Doctoral student Jihoon Kim researches virtual reality’s impact on travel

Editor’s note: this article was written by the UGA Graduate School and originally appeared on

Imagine virtually experiencing the beaches of Turks and Caicos before booking a trip to visit the destination in reality.

Interactive marketing using virtual reality (VR) might one day help you decide your next vacation destination.

That is, if Jihoon Kim has anything to say about it.

A doctoral student in the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, Kim studies how virtual experiences have the potential to transform marketing communication.

Kim is advised by Dr. Grace Ahn, director of the Games and Virtual Environments Lab (GAVEL) in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

An interdisciplinary research facility, GAVEL takes a human-centered approach to investigating virtual experiences and how they influence the attitudes and behaviors of others. The lab’s research is focused on how interactions in the virtual world can shift traditional rules and norms of social interactions in the physical world.

“Because virtual experiences are inherently interactive,” Kim explains, “they have the potential to evoke stronger emotions and facilitate stronger engagement.”

“My dissertation [research] aims to show that virtual tours can facilitate a mental representation of a mediated environment, a crucial step in constructing attitude and encouraging behaviors,” Kim says.

When planning a vacation, for example, travelers will often seek advice from friends, relatives, and tourism websites.

These more traditional advertising platforms offer useful information on various destinations but are often less engaging than using newer media technology.

“Using virtual tours to promote a travel destination should help consumers engage with the information they are given, thus increasing their desire to experience a destination in person,” he says.

Travelers might be more likely to purchase a travel package, for instance, if he or she can virtually experience a distant location first.

“By providing sensory-rich simulations, VR tourism allows potential travelers, during their pre-trip planning stage, to experience a destination vividly through their sensory channels. This enables them to feel, to an extent, the intensity of emotions that travelling to that destination might afford.”

With such a realistic preview of a travel destination, VR tourism can provide future travelers a sense of confidence that the destination they ultimately choose will be right for them.

After graduation, Kim plans to pursue a position at a research university where he can “teach aspiring students, share knowledge with colleagues, and discover new challenges, perspectives, and approaches in my field of study.”

“I believe the Ph.D. program at the Grady College will be a major step toward accomplishing my career goal of becoming a competent researcher.”

‘Our Plastic, Our Problem’: a graphics study of plastics in the world’s oceans

Being able to translate messages, issues and grand challenges in a clear, educational manner is a vital skill for any graphic designer. In an effort to bring those lessons to life, students from Kim Landrum and Kristen Smith’s Advanced Graphics classes participated in a project “Our Plastic, Our Problem,” visually depicting the problem of plastic trash in the world’s waterways.

According to Smith, students were given the opportunity to “interpret this information any way they want…to educate an audience, persuade an audience, develop messaging or create public service announcements.” 

Students first studied the issues leading to plastics in the waterways and were inspired by actual trash that the Office of Sustainability cleaned out of local waterways. Once they decided on an area to focus on, they had their choice of delivering their messages via a poster, infographic, social media campaign, website, gif or three-dimensional art. Almost all the created work focused on the themes of reduce, reuse and recycle.

For graphics student Kellie Stofko, this project reinforced values she currently practices. She created series of posters about reducing consumption that encourage viewers to use metal or paper straws, reusable shopping bags and metal water bottles. “Instead of focusing on recycling, we need to focus on reducing our consumption,” Sofko explained about her messaging. “I think this is something we need to focus on. The problem is so bad.”

The project was inspired by research by Jenna Jambeck, of the College of Engineering, who recently estimated that eight million metric tons of plastic enter the oceans each year.

The project is part of the University of Georgia Spotlight on the Arts celebration, Nov. 1-11, 2018.

A video about the Our Plastic, Our Problem exhibit can be viewed here:

PR Campaigns class revamps ‘Lil’ Ice Cream Dude’ website

When he was just eight years old, Beau Shell knew he wanted to start a business. Now 14, he couldn’t have imagined what was in store for his ice cream business six years later.  

Beau, a freshman at Cedar Shoals High School, was the recipient of the Young Entrepreneur Achievement Award and was honored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. in October.  

To apply for this award, Beau, also known as Lil’ Ice Cream Dude, and his mother, Vickie, who helps him with his business, had to fill out a long and thorough application.  

“I really didn’t think much about it …. it was just so hard, [but] he ended up winning,” Vickie Shell said.  

