Students receive first certificates in Grady Sports Media program

The first recipients of Grady's new Sports Media Certificate, most of whom are graduating this week, were recognized May 2 in the Peyton Anderson Forum at Grady College.

The spring 2015 graduates who completed the certificate's six required courses are: Kelly Fairbanks, Justin Fedich, Loni Gibson, Elizabeth Grimsley, Lauren Mayo, Anne Noland, Alexander Resnak, Connor Smolensky and Melanie Watson. Tanya Sichynsky, a social media editor at USA Today Sports who graduated in December 2014, also earned a certificate.

The first recipients of the Grady Sports Media certificate, with Professors Michaelis and Welch.

The Grady Sports Media certificate, the first of its kind in the SEC, was officially approved by UGA in February 2014. Many of the first recipients started coursework that counted toward the certificate prior to its official launch.

The certificates were presented by Vicki Michaelis, the John Huland Carmical Distinguished Professor in Sports Journalism and director of Grady Sports, and David Welch Suggs, Jr., associate professor and associate director of Grady Sports.

“We are very proud of this first group of Grady Sports graduates,” Michaelis said. “We are grateful they were willing to take the test drive with us as we developed the Sports Media Certificate curriculum. They accomplished a lot along the way, and we are certain they will continue to make us proud as they progress through their careers.”

In addition to proud family members and friends, several special Grady alumni attended the ceremony including: Jimmy Alston (ABJ '66), president of the John Huland Carmical Foundation; SEC network analyst Tony Barnhart (ABJ '76); and C. Trent Rosecrans (ABJ '98), Cincinnati Reds reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Vicki Michaelis talks with Jimmy Alston, president of the John Huland Carmical Foundation, while Dean Charles Davis looks on. Michaelis is the John Huland Carmical Distinguished Professor in Sports Journalism.

Experiential learning is an integral part of the Grady Sports program. For this first group of certificate recipients, it took several different forms, ranging from Sichynsky's summer 2014 capstone internship with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to Noland's capstone internship with the NFL at this year's Super Bowl (Noland now will be working with the Denver Broncos) to a Maymester class that helped with media relations for the 2014 NCAA tennis championship held at UGA.

Many of the students also worked with the extracurricular Grady Sports Bureau, which included covering high school and UGA sports for the Athens Banner-Herald and producing livestream broadcasts of several sports events at Clarke Central High School in Athens. Atlanta-based PlayOn! Sports, an online platform for high school broadcasts, donated equipment to Grady Sports to use in the productions.

“We train kids who want to work as journalists or in event broadcast and production and in sports communications,” Suggs said about the program, which includes classes such as ” Sports Enterprise Reporting and Writing,” “Sports Broadcast and Production” and “Sports Media Relations.” “It's all three of those, not just sports journalism.”

In addition to Michaelis and Suggs, industry professionals help teach Grady Sports Media students. They include Bob Houghton, a long-time broadcaster and president of the Georgia Association of Broadcasters, who taught the sports broadcast class this past semester; D. Orlando Ledbetter, the Atlanta Falcons beat writer for the AJC, who co-taught “Introduction to Sports Reporting and Writing” with Suggs this spring; and Bryan Harris, director of sports practice at Jackson Spalding, who teaches “Sports Communications” on an ongoing basis.

Students say the program is well-rounded and that they are prepared when they finish the program.

“It's taught me how to do everything,” Grimsley, a senior from Decatur, Georgia, who spent last summer interning for UGA Gymnastics. “I can apply for a job as a reporter. I can apply for a social media job. I really have anything in front of me that I want to do.”

In addition to the education in practical skills and multi-platform reporting and storytelling, tried and true journalism skills are the foundation of the coursework.

“Even though the platforms and technology have changed, we still have to teach the basic skills of professionalism, interviewing, reporting and producing great content that people want to hear or people want to see, experience and read because there's a niche for that,” Suggs said. “Sports media is not shrinking; it's growing and taking on more and more new forms, but the core skills and the core obligations to be able to tell good stories in a professional way are key to what we are.”

The students seem to grasp this.

“This program taught me to listen to everyone that you can listen to and talk with everyone that you can talk to,” added Smolensky, a senior from Long Valley, N.J., who will cover the Baltimore Orioles for this summer. “It also taught me about the power of observation. It's the difference between a good story and a great story. Some of the best writers are the best observers.”

To view additional picture of the Grady Sports Media certificate presentation, please view the UGAGrady Flickr album.

Date: May 8, 2015
Author:  Sarah Freeman,
Contact:  Vicki Michaelis,