Spring 2019 graduates encouraged to write own narrative at Grady College Convocation

Pictures from the Spring 2019 Grady Convocation can be viewed on the UGAGrady Flickr galleries:

Spring 2019 convocation candids

Spring 2019 convocation graduates:

Spring 2019 convocation ceremony

Nearly 500 undergraduate and graduate students were eligible for graduation from Grady College this semester, many of whom were recognized at the Spring 2019 Convocation ceremony on May 8, 2019, at the Classic Center.

Twenty-six graduate students graduated from Grady College, including two Ph.D. graduates. The approximate number of undergraduates who were recognized included 140 students with an advertising degree, 145 with a degree in public relations, 110 from the journalism program and 75 from the entertainment and media studies department.

Dean Charles Davis presided over the ceremony, providing an overview of Grady’s accomplishments this past year and commending the students for their hard work, passion and academic excellence.

Jonathan Wegman, charge to candidates, at Grady College Convocation, Spring 2019. Video: Jim Black and Dayne Young

Jonathan Wegman (ABJ ’04), the head of customer experience and strategy at Twitter, delivered the convocation keynote address and charged candidates to have courage to rewrite rules, pivot to new strategies and write their own personal narrative.

“When you make a mistake or your role changes, know that you hold the pen,” Wegman said. “You can write your own narrative. I am excited for this group to rewrite what is next.”

Lauren Diaz, distinguished senior speaker, at Grady College Convocation, Spring 2019. Video: Jim Black and Dayne Young
The distinguished senior speaker, a student chosen based on an audition among the graduates for the spot, was Lauren Diaz, a journalism major with a minor in sociology. She spoke on the journey her and her fellow students have had at Grady, and how it aligns them for next adventures.

“We are destined to succeed,” Diaz said. “We have each other. Most importantly, we have the help of our advisors, professors and mentors who saw our potential from the start.”

Lauren Izzo (ABJ ’05, MA ’07), vice-chair of the Grady Society Alumni Board, concluded the platform of speakers by welcoming the students to the alumni ranks of the college.

“You never know where your Grady connections will lead you,” Izzo said.

View the Spring 2019 Grady Convocation in its entirety on the Grady College Facebook Page.

Video recap of Grady College Convocation, Spring 2019. Video: Dayne Young

Wegman, Diaz headline Grady Convocation

Grady College is proud to announce that Jonathan Wegman (ABJ ’04) will deliver the Charge to Candidates and Lauren Diaz will be the distinguished senior speaker at the Grady College Convocation for spring and summer graduates on May 8, 2019.

The ceremony starts at 3 p.m. at the Classic Center.

In addition, a Grady College alumna, Deborah Roberts (ABJ ’82), was selected to deliver the keynote address at the University of Georgia undergraduate commencement on May 10. Roberts is a correspondent with ABC News and regularly appears on “20/20” and “Good Morning America.”

Wegman is the head of customer experience and strategy at Twitter. In his five years at Twitter, he has held numerous positions including senior director of Twitter’s consumer marketing strategy and effectiveness and director of sales strategy leadership for planning and innovation. Prior to Twitter, Wegman worked in positions at Performics, Moxie Interactive and J. Walter Thompson. Wegman majored in advertising while at Grady College and also earned his New Media certificate.

Diaz was selected to be the distinguished senior speaker from an audition process. Diaz is a journalism major and a minor in sociology. She also received her New Media certificate. During her time as a student, Diaz participated in study abroad programs, traveling to Dublin, Ireland, and Oxford, England, and served as a Grady College Ambassador. She was also involved with UGA HEROs and UGA Rescue Paws. After graduation, Diaz plans to pursue a career in writing or editing.

In addition to convocation and commencement, Grady graduates and their families are invited to Grady’s Senior Send-off on Friday, May 10 from 4 to 6 p.m. The event provides an opportunity for graduates and their families to stop by the Grady lawn on the way to commencement to celebrate their hard work and say good-bye to their professors. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information about graduation events, please visit the Grady website.