As part of the application process, Beau revamped his website with the help of public relations students in a Grady College public relations campaign class last spring.  

Kaci Pollack, one of the students who worked on Beau’s website, learned valuable experience from working with a client prior to graduating. 

“Working with Lil Ice Cream Dude during my final semester of college was without a doubt the experience that most prepared me to enter the public relations industry with confidence,” Pollack said. “This project was real work for a real client. With that came real challenges but more importantly real reward as well. 

Guests of Grady’s 2017 Homecoming tailgate were treated to ice cream from Lil’ Ice Cream Dude and his mother, Vickie Shell (ABJ ’89).

Beau’s business started when he asked for an ice cream truck for his eighth birthday — a request he wouldn’t let go until his parents obliged.  

Since then, Beau has attracted a large customer base, increased his revenue, written a book and become a member of the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce. He also has plans to open an ice cream shop on the Eastside of Athens.  

“We are very proud of him, and we’ve seen him grow physically from a little boy to being taller than me. But business wise, he has seven years under his belt, and his profit has increased two- or threefold,” Vickie Shell said.  

Maddie Jones, another student who worked on the website, enjoyed learning about and working with Beau.  

“He is mature beyond his years, but what truly makes him inspiring is his heart,” Jones said. “He’s an inspiration not only to young entrepreneurs but to everyone who meets him. He embodies what it takes to follow your dream and work hard for it.”

UGA students launch 30-day diversity initiative on campus

Four UGA seniors launched a 30-day campaign to promote diversity on campus. The campaign, Raise Your Voice, is part of a national competition with the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) called the ​Bateman Competition​.

The campaign’s on-campus initiatives include two panel events with minority public relations practitioners from the Coca-Cola Company, Edelman, Porter Novelli, Sharecare, AARP and other firms. The students also organized fundraising efforts in partnership with Athens’ downtown Ben & Jerry’s and a ​banner signing​ on campus.

Raise Your Voice, a Bateman project examining diversity issues in the fields of advertising and public relations, hosted a banner signing at Tate. Athens, Georgia, on Friday, February 15, 2019 Dayne Young/Grady College

“Our goal is to empower minority students on campus and to raise awareness about the need for diversity in the communications industry,” said account executive Emilie Gille. “We have worked so hard in preparation for this campaign, and now are ready to share it with our community.”

This year’s client for the Bateman Competition is the PRSA Foundation—a non-profit focused solely on promoting diversity in the public relations industry. The foundation recently released “​Diverse Voices: Profiles in Leadership​” to share stories of minority practitioners. Students participating in the campaign are encouraged to promote the book’s sales and promotion.

Diving into Diversity sponsored by Raise Your Voice UGA, Feb. 22. {Photo/ Dayne Young, Grady College)

UGA’s participants for Bateman 2018-2019 are Jaylen Black, Ellie Fields, Emilie Gille and Maria Stagliano, who are advised by ​Dr. Juan Meng.

To donate towards the Raise Your Voice campaign, please visit: .

Raise Your Voice is a 30-day campaign aimed at promoting diversity in the communications industry. The student-led initiative is part of a 2019 national competition called the “Bateman Competition” in which students across the country compete with the same client—The PRSA Foundation.

Kailyn Sanders selected as a Most Promising Multicultural Student

Kailyn Sanders, a fourth-year advertising major at Grady College, has been named to the 2018 American Advertising Federation of Most Promising Multicultural students.

Kailyn Sanders accepts her award at a ceremony in New York City. (Photo: Tom Reichert)
Kailyn Sanders accepts her award at a ceremony in New York City. (Photo: Tom Reichert)

Every year the American Advertising Federation selects 50 multicultural students nationwide that they feel represents some of the top emerging talent in the advertising industry.

Through this program students attend a four-day recruiting conference where they meet and learn from top professionals in the advertising industry, visit different advertisers and agencies and interview for full-time positions.

“The conference was amazing because of the large number of advertising professionals that came out to guide and mentor us. I am now connected with CMOs, COO, CCOs, presidents of agencies, recruiters and more,” Sanders, who attended the conference in February, remarked. “Not only did I build connections with the best in the business, but each and every one of the Most Promising Students have become a network of talent that has proven to be the future of the industry. The conference also taught me that I can do anything that I put my mind to. I now have three words that I live by: hustle, resilience, empathy.”

