40 Under 40 honoree profile: Kim Gebbia Chappell

Congratulations to Kim Gebbia Chappell (’06), VP of marketing and communications at Bobbie, an organic infant formula company, on being named an honoree in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 Under 40 class.

Chappell (middle) at the Webby Awards standing on a red carpet with a step and repeat in the background.
Chappell (middle) at the Webby Awards in 2022, where her team won the first social media campaign award ever for a baby formula company with their investor and Motherboard member Tan France. (Also pictured: Nijah Spice and Lisa Yadao).

After graduating from Grady College in 2006, Chappell started her career as a local news reporter in Wilmington, North Carolina, and went on to spend 10 years as a reporter and anchor, climbing up through four different markets before becoming the evening anchor and managing director for an ABC affiliate. During Chappell’s time as a journalist, she won two Emmys, a National Edward R. Murrow award and more than a dozen RTDNA and AP awards.

Chappell then moved to San Fransisco to become the first in-house public relations hire for an e-commerce startup called Weebly, where she eventually became head of communications. Chappell’s next stop was at the fintech company Square, where she led all brand and purpose communications, before landing her current role at Bobbie. At Bobbie, Chappell oversees three external agencies and a team of more than 20 marketers.

Outside of the office, Chappell is a proud mom of three children under five years old. In her community, Chappell is an active board member of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Fund, which helps support and raise funding and awareness for the NICU in Austin, Texas, an active member of Chief, a professional networking group for C-suite women, and more.

Below are responses Chappell provided about her experiences at UGA and working in the industry.

What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Grady cemented a hustler, deadline-driven foundation in me that has carried me through every chapter of my career, from news to public relations to marketing. It has become my secret weapon, and it started the basement of Grady (with a VHS tape editing machine. I know, I’m old.) I learned that there is always time to get something done, and there is always a solution to the problem. When you work in a newsroom, the 5 p.m. deadline comes at you every day, and no matter if your interview falls through or the graphic didn’t get made, you have to find that 90-second story to fill the air. And somehow (I still don’t know how) I always made something happen. Your hustle, your grit, your sheer ability to keep a sprint pace are your secret weapons.

Chappell standing in front of the Studio 1A sign at the Today Show.
Chappell at the Today Show on behalf of Bobbie.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Stop renting expensive apartments and throwing away your terrible (early) news salary on rent, and just buy a place as soon as you can to build equity on a hard asset and start building wealth beyond paycheck to paycheck. Even if it’s just a one bedroom! I’d also add that as a woman in a newsroom (or any job) you can and should advocate for yourself – whether it’s a higher salary, a longer maternity leave, a promotion you know you deserve, or a safe and clean place to pump. Make your case and ask for what you want.

What skill(s) or advice should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers?

Follow the money and the data (yes, even in news!) to help you grow your own career. Keep a note on your phone with every little daily win or accomplishment you have. You should be able to stare at something by the end of each work week. In your annual review with your manager or when you are pitching yourself for a new role or at a new job, be able to walk that person through the tangible impact of your work. Maybe it’s increased visits to the station site because of the story you wrote or the increased engagement and following on your social media that leads to loyal viewers, news tips or professional relationships. Be sure to write down how many award-winning or top-rated sweeps stories you wrote, shot and edited. It’s also the HR piece – how many times did you cover for a colleague or say yes to a morning or weekend shift without asking? If you have the data and the numbers that show your impact and your value to the business, they can’t argue with it! Also, this is for all the women reading this: if they make you an offer, ask for at least $10,000 more. They have a buffer built in for this, but it’s usually on the guys who have the gumption to ask for more. We’ve got to change that!

Is there a piece of advice from one of your Grady College professors that still guides you today?

Professor Michael Castengera, a legend within the Newsource walls, once reviewed my first package in front of the class (which I thought was Emmy-award winning!) and he told me it was “a failed attempt at mediocrity.” It stuck with me as a reminder that what you think is great is not always great. Be ready to take criticism from your managers and your peers, and instead of getting defensive or digging your heels in, remember to listen and learn. He went on to tell me why it was not a great story and how it could have been better. And you know what? He was right.

Chappell with Katie Couric who is holding up a fake (invisible) microphone.
At a 2022 Bobbie event, Chappell got to meet her idol, Katie Couric.
What does success mean to you?

