#ProfilesOfTenacity: Aleesa de Castro

A division one athlete, fourth year entertainment and media studies major Aleesa de Castro says tenacity is all about persistence and resilience. Aleesa and her sister Cate share a passion for film, and together they founded de Castro productions and organized the first ever Backlight Student Film Festival this past spring. Aleesa serves as the vice president of The Industry, is a videographer for Strike Magazine, and she is currently interning for the Producers Guild of America.

Why did you choose your major?

I enrolled into the University of Georgia as a biology major, but I’ve had a strong love and passion for film all my life. As a freshman, I was looking to get more involved on campus and stumbled upon the entertainment media industries club, better known as The Industry. I began to meet others who shared my passion. Many of them were entertainment and media studies students who were looking to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. I was truly inspired by my peers. Watching them follow their dreams assured me that this too was a career path I could follow. I changed my major and began cultivating my career in the industry.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

This past summer, I attended the Cannes Film Festival study away program. All in all, there is no other way to describe this trip than a dream. As an aspiring film producer, there was no better fit than the Cannes Film Festival. For the two weeks of the festival, my classmates and I were at the global epicenter of the film industry. We were meeting filmmakers and buyers from all over the world. We were able to grow our networks and open our eyes to a variety of careers that exist in the entertainment landscape. It was magical. Every day consisted of screening international films, attending press junkets, dressing up for red carpets, meeting talent and industry professionals, trying different French foods, and exploring the French Rivera. I look back at this experience and it almost doesn’t even feel real.

aleesa wearing uga jersey mid-run
Outside of her involvement at Grady College, Aleesa is a division one athlete, and runs both cross country and track and field. (Photo:submitted)
What does tenacity mean to you?

Tenacity is all about persistence and resilience. As a division one athlete, this is something that has been instilled in me; however, I also feel there is a component of giving back and looking out for others. Someone who is truly tenacious is also focused on uplifting their teammates and those around them.

Who is your professional hero?

Fred Rogers is someone I really admire. He had a profound effect on television and media in general. He touched the lives of millions and his messages continue to resonate with me. In his commencement speech at Dartmouth he said, “You never have to do anything extraordinary to be special.” This is something I think about often. It reminds that what is important in life is loving, acknowledging and recognizing those who have loved you and supported you, and sharing this same love with others in your life.

The Industry holds a meeting in the PAF
Aleesa serves as the vice president of The Industry, an entertainment and media studies club. (Photo:submitted)
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I’m involved with The Georgia Way, an organization that helps athletes develop their leadership skills both in sports and life in general. A great piece of advice they shared with me is that leadership is all about energy. The energy you bring onto the track, on a film set, in a meeting, and so on has the ability to uplift those around you or bring them down. I believe a strong leader believes and invests in their team.

What are you passionate about?

Spending quality time with my cat and dog. Shoutout Luke and Bobbi.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Something most people don’t know about me is that I am an identical twin. My sister is a superstar finance and entertainment and media studies major, and also my best friend. We share our love for film together and hope to eventually become producing partners. We have even founded our own production company in Athens and are currently producing a feature film!

twin sisters pose on red carpet
Aleesa (right) and her twin sister Cate organized the first Backlight Student Film Festival, which took place in April of 2022.  (Photo:submitted)
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

My proudest accomplishment this year was co-founding the Backlight Student Film Festival. It started out simply as an idea to unite and showcase filmmakers’ work, but it quickly grew into so much more. It truly took a village to make this all happen, and it was so rewarding to see so many Grady and UGA students working together to celebrate one another.

twin sisters pose on red carpet
Aleesa is currently interning for the Producers Guild of America. (Photo:submitted)
What do you plan to do after graduation?

The one thing I know for certain after graduation is that I will return to the Cannes Film Festival. For the two weeks of the festival, I aim to work with either an agency or production company before returning to the United States. After that, my future is less certain. I will then either make the move across the country to Los Angeles to work for a studio or agency, or I will continue to grow my network here in Atlanta by working on film sets and developing content. Either way, I am certain Grady College has prepared me for my future career as a film producer.

Where’s your favorite place on campus and why?

One of my favorite places to meet on campus is the new MFA room located on the first floor of Grady, or the “the fishbowl” as we like to call it. The fishbowl is where I run into all my peers before class. We catch up, share what we are watching, what we are working on and so on. It lightens my day seeing them all and demonstrates what a supportive community the EMST program is.

New podcast studio opens on first floor

Grady College has converted a space on its first floor into a high-tech podcast studio. The new studio gives students the opportunity to hone their skills in one of the fastest-growing methods of communication. 

Featuring advanced sound equipment, the studio is available for both classroom and student use. It is large enough for Grady College professors to teach podcasting lessons in and available for the College’s students to produce podcasts. 

“This studio represents the massive audience shift to audio storytelling,” said Charlotte Norsworthy, a part-time instructor in Journalism at Grady College and producer of The Lead Podcast. “More and more, audiences are engaging with stories through the ear, and it is incredibly exciting for Grady to be engaging our students in the latest industry developments. I am thrilled to dive into this space with the students.”

