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!”

“AMERICAN Triptych,” a short film from Booker T Mattison premieres December 3

The short film showcases collaboration from EMST students and alumni.

“AMERICAN Triptych,” a new short film from Booker T Mattison, assistant professor of Entertainment and Media Studies, is set to premiere December 3.

This short film is a triptych, meaning it is three separate works of art that are unified by a common theme. The commonality in this triptych is Covid-19.

The film features three narrative chapters. Each highlights a different protagonist — one white American, one Asian-American and one African-American. Through those lenses, the film explores food insecurity, homelessness, xenophobia and police brutality all amid the Covid-19 pandemic in the summer of 2020.

“AMERICAN Tryptych” provides a look at the pandemic through the lenses of different American ethnicities (photo submitted).

“”AMERICAN Triptych” also serves as a veritable showcase of the talent that we have in the department of entertainment and Media studies in Grady College, the Design & Technology MFA in the Department of Theatre and Film Studies at Franklin College and our new MFA in Film, TV Production and Digital Media,” said Mattison.

Most of the professionals who worked on the film also teach in the MFA Film, Television, and Digital Media program, an innovative program where students study one year on campus in Athens and one year at Trillith Studios.

Mattison is the film’s writer and director. Shandra McDonald, the film’s producer, is based at Trillith Studios. Bryan Cole is the film’s editor.

Julie Ray and Ivan Ingermann, the production designer and costume designer, teach in the Design & Technology MFA.

Dave Kruetzer, the gaffer, teaches production in the Film Studies department.

The cinematographer is Garland McLaurin, a Peabody Award-winning cinematographer who previously taught EMST students.

“AMERICAN Triptych” is a group effort with faculty, alumni and current students. The film gave UGA students an opportunity to work on a professional production with award-winning filmmakers.

Cyrus Townsend (AB ’19) worked as the assistant editor. Townsend is currently a content operations edit apprentice at WarnerMedia Studios. He is excited about the ever-growing community of filmmakers in Georgia.

“I loved getting back and touch with Mattison and a lot of my peers from UGA,” Townsend said. “I feel as though it’s poetic that after the pandemic, I felt very distant from my peers and this film about people going through the pandemic is what brings us back together!”

The film premieres was created during the pandemic and ensured all cast and crew remained healthy during production.(photo submitted).

Demi Lehman is a double major in EMST and Theatre. She is one of the actors in “AMERICAN Triptych.” She had briefly met Mattison in Dean Charles Davis’ career explorations class designed to introduce pre-Grady students to opportunities within the college. Lehman recognized Mattison’s name on a casting call website for actors. That led to an audition and being cast for the role.

“My favorite part of this project was how kind and collaborative everyone was throughout the entire process,” Lehman said. “It was even cooler for me to see how students and faculty from UGA came together to create a really impressive and efficient set. It was the perfect blend of both of my majors and I got to see the skills I’ve learned in a classroom in action on set.”

Other students involved in the film include Samantha Eubanks, design production assistant, Cash Robinson, key grip, Brandt Tharpe, camera production assistant and second assistant director and Cullen Herter, who shadowed the production.

There is a UGA Spotlight on the Arts virtual event on November 17 where guests can learn about the art of collaboration in filmmaking and ask questions. In addition to Mattison, participants include McDonald, Ray, Ingermann, and Cole, all from Theatre and Film Studies. All five panelists are involved in teaching within UGA’s new MFA program in Film, Television, and Digital Media. Register here.

The film premieres on Friday, December 3 at 6 p.m. in the Balcony Theatre at the Fine Arts Building. Masks are strongly encouraged at the screening.

EMST professors create and collaborate outside the classroom

Many university faculty members collaborate with one another on research or projects for the good of the community, but for Booker T. Mattison and Garland McLaurin, their collaboration draws on more creative elements—those of filmmaking.

Mattison, an assistant professor, and McLaurin, a lecturer, each are relatively new additions to the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies at Grady College, and the two graduates of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts knew that they wanted to work together on projects not just in the classroom, but outside, as well.

If their first collaboration, “Ungubani (Who Are You?)” is any indication, this is just the start of more films to come.

“It’s been a great relationship,” said McLaurin who worked as the cinematographer and a producer for the movie. “It’s been good to work with someone in the department who’s in the same creative space that you’re in and have that collaborative effort with a friend but also a fellow faculty member.”

“Ungubani” is gaining a lot of attention thanks to its acceptance at numerous film festivals, which are mainly virtual events since the pandemic. Festivals that the short 15-minute film has been accepted include the Harlem International Film Festival in New York City; the Deep in the Heart Film Festival in Waco, Texas; the Roxbury International Film Festival in Boston, Massachusetts; and the Cineodyssey Film Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina, among others.

There are also two Academy Award qualifying festivals that have accepted “Ungubani”—the St. Louis International Film Festival and the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival—which means if it wins best short film at either festival, it will be eligible for an Academy Award nomination.

“Ungubani” won Best of Competition in the Narrative Category of the BEA Festival of Media Arts last spring.

Mattison and McLaurin explain that the film festival circuit provides extra visibility for films through added viewers and also a juried competition. Most importantly, it’s a showcase of what the filmmakers can do individually and collectively.

Booker T. Mattison (dark blue shirt) and Garland McLaurin (light blue shirt) discuss a scene during the filming of “Ungubani.”

“It’s a business card that utilizes sound, performance, imagery and story,” according to Mattison. He also likens it to the NFL Combine: “The power brokers come to discover new talent.”

Like many other events in a pandemic world, Mattison, the director and a producer of the film, has been connecting with festival viewers over Zoom to discuss the messages of the film and answer questions.

