people care. You have to connect with them on a personal level. From the very beginning at Kabbage, storytelling made a difference. It’s how we got people engaged — from our engineers to our partners to our investors. And it was from that beginning that we got enough folks caring about the vision and mission of the company that it was able to become what it is today.

What does it take to be a viable entrepreneur in today’s business climate?

MG: It all revolves around people, both internal and external. Inside a company, you have got to find dragon slayers. You have to find those people who believe they can achieve something impossible, especially if you’re trying to start something new. These kind of people are doers and “figure-it-out’ers.”Scrappiness is in their DNA. These are the kind of people you need inside your company, but you need them on the outside, too. , Whether you’re looking at a prospective customer or partner or investor, you have to find people who care and people who have juice within their organization to get things done.. Find people who care, find people with juice and find small projects you can work on together.

How did you land your first job after Grady and how would you advise current seniors soon searching for jobs?

MG: Everybody has a unique voice and path. As you’re searching for jobs, ask yourself questions like: what are you passionate about, what do you want to do and what will it take to get you there. There is nothing worse than doing something you hate. Figure out what you like to do and write it down. Create your own filter of what is important to you. When opportunities come in, you run them through that filter.

For me, that meant figuring out how to be an entrepreneur from the very beginning. My dad was entrepreneur, so of course he told me early on: “Don’t get a job. Find a deal.” For me, that meant starting my own company right out of college instead of going to work at somebody else’s.

What is the most important skill an entrepreneur must master?

MG: You’ve got to realize that perfect is the enemy of done. You have to be agile. Not only are things not going to be perfect, but sometimes they’re going to be just plain messy.But sometimes you need to get that first version  done, just so you can start working on the second version and continue making it better.. Move quickly and make the best decision you can based on information you have at the time. Then, move on. It’s easier to make a wrong decision and correct course quickly rather than getting stuck in the mud trying to be perfect. The way you find the right answer is to try things and make mistakes. Then, learn and formulate the next step.

Bulldog 100 honorees will be celebrated with a ceremony in Atlanta on Jan. 27.

See our other Bulldog 100 profiles with Matthew Allen and Harold Hayes Jr.

Alumni Advice: Mollie Simon and Danimarie Roselle

Other alumni advice features:

Graduation is the end goal of attending college, but getting there can be stressful. Hear from recent Grady grads about their life after graduation and what they wish they had known before entering into the “real world.” 

What do you wish you had known before graduating? 

Mollie Simon, reporter for Anderson Independent Mail and the Greenville News: “Taking an internship after graduation is 100 percent OK. Applying for jobs can be like a full-time job, and you just might not have it figured out by May. Starting with a post-grad internship can help you gain more experience and give you fresh clips to share as you apply for full-time gigs.” 

Danimarie RoselleSocial Media Strategist for M&M’S at MARS: “It’s not necessarily what I wish I had known but more what I could reiterate to myself. I would tell my younger self to be patient and to look at each step as a learning opportunity. Though I knew this, I would say that Grady has prepared you for life after graduation and what you learned here will take you to the most unexpected, wonderful places.”   

What did you learn outside the classroom that could have been helpful inside the classroom? 


“There are tons of really cool apps out there that can help you with your reporting, especially when you are required to be a multimedia journalist taking videos and photos while reporting. Download It is the best transcription tool I have come across and would have saved me some sleep in college.” –Mollie Simon  


“Working in social media, much of my career so far has been learning outside the classroom. As this field is constantly evolving with the social platforms, I think it would be helpful to learn the foundations for social and applying it within journalism and mass communications.” –Danimarie Roselle 

What advice do you have for current students now that you have seen the other side of graduating?  


“Keep in touch with your mentors (professors, former supervisors, even older friends who are a few years ahead of you). Just because you graduate doesn’t mean those people will stop wanting to invest in your success. The people who gave me great advice when I was still a student were the same people, I was able to lean on to ask for job and life advice after leaving Grady — and I am really grateful for that. Also, when applying for jobs, be ready to tell stories about your stories. It was helpful to have a few clips I could talk about where I could really break down how I came up with an idea, how I pursued it and why it mattered to me or others.” –Mollie Simon  

One door closed, another opened 

“My advice for students is to take advantage of Grady while you have it. Everyone in Grady is such an incredible resource, all with a unique story, that it’s truly a special place and you will absolutely miss it. I would also tell students to keep in mind that there’s no one path they have to follow and if one door closes, there will always, always be another door. Just be patient and keep on trying.” –Danimarie Roselle 

Alumni Advice: Gabrielle Cowand and Orlando Pimentel

Other alumni advice features:

Graduation is the end goal of attending college, but getting there can be stressful. Hear from recent Grady grads about their life after graduation and what they wish they had known before entering into the “real world.”