Professional success is when I wake up with that fire in my belly, excited to create something new and make a tangible and positive  impact on the company I show up for, the customer we are working to serve, and the team I get to lead. I’m convinced personal success with three kids and a demanding job is just about surviving with patience.

Are you currently working in your “dream job”? If not, what is your dream role?

I actually feel incredibly blessed that I am in my dream job as the VP of marketing for Bobbie, an mom-led organic infant formula company.  It took me four newsrooms and two tech companies to get here, but it’s the most rewarding, stressful, challenging, joyful job I’ve ever had. And it also came at the same time I was in the throes of building my family with three kids under five. It’s funny how life can throw it all at you at once. We built the company from a basement start up in San Francisco to a landing $172 million in venture capital to launching into Target, recently acquiring a manufacturing facility and becoming the third largest full stack formula company in the U.S. in just three years. But it’s not the growth that makes it rewarding – or our backing from celebrities including Ashley Graham, Meghan Trainor, Tan France and Naomi Osaka. It’s the fact that, at the end of the day, I get to help moms and parents of all walks of life feed their babies with a healthy product. How you choose to feed your baby is an emotionally charged topic – it’s personal, stigmatized, politicized and riddled in shame and guilt. If I can help one working mom like me feel a little more supported, then I am in fact living my dream job! 

Favorite podcast:

I’m terrible at consuming podcasts, so I’m going to go with the one I started for Bobbie, “Milk Drunk.” (Moms check it out!) 

One job-related tool you can’t live without:

My Stanley Cup, Ember Mug, Slack, InShot. (Couldn’t choose just one.) 

Favorite restaurant in Athens:

The Last Resort. We still talk about the iconic gorgonzola dressing. (IYKYK) 

Favorite place you’ve traveled:

The Aeolian Islands off the coast of Sicily (where my ancestors are from). We hiked Stromboli, an active volcano, in the middle of the night and watched hot lava spew out two stories high just feet away from us. It was incredible. 

Item on your bucket list:

I want to be one of those moms who has stacks and stacks of  beautiful photo albums of all of her kids and life memories for when I’m old instead of letting them just disappear on iPhones.

40 Under 40 Honoree Profile: Mallory O’Brien

Congratulations to Mallory O’Brien (ABJ ’12), Senior Manager for Global Corporate Brand Marketing at GE. She is a Grady College alumna and honoree for this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class.

O’Brien graduated from the college with a degree in Mass Media Arts. She studied abroad for two summers during her time in college — once in Australia for media and production and once in France for global advertising and marketing.

Since graduating, O’Brien has worked for well-known brands including UPS, Kohler, Colgate-Palmolive and General Electric. Apart from her work, she volunteers with Hudson River Park Friends to enhance and care for New York City’s parks through gardening and environmental clean-up. She also volunteers with Meals on Wheels and the Read Ahead program.

Following are responses O’Brien provided about her experiences at UGA and working in the industry.

Mallory O'Brien standing on red carpeted stairs at the Cannes Lions Film Festival.
O’Brien’s experience at the Cannes Festival of Creativity gave her insight into how a global brand can impact individual consumers. She views this as a key moment that solidified her career choice.
What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Dr. Tom Reichert’s ADPR class introduced me to the magic of advertising and brand storytelling. It was this Grady coursework and professor that inspired me to apply to attend the Cannes Festival of Creativity study abroad program. I credit my experiential learning as an invaluable career awakening that completely shaped my journey to corporate America to work for some of the world’s most beloved brands. Not many people can speak to an exact moment that completely crystallized their career aspirations, but I can. The opportunity of access and exposure to an industry at the highest level opened my eyes to the intimately emotional impact a giant global brand can have on a person. Owing my career to UGA Grady and studying abroad makes giving back to the university effortless. I’m always looking for reasons to talk about UGA and how the experiences it offered me got me to where I am today.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Being yourself is your strongest asset. How many times have you heard people say, “Just be yourself” to the point of wanting to roll your eyes? It’s such a good reminder for students in their 20s to hear though. At that stage, you can get fixated on making connections by force-fitting yourself to be like everyone else. What I’ve learned is that standing out and staying real is what really draws people to you.

Two women posing with a GE poster.
O’Brien (right) celebrating the GE x NYT Takeover at the New York Times Printing Press, 2022.
What skill(s) or advice should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers?

