Spring 2019 graduates encouraged to write own narrative at Grady College Convocation

Pictures from the Spring 2019 Grady Convocation can be viewed on the UGAGrady Flickr galleries:

Spring 2019 convocation candids

Spring 2019 convocation graduates:

Spring 2019 convocation ceremony

Nearly 500 undergraduate and graduate students were eligible for graduation from Grady College this semester, many of whom were recognized at the Spring 2019 Convocation ceremony on May 8, 2019, at the Classic Center.

Twenty-six graduate students graduated from Grady College, including two Ph.D. graduates. The approximate number of undergraduates who were recognized included 140 students with an advertising degree, 145 with a degree in public relations, 110 from the journalism program and 75 from the entertainment and media studies department.

Dean Charles Davis presided over the ceremony, providing an overview of Grady’s accomplishments this past year and commending the students for their hard work, passion and academic excellence.

Jonathan Wegman, charge to candidates, at Grady College Convocation, Spring 2019. Video: Jim Black and Dayne Young

Jonathan Wegman (ABJ ’04), the head of customer experience and strategy at Twitter, delivered the convocation keynote address and charged candidates to have courage to rewrite rules, pivot to new strategies and write their own personal narrative.

“When you make a mistake or your role changes, know that you hold the pen,” Wegman said. “You can write your own narrative. I am excited for this group to rewrite what is next.”

Lauren Diaz, distinguished senior speaker, at Grady College Convocation, Spring 2019. Video: Jim Black and Dayne Young
The distinguished senior speaker, a student chosen based on an audition among the graduates for the spot, was Lauren Diaz, a journalism major with a minor in sociology. She spoke on the journey her and her fellow students have had at Grady, and how it aligns them for next adventures.

“We are destined to succeed,” Diaz said. “We have each other. Most importantly, we have the help of our advisors, professors and mentors who saw our potential from the start.”

Lauren Izzo (ABJ ’05, MA ’07), vice-chair of the Grady Society Alumni Board, concluded the platform of speakers by welcoming the students to the alumni ranks of the college.

“You never know where your Grady connections will lead you,” Izzo said.

View the Spring 2019 Grady Convocation in its entirety on the Grady College Facebook Page.

Video recap of Grady College Convocation, Spring 2019. Video: Dayne Young

Grady College alumna honored with 2017 Makovsky Best Master’s Thesis of the Year Award

Ruoyu Sun’s thesis investigated the risk perception and purchase intention of Millennials in China and the U.S. toward genetically modified food


The Institute for Public Relations has awarded Ruoyu Sun, a recent graduate of Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s master’s program, the 2017 Makovsky Best Master’s Thesis of the Year Award based on her work studying source credibility on digital media toward Millennial purchase intention of genetically modified foods. Thanks to the new sponsorship of the award by Makovsky, an integrated communications firm, the award annually celebrates a master’s thesis that most contributes to advancing research-based knowledge in the field of public relations.

Sun’s thesis, “Effects of Source Credibility via Social Media on The Risk Perception and Purchase Intention Toward Genetically Modified Foods: A Cross-Cultural Study between Young Millennials in China and The U.S.,” found that long-term communication and education about genetically modified foods to young Millennials are necessary before one can increase his/her purchase intention. Her thesis suggests public relations practitioners in China should have scientists serve as a credible information source to inform stakeholders about the benefits of GM foods. In the U.S., a mixed approach of scientists and government was found to be more effective.

Sun will receive a cash grant of $2,000 and Juan Meng, Sun’s faculty advisor, will receive $1,000 at the IPR Annual Distinguished Lecture and Awards Dinner on Nov. 29 in New York City.

“I am extremely honored to receive this award from IPR,” said Sun, now a doctoral student at the School of Communication, University of Miami. “It encourages me to work harder and to do more scientific research which could contribute to the effective practice of PR in the future. Thanks to IPR, Makovsky, and my advisor, Dr. Juan Meng at the University of Georgia, for her unwavering support throughout this project.”