Themes of truth in storytelling and making connections highlight 2018 Fall Convocation

Pictures from the Fall 2018 Grady Convocation can be viewed on the UGA Grady Flickr gallery:

Fall 2018 convocation graduates:

Themes of hard work, perseverance, truth in storytelling and making connections were shared as Grady College graduates were celebrated at the Fall 2018 Convocation ceremonies on December 13, 2018, at the Hugh Hodgson Performing Arts Center. Nearly 170 students graduated from Grady College this semester, many of whom participated in convocation.

Graduate students eligible for graduation included 28 MFA, Emerging Media and master’s in public relations students. Undergraduates who were recognized included 32 students with an advertising degree, 30 with a degree in public relations, 45 from the journalism program and 31 from entertainment and media studies.

Dean Charles Davis presided over the ceremony, giving an overview of Grady’s accomplishments this past year and praising students for their hard work, passion and academic excellence.

Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout and author of “Swiped,” addressed graduates with a talk focusing on employing truth in storytelling to “critique, clarify and convince,” and to bring stories to light that need to be told.


“Your mission is to seek out the truth, explore human emotions and give expression to the hopes and dreams of your fellow human beings,” Levin said. “Your duty is to use your talent, your skill and your public platform to give a voice to those who have none of these things. This is an awesome responsibility.”

Levin continued by saying that freedom of the press is vital to our democracy and as graduates go out into the world to pursue these professions, they will have the support of others.

“In the war on truth, you are the front lines,” Levin added. “We owe you our support. As a society, it’s incumbent upon us to stand with those with the guts to engage the world and bear witness to it…journalists, communication professionals…those who reflect reality back to us and help us make sense of it.”

He continued: “As you are society’s storytellers, I implore you to keep the stories that matter on our radar to keep them from being forgotten.”

The distinguished senior speaker, a student chosen based on an audition among the graduates for the honor, was Kathleen Brennan, an EMST major who also earned a major in English.

Brennan’s talk focused on the power of connection and relying on fellow graduates.


“If you know the people next to you, great,” Brennan said. “They will our greatest asset as we venture out into the world. Not just as networking opportunities, but as friends who can attest and support us during our greatest struggles. If you don’t, say ‘hello.’ They might just be the Lennon to your McCartney or maybe just someone who can sublease from you in LA someday. We are entering a really intimidating field, but I feel so blessed to be doing it alongside some insanely cool people.”

Lauren Izzo (ABJ ’05, MA ‘07), a member of the Grady Society Alumni Board,  concluded the platform of speakers by welcoming the students to the alumni ranks of the college and encouraging new alumni to stay involved through mentoring, coming to alumni receptions to meet current students and supporting Grady Giving Day.

Complete versions of the speaker comments can be found here:


Spring 2018 graduates hear messages of adapting through change

Pictures from the Spring 2018 Grady Convocation can be viewed on the UGAGrady Flickr galleries:

       Spring 2018 convocation graduates:

More than 500 students were eligible for graduation from Grady College this semester, many of whom were recognized at the Spring 2018 Convocation ceremony on April 26, 2018, at the Classic Center.

Forty graduate students graduated from Grady College, include three Ph.D. graduates. Undergraduates who were recognized included 142 students with an advertising degree, 130 with a degree in public relations, 114 from the journalism program and 81 from the entertainment and media studies department.

Dean Charles Davis presided over the ceremony, giving an overview of Grady’s accomplishments this past year and commending the students for their hard work, passion and academic excellence.

Bonnie Arnold (ABJ ’77), a producer at DreamWorks with production credits including “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Toy Story,” delivered the charge to the candidates and focused on making change work in their favor.

