Grady College announces its Spring 2015 recipients of CURO research assistantships

Twelve students in the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication have been awarded Spring 2015 research assistantships from UGA's Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO).

The CURO Assistantship Program provides one-semester, non-renewable $1,000 stipends to 250 outstanding undergraduate students across campus to actively participate in faculty-mentored research. The program is part of a set of initiatives launched earlier this academic year that are aimed at enhancing the learning environment at UGA. Three Grady College students were awarded assistantships for the fall semester.

The following Grady College students have received CURO assistantships for Spring 2015:

Jasmine Clayton, a junior public relations major from Stone Mountain, Ga., is studying how middle-school kids use digital images and how the sharing of those images and selfies may have an effect on perceptions of body image, self-esteem, mental health and health behaviors. Maria Len-Rios, associate professor of advertising, is her faculty mentor.

Emily Edwards is a senior from Calhoun, Ga., majoring in public relations. Under the guidance of faculty mentor Juan Meng, assistant professor of public relations, Edwards is exploring UGA students' awareness of and attitudes toward the amount of food waste created in dining halls; students' perceptions and beliefs concerning sustainability; and students' opinions regarding best communication practices for sharing the message of sustainability in a way that can change behavior.

Sophie Frankham-Smith, a senior public relations major from Alpharetta, Ga., is studying whether images that depict “healthfulness” as sexy and alluring actually have unintended affects on young women's motivations and feelings about engaging in healthful behaviors. Maria Len-Rios, associate professor of advertising, is her faculty mentor.

Daniel Funke, a second year public affairs journalism major from Alpharetta, Ga., is studying how multimedia elements affect media consumers' retention, understanding and interest in news stories published through online platforms. Bart Wojdynski, an assistant professor of journalism, is his faculty mentor.

Patrick Grant, a junior mass media arts major from Rockville, Md., is analyzing data about the Twitter conversation surrounding the Ebola outbreak, identifying key information sources, communities, and patterns of information exchange alongside content analysis of the conversation. His faculty mentor is Itai Himelboim, associate professor of telecommunications.

Britney Hardweare is a senior magazine journalism major from Snellville, Ga. She is studying how rape myths (facts used to commit victim-blaming) are affirmed and spread through the media. Hardweare will also consider how the perceptions of rape myths differ when the alleged perpetrator is an athlete. Welch Suggs, associate professor of journalism, is her faculty mentor.

Kim Nguyen, a third-year advertising major from Gainesville, Ga., is examining the growing trend of “cable nevers” and “cable cutters” through interviewing college-aged Millennials who fall into either category. Karen King, professor of adverting, is her faculty mentor.

Patrick Semanie is a senior public relations major from Bel Air, Md. Under the mentorship of Juan Meng, assistant professor of public relations, Semanie's research is seeking to discover if there is a specific correlation between Twitter use and an individual's motivation to exercise.

Margaret E. Sparks, a senior from Rome, Ga., majoring in public relations, is investigating the influence and effects of both printed and video public health campaigns against binge drinking. Juan Meng, assistant professor of public relations, is her faculty mentor.

Mara Steine is a senior public relations major from Nashville, Tenn. She is exploring the prevalence and availability of mental health resources on the UGA campus. Juan Meng, assistant professor of public relations, is her faculty mentor.

Haley Vann is a senior advertising major from Leesburg, Ga. Working with faculty mentor Jhih-Syuan Lin, assistant professor of advertising, Vann is exploring how consumers' self-regulatory systems influence perceived risk and benefit of cosmeceutical products, and whether the interaction between the positive and negative perceptions will result in attitudinal ambivalence and affect subsequent purchase intention.

Kalyn Wilson is a junior digital broadcast journalism major from Riverdale, Ga. Under the mentorship of Ann Hollifield, professor of telecommunications, Wilson is studying how race impacts media organizations' business relationships and the communities that the organizations serve.

All student recipients of assistantships will present at the 2015 CURO Symposium, which will take place March 30-31 at The Classic Center.

Grady College students interested in applying for future CURO research assistantships can contact Alison Alexander, senior associate dean for academic affairs, at For more details program, visit

Date: February 5, 2015

Contact:  Alison Alexander, 706-542-1704,