“Ungubani” focuses on a young Black man who puts himself at risk to help a young white woman.

Mattison said he had been looking for a project to direct with McLaurin and when he read the script, he knew he wanted to be involved.

“The film is about identity, perception and race,” Mattison explained. “At the end, the characters are not who you think they are in the beginning. Viewers are constantly peeling back layers of the characters and come to realize that they can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Other advantages of the collaboration between the two faculty members are the benefits it brings to students. For instance, former students and now alumni Jacob Hale (AB ’18), Natalie Garcia (AB ’20) and Sheldyn Moore (AB ’20) served as the gaffer, director’s assistant and production assistant, respectively, on the film. Moore is now in the inaugural class of the MFA Film program.

Department of Theatre students Leah Merritt and Robyn Accetta acted in the film.

“I like to extend my pedagogy beyond the walls of the classroom. It’s one thing to tell the students how to make a film, but another to be able to show them how it is made. It’s really a great opportunity for them and us.”

“Ungubani” will be distributed early 2021 on the Urban Movie Channel.

Mattison and Garland’s work together is expected to continue. Mattison, who is known for his work as the screenwriter and director for the film adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston’s story “The Gilded Six Bits,” which aired on Showtime and McLaurin, who won a Peabody Award for “180 Days A Year Inside an American High School” and “180 Days Hartsville,” are currently working on a television series pitch.

“I’m basically Robin to his Batman,” McLaurin explained with a laugh.

In addition to teaching undergraduate film production classes, Mattison and McLaurin are also professors in the new Master of Fine Arts in Film, Television and Digital Media program.

Grady Entertainment & Media Studies students win multiple awards at the 2020 GCA Student Film Festival

Grady EMST students  won four statewide awards at the Georgia Communication Association sponsored 2020 Student Film Festival.  

To honor award recipients, an awards dinner and ceremony took place on Friday, Feb. 21, at the GCA 90th Annual Convention at Georgia Highlands College in Cartersville, Georgia. 

Among the winners, Kiana Washington won first place for her documentary, “Breaking the Box.”  

I am so honored and thankful that my film was recognized as a winner of the Georgia Communication Association student film festival,” said Washington. “I made this film in my documentary class last semester, and it was the first film that I made mostly on my own with a story I was proud to shine some light on. In creating this documentary, I really wanted to explore the concept of identity and self-expression for the non-conforming society. I do not think there are enough stories told about the non-conforming community, their struggles, and their experiences, so I wanted people to take something away from Blake and Metas stories like I did in making this documentary. 

The GCA Student Film Festival exists to recognize outstanding original visual narratives created by Georgia college and university students. This year, there were 31 total submissions from students throughout the state.  

Narrative Film Awards  

First place“The Dreams of a Flightless Bird”  

Director/Co-Writer: Armaan Eric Najhawan 
Producer/Co-Writer: Ben Janes 
Director of Photography: Joybeth Sullivan 
Sound Designer: Nick Hayward 
Lead Editor: Caroline Young 
Post-Production Supervisor/Assistant Editor: Daniel Mathis 
1st Assistant Director: Samantha Harris 
Art Department/Production Designer: Jane Turula 
Casting Director: Julia Ruffino 
Composer: Enoch Lee 
Faculty adviser: Booker T. Mattison

Second place “2030”  

Director/Writer: Caleb Moss  
Producer: Natascha Tang  
Director of Photography: Quinn Reeder  
Editor: Katy Plant  
Composer: Polychroma 
Faculty adviser: Booker T. Mattison 

Third place “Murphy’s Law” 

Abigail  Mewbourne 

Documentary Film Awards 

First place“Breaking the Box”  

Filmmaker: Kiana Washington 
Music Composer: Cameron Gwynn 
Editor: Ian Nixon 
Camera and Sound Assistance: Cyrus Townsend 
Faculty adviser: Garland McLaurin 

The Georgia Communication Association is a professional organization comprised of faculty who teach media and communication at campuses throughout Georgia.  

Focus on Faculty: Booker T. Mattison

The following is an excerpt of a Q&A originally posted at news.uga.edu.

Booker T. Mattison, an assistant professor at Grady College, is an author, filmmaker and educator who prepares students for careers in the state’s booming film and television industry.

Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?

I earned a Bachelor of Science in mass communications from Norfolk State University and a Master of Fine Arts in film and television production from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

Since I joined the department of entertainment and media studies, which is in the midst of a spectacular growth spurt, I have been actively involved in the development of our M.F.A. in film, television and digital media, an overhaul of the undergraduate entertainment and media studies curriculum, and serving on the search committees for two new faculty members who will join our team in the fall of 2019.

What are your favorite courses and why?

My favorite course is “Advanced Production” because I am able to midwife compelling and diverse narrative short films from our supremely talented entertainment and media studies students. Since this is a capstone course, I have the opportunity to work with content creators who are about to graduate and make their mark in the world.

What are some highlights of your career at UGA?

I premiered my latest short film, “Bosniak,” here on campus last November. It was a great experience because I collaborated with four UGA professors and a UGA staff member to make the film. Professor James Biddle (Grady) was the lead editor; Emily Koh (Hugh Hodgson School of Music) composed the score; professor Hatidža Mulić (Lamar Dodd School of Art) translated the script into Bosnian and created original paintings for the film; Walker Swain (College of Education) created original hip-hop music for the film; and Stephen Bridges (Office of Online Learning) was also an editor. Having the first public screening at UGA in front of cast, crew, current and former students, and colleagues was one of the more unique screening experiences of my career.

To view the complete Q&A, please visit the UGA news website.