Four lessons in her address included:

  1. Be flexible and take advantage of every opportunity. “Focus on building a track record of success and people will keep betting on you,” Arnold advised, pulling from a quote from Kim Lubel. Arnold illustrated this advice among stories of how she got her start driving Harrison Ford as a production assistant, and serving as a body guard for Kevin Costner for a movie called, “Revenge,” which led to her start producing credit for “Dancing with Wolves.”
  2. Seek out a mentor…or even better, a sponsor. “Mentors open the door, sponsors help you walk through them,” Arnold said.
  3. Be brave. “It takes courage to deal with change,” Arnold said, recalling stories of getting “Toy Story” into production through the creation of computer-generated animation.
  4. “The quicker you realize this, the better,” she concluded.

The distinguished senior speaker, a student chosen based on an audition among the graduates for the spot, was Noelle Lashley, a journalism major from Cartersville, Georgia.

Near the conclusion of her speech, Lashley talks about why Grady is special to her: “I walked into Grady as a terrified student who didn’t even know how to set up a camera tripod. Now, I leave Grady as a journalist who has found a second family and a second home. This college has given us all the skills to move forward in the future…as who we ARE, not who we think we SHOULD be.”

Dana Todd (ABJ ‘91), chair of the Grady Society Alumni Board, concluded the platform of speakers by welcoming the students to the alumni ranks of the college.

Todd encouraged graduates to connect with the Grady alumni family by thinking outside the box about ways to give back…through networking, mentoring, supporting current students with new educational opportunities and encouraging other alumni.

“Don’t forget to reach back while you are reaching for the stars,” Todd concluded.

Passionate convocation speech leads to professional opportunity

One never knows when or where opportunity will knock. For Orlando Pimentel, Grady College’s senior speaker at its April 28 convocation, he certainly didn’t expect opportunity to knock as the result of his convocation speech.

Nor did Pimentel expect that when he met convocation keynote speaker Brad MacAfee backstage, that it would be such a consequential introduction.

However, late that evening, Pimentel received a call from MacAfee who is the CEO of one of the largest global public relations agencies, Porter Novelli. MacAfee was congratulating Pimentel on his speech, but also was offering him a dream internship at Porter Novelli.

Orlando Pimentel and his family after Grady Convocation April 27, 2017.
Orlando Pimentel and his family after Grady Convocation April 27, 2017.

“It was surreal at first, because when Brad introduced himself on the phone, I still couldn’t get over the fact that I had just taken my phone off airplane mode nearly 5 seconds before his call,” Pimentel recalled. “The timing seemed so perfect.”

Earlier that day, Pimentel delivered one of the most emotional and passionate senior speeches in recent years, garnering a standing ovation at the end. Touching on the challenges he overcame to study at Grady College, this first generation Mexican-American implored his fellow graduates to work relentlessly, nurture a supportive network and maintain their confidence. These were all messages that resonated with MacAfee.

MacAfee delivered a powerful message in his keynote address, as well, talking about the Four I’s: Integrity, Imagination, Improvement and Inclusion.

Pimentel had been searching for a job or internship in creative advertising over the past several months, however, due to his heavy course load including a campaigns class and his work with Talking Dog, he had not been able to dedicate the time required to secure employment for the summer.

MacAfee’s offer to Pimentel included an internship opportunity in New York City which would focus more on consumer accounts, or an internship in Washington, D.C. which would focus more on public affairs and social good. Pimentel chose the internship in Washington, D.C.

“When I came to UGA,” Pimentel said, “I knew whatever I studied, I wanted to use it to make a positive impact on society, and the chance to intern in D.C. is the perfect embodiment of where I want to take my life and career.”

It was the convocation speech, not a traditional interview, that led Pimental to the Porter Novelli opportunity. Pimentel admits that he was prompted to apply to be a senior speaker because he not only wanted share his story, but to encourage his fellow graduates to participate, as well.

“Despite attending one of the best colleges in the state and nation, I witnessed how much (other Grady students) didn’t believe in themselves, and it was disheartening, because they were all capable and talented people,” Pimentel explained. “They lacked confidence, something I can relate to very much. I just wanted to go up to them and say ‘you are more capable and stronger than you think.’ I knew in order to inspire them, I had to share my life and the circumstances I came from.”