The sound isolation booth in the new podcast studio
The sound isolation booth allows students to do voiceover or single-track narration recording. (Photo: Jackson Schroder)

The studio is designed to let up to four students record a live-to-tape podcast together, each with their own microphones and audio monitoring. There is also a sound isolation booth for doing voiceover or single-track narration recording. Students can bring in a laptop, plug in to a high-quality microphone, close the door behind them and have a quiet, clean space to record in.

In the coming months, additions to the space will allow students to record video and seamlessly bring guests in virtually, from outside the room. 

“This is no home studio and it’s a far cry from a closet,” said Kim Landrum, a senior lecturer in Advertising who will be using the new studio in the spring for her Podcast Production and Branding course. “Our students will learn production techniques on the same hardware and software they can expect to find in the industry – and in many cases better. This is the real deal.”

The studio’s construction was organized by Grady College’s chief technology officer, Mark Johnson, who is also a senior lecturer in journalism. 

At the moment, faculty can request access for their students through Mark Johnson at mej@uga.edu. A scheduling system will become available within the coming months. 


Moni Basu named director of MFA Narrative Nonfiction program

A quote graphic that reads "“This felt like a poetic opportunity for me. It is an honor for me to lead this amazing program and to ensure that Valerie’s legacy shines bright.”Moni Basu, an award-winning journalist and author, has been named the director of the Master in Fine Arts in Narrative Nonfiction program and the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. She will begin her new role in January 2023.

Basu has been a distinguished professor of practice at Grady College since 2015, serving as a visiting writer and mentor in the nonfiction MFA program launched by the late Valerie Boyd, who passed away in February 2022. 

“This felt like a poetic opportunity for me,” Basu said. “It is an honor for me to lead this amazing program and to ensure that Valerie’s legacy shines bright.”

Basu is leaving her role as the Michael and Linda Connelly Lecturer in Narrative Nonfiction at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, a job she began in August 2018. She was named UF’s teacher of the year in her fourth semester there.

Before that, Basu was a senior writer at CNN and a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she won numerous national awards. Basu is the author of the book “Chaplain Turner’s War,” which stemmed from a series of stories she wrote on Darren Turner, an Army chaplain who shepherded a battalion of infantrymen during a grueling deployment in Iraq. 

“We’re thrilled to have Moni join us full time,” said Jonathan Peters, head of the Department of Journalism at Grady College. “She’s a wonderful person and an award-winning teacher and writer, with bylines all over the world and deep experience covering issues related to trauma, race and identity. “Our students will be so fortunate to learn from her, and all of us in the Department of Journalism are excited for her to make her mark on the Narrative Media Writing program.”

Basu speaks during a panel at Grady College in 2018.
Basu speaks during a panel at Grady College in 2018. (Photo: Sarah Freeman)

Basu, who has also served as an editor-at-large for The Bitter Southerner and The Groundtruth Project, has a background in local journalism. Early in her career, Basu worked as editor of The Florida Flambeau and briefly at The Tallahassee Democrat, before accepting a position at AJC. 

“Moni brings continuity to the program. With her extensive experience in domestic and international reporting she also brings a new dimension to the mix,” said Jeff Springston, director of the MFA Narrative Media Writing program at Grady College. “As we seek to broaden our student base to become more international, she is the perfect person to lead that effort.”

The MFA Narrative Nonfiction program is a two-year, low-residency program designed to cultivate writers in storytelling. The program offers students an opportunity to develop skills that prepares them to be accomplished authors, editors, literary agents or other industry professionals. Students have published books and articles in national magazines. The MFA Narrative Nonfiction program is one of two tracks of study in the MFA Narrative Media Writing program. The other, in screenwriting, is directed by Nate Kohn. 

A number of leading editors, writers and instructors serve as MFA Narrative Nonfiction mentors including: Rosalind Bentley, interim director of the MFA Narrative Nonfiction program and Pulitzer prize finalist; John T. Edge, author of “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South;” Lolis Eric Elie, filmmaker, television writer for series such as HBO’s “Treme;” Melissa Faye Greene, author of several books including the award-winning “Praying for Sheetrock;” Pat Thomas, professor emerita and former Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism at UGA; and Jan Winburn, editor of the Pulitzer Prize winning story, “The Umpire’s Son,” reported by Lisa Pollak.

Applications to the MFA Narrative Nonfiction program are due each year by May 1. Learn more on the program website.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Olga Diaz-Nasser

Olga Diaz-Nasser is a fourth year public relations major with a minor in French and a certificate in public affairs communications. She is also a double dawg and will be getting her masters in public administration. She is heavily involved in and outside of the Grady community, serving as the executive director of University Judiciary, the member relations manager for Women in Media, a Grady Ambassador and a Carolyn Caudell Tieger Fellow for the public affairs communications certificate.

What does “tenacity” mean to you?

Tenacity means going after your goals no matter the obstacles that are in your way. To me, it means determination, perseverance, and resilience. It’s something I hope to embody throughout my daily life.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

Professor Watson is definitely my favorite Grady Professor. His public affairs communications classes have helped me explore my career interests and develop my goals for the future. His experience, advice, and kindness have been invaluable as I’ve delved further into the intersection of politics and communications.

