Alumni Award Profile: George L. Daniels (MA ’99, PhD ’02)

Alumni Award Profile: George L. Daniels (MA ’99, PhD ’02)

March 13, 2023

The following is one installment of a series recognizing alumni and friends who will be honored at the 2023 Grady Salutes celebration on April 28, 2023. For more details, please see our posts about our Fellowship honorees, Alumni Award recipients and Dean’s Medalist.

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Congratulations to George L. Daniels (MA ’99, PhD ’02), recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Scholar Award. 

Daniels is an associate professor and Reese Phifer Fellow of Journalism and Creative Media at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He is also currently the president of the Alabama Communication Association and serves as the Faculty Fellow for Diversity and Inclusion for the Broadcast Education Association.

Recently, he received the U.S./U.K. Fulbright Global Challenge Teaching Award for Racial Justice. He’s the co-editor of “Teaching Race: Struggles, Strategies and Scholarship for the Mass Communication Classroom.” 

Daniels is currently completing his first sole-authored book entitled “Barrier Breakers: Media Educators Meeting the Diversity Challenge Across the Decades.”

Previously, Daniels worked for eight years as a local television news producer in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia, and then in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Atlanta.

Following are answers from an interview with Daniels, which have been edited for length and clarity.

Grady College: What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

In March 2023, Daniels joined two of his students in his Spring 2023 service learning class in presenting a panel at the Discerning Diverse Voices Symposium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

George L. Daniels: By far, the experiences as a graduate research associate in two of Grady’s research projects have had the biggest influence on where I am today. As a master’s student, I was fortunate to be the research associate in the Michael J. Faherty Broadcast Management Laboratory.

When I arrived in 1997, the lab was just in its second year of operation. I learned how to do research projects by being directly involved in them. Additionally, the lab was tied to my teaching media management and programming course in what was then the Department of Telecommunications. 

After completing my master’s degree, as a Ph.D. student, I was given a graduate research assistant assignment in the Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research. Working for two years in the Cox International Center, I assisted with the Annual Surveys for Mass Communication Enrollments and Graduates. This placed me on the team to not only do data collection, but also participate in the presentations at national conferences. Even though the national surveys have moved to another institution, the reports we produced as a research team are still ones to which I refer in my research today. 

GC: What skills and/or values and/or circumstances do you attribute to your success?

GD: The three skills or values that I most attribute to my success are, one, research project development, two, team leadership and, three, understanding higher education. 

Thanks to the research assistant roles, I gained valuable knowledge as a Grady graduate student on how to put together a research project and use whatever method best answers my question. 

The second skill/value would be team leadership. Over the years, I’ve found myself in leadership roles and draw on the skills I learned in the television news industry and in graduate school to influence others to follow my direction. 

Last but not least, I developed skills in understanding the arena of academe. This is quite different from the television news industry, where I worked for eight years. Not all higher education institutions have the same mission, and the dynamics of committees and departments differ. 

GC: What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?

GD: Take advantage of the Grady alumni network. There are so many of us everywhere.  We’re working in all areas of the mass media and journalism and mass communication education.  Don’t take for granted the top-notch learning facilities and world class faculty you find in Grady College. It’s second to none. Appreciate it and know that with that opportunity comes an expectation to excel when you graduate. There is nothing you can’t accomplish as a Grady graduate.   

GC: What advice do you have for today’s young professionals?

GD: Be flexible and teachable. Even though you have all of your training from Grady, our media workplaces are changing so rapidly, one has to be in a posture of readiness to adapt quickly to change. 

GC: What do you miss the most about being at UGA?

GDI miss many of the people with whom I worked and lived there in Athens. Except for my first year as a master’s student, I spent four of the five years in the master’s and Ph.D. programs living on campus. I was there around-the-clock and struck up so many informal conversations in the graduate student carrels of Grady or in the Main Library. I have fond memories of the Bible study groups on Friday night and the outreach to schools in the Clarke County School District. At UGA, we were truly a part of a much larger community than our own campus.

GC: What does this recognition mean to you?

GD: While I have been blessed to receive many research and teaching awards over the years, this recognition by Grady College is the highest honor I’ve received as a scholar.   

Yes, I am the recipient most recently of an award from the U.S./U.K. Fulbright Commission. But, even a Fulbright award pales in comparison to one from my beloved Grady College. It means you view what I’ve become is worthy of recognition. It means what I’ve done so far in my research, teaching and professional leadership is on the right track—representing the highest standard of quality that comes with being a production of the Grady College.  

GC: What motivates you?

GD: Of course, first and foremost, my actions are directly by my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God put me on this earth to make a difference with every encounter, activity, project or accomplishment. Thus, I am motivated by the knowledge that I’m always fulfilling a God-given purpose.  

I’m using my spiritual gift of teaching in an awesome way. I know that God so ordained and directed my steps to the Atlanta Metro area where, in the late 1990s, I discovered Grady College while working in the television news arena. 

GC: Are there any books or podcasts that you would recommend to our students?

GD: Definitely every Grady student must read “In My Place” by Charlayne Hunter-Gault. As a master’s student in my first year, I read that 1992 book by the woman who was one of the two students to integrate the University of Georgia.

Tickets to Grady Salutes: Celebrating Achievement, Leadership and Commitment on April 28, 2023, are available for purchase. Register here.