Editor’s Note: #GradyGrit is a new series of profiles of Grady College students who show determination, leadership and outreach to the community. Search “#GradyGrit” on the Grady College website for additional profiles.
Hometown: Knoxville, Tennessee
Degree: Journalism major and Sports Media Certificate
Activities and Involvement: The Red & Black, WUOG, Grady Ambassadors, Grady Sports, formerly SGA and the Indian Cultural Exchange
How has Grady influenced your time at UGA?
MP: Grady has been one the best parts of being here at UGA. It has taught me invaluable lessons both in and out of the classroom. Grady has also provided a large amount of opportunities to learn, listen and network with some of the most successful individuals in the fields of journalism and mass communication. At Grady, your professors have been out in the field, maybe they still are, doing the exact things they’re teaching you about. You know what they’re instilling in you is real and valuable information, but I think best of all, Grady has become my family. When I entered the college, I knew just a handful of people. Now, it’s impossible to walk through the confusing hallways of the journalism building without seeing at least five people I know. It would be tough to envision my time thus far at UGA without Grady.
What is your most memorable Grady experience?
MP: So far, my most memorable Grady experience has been through Grady Sports. It was a trip to Tiger, Georgia, to broadcast the 2A football state semifinals last fall. It had a mix of everything — weird, crazy, unique, fun — and is an experience I, and everyone else that went, will never forget.
What has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?
MP: I’m from Knoxville, Tennessee, and when I came to UGA, I knew about seven others that either came from my high school with me or previously graduated from my high school and were already at UGA. So I’d say there have been two things that made a big impact on me. One is living in a high rise my freshman year and meeting some great people who I probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with/befriended if it weren’t for the old, original Russell Hall. I was lucky to find a great group of friends that year and I still live with/next to them today. Then, I applied to Grady Sports. Luckily, I got into the program, and it is most definitely the best thing that’s happened to me while I’ve been here at UGA. Sports media and sports broadcasting is a passion of mine, so to go to classes for it? I couldn’t ask for more. But as great as the classes are, the friends I have made through Grady Sports are some of the best people I have ever met. From a group of strangers to a nearly inseparable group, we have become so close. Grady Sports, like Grady College, has such a familial feel, and it makes this huge place of 30,000+ feel small and like home.
What is your best advice for a student taking their first class at Grady College?
MP: Good luck! If you think it’ll be an ordinary layout where you just go to class, have homework, tests and that’s it … you’re in for a wakeup call. While that may sound scary or intimidating, the assignments you work on in your Grady classes are hands-on. You’re out in the field getting a glimpse at how the professional world works. You learn core concepts in the classroom and then immediately go out and put them to work. Meet your classmates and make friends with them. Trust me, you’ll end up having a lot of your classes together with the same group. Meet your professors and pick their brain! They can give invaluable advice and just want to help you succeed.
What motivates you?
MP: There is constantly room to improve. I want to work hard and be the best I can be. It doesn’t matter what time it is, but there are always things I can be doing to get better. I set goals for myself and want to achieve them, and there’s no choice but to work toward them.
Last show/favorite show you binge watched?
MP: That’s tough. I love Suits. Hands down it’s one of my favorite shows ever. The quickest show I ever completely binge watched was Entourage. I probably finished the entire show in 3 weeks a few summers ago. I was hooked. The show I finished most recently was New Girl. It’s so good and always makes me laugh.
MP: I am a huge New York Yankees fan, and Derek Jeter is one of my all-time favorite baseball players. I love this quote by him: “There may be people who have more talent than you, but there’s no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do — and I believe that.”
What would people be surprised to know about you?
MP: Hmm, I’m not really sure to be honest. Maybe I seem shy at first? I like to think I’m pretty outgoing, but sometimes I can be quiet if I don’t know you.
Favorite Athens restaurant?
MP: Another tough one. It depends on if I’m craving anything specific. I really like La Fiesta, a Mexican restaurant on College Station Road. Taqueria Tsunami downtown is another favorite of mine. Clocked downtown is high up on the list and so was Transmet before they left.
Create your own question to answer. What’s your go-to study spot?