Sanders throughout her studies has capitalized on the different experiences Grady offers to students. In the summer of 2015, she participated in the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity study abroad where she learned more about the advertising and public relations industry. She also serves as the chair of diversity and scholarship for UGA’s Ad Club by ensuring that there is diversity within Ad Club’s programming, guest speakers and members.

“I am absolutely convinced that Grady’s Department of Advertising and Public Relations is one of the best in the nation,” Sanders said. “Grady has not only taught me to be hungry for learnings inside of the classroom but has pushed me to explore the industry outside of the classroom.”

This is seen in a commitment by Sanders to promote diversity and multiculturalism. In addition to this honor, Sanders has attended numerous industry conferences such as the Publicis Multicultural Talent Pipeline and UGA’s AdPR Academy: Advancing Diversity at Moxie. This opportunity was an “experience of a lifetime” as the AdPR Academy taught Sanders how to start her career as a young professional and how to differentiate herself from others.

“Being nominated by the AAF as a Most Promising Multicultural Student was such a huge accomplishment for me,” Sanders concluded. “When I received the email that I had been admitted into the 2018 class, I was absolutely elated. I felt that my three years of hard work and long nights had finally proved to be worth it.”

Gossett selected as MAIP Fellow

Erin Gossett (AB ’18), a recently-graduated advertising major, has been selected as the Fellow for the 2018 Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP), hosted by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s).

“This is a great program offered by 4As and our advertising students have been very successful as MAIP Fellows,” said Bryan Reber, head of the Grady College Department of Advertising and Public Relations. “Erin follows a long line of Grady advertising students in this program, and I know she’ll represent our department well.”

MAIP is an intern program designed to promote and develop diverse talent within the advertising industry. More than 100 agencies are participating in the professional growth and development of these highly skilled and motivated students from across the country this summer.

The program began with a 12-week webinar series to give the fellows an in-depth look into the advertising industry. The second part of the program involves an immersive work experience within a host agency. For nine weeks, Gossett is working alongside industry professionals and learning the inner workings of her chosen disciplines.

While working on the 12-week webinar series, Gossett found the most informative webinar to be “The Art of Storytelling.” In addition to the 12-week webinar series, MAIP Fellows are required to take a coding Khan Academy course and create a personal website.

Gossett is currently interning at Droga5 in New York City.

“I’m excited to work with movers and shifters of the advertising agency that will help me grow to become a mover and shaker as well,” Gossett said.

Gossett is very active in Grady College and throughout UGA, as well. She was one of seven seniors in the PHD/ Grady Creative Collective program and was a member of several student organizations such as Black Affairs Council (BAC), LeaderShape UGA and Ad Club.

In addition to the professional and personal growth Gossett will gain this summer, she is excited to meet new people from different cultures and regions of the country.

“I’m most excited to meet individuals like myself all across the country who want to change the face of advertising into a diverse, well-rounded industry,” Gossett said. “Sometimes the minority perspective can be unheard and overlooked, but I will be soon joining a community that has a lot of the same goals.”

Grady doctoral student receives esteemed Inez Kaiser Award for health communication research

Fourth-year doctoral student, Yen-I Lee was selected as one of three recipients of the prestigious Inez Kaiser Graduate Student of Color Award. This award is given by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in honor of Inez Kaiser, the first African-American woman to be a member of the Public Relations Society of America. Lee received the award for her research in strategic health communication.

The PRSA Foundation funds this award given by the AEJMC to encourage diversity within the field of public relations. Lee’s achievement is particularly exceptional as there was a large pool of applicants this year. Lee was honored on Aug. 10 at the AEJMC Conference in Chicago.

Lee has conducted extensive research at Grady and been a part of many different research efforts, however she is especially keen on researching specific topics regarding health public relations, the strategic use of technology, and cultural psychology in health risk and crisis message design.

Her vast research on these subjects have included projects investigating cancer risk perception, advertising and health product brands on Facebook and scale development of health crisis information seeking and sharing. She also has designed and led several of her own research projects, one researching health-related Facebook content and another examining the effectiveness of flu vaccination PSAs.

Lee is an instructor at Grady College. She has taught as a lab instructor for the social media analytics class and will be teaching a public relations research class this upcoming fall.

Lee is honored to have received the award and says that it has encouraged her to continue in her research.

“I would like to thank Grady College for being supportive of students,” she said. “I also would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Yan Jin, and professors who support and guide me regarding my research interests, so I can continue to make quality contributions to the Grady College.”

For more about Lee’s research, visit