What do you wish you had known before graduating?

Gabrielle Cowand, copywriter for Internal Communications at McKinsey & Co.: “I can honestly say, there’s nothing else I wish I would have known about life post-grad. I think in moving into the next stage of life, it’s kind of exciting to embrace the unknown. I thought I had it figured out, but once I got here, it’s so entirely different. Everyone needs a good surprise, and I’m glad I got the chance to figure it out on my own.”

Orlando Pimentel, assistant account executive in the research department of Porter Novelli’s Washington, D.C. office: “I wish I’d known faculty members of Grady and really every program at UGA are just as eager to help students navigate their college life as professors, and it’s OK to reach out to them for help.”

What did you learn outside the classroom that could have been helpful inside the classroom?

Industries outside the classroom

“Having so many awesome work experiences allowed me to try out communications in a lot of different industries I didn’t have access to in my classrooms. Learning about how to apply a journalism major to other practices is something I think a lot of students from my cohort wished we had available.” –Gabrielle Cowand

 Application of what you learn

“By my senior year, I figured out I did my best learning when I applied the lessons in class outside of the classroom setting. It’s so easy to get caught up in the mindset that, in order to learn, you have to hole yourself in a nook at the library and just endlessly repeat stuff until you get it. That didn’t really fulfill me, but when I got to apply my lessons in the real world, whether it be on a student organization or developing a campaign, it made the academic stuff feel less abstract and helped me connect the dots. Then, when I’d come to the next class, it became easier to understand the lessons because I could see where it’d fit. I wish I’d known this sooner because I would have done much more hands-on work.” –Orlando Pimentel

What advice do you have for current students now that you have seen the other side of graduating?

Get work experience

“It’s the single most important thing employers are looking for that will help you stand out as a job applicant. Every internship doesn’t need to be a Fortune 500 company, but being able to work your way up starts now. Prove you’ve got some grit, and take every opportunity you have to get out there and learn something new. Internships aren’t about just getting another company on your resume. They’re a chance to learn what you want, (or sometimes more often, don’t want) in your future career.” –Gabrielle Cowand


“Take advantage of the travel opportunities college provides, whether it’s an alternative spring break, study abroad program (domestic or international), or even just a tour of a facility a club or department is hosting, because it’s much cheaper than paying for travel, food, and lodging all by yourself. And don’t be discouraged if the prices for the programs aren’t something you can pay up front. If it’s some you really want to experience, save up, look into scholarships, or reach out to family members and loved ones for donations.” –Orlando Pimentel

Alumni Advice: Noelle Lashley and Kevin Schatell

Other alumni advice features:

Graduation is the end goal of attending college, but getting there can be stressful. Hear from recent Grady grads about their life after graduation and what they wish they had known before entering into the “real world.”

What do you wish you had known before graduating?

Noelle Lashley, Missoula morning reporter for Wake Up Montana: “I wish I’d known that nothing could truly prepare me for the experience of my first job. I actually made myself sick during my last semester of college because I was so focused on becoming perfectly ready to dive into my first reporting gig, but life doesn’t work that way.”

Kevin Schatell, associate producer at NBC News: “My advice to current journalism students? Seek out what scares you and learn all that you can. As a student, I think I was too wrapped up in the idea of wanting to be creative and produce content, and I wish I’d taken more time to be curious and learn about the areas of the media industry that intimidated me.”

What did you learn outside the classroom that could have been helpful inside the classroom?