MP: If I really need to hunker down and focus, I grab a cubicle on the east wing of the third floor at the MLC and go to work. I also like the Starbucks on Alps Road to study or get homework done.
The allure of a Friday night for teens and young adults is palpable.
It’s a time to celebrate the end of a long week, hang out with friends and anticipate the weekend ahead. Fridays in the fall also include the social experience that is high school football.
For a group of Cedar Shoals High School students and Grady Sports Media students this fall, Friday nights are an opportunity to come together and dedicate their time toward new skills that could become future careers—sports broadcasting.
The opportunity comes courtesy of “The UGA-Grady High School Sports Broadcast Program.” Grady Sports Media faculty members created the program after receiving one of the University of Georgia’s New Approaches to Promote Diversity and Inclusion Grants earlier this year. The grants are intended to support the recruitment, retention and success of underrepresented, underserved and first-generation students at UGA.
The sports broadcast program pairs high school students with Grady Sports Media students in an intensive training and on-the-job learning experience. Since the beginning of the school year, Grady Sports Media students have traveled to Cedar Shoals a few times a month for after-school training sessions focusing on all parts of sports broadcast journalism, from producing and camera work, to play-by-play announcing, building in-game graphics and tracking game statistics. Friday nights are spent in the stadium press box where the high school students, under the leadership of the college students, practice what they have learned by producing a live broadcast of Cedar Shoals football games.
The dedication that these students have put into the program with the hours of after-school training and the five-hour or more time commitment on Friday nights is the most impressive part of the program according to Marc Ginsberg, Cedar Shoals journalism advisor.
“College students on a Friday night hanging out with a bunch of high school students? That’s awesome. If the Grady Sports students weren’t invested, then my students wouldn’t be invested.”
That is testimony to the early success of the program.
The High School Sports Broadcast Program
“We are grateful that this idea we’ve had in our minds for a while is coming to fruition because of this grant,” said Vicki Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and the director of Grady Sports Media.
“The goal is to make them feel that UGA and Grady College are very accessible for them as they continue down their academic career paths.” — Carlo Finlay, assistant director, Grady Sports Media
All UGA undergraduates are eligible to apply for the six-course Grady Sports Media Certificate program, which launched in 2014. The Grady Sports professors have noticed that students who graduate from resource-rich high schools, many with their own sports broadcast programs, have an edge in experience and overall awareness of possible career paths in sports media. They want to bridge that gap for students from under-resourced and underrepresented communities. Coupled with the fact that Grady Sports Media educates students for an industry in need of a diverse workforce, they saw an opportunity.
“From a system that’s feeding into our program, to a system that we are feeding into, we saw a real need to have this connection,” Michaelis said.
Michaelis and Carlo Finlay an academic professional and assistant director of Grady Sports Media, are using the grant to develop training modules and to buy a two-camera, high-definition broadcast kit that Cedar Shoals High School will be able to keep.
They have also enlisted the help of other strong partners such as the NFHS Network, an online platform that broadcasts high school sports nationwide. The Cedar Shoals student broadcasts this fall are being live-streamed on the Grady Sports Media channel on the NFHS Network. The NFHS Network also loaned Cedar Shoals a starter broadcast kit, including a camera, switcher, headsets, microphones and cables, and provided initial equipment training.
Michaelis is planning to apply for external grants and/or seek support from corporations and individual donors in the future, allowing the program to expand to Atlanta and other communities. She decided to pilot test the program at Cedar Shoals High School because “we should serve the community that’s at our doorstep first.”
Finlay sees this program as being a real source of pride for Cedar Shoals and would like to see future events that bring the students on campus. “The goal is to make them feel that UGA and Grady College are very accessible for them as they continue down their academic career paths.”
The High School Students
Anyone who has been around teenagers knows that it can be a challenge to engage them in new activities, but participation at Cedar Shoals has been strong for the UGA-Grady High School Sports Broadcast Program.
“It’s cool to be able to provide them experience where they kind of have to independently problem-solve in real time for an audience,” Marc Ginsberg, journalism advisor, Cedar Shoals High School
When Ginsberg asked for volunteers to participate from his yearbook, newspaper and other broadcast classes, he wanted to make sure he had committed students who were dedicated to the program and would make it a priority. He had about 20 students volunteer.