Diaz-Nasser gives a speech as the incoming executive director of University Judiciary at their Jenny Penny Oliver ceremony in April of 2022. (Photo:submitted)
What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

I’m involved in an organization called UniversityJudiciary and it has truly defined my path here at UGA. University Judiciary has given me a supportive community to encourage me as I work towards my dreams and allowed me to gain the confidence in myself needed to achieve them. I’ve met my closest friends through the organization and the Office of Student Conduct staff have become some of my mentors. Judiciary has helped me grow as a person, leader, and friend.

What are you passionate about?

Helping others! My senses of justice and empathy have always driven me to serve others and that is what I’ve tried to do throughout my time here at UGA. I hope to keep working hard to help underprivileged and minority communities around the nation in my future career.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?
Diaz-Nasser poses for a picture with other members of the 2021-2022 University Judiciary executive council. (Photo:submitted)

Getting involved is absolutely essential. Freshman year is tough and your first year when you officially get accepted into Grady is tough too. Having people who support you and encourage you to go for it will be vital to your success and happiness. Grady has so many opportunities for students to get involved, learn new skills, and meet other passionate, driven Grady students. Don’t let any of these opportunities pass you by. Branch out and get involved!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Ok, in all honesty I found this quote on Pinterest but it still echoes in my head every day, “The grass is greener where you water it.” I struggled a lot freshman year. I was shy and nervous about getting involved on campus and making new friends. I had spent so long wanting this ideal version of what my freshman year was supposed to look like, that I forgot that I was the one who was supposed to make it happen. This quote pushed me out of my comfort zone. I realized it was my responsibility to put myself out there, join clubs, meet new people, and water my own grass. I try to live by this quote every day. Everything I do is to water my own grass, because I know if I put in the effort then no matter what happens I’ll be proud of myself.

What motivates you?

My parents are my biggest motivators. My mom is a Colombian immigrant and her story is what has inspired me to want to work in immigration policy. Both her and my dad have always been my biggest supporters and I do everything I can to make them proud. I’m thankful for all of their encouragement; without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Diaz-Nasser smiles for a photo with Congresswoman Lucy McBath (D-GA 6) during her summer internship in Representative McBath’s D.C. office. (Photo:submitted)
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

This past summer I had the opportunity to intern in the office of Congresswoman Lucy McBath and live in UGA’s Delta Hall in Washington D.C. through the Honors in Washington program. Getting into Honors in Washington is definitely my biggest accomplishment this year. I was so honored to have been a part of the group of talented, passionate students that were in Washington D.C. with me and blessed to have been able to work in the office of my own representative, Congresswoman McBath. This summer was one of the best of my life and I’m so grateful to have been able to experience it alongside the UGA students in Delta Hall.

What are you planning to do after you graduate?

I hope to work in Washington D.C. My studies in the field of public affairs communications has really ignited a passion for policy and politics in me. I’d like to work in immigration policy on a federal level, hopefully in a committee in Congress!

Where is your favorite study spot?

I love to study on the fourth floor of the Main Library. It’s the floor where you can talk or take zoom meetings if you need to, and nobody will get mad if you’re speaking at a normal level. I hate studying in absolute silence so I love being able to study without being afraid of typing too loud or rummaging through my backpack too much.

Department of Advertising and Public Relations hosts 2022 AdPR Week

Grady College’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations will celebrate its 8th annual week-long celebration of National AdPR Week Oct. 3 – 7.

This year’s AdPR week will feature a lineup of engaging activities and presentations by alumni and industry leaders to facilitate students’ networking and professional development opportunities.

To kick off the celebration, AdPR is featuring its third annual AdPR Giving Day Campaign, asking alumni and friends of the Department to contribute to the AdPR Excellence Fund on Oct. 3. This year’s goal is to engage and achieve 50 donors within 24 hours. Many AdPR students rely upon scholarship support to enhance their education and professional development. Gifts collected on this AdPR Giving Day tackle this issue by inviting alumni and friends to contribute to a permanent scholarship for AdPR students.

“We need the support from our alumni and friends to achieve the goal of the Giving Day Campaign,” Dr. Juan Meng, head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, explained. “To help our students embark on a successful education journey, it is important to provide consistent and sustainable support. This might be a step along the way, but it opens doors for a deep understanding of needs and different ways to engage.”

Events scheduled during the rest of the AdPR Week are dedicated to giving students various opportunities to network and learn from professionals and alumni.  On Oct. 4, a diverse leadership panel, “Closing the Equality Gaps,” sponsored by The Female Quotient, an equality services company that provides thought leadership platforms for women and develops solutions for organizations committed to closing the gender gap in the workplace, will kick off the networking opportunity. Featured panelists include:

  • Debbie Ebalobo (ABJ ’10), director of global external and financial communications at The Coca-Cola Company
  • Soon Mee Kim, chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer at the Omnicom Communications Consultancy Network
  • Roma Desai Patel, founder and CEO at Tejari
  • Candii Woodson, director of media strategy at Cricket Wireless

The panel will be moderated by Emily Moody (BA ’19) from The Female Quotient.