Come prepared with pitches

“Don’t be afraid to talk about your ideas. Sometimes when I was in college, I’d shut down because I was afraid of looking or sounding silly. I’d miss out on an opportunity to do a great story because I was afraid of what someone would think of me and my pitch. Nope. Throw that way of thinking out the window. Come to class or a pitch meeting with tons of ideas in your back pocket. The majority of them might not work, and that’s OK. Talk them out. Come at them from a few different angles. Try something completely outside the norm. You’re only going to find the great ones if you’re willing to dig and kiss a few frogs in the process.” Noelle Lashley

Communication across all platforms

“A crucial skill in my job — and the industry as a whole — is communication in all directions. On a daily basis, I manage interns and NBC Pages, pitch to executive producers and provide customer service for the audience that visits the Today Show. Equally as important as communication in all directions is communication on all platforms. Each day consists of public speaking in front of large crowds, one-on-one conversations, emails, phone calls and social media posts. Each of those has to be delivered in a unique way but with a consistent voice. The people I’ve seen who are thriving in the media industry are self-aware and able to tailor their communication style depending on their audience. The more you can intentionally craft your written and verbal communication skills, the better.” –Kevin Schatell

What advice do you have for current students now that you have seen the other side of graduating?

Get out of your comfort zone

Don’t let your life be governed by fear of the unknown.

I have a necklace that says, “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” It’s true. I originally thought I was going to stay in Georgia for my first job. I had it all planned out…then I realized that I needed to step outside of my own comfort zone. There was a little nudge inside me that kept telling me to look at Montana. I made an excel spreadsheet of every local news station in the state, and I would cycle through the stations every few days to look for openings. No one in my family had ever lived in Montana. I had one friend who lived there, and he was hours away from any of the stations I was considering. My entire existing support system was on the east coast. People’s reaction to my goal ranged from disbelief to disgust to full conversations about how my choice was going to wreck my career. I was scared, but I knew I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t try. I tried. Now I’m the sole morning reporter for my station in Missoula, Montana. It’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’ve only been on air for six weeks, and I’ve already had incredible opportunities that I never would have been given in a larger market. I’ve made wonderful friends, and I don’t feel alone or isolated anymore. I get to look outside and see snow-capped mountains when I’m driving around for work, and I’m trying things I never would have done in Georgia. I’m sure I’ll look back on my life and have regrets at the end, but I’m not going to wish that I had taken a chance on myself in my 20s. I did.

Your greatest victories and your greatest challenges are waiting for you. Don’t miss out on them because you let fear decide your destiny. Noelle Lashley

Act like an owner

One of our core values at NBCUniversal is ownership. That’s not something I spent a lot of time thinking about in college, but I wish I had. The idea is to act like an owner, not a renter. For example: if you’re renting an apartment and you discover a hole in the wall, what do you do? If you’re like me, your instinct is likely to cover it with a picture frame and think “Eh, not my problem — someone else will fix that.” The difference is, as an owner, you have a bigger investment. You’d fix the hole rather than cover it up. That’s how we’re encouraged to treat our work. There’s no room for a “that’s not my problem” mentality in the news and entertainment industries. Focus on having an owner’s mentality in all the work you do, whether it’s classes, organizations on campus, internships or a full-time job. Kevin Schatell

Remembering Wally Eberhard

He was a self-professed lover of libraries, a master of journalism history and a dedicated professor who taught hundreds of Grady College students a craft to last throughout their lives.

Wallace B. “Wally” Eberhard, professor of journalism emeritus, died Oct. 7, 2018. He passed away on his 87th birthday.

“Grady College has lost one of its iconic faculty members, and I’m struggling to envision life without Wally in it,” said Charles Davis (MA ’89), dean of Grady College. “I am eternally indebted to him and will never think of him without smiling. His was a life well lived.”

“His was a life well lived.” — Charles Davis

Eberhard joined the Grady College faculty in 1970 as a temporary assistant professor, following several years as a reporter. He rose up the academic ranks, serving as full professor from 1984 until his retirement in 2000. Even after his retirement, Eberhard continued his involvement with Grady College by attending countless lectures and Homecoming tailgate celebrations, consulting with faculty and teaching.  Most recently, he taught the Freshman Year Odyssey seminar, “A Short History of Long Journalism,” from 2011 until 2017.

Homecoming tailgates were a favorite time for Wally Eberhard to return to visit with alumni, including Chris Jones and his wife, Toni, during the 2011 celebration.

In addition to teaching, Eberhard was involved with Grady organizations including serving as a Peabody Awards judge from 2007 to 2011 and again in 2013, and advising the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists during the 1980s, when it was known as Sigma Delta Chi.