He divided the group into two production teams, so that they don’t have to work every game and can enjoy the pleasures of rooting for the team from the bleachers.
“They have worked their butts off so far,” Ginsberg admits proudly of his volunteers.
The production teams have to report to the stadium 2-1/2 hours before kickoff, but their responsibilities begin early in the week by researching background on the opponents, writing the scripts for their opens, building graphics and other prep work. The students take turns each week with their assignments.
A genuine interest in media is something that Finlay noticed when he first met the students.
“Some of the students aren’t necessarily crazy sports fans,” he said, “but they’re still doing this because they are excited about a new concept we are offering.”
Ginsberg claims his keys to success have been to “start with an open mind and be flexible at first.” When Michaelis and Finlay first approached him about participating in the program, he was hesitant, but once he was reassured that there would be training and teacher support from Grady Sports Media, he was all in.
“It’s cool to be able to provide them experience where they kind of have to independently problem-solve in real time for an audience,” Ginsberg said of his students.
For Cedar Shoals junior Victor Soto-Rosales, he sees this as an investment in his future. He aspires to attend the University of Georgia and major in journalism or film. He admits the program is tougher than he thought, but it has its advantages.
“It’s definitely worth it,” Soto-Rasales said. “You get to hang out with friends and learn something new.”
It’s a love of journalism that attracted junior Emma Dowling to the sports broadcast program. She gladly gives up her Friday nights to learn something new, including some hard lessons like struggling for an internet connection right before going on the air.
Dowling said it’s challenges like this that teach the biggest lessons: “Sometimes it’s fine that things don’t go perfectly. We need to say to ourselves ‘don’t freak out, breathe and get back on schedule.’”
The Grady Sports Media Students
One of the biggest surprises for most involved with the program is the close connection developing between the high school students and the Grady Sports Media students.
That connection started after the first training session. When the camera operation lessons were done, the high school students started asking Myan Patel and Taylor Maggiore, two of the four Grady Sports Media students working with the Cedar Shoals students, about college.
“They seem to enjoy it as much as we do because they come on Fridays, as well. It’s a really great example for them to set for us, especially because they have the opportunity to help someone else learn something new.” — Victor Soto-Rasales, student, Cedar Shoals High School
“They were asking questions like ‘What were the best traits in high school that prepared you for college?’ and ‘What’s it like?’” Patel remembers. “Now, we go in there and they know us and they expect us to be there, so it’s almost that we have become integrated into their classroom.”
Patel and Maggiore are third-year journalism majors and they are each working toward earning Grady Sports Media certificates. It was their work with the Grady Sports Bureau (which produces local high school sports broadcasts) last fall, and the fact that they are not far removed from their high school years, that made them well-suited for the high school program. Maggiore spent last summer as a UGA orientation leader, so she is prepared to answer questions about college, and the Cedar Shoals students enjoy talking with Patel about his internship last summer doing play-by-play announcing and beat writing for collegiate baseball.
“It’s really invaluable to see someone doing something that’s exciting and fun who is not that much older than you,” said Michaelis of the dynamic between her students and the Cedar Shoals students.
The Grady Sports Media students, with guidance from Michaelis and Finlay, have conducted all the training sessions with the students and they are there to answer questions and provide moral support during the football games.
“To be a high schooler and to be able to fully set up a production, execute it and break it down is more than most high schoolers could dream of,” Maggiore said of her experience working with the Cedar Shoals students over the past few months. “’From the beginning, they all came prepared and asked all the right questions. They were very professional and had great ideas. That was pretty satisfying from day one when they didn’t know what this thing was and now they are executing a full game. It’s been awesome.”
According to Soto-Rasales, the time the Cedar Shoals students get to spend with the Grady Sports Media students is one of his favorite parts of the program.
“They are really cool,” Soto-Rasales said. “They seem to enjoy it as much as we do because they come on Fridays, as well. It’s a really great example for them to set for us, especially because they have the opportunity to help someone else learn something new. I think it’s really cool they are doing that.”
Patel says the expectation of the future of the program is the biggest reason he is involved.