Meng, an associate professor of public relations, described Sun as passionate about conducting research that can have an impact on the public relations profession.

“I am eager to see Ruoyu continue to develop her research expertise during her doctoral program and I look forward to collaborating with her in future research projects,” Meng said.

“The purpose in our sponsoring this award is to help attract the brightest minds to pursue a career in public relations,” said Ken Makovsky, president of Makovsky. “Large businesses are facing increasingly complex challenges such as digital disruption, marketing cyberattacks, shareholder activism and an increased focus on governance.

Established in 1981, the award honors a winning master’s thesis that focuses on the development of research-based knowledge in the field of public relations, and the degree to which the research is relevant or has an impact on the profession. This is the first year the award has been given since 2010 thanks to a new sponsorship by Makovsky to recognize and encourage graduate study and scholarship in public relations.

About Makovsky

Founded in 1979, Makovsky (www.makovsky.com) is one of the nation’s largest and most influential independent integrated communications firms. The firm attributes its success to its original vision: that the Power of Specialized Thinking™ is the best way to build reputation, sales and fair valuation for a client. Based in New York City and Washington, D.C, the firm has agency partners with nearly 2,000 professionals in 30 countries through IPREX (IPREX.com), the second largest worldwide public relations agency partnership, of which Makovsky is the founder.

About the Institute for Public Relations

The Institute for Public Relations is an independent, nonprofit research foundation dedicated to fostering greater use of research and research-based knowledge in corporate communication and the public relations practice.  IPR is dedicated to the science beneath the art of public relations™. IPR provides timely insights and applied intelligence that professionals can put to immediate use. All research, including a weekly research letter, is available for free at www.instituteforpr.org.

Grady College offers Double Dawgs accelerated master’s programs

Grady College has expanded its Graduate Studies opportunities to include a total of eight linked-degree Double Dawgs programs in which students earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years or less.

The Double Dawgs programs designed by Grady College faculty are among 113 Double Dawgs programs to date at the University of Georgia, giving UGA one of the nation’s largest selections of accelerated master’s programs.

“The ability to come out with both degrees in a fairly short period of time gives students an edge,” said Jeff Springston, associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies at Grady College. “Students will come out of here in a stronger position both in the professional world and if they want to come back for a terminal degree.”

Students also save time and money by earning a master’s degree in one year instead of two through the Double Dawgs program.

“I’m very sensitive to the kind of debt that students have to take on these days, and I like the idea that we can reduce the cost,” Springston said.

The Grady College now offers eight pathways. The full list includes:

  • Advertising AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(ADPR 4+1)
  • Advertising AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Emerging Media)
  • Entertainment and Media Studies AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Emerging Media)
  • Journalism AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Emerging Media)
  • Journalism AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Journalism)
  • Music AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Advertising)
  • Public Relations AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(ADPR 4+1)
  • Public Relations AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Emerging Media)

Springston noted that additional Double Dawgs programs will likely roll out in the future.

Double Dawgs applicants follow the same steps as other Grady College graduate program applicants: they must take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and complete application materials required by the UGA Graduate School, as well as supplemental materials required by the Grady Graduate Studies Office.

Students should apply for a Double Dawgs program during their first year in Grady College (or third year at UGA) by March 1, according to Springston. Three courses, or nine hours total, will count for both their undergraduate and graduate work.

Students interested in Grady College’s Double Dawgs programs are encouraged to meet with Springston.

“We have fabulous students,” he said. “I love having our undergrads move into our graduate program when it makes sense for them, and they typically do extremely well.”


UGA Double Dawgs Program from UGA OVPI on Vimeo.

Health and Medical Journalism students shine light on Mountain Medicine

While today’s technology has improved the ability for journalists to conduct interviews by phone or email, there are many stories that cannot be told without a one-on-one interview.