Davis and Eberhard knew each other for nearly 30 years, first meeting when Davis was a graduate student at Grady College and Eberhard took him under his wing. “He remained a constant, positive presence in my life. For many Grady students, he and Conrad Fink served as equal parts mentor and friend. Never, ever too busy to take a call or break away for lunch, Wally took such familial pride in us as our careers took shape. He always knew where we were and what we were up to, serving as a Grady social network long before Facebook or Twitter.”

The study of journalism history held a special place in Eberhard’s life. He was editor of the American Journalism Historian’s Association refereed journal, “American Journalism,” for four years, and received the association’s highest honor, the Sidney Kobre Award for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism History, in 2007. He initiated Grady College’s first graduate seminar on media history and guided the work of many graduate students in this area.

John English, Grady professor of journalism emeritus, had a friendship with Eberhard that spanned nearly 50 years and went back to their time as graduate students at the University of Wisconsin where they originally met because their last names started with the letter “E.” Their friendship continued to their days teaching at Grady College where their offices were next door to one another.

In addition to his sense of humor, English found a lot of reasons to be fond of Eberhard.

“Wally Eberhard was an exemplar of old-school journalism,” English said, remembering his friend. “As a former journalist himself, he taught a generation of Georgia journalism students the fundamentals of reporting and editing, professional ethics and press law and media history.  While modest in demeanor, he held rigorous academic standards.”

One of these students was author Steve Oney (ABJ ’79). During a lecture in 2017 discussing his most recent book, “A Man’s World,” Oney reflected on how Eberhard helped him become a better writer.

Wally Eberhard (l) taught a generation of Georgia journalism students the fundamentals of reporting and editing, professional ethics and press law and media history.

In his comment, Oney credited Eberhard with helping him “become a more rigorous thinker and better reporter and a more honest human being, and training me in the virtues of making my work add up. You have to be creative and you have to be imaginative, but you can’t take any fliers if you are writing journalism. It has to add up. It’s about a factual presentation of the world.”

According to English, Eberhard’s journalistic ethos also informed his retirement years.  He sought more transparency in government, especially with public funds, and he was a model citizen in action, serving on the local library board for 20 years.

“Our friendship across the aisle endured a half century because, while we differed and disagreed, we never argued or got angry,” English said.  “That’s old school, too.”

English continued: “During lunch recently, Eberhard and I discussed the current attacks on the press.  Later that day he wrote this indelible statement: ‘The press may be threatened, but it always has been—quite rightfully—criticized.  Imperfect though it may be, without a free press there is no working democracy.  Getting the public to understand and agree with that is an ongoing challenge.’”

Like Davis and Oney, Keith Herndon (ABJ ’82), the William S. Morris Chair in News Strategy and Management at Grady College, had a relationship with Eberhard that dated back to his days as an undergraduate student during the early 1980s. Eberhard served as an instructor, advisor and friend to Herndon, which even included Eberhard giving the young Herndon a ride from Indianapolis to Athens, Georgia, following an internship.

When Herndon was president of Sigma Delta Chi, he worked closely with Eberhard, who advised the student group.

“He helped us with speakers and organized a conference trip to D.C. He used that organization to take us beyond the classroom, and looking back on those years now, you realize how incredibly supportive he was,” Herndon said. “He was always in my corner and always available for mentoring and advice.”

“He was always in my corner and always available for mentoring and advice.” — Keith Herndon

As the years unfolded, Herndon valued his many lunches with Eberhard. “He had a keen appreciation for the news media and its history. Every lunch with him was a media history lesson, but he had an uncanny way of tying history to the present day,” Herndon said. “I always left those lunches with some new insight to contemplate. He never stopped being my professor.”

Tom Russell was dean of Grady College for several years that Eberhard taught.

“With both an academic and professional background, Wally brought a unique perspective to the Journalism Department,” Russell said.  “He came to Grady during a period of rapid change in journalism education and he was a valuable contributor in revamping the curriculum, including a move to the semester system.  I know that he will be remembered not only by his faculty colleagues, but by the hundreds of students he influenced.”

For other remembrances of Wally Eberhard, please visit:

Wally Eberhard Obituary

RIP, Professor Wally, I will miss you (Macon Telegraph), by Ed Grisamore (ABJ ’78)

Remembering Prof. Wally Eberhard (Flagpole magazine), by John English