On Tuesday evening, members of AdClub and PRSSA will have the opportunity to hear from Amanda Maddox (ABJ ‘10) on Public Affairs Communications. Maddox has been the communications director for a number of House Representatives and Senators of the Federal Government in her career. She currently serves as the managing director at PLUS Communications. She is the guest lecturer of ADPR 5991, Public Affairs Communications in a Federal Context, through the Grady in D.C. program.

On October 5, alumna Christine Shen (BBA ’12), lead for digital analytics at CHANEL, will be making her first return to campus since her graduation. Shen joined CHANEL with over eight years of agency experience leading paid media strategy for Fortune 500 companies such as Samsung, American Express and BMW. Her presentation will focus on brand storytelling and digital communications.

Grady College’s bi-annual Dawgs with the Dean has always been a tradition and highlight during the AdPR Week where Dean Davis dons his apron and provides lunch and entertainment to students, faculty and staff. It is even more special to have this signature event on the College’s new and beautiful Schnitzer Family Media Lawn on Oct. 6. In addition, a virtual industry insiders panel will be hosted in the evening highlighting careers in entertainment marketing.

Finally on Oct. 7, the inaugural AdPR Vision Awards will be accepting applications from AdPR students. The awards will provide one student majoring in advertising and one public relations major with $500 each to be used towards their academic endeavors.

“Increasing participation and engagement during our annually signature AdPR Week can have huge returns on overall reputation of our programs,” said Meng. “We are exploring endless opportunities to integrate our alumni’s presence directly into the campus community to build strong connections. We call for your action. Don’t just be in the community, become a part of it.”

The Department of Advertising and Public Relations remains one of the top programs in the country and has award-winning teaching and research faculty and highly successful alumni who are influencing the world of advertising and public relations by applying the knowledge they gained from a top-notch education at UGA.

AdPR Week will be shared on social media with the hashtag #AdPRide.

A calendar of events for AdPR Club

Neil Landau named executive director of MFA Film Program

Neil Landau (MFA ’18), an award-winning screenwriter, creative producer, author, and educator has been named Executive Director of the University of Georgia Master of Fine Arts in Film, Television and Digital Media.

“Professor Landau brings a vast amount of experience not only in the film industry, but in the MFA space, as well,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College of Mass Communication and Journalism, which co-sponsors the MFA Film program along with Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “He’s been an amazing addition to the Entertainment & Media Studies department, and he has vision and energy commensurate to the task. Our MFA program in Film, TV and Digital Media truly is one-of-a-kind, and he’s the leader it needs.”

Landau addresses the third cohort of the MFA Film, Television and Digital Media program during orientation at Grady College on Aug. 12, 2022. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Prior to assuming the Executive Director title, Landau served as Director of UGA’s screenwriting curriculum, where he created the Distinguished Industry Mentor program. The Distinguished Industry Mentor program enlists some of the industry’s most prominent screenwriters, directors, and TV showrunners — including David Koepp (“Jurassic Park”), Allison Liddi-Brown (“Friday Night Lights”), and Peabody Award-winner Steven Canals (“Pose”) — to share their expertise with students via master classes, mentoring sessions, and networking.

Of his new role, Landau says “I’m genuinely excited to be part of building and leading our MFA film, television, and digital media program, based on a production company/active studio model, to meet the rapidly expanding Georgia film and TV production ecosystem.”

Landau describes the MFA Film program as interdisciplinary, providing students with the opportunity to find and hone their unique voices as visual storytellers. They not only write original, feature-length screenplays and TV pilots, but also direct at least three short films. Landau continues, “We’re training them to be hyphenates in the Industry; whether that’s as writer/director or writer/producer, we’re preparing them to be innovators and trailblazers.”

“Neil Landau is instrumental to this program and for its success going forward,” said Nalani Dowling (MFA ’22), a recent graduate. “He makes each student feel like he really cares about our success and genuinely wants to understand our work and where we are coming from.”

Mr. Landau is a graduate of the UGA Narrative Nonfiction Media Writing program in Screenwriting and brings years of academic experience to the job, including more than two decades as a screenwriting instructor at University of California, Los Angeles School of Theater, Film & Television, and several years as Assistant Dean of Special Projects and co-Director of the UCLA MFA Screenwriting program.  He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Film/Television from UCLA.

As a screenwriter, his credits include feature films “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead” and the global animated blockbuster “The Adventures of Tadeo Jones” (for which he won a Spanish Academy “Goya” Award), and the television series “Melrose Place,” “The Magnificent Seven” and “Doogie Howser, M.D.” Upcoming projects include the worldwide release of the animated feature film “Mummies” from Warner Bros. in late February, and “Little Big Boy,” an animated western, currently in production. His latest original, live-action screenplay, “Flinch,” is currently being produced by Teri Schwartz (“Sister Act,” “Beaches”), in partnership with WME Independent.

Landau is also author of six books including the 2022 second edition of “The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap: Creating Great Television in an On Demand World,” featuring interviews with 19 of the most respected showrunners in television, such as Issa Rae of “Insecure,” Chris Mundy of “Ozark,” Sam Levisnon of “Euphoria,” and Jesse Armstrong of “Succession.”

