Grady College names 2021-22 Teachers of the Year

Grady College is happy to recognize its Teachers of the Year for the 2021-22 academic year: 

Grady College is also happy to recognize the 2021-22 recipient of the Roland Page Award for Outstanding Graduate Faculty:

  • Sabriya Rice, Knight Chair in Health and Medical Journalism, Journalism. 

The Teachers of the Year are annually selected by their peers, based on excellence in the classroom and student feedback. The recipient of the Roland Page Award for Outstanding Graduate Faculty is annually nominated and selected by graduate students. 

“Winning the Teacher of the Year award in one of our departments is saying something, because these hallways are lined with award-winning teachers. It takes a superb effort to rise to the top of this competition,” said Charles Davis, dean of Grady College.

Dodie Cantrell-Bickley advises students on the set of Grady Newsourse. (Image: Sarah E. Freeman)

Cantrell-Bickley, who previously spent more than 30 years in various roles for television news stations, is known by students for her enthusiasm, high energy, interesting and inspiring stories and persistent willingness to help students both inside the classroom and during the job hunt. 

“(Professor Cantrell-Bickley) communicates a lifetime of experience in easy-to-understand and widely applicable techniques, quotes, witticisms, and when need be, lectures. All of this is done in a frank and personable manner with respect to who students are and who we are developing into as people,” wrote one student.

“The Journalism Department is so lucky to have Dodie,” added Janice Hume, head of the Journalism Department and the Carolyn McKenzie and Don E. Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism. “She offers students the perfect mix of professional rigor and support. She does as much for students outside the classroom.”

In 2021, Cantrell-Bickley launched an all-volunteer news production program focused on social justice that attracted students from freshmen to seniors, and she led a team of faculty coaches and students to produce the hour-long documentary, “The First Five: The Integration of University of Georgia Football.”

Mattison, a filmmaker and author, uses his large bank of experiences writing and directing to teach his students what it takes to create stellar films. 

“Some students in his directing and capstone courses come away with award-winning films. But they all come away with invaluable knowledge, experience and insight into the skill, inspiration and determination it takes to create an entire, original visual story from the ground up,” said Jay Hamilton, head of the EMST Department and the Jim Kennedy New Media Professor.

Booker T. Mattison celebrates with students during Grady’s spring 2022 graduation celebration. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Outside of the classroom, Mattison recently finished shooting for his upcoming film “Sound of Christmas,” which stars musical artist and actor Ne-Yo and will air on BET during the holidays.

Pfeuffer is known as an avid proponent of active learning, a teaching method that focuses on engaging with students through discussion and problem solving. 

“Professor Pfeuffer is absolutely amazing. He’s so understanding and so concerned about every one of his students. He makes sure we understand the material, while still being genuinely concerned about our workloads,” wrote one of his students. 

“Alex is a beloved professor who teaches tough core courses in the curriculum,” added Bryan Reber, head of the AdPR Department and C. Richard Yarbrough Professor in Crisis Communication Leadership. “The fact that students express the fact that they don’t have to come to his classes, but they want to come to them, speaks volumes.”

Smith, who specializes in teaching Graphic Communication, is beloved by her students for preparing them with applicable skills for their careers. 

“Kristen is an excellent instructor!” wrote one of her students. “She was always engaging and excited about our work and eager to both give helpful feedback and listen to students’ ideas. I feel like I learned a lot about graphic design, to the point that I would feel comfortable doing graphic design work when necessary in my career.”

“Kristen Smith continually embraces new pedagogical models in her teaching,” added Reber. “Even when it means that it will increase her workload, she is willing to take the plunge and try new ways to critique and grade student design work. Kristen is a remarkably dedicated teacher.  Our students are fortunate when they wind up in her classes.”

Rice is an expert health and medical journalist and communications professional with experience reporting for some of the nation’s top news organizations and serving as the director of media relations for the American Cancer Society. She is praised by her students as a mentor inside and outside of the classroom. 

“Professor Rice has gone above and beyond countless times for me and my peers in and outside of the classroom,” said one graduate student. “She helped me network and helped me get an assistant producer freelance job that I am enjoying so much!”

Dodie Cantrell-Bickley to enter GAB Hall of Fame

Grady College journalism lecturer Dodie Cantrell-Bickley will be inducted to the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame this week.