“It will be really cool to see the program grow,” Patel said. “I think we’ve got them thinking down paths that they might not have necessarily been thinking about. The world in the realm of sports media and broadcasting might not have been something they thought about or had access to before this, but if 10 years from now you can see that program become a feeder to the program at Grady or anywhere else, I think that would be really, really cool.”
Twenty-three days, 90 nations, 102 events and 15 sports made up this year’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In the midst of the history-making moments, numerous surprises and inspiring action were two students from the Grady Sports Media certificate program, Emily Giambalvo and Cat Hendrick, experiencing the Games in a way few can relate.
After a competitive selection process, Giambalvo and Hendrick were selected by the United States Olympic Committee to report on the games for the USOC’s various information channels including its website, TeamUSA.org.
“It was the best, longest, most trying and amazing experience of my life,” Hendrick, a second-year journalism major, reflected. “Every emotion you could possibly feel, it was in there. But, overall I just feel so lucky that we got to experience something that most sports reporters go their whole lives without experiencing.”
Giambalvo, a fourth-year management information systems major, agreed. “Overall, it was really awesome and it was such a cool environment to be in a worldwide setting that has a ton of chaos and a ton of exciting things with journalists from all over. I got to see and learn about a lot of new sports and cover really cool moments where history was being made.”
Over the course of three weeks, both Giambalvo and Hendrick worked under tight deadlines each producing more than 20 stories covering the different mountain and snow sports. These sports ranged from ice skating to snowboarding, hockey, speed skating, luge, bobsledding and many more. It was a chaotic and exhilarating environment where they not only worked closely with athletes but also with seasoned journalists.
“I was way more excited to meet journalists than athletes,” Giambalvo admitted.
Throughout this experience, both Giambalvo and Hendrick’s days were filled with traveling to the different sports venues, interviewing athletes and attending press conferences, working in the main press center and writing daily articles. It was not an easy task and each relied on the skills they acquired from their Grady Sports Media classes.
“Considering the fact that a year-and-a-half ago, I have never written a sports story, Grady Sports has helped me a lot,” Hendrick said. “The sports media certificate favors a trial-by-fire approach, but that has made all the difference in the world. I have Grady to thank for everything, because I was clueless a year-and-a-half ago. It wasn’t easy, but the professors care so much and have gone out of their way to help us.”
This opportunity was made possible with the support of Vicki Michaelis, John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society and director of Grady Sports. Michaelis was the lead Olympic reporter for USA Today from 2000-2012 and her relationship with the USOC opened the door for students to attend.
While Michaelis was a valuable resource and pushed them “to find stories outside of the easy scope,” the Olympics was not without its challenges. Both Giambalvo and Hendrick battled freezing cold temperatures and the pressure to consistently crank out creative stories.
“Any journalist can feel good about writing a story in one day, but after getting into the 14th consecutive day writing a story, it was challenging,” Giambalvo said. “There is no way for [Grady Sports] to teach you every situation, but it can give you the confidence that no matter what the situation is, I can handle it.”
“The most challenging part was keeping our stamina up,” Hendrick echoed. “I was nervous going into the Olympics as a first-time writer, but I just had to trust my training. Grady gave me everything that I needed to know, it was just a matter of executing at that point, but I had all the tools that I needed.”
By the end of the games, both Giambalvo and Hendrick walked away with countless memories, stories and experiences.
Giambalvo said she most enjoyed watching figure skating, and covering the U.S. gold medal curling game. “The curling gold medal game, was the last event I covered and the last story I wrote. The overall significance of what it meant for the sport and the athletes made it the perfect story. It was a nice way to end it.”
“You see the Olympics through a certain lens your entire life, so to actually be there behind the scenes and see all the work that goes into every single clip was really fascinating,” Hendrick concluded. “I’ve read a thousand stories in my life, but to be in the press conference and see the answers to the question I’ve asked on CNN, Fox and ESPN was really neat. This was literally the Olympics of sports journalism. I am super grateful to Professor Michaelis and the rest of the sports media certificate for working so hard to get us the opportunity of a lifetime.”
To overcome physical challenges and rise to compete at the highest level of parathletics—the Paralympic Games—takes an awe-inspiring amount of training and dedication. To report respectfully and responsibly on the amazing feats of those athletes takes a special kind of journalist. That was the task for nine Grady College students who covered the 2016 Games in Rio in September.