The MFA Film program is a two-year intensive program teaching students directing, screenwriting, producing and other skills needed for creative careers in Georgia’s film industry, which brought $4.4 billion to the state in fiscal year 2022.

Jeff Springston, who previously directed the MFA Film, Television and Digital Media program, continues directing the MFA Narrative Media Writing program.

Photo of MFA graduate with MFA faculty members
Landau (second from left) poses for a picture with MFA Film graduate Nalani Dowling (MFA ’22) and MFA Film faculty members Sanghoon Lee and Shandra McDonald after graduation ceremonies at Studio A of Georgia Film Academy on Aug. 13, 2022. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)


Podcast: Exploring Grady College’s Qualitative Research Lab

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Recently, the Grady Research Radio podcast had the pleasure of featuring Dr. Karin Assmann, an assistant professor in the Journalism Department at Grady College, a former U.S. correspondent for Spiegel TV, and the director of the Qualitative Research Lab. The lab is for both graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in qualitative research, which, in very simple terms, involves collecting and analyzing non-numerical data.

In this interview, Dr. Assmann explains what goes on in her lab, speaks about recent studies conducted in the lab, and offers insight into how those interested can get involved. 

Below is a transcription of the episode, edited for clarity and brevity. 

A quote graphic that reads "I'm really excited about this lab. I hope to attract and support students who are also interested in doing qualitative research and provide them with resources through this space." Grady College: What is qualitative research?

Karin Assmann: So, qualitative research looks at performances and practices of human communication. The data that we work with is from interviews that we conduct, or focus groups, participant observations, ethnographies, documents and case studies.

For example, in a study I conducted with master’s student William Newlin, we looked at Fox News’s Sean Hannity’s media bashing during the weeks before and after presidential and midterm elections. So that means we obtain video and transcripts and searched for themes. The Qualitative Research Lab has a computer with really powerful qualitative data analysis software that we use to do that work.

The qualitative part, it doesn’t mean it’s higher quality. It just means the kind of data that we collect and the methods and the theoretical approaches we use are different than, for example, people using survey data.

Grady College: The Qualitative Research Lab is still very new, having started in Spring of 2022. At this point, most of the research coming out of the lab has been focused on news deserts in rural Georgia. Dr. Assmann goes on to explain.  

Karin Assmann: I’ve had Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO) students — students who are undergraduates who want to pursue research — do interviews with people in rural communities here in Georgia, asking them about their news and information needs and habits.

They would conduct these interviews, either in person or via phone or Zoom, and then download the audio files, import them, transcribe them and then analyze them to determine how people talk about the way they consume information or pursue information. 

Grady College: Has the research conducted in this lab yet influenced anything outside the walls of Grady College? 

Karin Assmann: I certainly hope that we’ve influenced some of the people who have seen our presentations. The CURO students, they presented during the symposium. I’m still finishing one of those papers, and I hope to turn that project, which is about rural Georgia, specifically one county in Georgia, into a pilot project that would help rural communities figure out how to better fulfill those information needs, given the fact that they may not have a local newspaper at all.

Grady College: While news desert research has been the primary focus so far, Dr. Assmann makes it clear that the Qualitative Research Lab is open to any kind of research that uses interview data or other non-quantitative data. 

Karin Assmann teaches in front of her class.
Karin Assmann instructs her students on the first day of fall semester classes 2022. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)

Karin Assmann: I’m hoping that this new cohort of master’s students will take the opportunity to come in here and do guided research with me. We’ll have the right kind of software that they need to answer some of the research questions that they might have.

We started this last semester, and I have to thank Dr. Janice Hume and Dr. Charles Davis, our dean, who gave the okay for this. I was asking for funding from our Department for every new student who wanted to do it and who needed a license for this software. It’s called MAXQDA, by the way. It was adding up. It was getting so expensive, I thought, why not create a lab where we have everything we need. Anybody can come in here with the data on their hard drive and use what we have. 

I also wanted to create a space where we can actually talk through some of these things. That’s one of the other things that qualitative research is. It’s really figuring out the meaning of human beings’ expressions. Often, you don’t really discover themes or the meaning of things when you’re sitting alone at home. So, it’s great to have a team that you can sit around with and brainstorm directions that you could go in. That’s the kind of space that I wanted to create here.

Grady College: Dr. Assmann’s path to academia started as a professional journalist. She was the correspondent for a German news station called Spiegel TV, based in Washington. 

Karin Assmann: I worked for print and radio, and I’ve been a producer, reporter and correspondent for television. As the industry evolved, I became more interested in finding answers to questions about the news media industry, like about journalists’ work conditions and practices and about how newsrooms worked. Of course, this was in part because I was working in a newsroom and wondering what was happening all around me. 

My dissertation looked at how the demands of audience engagement labor affected journalists. For that, I interviewed 150 journalists and audience engagement editors and strategies. I also spent about two months in various newsrooms documenting work routines. There I found that my methodology of choice, of course, has always been qualitative.