Pimentel said his family was very proud of his talk, especially his sister who graduated from college two years ago and had a similar journey. He has been surprised by the reaction of his speech by others, though.

“When it came time to give my speech, I hoped it would succeed in at least resonating with some students, but I had no idea that it would impact and move so many people as deeply as it has,” Pimentel said. “It has truly been an honor, as well as very humbling.”

As he prepares for his internship at Porter Novelli in a few weeks, Pimentel finds strength in the work ethic his parents have instilled in him.

“I lacked confidence and self-esteem, which led me to be discouraged a lot like my friends and peers were, but having matured and gained confidence, I realize I’m not where I am today because of chance or luck,” Pimentel concluded. “I’m here because I made the effort to move forward, every single day, by staying determined, believing in and developing my abilities, being kind to myself and others, and reaching out to others for guidance and support.”

Pimentel, like many of our Grady College graduates, is well on his way.

Grady Convocation marks milestone for new graduates

Candid pictures from Spring 2017 Convocation can be viewed on the UGA Grady Flickr gallery:

Convocation Candids
Miscellaneous Ceremony Pictures
Graduate Students
Advertising Students
Public Relations Students
Journalism and Digital Broadcast Journalism Students
Mass Media Arts, and Entertainment and Media Studies Students

A lesson about the “Four I’s” and a heartfelt testimony about the journey to get to Grady and earn a degree were just two of the highlights of the Grady College Spring and Summer Convocation at The Classic Center Theatre on April 27, 2017.

More than 450 Grady College students earned their degrees this semester including six Ph.D. students, 20 master’s students, 130 students with an advertising specialty, 121 in public relations, 62 from the journalism program, 39 who studied digital and broadcast journalism, 62 with a mass media arts specialty and 24 with an entertainment and media studies concentration.

Dean Charles Davis presided over the ceremony, giving an overview of Grady’s successes this past year including a new certificate program, awards and the high level of dedication, passion and hard work by the students.

The keynote speaker was Brad MacAfee, CEO of the global public relations agency Porter Novelli. MacAfee guided the students through keys to success, which were summarized by the Four I’s: Integrity, Imagination, Improvement and Inclusion.

MacAfee began his description of the Four I’s by advising graduates to hold firm to their values and to construct personal definitions of what is right and wrong. “Define and clarify your principles now. Hold onto them,” he said.

Hallmarks of MacAfee’s talk touched on the importance of keeping an open mind and always working to get better. He closed his address by talking about the importance of inclusion, because in an age where people are so connected, it’s crucial that they work together and embrace one another.

“Be sure to seek out different perspectives, opinions and thoughts,” MacAfee said. “Unless you open your mind to others, you will never be able to truly find deeper connections and the common ground that unites, informs and inspires.”

Perhaps the most emotional part of the convocation ceremony was the speech delivered by Senior Speaker Orlando Pimentel, an advertising major from LaGrange, Georgia. He is a first-generation graduate.

Pimentel detailed the challenges and commitment he and his family faced to get him to college. Through perseverance, determination and nurturing relationships, he and other students overcame obstacles and earned their degrees.

“Let me assure you, we are qualified,” Pimentel emphasized. “We are enough. We earned our right to be here today because Grady has prepared us to face and overcome any challenge life presents by teaching us how to work relentlessly and providing a supportive network of faculty, staff, alumni, friends…the Grady family, if you will.”

He further challenged his fellow graduates: “I implore you to always keep the will to work relentlessly and these relationships alive because they are the catalysts that will continue to open the doors wherever life will take you.”

Pimentel’s passionate talk was met with a standing ovation.

Eric NeSmith (ABJ ’02) former chair of the Grady Society Alumni Board, concluded the platform of speakers by welcoming the students to the alumni ranks of the college. He encouraged them to maintain the relationships they developed at Grady College and to stay connected with the college and its worldwide network of alumni.