Through a partnership with the Associated Press, David Barnes, Jenn Finch, Josh Jones and Casey Sykes (from visual journalism) and Jamie Han, Emily Giambalvo, Emily Greenwood, Kendra Hansey and Kennington Smith (from Grady’s Sports Media Certificate program) worked in teams to produce multimedia content from the first half of the Games that was distributed globally.
“They just completely knocked it out of the park,” said Mark Johnson, head of the college’s visual journalism program. Johnson and Vicki Michaelis, director of Grady Sports, supervised and edited the students’ work in Rio. “I know we brag about our kids a lot because we have spectacular students,” he continued, “but the way those nine worked the situation, the way they dug deep to find great stories, poured their hearts and souls into it for all the time they were on the ground in Rio, was just unbelievable.”
In advance of the trip, the students researched the athletes and events, and talked through possible story ideas to pursue.
“When you go to a Paralympics, everyone has an amazing and dramatic story,” Michaelis said. “So you have to apply a whole new standard to ‘what stories are we going to tell.’
“I always ask my students, ‘why now and why should I care?’’” she explained. “The ‘why now’ is really obvious—they’re competing at the Paralympics. But the ‘why should I care’ became the question that needed to be answered before we’d continue with the story.”
Unlike at the Olympics—where it can be hard to get a unique story because there are hundreds of other reporters going after that same story—journalists at the Paralympics were granted more access to athletes and coaches, according to Michaelis, a veteran Olympics reporter and the John Huland Carmical Chair in Sports Journalism & Society.
“Our students could really operate as full working journalists,” she said. “They didn’t have to rely on hanging on the fringes of press conferences and group interviews to get what they needed. They were able to interact one-on-one with the athletes and coaches and set up meetings outside of the venues.”
“It forced me to ask some of the hardest questions I’ve ever asked as a reporter, all while being in the new environment of an international sporting event.”
— Emily Giambalvo
One example was Kendra Hansey’s preview story about U.S. Army veteran Melissa Stockwell, a paratriathlete from Team USA who was competing on Sept. 11.
“Stockwell served in Iraq, she lost her leg to a roadside bomb,” said Michaelis. “When Kendra sat down with her, Stockwell talked about what an honor it was to be able to go out and represent her country on 9/11.”
Stockwell won a bronze medal that day. But the silver and gold medals also went to Americans, an incredible moment covered in an article by Emily Greenwood and captured in photos by photojournalism student Jenn Finch.
“Those pictures of the three women on the podium are pretty powerful to see,” said Johnson, “particularly being on the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.”
“It quickly turned into a larger story than I expected when [the athlete] opened up about struggles during his childhood,” Giambalvo reflected. “It forced me to ask some of the hardest questions I’ve ever asked as a reporter, all while being in the new environment of an international sporting event.”
Added Michaelis: “That’s the kind of story that rises above…table tennis being this person’s refuge and guiding light through his early life.”
While in Rio, the students relied on skills they learned in Grady College courses, as well as on-the-spot advice from Michaelis and Johnson.
“The Paralympics is complex in terms of classifications of competition, because the athletes’ impairments are so varied,” said Greenwood. “It was a challenge to understand, and accurately report on, the different classifications in each event. Professor Michaelis has always stressed the importance of accuracy and doing your research, though, so I relied on checking and double-checking my work before submission to make sure I was accurate. Having Professor Michaelis as an editor is tremendously helpful, as well.”
“Professor Michaelis helped me so much throughout the process. There was one time in particular where I had about four or five story ideas that I had worked on that all fell through within an hour,” Smith recalled. “I was very frustrated but she worked with me and I ended up with a great story to tell at the end of that day. Overall, she taught me that in journalism, I must be patient and the right story will always come.”’
“The Visual Journalism program has instilled a sense of responsibility when covering any event or undertaking any job,” said David Barnes. “As journalists, it’s our duty to be objective reporters and, of course, that applies to the Paralympics. When we went to cover assigned events, I often reflected on class lessons to help deal with all the noise and focus on what was in front of me so I wouldn’t be overwhelmed.”