That’s why I’m really excited about this lab, because I hope to attract and support students who are also interested in doing this kind of research and provide them with resources through this space, hopefully resulting in some conference presentations and journal publications. 

I’m also the incoming head of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s (AEJMC) Culture and Critical Studies Division, which is traditionally a division that’s partial to qualitative research and one that’s really welcoming and supportive of grad students. 

Grady College: How can those who are interested in working in the Qualitative Research Lab get in touch with you? 

Karin Assmann: If you’re interested in working with me in this lab, just contact me. My email is KBA@uga.edu. Stop by my office. Just reach out to me and talk to me about what your research interest is and see if it aligns with the kind of work that we do here. And then we’ll take it from there. 

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Sydney Hood

Journalism major Sydney Hood balances her time at Grady with working as a weekend multimedia journalist for WRDW/WAGT News 12 NBC 26. She also serves as the president of DiGamma Kappa Broadcast Society, works as a senior production manager for Grady Newsource, is a reporter for the Newsource election show, and she writes for the Cox Institute’s Covering Poverty Initiative.

What does tenacity mean to you?

Being tenacious is all about stepping up to the plate when life knocks you down. It’s working for the life you’ve always dreamed of despite criticism and hardships. It’s embracing the uncomfortableness and facing adversity head-on. Tenacity means being fearless in pursuing what sets you apart from the rest and finding what makes YOU special. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Do not take yourself too seriously. Take your job seriously, but not yourself. I am a ridiculously goofy person. I cut up and laugh (cackle actually) at every little (and silly) mistake and stay optimistic about the obstacles. When it comes to spaces with rules (school, work, meetings), my quiet, no-nonsense side creeps out. I practice rigorous self-judgment and hold myself to the highest of high standards. It’s an approach that robs me of the peace that comes with self-acceptance and celebrating those smaller but just as big goals. I am slowly realizing that not taking myself seriously allows for people to see the real, genuine me. The silly, quirky, hardworking and determined me. The human in me. It’s a practice I am constantly improving on everyday, but I believe that loosening up on yourself allows for exploration and change.

Sydney doing a liveshot on camera, holding a microphone and pointing to a group of people at a health fair
Sydney was a “future focus” intern for WRDW/WAGT News 12 NBC 26 this summer in Augusta. (Photo:submitted)
Why did you choose your major?

I’ve always had an itch for writing – whether it was an essay for school or an entry in my journal. I am a naturally curious (borderline nosey) person. I love history. I enjoy digesting new information and the ability I have to captivate one’s attention by explaining this information. With all of this said, journalism was always in the back of my head growing up. As a soft-spoken and shy person afraid to leave her comfort zone, I didn’t think this was possible for me. Ultimately I let that fear get to me and abandoned my dream. I started college as a biology major and it took a mid-semester crisis (and UGA chemistry) my freshman year to realize that was not for me. Ultimately, sitting in the middle of my dorm room crying my eyes out because I didn’t know what to do with my life, I pulled myself together and finally declared myself as a journalism major. I always look back and think of this as an “ah-ha” moment because it was truly  the first time I really walked out of my comfort zone. It really is true that nothing good comes from staying in your comfort zone. I’ve realized my passion for storytelling was far bigger than my fear of not succeeding. Grady has shown me that journalism is much, much more than writing and telling stories. This place has taught me – and continues to teach me – how I can go from good to great and be the best in my field. Long story short, I am forever grateful 18-year-old Sydney took a leap of faith.  

What motivates you?

I am motivated by my constant fear of being just average. I do not want to go through life feeling like I had all this potential and never touched or used it. I always strive to be intentional in everything I do. I am also motivated by the word “can’t.” I am often told I can’t handle everything I am involved in from school to work and everything in between. When someone tells me I can’t do something, I make it my mission to not only do it, but do it better. 

Students gather for a group picture outside a building in Copenhagen
Sydney says her most memorable Grady experience was going on the travel writing program to Copenhagen. (Photo: R. Vassileva)
What is your most memorable Grady experience?

This past summer, I lived in Copenhagen for a month and studied travel journalism with some pretty amazing people. To say this was an experience I’ll never forget in quite the understatement. I tested all of my creative outlets, pushed myself beyond my comfort zone and opened my eyes to understand the flow of global news. This trip also instilled in me some practical knowledge of solutions journalism: what it is, what it is not and the importance of this type of journalism. All of this I still carry with me and will continue to do so beyond my career at Grady.

What are you passionate about?

I love putting a story together, hearing what people are passionate about and understanding what drives them. The people you meet and speak to are the ones who create and tell the story. It’s exciting to connect with people, listen to their extraordinary stories and provide a voice for them. I am always amazed at how a simple idea at a 9:30 a.m. pitch meeting formulates into a 6 p.m. story with real people and real life impact. 

What is an example of a time you used your skills in a real-world experience?

Every time I am out in the field or in the newsroom, I always think back to the tips from various professors. The “SWEFF” checklist from Professor Shumway is tattooed in my brain. “Write to the video you have and not the video you wish you had,” from Professor Cantrell is something I have to remind myself each time I sit down to write a script. I learned all the fundamentals in the classroom, but it is outside of the classroom where I put all of my tools into practice and learn beyond the walls of Grady. Before Grady, I did not know how to shoot video. I didn’t know how to white balance or frame a camera. I didn’t know where to find sources or how to find people. I’d never published a story before. Now, I shoot, write and edit all on my own. 

