Grace Ahn named 2019 Krieghbaum Under-40 Award recipient

Grace Ahn named 2019 Krieghbaum Under-40 Award recipient

July 11, 2019

Sun Joo “Grace” Ahn, associate professor of advertising at Grady College, has been named the recipient of the 2019 Krieghbaum Under-40 Award by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The award is one of the highest honors given by AEJMC, and will be presented during the annual AEJMC conference in Toronto.

“This is an enormous honor,” said Charles Davis, dean of Grady College. “The entire journalism and mass communication academy recognizes a single faculty member each year for this, so Grace has been recognized by the entire discipline.”

In addition to her role as associate professor, Ahn is also the director of the Games and Virtual Environments Lab and co-director of the new VERGE Lab.

The award is named after the late Hillier Krieghbaum, a former professor at New York University and former president of AEJMC, to honor a journalism/communication faculty member who has made outstanding contributions to the industry in three key areas: teaching, research and public service.

Grace Ahn (right) leads an Alumni Weekend participant in a virtual reality workshop in 2017. (Photo: Camie Williams)

Ahn teaches undergraduate research methods classes, as well as graduate-level user experience research, communication theory and advertising classes.

Ahn’s research specializes in how interactive digital media transforms traditional rules of communication and social interactions, especially through virtual reality applications with regard to health, consumer psychology, conservation and education. Currently, she is working on a $3.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for “The Virtual Fitness Buddy Ecosystem” encouraging children to have a more active lifestyle by using digital technology and incenting them with rewards through virtual reality interaction. In Spring 2019, Ahn received a First-Year Odyssey Teaching Award from the UGA Office of Instruction for her seminar, “Harnessing the Power of Digital Technology for Better Lifestyle Choices,” and was awarded the Charles B. Knapp Early-Career Scholar Award in 2017. She was recently awarded an Interdisciplinary Seed Grant from UGA for an upcoming project using digital technology to bring families of deployed military together in virtual family rooms. She also received the 2017 AEJMC Emerging Scholar Grant.

“Emerging technologies like VR/AR have the potential to dramatically shift the way we communicate and interact with each other,” Ahn said of her work. “My research looks at how audiences can engage with virtual worlds in unprecedented ways, and how these virtual experiences impact the way people think and make decisions in the physical world. I’m incredibly honored and humbled to be recognized for the contributions that my work has been making to extend the earlier work in this area.”

Ahn will accept her Krieghbaum Under-40 Award during the General Session at the AEJMC Conference on Aug. 9 at 10 a.m.

In addition to Ahn, Yan Jin, the UGA Athletic Association Professor in Grady College, received the Krieghbaum Under-40 Award in 2014.