For this reason, Pat Thomas, the Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism, assigned her eight students to participate in the second annual rural health reporting project, venturing to northwest Georgia near Rome and Dalton, Georgia. The goal of the five-day trip was to tell stories that wouldn’t ordinarily be written because there are not enough reporters in rural Georgia areas to cover them.

“The reason experience is so important,” said Thomas, “is in real life, journalists have to go places that they don’t know much about. You can do some research in advance, but part of it you have to learn on the ground. Often you have a topic when you go, but you don’t really know what your story is…you don’t know your narrative or the characters. That you have to discover in the field.”

The series of features written by the HMJ graduate students, can be read through Georgia Health News.

Flexibility is key and a valuable lesson for the students.

Student Saleen Martin kept reminding herself of the question she set out to answer: “What happens when a state hospital closes?” Mental illness is a subject she has always been passionate about, and writing about what happened to the patients once the Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital closed became a personal mission. It took her in several different directions, however.

“The biggest lesson I learned is that sometimes things won’t work out the way you expected them to,” Martin said. “Part of being a journalist is adapting…looking at the information you’ve gathered and figuring out what you can and can’t use.”

Martin also said that having the opportunity to talk one-on-one with her subjects made all the difference in the world, especially for one of her subjects, Delores Nowell.

“I am so appreciative for her willingness to speak to me, especially about such a sensitive topic,” Martin said. “Those things are hard enough to do, and it’s just not the same over the phone or via email.”

Establishing the confidence and trust in a building relationship between a journalist and her subject is vital.

“If I hadn’t been sitting directly across from her, I wouldn’t have been able to see or capture her eye movements as she peers at the floor, reliving her experiences as she roamed the streets of Atlanta, or when she was first taken to Northwest (General Regional Hospital.) I wouldn’t have been able to shake her hand or smile, letting her know that it’s safe to talk to us.”

For the second year in a row, the features the students wrote will be published in Georgia Health News. This year’s series, “Mountain Medicine 2017: Health in Northwest Georgia,” includes the following features written by the graduate students:

A little-known star of hospital safety in Georgia, by Andy Miller (Georgia Health News editor)

A place that pulls addicts back from the brink, by Kristina Griffith

For immigrant workers, corporate health plans can be an awkward fit, by Jim Lichtenwalter

High school students learn to eat better — and feed others better, by Melissa Campbell

Meals on Wheels: Volunteers deliver food as they fret about funding, by Elspeth Male

Not just a school clinic, but a clinic that’s at a school, by Abraham Park

Old attitudes still cast shadow over fight against HIV, by Victoria Knight

Re-entry program brings former nurses back into the profession, by Naomi Thomas

Years after hospital closed, some former patients struggle for safe housing, by Saleen Martin

Other features will be posted in upcoming weeks.

Georgia Health News editor and CEO Andy Miller, who traveled with the group and Thomas, said the program is invaluable to his publication.

“What Georiga Health News gets is original, well-reported, interesting stories on topics we wouldn’t cover otherwise,” Miller said. “I’ve been constantly impressed by the UGA students’ work.”

The experiential learning trip was funded by a grant from the Healthcare Georgia Foundation and the Institute of International Education, with travel support made possible by the Ford Foundation.

Grady professor teaches students to communicate science effectively

The following was originally a Faculty Profile in the May 15, 2017, UGA Columns newspaper.

Focus on Faculty; Patrica Thomas with graduate student Hyacinth Empinado (health and medical journalism)
Pat Thomas advises Hyacinth Empinado (MA ’14) on a project. (Photo/Dorothy Kozlowski)

Biographical Box:
Patricia Thomas
Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism
Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, Department of Journalism
Years at the University of Georgia: 12
Degrees: Stanford University, Masters in Communication, 1970
University of California at Berkeley, Bachelor of Arts in English, 1969

When Pat Thomas read the online posting for the newly-created Knight Chair at the University of Georgia, she felt that all her life experiences had prepared her for this job.

“From the minute I saw this job description I thought, ‘wow, I have what they are looking for,’” Thomas said.