Cantrell-Bickley currently co-produces “Grady Newsource.”

She has more than 30 years of experience in broadcast journalism, working in a variety of roles.

Her career began at WMAZ-TV in Macon, Georgia where she was a reporter and executive producer for five years. She won multiple AP and Emmy awards and launched the station’s consumer journalism franchise.

Cantrell-Bickley was named WMAZ’s Vice President and News Director in 1992, a role she held for 13 years.

She continued her ascent in broadcasting management, becoming the President and General Manager at WMAZ, and later at WTLV/WJXX in Jacksonville, Florida.

She is a Grady College alumna, earning a master’s degree in narrative journalism. She also earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from Mercer University and a master’s degree in public administration from Georgia College and State University.

Cantrell-Bickely enters the GAB Hall of Fame with Grady alumni Zach Fowler and Condace Pressley. The father of Grady faculty member John Weatherford, also named John Weatherford, will be inducted, as well. Grady College students Maddie Ray, Phillip Hubbard and Ashlyn Webb will be recognized for receiving GAB scholarships. 

Cantrell-Bickley instills passion for journalism in students

Leaving retirement to start a new career teaching was not an easy choice, but Dodie Cantrell-Bickley views her most recent job as an investment. 

“When it’s time, I don’t want to have that fleeting thought about ‘Did I invest my life or did I just spend it’?” she said. “Being part of the Grady faculty and helping turn out tomorrow’s great journalists feels like a great return on that investment.”

Cantrell-Bickley was lured out retirement when David Hazinski, co-instructor and former NBC correspondent, reached out to her and pitched the idea.

“I had been a fan of Hazinski and the Grady program for many years,” Cantrell-Bickley said. “In fact, I visited the classes in the past and hired great Grady grads.”

Today, she co-produces Newsource, a half-hour newscast that is broadcast four times weekly when school is in session. 

For the 30 or so students who take Newsource as their capstone class, the daily newscast is a semester-long marathon of searching for stories, scouring facts, conducting interviews, packaging stories and producing the show. In addition, there are dozens of student volunteers who work behind the scenes for each broadcast. At the heart of this stress and chaos is Cantrell-Bickley making links to what they already have learned. 

“Newsource is where you put everything you have learned in the classroom at Grady into action,” she said. 

Newsource, a program that has been part of Grady College for nearly 30 years, is the epitome of experiential learning and Cantrell-Bickley’s more than 30 years in the industry has positioned her well to teach her students about the newsroom. Cantrell-Bickley has served as an anchor, an investigative reporter, an executive producer, a news director and a president/general manager, serving much of her time at WMAZ-TV in Macon as well as WTLV/WJXX in Jacksonville. 

Dodie Cantrell-Bickley stays in touch with many Grady alumni. She is pictured here (fourth from left) with several recent graduates at a Newsource Alumni Reunion Brunch in April, 2018.

Cantrell-Bickley and Hazinski work hard to make the class as realistic as possible in relation to what their students will experience in broadcast journalism when they graduate. Part of that process is a critique that is publicly broadcast at the end of every show. Seldom does Cantrell-Bickley sugar-coat her feedback.

“Hazinski set the standard for critiques so that our students could trust the feedback they receive and grow from it,” she said. “Honesty and candor are a must.” 

In addition to technical and editorial skills, Cantrell-Bickley is committed to teaching her students how to succeed in a field that is bombarded with unverified information masquerading as journalism on some social media, accusations of  fake news and an incredible amount of competition to be heard. 

“Great journalism is about facts,” she said. “Getting information and making sure it is accurate is critical; producing the story in a way that is engaging and easy to understand is vital.”

She shares her passion for journalism with them along the way. 

“We serve the public by acquiring and disseminating news and information that will help the public make more completely informed decisions about their lives,” she said. 

Like any good news director, Cantrell-Bickley is available to her students 24 hours a day via phone or text. Her students don’t hesitate to call if there is a breaking news story. She also receives group texts throughout the day as the students prepare the show. 

Her phone signals an incoming text as she leaves the interview. The students are discussing that day’s show. 

“Let’s make Cantrell proud,” one response says. She smiles with pride.