Sydney gets footage of a pony
Sydney gets footage of a pony while working on a story for WRDW/WAGT about how the Aiken Equine Horse Rescue was able to recover after a fire. (Photo:submitted)
Who is your professional hero?

Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Robin Roberts, Judy Woodruff, Barabara Walters – all for the obvious reasons.  

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I do not have it together all the time. I am bad about putting up a perfect front and acting like I have all of my ducks lined up in a row (when in fact a lot of them are at the bottom of the  pond). It is important to share the lows in life just as much as we share the highs. College is hard. Work is hard. Life is hard. And that is all okay. Sure you are going to have days where you are stressed and overwhelmed. But in the end trust that it is going to all be okay.  

I also enjoy running (like, a lot). Everyday I set aside at least one hour for a run – rain or shine, day or night. I do this not only for my physical health, but also for my mental health. It’s the one time in my day I can clear my head and step away from reality. I ran my first 5k when I was six and haven’t stopped since. I trained for and ran two full marathons before graduating high school (for the awkward 12-year-old Sydney who couldn’t run a mile without crying, this was (and still is) a big deal for her). I also love a good half-marathon – I signed up for one out of the blue while studying abroad in Copenhagen to get familiar with the city (I still needed to use Google Maps afterwards to find my way around the city but it was worth a try!). 


Student journalists at The Oglethorpe Echo are finalists for awards

Student journalists at The Oglethorpe Echo are finalists for the 2021-22 Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) Awards.

The paper was notified that its journalists were finalists in two categories: the Game-Changer Award/Small Division and the Insight Award for Visual Journalism.

In addition to this recognition for visual journalism, The Oglethorpe Echo has also been nominated as a top contender in the Media Award category by the Georgia Health Care Association and Georgia Society of Activity Professionals. The nomination is based on a series of photos of residents at Quiet Oaks retirement facility taken by Julia Walkup.

Portrait of Marcus Goolsby
Marcus Goolsby, a 98-year-old resident of Quiet Oaks Healthcare Center in Crawford, Georgia, poses for a portrait at the healthcare center on March 26, 2022. This is one of a series of portraits that has been nominated for a Media Award by the Georgia Health Care Association and the Georgia Society of Activity Professionals. It was taken by Julia Walkup, a photojournalism student, as part of the Woodall Weekend Workshop.
(Photo: Julia Walkup)

Both the photos represented in the Insight Award for Visual Journalism and the photos at Quiet Oaks were published in The Oglethorpe Echo as part of the Woodall Weekend Workshop, a program where advanced photojournalism students cover a specific county in Georgia each spring and report on stories vital to that area. The workshop took place in Oglethorpe County in April 2022.

“It is gratifying for the students’ work to be recognized when we haven’t even completed a calendar year yet,” said Amanda Bright, academic professional and assistant editor for The Oglethorpe Echo.  “To have our name being thrown around with so many other amazing nonprofits is great exposure for our students,” Bright added of the INN awards.

Bright said that the INN organization includes nearly 400 nonprofit news organizations including several large publications including ProPublica, Texas Tribune and Canopy Atlanta making it gratifying to be in such good company.

“We just joined a few months ago and it’s a very competitive application just to join,” Bright continued. “INN has a lot of requirements about what you need to be a nonprofit and transparent and have journalistic ethics.”

The Game-Changer Award is presented to an organization that produced an innovative idea or practice that led to success in revenue, audience growth or sustainable financial support of news. Bright explained that since the first issue of The Oglethorpe Echo was published with the students in early November 2021, they have also developed a full website, an e-newsletter and several social media channels including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube to promote their videos. The social media accounts were started by The Oglethorpe Echo intern Mackenzie Tanner and the website, newsletter and YouTube channel were created by journalism graduate student Alex Anteau.

Bright explains there are several video reports and audio slide shows on the YouTube channel and that one of the areas the students talk about in class is pitching story ideas, including multi-media stories.

The Oglethorpe Echo is the only publication in the Game-changer category so it is expected the paper will win the $500 prize award.

The Insight Award for Visual Journalism honors a single story or a series of stories that uses photography and/or other visual media to more accurately portray a community that has traditionally been under-represented or mis-represented in news media. The Oglethorpe Echo is nominated for work that photojournalism students Sydney Fordice (AB ’22) for a video slide show with narration called “King overcomes health issues to win crown,” and Basil Terhune was nominated for a series of photos and short story called “Never-ending egg hunt.”

The winners for all categories of INN Awards will be announced Sept. 21. The winners of the Georgia Health Care Association and Georgia Society of Activity Professionals will be announced Sept. 22.

In the Fall of 2021, The Oglethorpe Echo, a weekly newspaper serving Oglethorpe County, was preparing to shut its doors. Dink NeSmith (ABJ ‘70) stepped in and created a non-profit organization, The Oglethorpe Echo Legacy, Inc., with a Board of Advisers to keep the paper operational. Part of the plan was to provide Grady College students taking the capstone journalism class the experience to do all the reporting and photojournalism under the direction of Bright and Andy Johnston, editor-in-residence.