UGA wanted an experienced journalist tuned in to health disparities in the South, who could help graduate students, researchers and public health professionals communicate more effectively.

Over the past 12 years, creating Grady’s graduate program in health and medical journalism has been her focus. Thomas came up with a curriculum that emphasizes evidence-based reporting and empathic storytelling.

“I think of it as scientifically-based coverage of subjects that are intensely personal,” Thomas said. “We all have illnesses and loved ones with illnesses we wish they didn’t have. We need to empower the public with good information about these things. That’s the kind of reporters that I am trying to train.”

For example, Thomas makes sure students come face-to-face with health disparities in the region. In 2007, HMJ students traveled to New Orleans to report on the rebuilding of healthcare two years after Katrina. More recently, she led reporting trips to rural areas of Georgia, where students generated multimedia stories about poverty and health for Georgia Health News.

Thomas is also passionate about diseases of neglected people around the world. She spent four years researching “Big Shot: Passion, Politics, and the Struggle for an AIDS Vaccine,” which was included on the Washington Post’s list of notable books in 2001.

Thomas and Dan Colley, the recently retired director of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases, teamed up to direct the “Global Diseases: Voices from the Vanguard” series for the past 12 years. They have brought 46 internationally-known speakers to UGA including  researchers, journalists, authors, filmmakers and communication directors from WHO and CDC.

“I hope we have communicated that you don’t have to be a scientist or a doctor to help. You can help if you are a journalist or communicator,” Thomas said.

Thomas has been part of a UGA Graduate School initiative that help faculty researchers and graduate students discover new ways to communicate their research stories.

This training is an area she knows well from her career before UGA. Thomas was the first woman editor of the Harvard Health Letter and a contributor to a host of magazines and newsletters. She had also been a Knight Science Journalism fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a visiting scholar at the Knight Center for Science and Medical Journalism at Boston University.

Despite her history with private institutions, The University of Georgia’s land-grant mission holds a special appeal for Thomas.

“I have met so many wonderful researchers in the sciences at UGA who do important work here,” Thomas continued. “It’s a land-grant institution and it is an obligation to try to make life better for the citizens of your state.”

Thomas lives by this mission of helping others in her personal life, as well. In addition to serving on the editorial board of the UGA Press for several years, Thomas was active in the original Partnership in a Prosperous Athens, and its offspring, Athens Health Network.

“In a town with a 30% poverty rate, we need to think about our neighbors a little more,” Thomas said. “We are all on the same ship.”

Earlier this year, Thomas announced her retirement. While she plans to continue writing, she looks forward to “reading that 3-foot-wide shelf of books that I have purchased, but not read.”

In the meantime, Thomas has a legacy of graduates who will continue the vital work of shedding light on untold health issues.

“I have seen graduates in my program do wonderful things,” Thomas concluded, “and, I expect them to continue to do wonderful things by turning science into stories that people can relate to.”

Election Day coverage from Grady College

Reporting on elections is a cornerstone in journalism education, and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication has several special projects scheduled to cover the local and presidential elections Nov. 8, 2016.

A preview of the expected print and video coverage is below:


Electionland is a nationwide effort to identify voting problems such as long lines at the polls, voting machine problems and voter fraud. Professor Barry Hollander’s special topics class “Public Opinion and the 2016 Election,” is one of 13 journalism schools across the county that was selected and trained to identify and verify these issues using a variety of social media search engines and to report them for the entire state of Georgia. Once reported, the issues will be filtered to local journalists for follow-up. This program is sponsored by ProPublica and the Coalition of News Organizations. Visit the Electionland website for more details.

Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County TV coverage

Grady Newsource, the only television broadcast provider in the Athens-Clarke and County County area, will provide extended political coverage to its viewers on-air and online with “You Decide Northeast Georgia,” an election special on November 8 from 8 to 10 p.m. After the regular 5 to 6 p.m. Newsource broadcast that day, the students will provide three cut-ins at 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. leading up to the special. If local races are not called by 10 p.m., Newsource will program additional cut-ins after the special. The digital team will update the website throughout the day, so that coverage is continuous even when the show is not on air.