Jonnie Peacock of Great Britain, upper right, runs in the men’s 100M T44 preliminaries at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. Running a time of 10.81 seconds, Peacock set a new Paralympic record. (David A. Barnes/University of Georgia via AP)
According to Johnson, the students handled themselves like true professionals.
“I think it’s critically important that (the Paralympics) get covered in a professional manner, in a respectful manner,” Johnson said. “These are athletes who spend their entire lives striving to get to this place in the same way that Olympic or professional athletes do. That was the big message that we tried to get to the students. They looked at (them) not as disabled athletes, but as professional athletes. That, to me, says a lot about our kids.”
As a public relations major, Greenwood produced branded content for sponsor Coca-Cola, in addition to writing for the AP. (Coca-Cola funded a portion of the students’ travel expenses, and ThinkTank Photo donated and Canon USA loaned equipment for the visual journalism students.) Regardless of the career path she chooses, Greenwood, who plans to apply for law school, believes the experience will help her stand out.
“Few people can claim to have stories in the Washington Post and New York Times at 21 years old, but Grady Sports has given me that opportunity,” she said.
“The fact that UGA and Grady were willing to go the extra mile for us to have this experience further solidifies my love for this school,” added Smith. “This opportunity was everything I could ask for, plus more.”
Photojournalism student Josh Jones also gained a lot from the experience. “This trip helped to advance my career goals by showing me that I can perform at a high level and on extremely tight deadlines in an international setting,” Jones said. “I’m so thrilled with this amazing opportunity Grady provided for me and the once-in-a-lifetime experience I had in Rio.”
As remarkable as the experience was for the students, it was equally, if not more, special for Michaelis.
“It very well may have been the most validating experience of my life…how often does a teacher get to see her students apply what they learned in a real-world setting and have it be that high quality?” she asked. “I feel very fortunate that I was able to have that.”
Jaylon Thompson, a senior majoring in digital and broadcast journalism, is living out his dream of earning his degree and sports media certificate from Grady College along with a minor in sociology. His hard work paid off with the opportunity to cover the Olympics in Rio. His goal is to inspire others to follow their dreams.
“I have two favorite professors in Vicki Michaelis and Welch Suggs,” Thompson wrote in his profile. “Both have helped me tremendously to get better as a journalist and I wouldn’t know where I would be without them. I truly grew under their guidance and they are the one of the many reasons I am standing here today. I am eternally grateful and I have so much love for them!”
Thompson has completed sports internships at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Houston Chronicle, the latter of which stemmed from his selection to the Sports Journalism Institute Class of 2015. He is co-editor of UGA Elite, a platform for all writers on campus to grow and receive feedback. He also has worked for the Red & Black and participated in Grady Newsource.
Following graduation, Thompson hopes to work as a beat reporter for a professional sports team at a newspaper, eventually aspiring to become a sports analyst for ESPN.
“As I wind down my college career, each award from being a 2016 McGill Fellow to becoming an Olympic journalist has taught me that I can make my dreams come true,” he wrote. “It also helped me realize that my life is truly meant to inspire and I hope to continue that in the future.”
Joe Phua, assistant professor of advertising, helps students apply classroom concepts through hands-on experiences, such as designing digital advertising campaigns for local small businesses.
“My department (Advertising and Public Relations) is one of the top-ranked programs in the country, so I am really glad to be here,” Phua wrote in his UGA faculty profile. “I am very lucky to be able to work with some of the most prolific, well-known advertising and PR scholars in the field and call them my colleagues.”
Among other courses, Phua teaches digital and social media advertising strategies. “Every semester, students apply concepts from the class as they work in small groups to design a digital advertising campaign for a local small business,” he explained. “I think this gives them a real-world perspective on how advertising campaigns work, including interacting with a client, assessing their needs and suggesting feasible digital advertising ideas based on the client’s budget and concerns.
“In the classes, we also examine and discuss the latest digital technologies used for advertising, including mobile apps, virtual reality games, social media, viral videos, native advertising and more,” Phua continued. “Digital technologies keep evolving, so I have students keep up-to-date with the latest digital advertising news through hashtags and articles I curate on Twitter. We discuss the latest news during class and brainstorm ideas about how to incorporate these technologies in real-world, feasible advertising and marketing campaigns.”