Alumni Award Profile: Carolina Acosta-Alzuru

Alumni Award Profile: Carolina Acosta-Alzuru

May 03, 2022

Carolina Acosta-Alzuru (MA’ 96, PhD’ 99) is this year’s recipient of the John Holliman, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award, honoring a graduate for sustained contributions to the profession throughout a career.

Acosta-Alzuru is professor of public relations at Grady College. She teaches courses in public relations campaigns and cultural studies, specifically focusing on links between the media, culture and society. She has also published multiple articles and books on telenovelas – a subject she has been studying for over 20 years. 

She has won several awards for her teaching and research, including the 2015 AEJMC-Scripps Howard Foundation Journalism and Mass Communication Teacher of the Year for the United States and University of Georgia’s Josiah Meigs Distinguished Professorship. Her career has also taken her abroad to the United Kingdom, Chile and most recently Turkey, where she has conducted research on the tensions between the domestic and global markets for Turkish dramas.

Following is a brief interview with Acosta-Alzuru:

Grady College: What lessons learned from your time as a Grady College student have most helped you succeed in your professional life?

Carolina Acosta-Alzuru: Everything I needed to learn to become a professor and scholar I learned in our College, where I received both my M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. I learned how to turn my intellectual curiosity into rigorous research because I was taught by great researchers. I learned how to be a better teacher because I had fulfilling classroom experiences that challenged and nurtured me. I learned that mentoring is part and parcel of being an educator because I was superbly mentored. Most importantly, I learned in our College that having faith in the person you are teaching and mentoring is essential for their professional and personal development. I learned this because so many of my professors and fellow graduate students surprised me by believing, when I had no clue of this possibility, that I could become a good scholar and a good teacher. I am particularly appreciative of the lessons learned from my major professor and advisor, Dr. Elli Lester Roushanzamir, and from Dr. Pat Curtin, who was then a doctoral student. Their wisdom has guided me throughout my career, and I am extremely happy that Pat is also honored this year with the Distinguished Alumni Scholar Award.

Acosta-Alzuru with Dr. Elli Lester Roushanzamir hooding her as a new Ph.D in 1999. (Photo: courtesy of Carolina Acosta-Alzuru)
GC: What is it about your field that appeals the most to you? Why did you decide to enter that field?

CA: Understanding and unraveling the links between media, culture and society is what I do and what appeals the most to me.  I do this by studying some of the most consumed and, at the same time, most deprecated television genres: Latin American telenovelas and Turkish dramas. My preoccupation with the connections between media, culture and society is consonant with the way I see public relations, a field that has been traditionally viewed from an organizational perspective, but whose relationship with society is mutually transformative. I’m a believer in the many possibilities that public relations has of effecting positive societal change and I bring that belief into my classroom every day. 

GC: What does this recognition mean to you?

CA: The fact that weeks after the announcement of this award I’m still processing the news says how big and unexpected this recognition is for me. I remember watching with admiration John Holliman’s reporting from Bagdad in 1991, I was still in Venezuela then. I was a Ph.D. student in 1998 when the College was saddened and stunned with the news of his death. A year later he received, posthumously, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Soon after that I graduated and began my faculty life here.  These moments have been playing on my mind as I process the deep feelings of gratitude and surprise that this recognition elicits in me. 

Acosta-Alzuru (right) with fellow Grady Ph.D Usha Raman (left) in Hyderabad, India at the IAMCR conference in 2014.
GC: What motivates you?

CA: I love learning, and both teaching and research go hand in hand with learning. The fact that I love my work so much is one of my biggest treasures and the best motivator, of course. I enter the classroom every day in a good mood, ready for the experience of being both teacher and learner with my students. As for my research, I approach it every day with the same fascination it produced on me on day one, more than two decades ago. 

GC: Is there anything else you would like to share?

CA: I’m always looking at what’s ahead: my next class, my next research study, the next conference, and the next time I enter the Journalism building, a place where I’ve always been happy. This recognition, however, has made me stop and look back at the many wonderful people that have walked with me throughout the years: my professors, my students, my colleagues and the staff. All of them have embraced me, all of them have been my teachers, all of them have made this Lifetime Achievement Award possible. 

This is one in a series of profiles about our 2022 Alumni Award honorees and Fellowship inductees. 
All our honorees and inductees will be honored at Grady Salutes: Celebrating Achievement, Leadership and Commitment on April 29, 2022 at Athens Cotton Press. Please visit our Grady Salutes registration webpage for more details.