PAC alum inspired by Olivia Pope, employed by former guest speaker


Cunningham (ABJ ’18) is our first PAC alumni spotlight

Like many her age, Sarah Cunningham began doubting her chosen career path as a sophomore in college. She started watching the hit television show Scandal and she was in awe of Olivia Pope’s mastery of hot-button issues and her fast-paced work environment. Learning about public affairs communications as a career field inspired her. Sitting in anthropology class, her major at the time, Cunningham saw no future for her in professional academia, and decided to change course.

In 2018, Cunningham graduated magna cum laude with a degree in public relations from Grady College and a Public Affairs Professional Certificate in Public Affairs Communications (PAC). Four years after changing her major, Cunningham is now an associate at Sloane & Company, a public affairs firm in New York City run by a former guest speaker in her Introduction to Public Affairs Communications class, Whit Clay.

Cunningham is a former Tieger Fellow for the PAC program and her request to support the program set in motion the establishment of the fellowship.  She learned to write press releases, build media lists and hone her writing skills, as a fellow and former advocacy intern for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Today, Cunningham’s day-to-day work mirrors the assignments that Professor Joseph Watson, Jr. gave her in her introductory and advanced classes. She writes op-eds and press releases, along with executing other public affairs tactics for Sloane & Company and their clients.

“I am so grateful to Professor Watson for providing us with real world writing assignments that prepared me and my fellow PAC students for life after graduation,” said Cunningham. “The most valuable skill I practiced while in the PAC program was writing – it is something you do day-in and day-out in this world.”

Moving forward, Cunningham looks forward to advancing in her career so she can mentor young public affairs practitioners, just as she has been mentored. She is grateful for the hands she shook, the coffee she grabbed with professors and practitioners, the visits she made to Professor Watson’s office hours and the people in her life who encouraged her to watch Scandal and subsequently change her career path.

By: Austin Gibbons,