INN members are 501c(3) organizations or similarly structured to provide news as a charitable service or public good. They set and meet membership standards that include journalistic quality, editorial independence and public transparency around the sources of their funding and their control.

Girl throws seed as she is feeding a group of chickens in a farmyard.
Tamita Brown throws non-GMO feed to chickens on Caribe United, her farm in Crawford, Georgia. This photo is from a photo essay produced by Basil Terhune as part of the annual Woodall Weekend Workshop, put on by the University of Georgia’s visual journalism program. It has been nominated for a visual journalism award by the Institute for Nonprofit News. (Photo: Basil Terhune)

Grady College launches 2 new study away programs

This summer, Grady College is offering two new study away programs, in Chicago and Croatia, and bringing back the Travel Writing in Prague program. Information sessions on these programs and seven additional Grady study away programs are happening throughout the months of September, October and early November.

The deadline to apply to all Grady study away programs is November 10, 2022. Students should apply through the application portal and direct all questions to Rebekah Seabolt, global studies program manager. 

Grady Chicago Field Study and Internship ProgramA quote graphic that reads "Chicago is a breathtakingly gorgeous and exciting city that's full of opportunities for Grady majors.

Students on the new Chicago Field Study and Internship Program will spend eight weeks in Chicago, one of the top media and communications hubs in the United States. 

Travelers will gain hands-on experience in their areas of interest by participating in internships Monday through Thursday of each week. One evening each week, students will take a course. Fridays will be open for participating in local learning experiences and exploring the city. 

The course is titled ADPR 5990 Special Topics in Ideation: The Power of Big Ideas. In it, students will study the cutting-edge creative work being done in the Chicago market, meet the people and organizations behind it, and learn how to develop creativity by generating their own sharp and powerful ideas. Students will receive three credit hours for the course and three credit hours for the internship, for a total of six upper-level elective credit hours. 

“Chicago is a breathtakingly gorgeous and exciting city that’s full of opportunities for Grady majors,” said Dr. Jennifer Griffith, program director and senior lecturer in Advertising. “I’m excited about helping students find meaningful internships and seeing them fall in love too with one of my favorite cities.”

The program lasts from June 3 to July 29, 2023. Internships should begin June 5 and end July 27, 2023. All Grady students are eligible to apply. 


Quote graphic that reads "The program is unique as it does not focus on one location, but offers students the opportunity to travel throughout the country and be actively immersed in Croatian way of life and culture."International Mass Communication in Croatia 

The new International Mass Communication in Croatia program will run in Maymester 2023 and include a three-credit hour course, JRLC 5080 International Mass Communication. In addition to participating in class lectures, students will have the opportunity to learn about international communication processes from Croatian journalists and academics. They will also visit media organizations and a variety of cultural sites throughout the country. According to the preliminary itinerary, the program will run in three cities, the capital Zagreb and two more on the Croatian coast, Split and Dubrovnik.

“The program is unique as it does not focus on one location, but offers students the opportunity to travel throughout the country and be actively immersed in Croatian way of life and culture. It has a strong stress on academic and experiential learning. We hope that students will enjoy the lectures, media and cultural site visits, as well as guest speakers that we planned for them,” said Dr. Ivanka Pjesivac, program director and associate professor in Journalism.

The program runs from May 14 to June 3, 2023. All Grady students are eligible to apply. 

A quote graphic that reads "We’ll visit a nearby medieval town and an old film photography studio, go on a delicious food tour, see two important sites from WWII and more. The whole time, students will be learning about travel writing and how to explore culture and humanity through their own lived experiences. "Travel Writing in Prague, Czech Republic

After a year hiatus, the Travel Writing in Prague program is returning for the summer of 2023. 

Students in this program will be immersed in an exciting three-credit hour travel writing course, JOUR 5570 Introduction to Travel Writing, which will teach them how to develop strong stories, how to pitch articles to editors, and other practical tools needed to work in the field. 

The objectives for the course are for students to develop an understanding of foreign travel and to learn and practice the skills required of a travel journalist. Emphasis is placed on teaching students how to think critically about gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other forms of diversity in relation to travel journalism and to evaluate how various digital media are disrupting travel journalism.

“Our time in Prague and the Czech Republic will be full of cultural excursions as well as ample opportunity for students to explore on their own,” said Dr. Kyser Lough, program director and assistant professor in Journalism. “We’ll visit a nearby medieval town and an old film photography studio, go on a delicious food tour, see two important sites from WWII and more. The whole time, students will be learning about travel writing and how to explore culture and humanity through their own lived experiences. Prague is one of my favorite cities in the world, and a favorite site to bring students to.”

The program is expected to run from June 6 to June 29, 2023. The exact dates are subject to change at this time. All Grady students are eligible to apply. 

  • Grady students posing in front of the water while on a study away trip in Cannes.


Graphic outlining the dates for study away info sessions. Graphic outlining the dates for study away info sessions.