“You Decide Northeast Georgia” will broadcast from multiple locations. Students will provide coverage featuring interviews with political experts, as well as updates from the digital team. There will be a team of reporters at each county elections office in the coverage area. Clarke County and Oconee County reporters will be live during the show. Newsource will air live shots from the University Union Watch Party, as well.

In addition to live coverage, reporters are already working on content that digs deeper into the local races and provides context for the vote. The show will feature profiles of candidates, analysis of voting trends and interviews with some of Georgia’s leading political experts.

Similar election coverage was done by Grady Newsource in Fall 2015.

Graduate Newsroom team

Grady’s Graduate Newsroom team includes 11 graduate students who will provide written and video coverage of the local Athens-Clarke County elections under the direction of Professor Pat Thomas. Students will provide coverage of democracy in action from local precincts before, during and after Election Day. A panel discussion has already taken place featuring State Rep. Regina Quick, Athens Banner-Herald Editor Ed Morales, Professor Charles Bullock (UGA SPIA) and Ms. Cora Wright, supervisor of for elections in ACC. Writing from the vantage point of Athens, they will report about candidates, campaign volunteers and events, donors and finance issues, voter engagement, referendum issues, poll workers and voters.

Students will report on one print and one video story in the run-up to the election. On Election Day, each student reporter will stake out his/her polling place and conduct interviews with people involved with the voting process. They will also report on a feature after the election, looking back at candidates and issues.

The professional partner of the Graduate Newsroom team is the Athens Banner-Herald/OnlineAthens.

Grady College hosts sixth annual Media and the Public Sphere International Conference

Updated Nov. 22, 2016

The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication hosted the Thomas C. Dowden International Conference Media and the Public Sphere: Empowered Audiences in the Digital Age Oct. 20-22, 2016.

“We were thrilled to welcome to Grady some of the nation’s leading experts on media analytics,” said Ann Hollifield, Thomas C. Dowden Professor in Media Research at Grady College. “Our panelists discussed the challenges of understanding audiences and advertisers in this digital age and how that impacts media content decisions, audiences and the media’s role in the public sphere.”

Panelists included Eric Bruce, research director, WSB-TV, Atlanta; Billy McDowell, vice president of research, Raycom Media Inc.; Howard Shimmel, chief research officer, Turner Broadcasting; Steve Walsh, executive vice president, Local Television, comScore Inc.; and Reid Williams, senior director for analytics, Gannett.

Tom and Wendy Dowden

More than 50 scholars from UGA, the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration in Romania, the University of Florida, University of Tennessee and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, among others, presented papers and discussed their research. “The focus of the discussions was the media’s changing role in society in an era when technologies enable audiences to choose, produce or avoid media as they wish,” Hollifield said.

In addition to the researchers and industry experts who came to UGA to present papers, several dozen graduate and undergraduate students in the Grady College sat in on the conference’s plenary panel discussions of media analytics as well as on some of the research paper presentations.

The James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research—an outreach unit of the Grady College—partnered with the Institute of Communication at University Lyon 2, France, and the Center for Communication Research at the National University for Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania, in organizing the conference. It was the sixth annual conference on the topic of Media and the Public Sphere.

This year’s conference honored Thomas C. Dowden, a Grady College and UGA alumnus (ABJ ‘62; MA ‘64 in political science) and a pioneer in the cable industry.   Dowden has been a generous supporter of the college, and has been committed to the development of the graduate Media Industry Research program, with its focus on audience research and media innovation.

“Our conference theme this year—Empowered Audiences in the Digital Age— both honors and reflects the contributions Tom Dowden has made throughout his career in expanding the opportunities for public dialog by expanding the number and range of the channels of communication through which that dialog takes place,” Hollifield said in her opening remarks for the conference.

Grady College hosted Media and the Public Sphere: Examining the Challenges in the New Communication Landscape in 2013.