Always show up with a point of view. In my experience, the employees who rise through the ranks the quickest are not necessarily the ones who get to work first or stay the latest. People will be more impressed by a unique perspective shared in a meeting than your willingness to respond to an email at 10 p.m. Never forget the value of your opinion and the work you do. Make sure you don’t forget, always capture your work output and document your successes. Even if for your own self-worth, it also makes conversations about promotions much easier.

What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?

When I worked at Colgate-Palmolive, I had one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments when my alma matter and work collided. UGA was gearing up to host Notre Dame (also known as the Fighting Irish) and as a lighthearted way to spark rivalry, a local Georgia grocery store rid their shelves of Irish Spring products. The local action made national headlines which brought one of my company’s brands (Irish Spring) front page news. We had a viral moment on social media that then manifested into a paid media partnership with ESPN’s College Game Day, onsite activations at the actual game day, and millions of impressions and positive sentiment for the brand. Agile marketing opportunities that allow your brand to be culturally relevant in a surprising and unexpected way is always such a good time, but it was extra special that it involved UGA.

What do you believe is your biggest strength and how has it helped you in your current role?
O'Brien posing with Hairy Dawg.
O’Brien has a fond appreciation for UGA and Grady College specifically. She poses with Hairy Dawg at her first football game in 2008.

Relationship building. I like to think that I’m never too cool, but always warm. My enthusiasm to make people comfortable and connected is embedded into my passion for leading the alumni chapter here in NYC and my successes at work. My favorite thing to do is bring different groups together for a common purpose. Together is always better.

Favorite Podcast

New York Magazine’s Pivot podcast hosted by Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway.

One job-related tool you can’t live without

As simple as it seems, my work calendar. I protect my time by booking meetings with myself to ensure I’m as productive as possible.

Favorite restaurant in Athens

It’s very hard to go wrong with the peanut butter bacon burger at Clocked.

Favorite place you’ve traveled

Domestically, I’d say Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Internationally, it may have to be Cape Town, South Africa.
Item on your bucket list: Visiting all 7 continents would be amazing, but climate change isn’t making travel to Antarctica any easier!


Six Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. Grady College alumni honored in 2023 include:

  • Kim Gebbia Chappell (ABJ ’06)
  • Kaitlin Miller Febles (ABJ ’13) *
  • Christina P. Koebel (ABJ ’07)
  • Mallory O’Brien (ABJ ’12)
  • Mandy Rodgers (ABJ ’08, AB ’08)
  • Stacy Willingham (ABJ ’13)

Please plan to join us on Friday, Sept. 22, for a breakfast reception to help welcome them home. We will gather in PAF 10:15 – 11:15 a.m. All faculty, staff and students are invited.

* Will not be in attendance

40 Under 40 honoree profile: Kaitlin Miller Febles

We are proud to recognize Kaitlin Miller Febles (ABJ ’13) as an honoree of this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 Under 40 class.

Febles is a principal category lead at the Chick-fil-A Corporate Support Center and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She joined Chick-fil-A shortly after graduating from UGA, and has served in a number of roles in the organization including hospitality program lead and menu & packaging senior project consultant.

Febles was a triple major at UGA graduating with degrees in public relations, international affairs and economics. While at UGA, she actively served with a number of groups including Student Government Association, Sphinx and as a campus tour leader. She was a member of the Dean William Tate Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa, among other honors.

In 2020, Febles earned a Master of Biblical and Theological Studies degree at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Following are responses from Febles to questions asked about her experience at UGA and what drives her work ethic.

Kaitlin Febles hands a Chick-fil-A sample to a UGA student.
Febles hands a Chick-fil-A sample to a UGA student. She has progressively climbed the leadership ranks at Chick-fil-A since joining the company in 2013.
What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Professor Barry Hollander, who we lost in 2018 to thyroid cancer, instilled in us a relentless drive for writing excellence – grammar, punctuation, spelling, and otherwise. I think that has impacted my communication in every job since, and a lot of roles outside of work, too – whether in articles, presentations or emails. Mistakes will happen. But he taught us to approach our writing with intentionality, precision, and care …and it still makes me nervous to imagine him proofreading these answers.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Hold your plans loosely. Some things you’re expecting won’t happen, and some things you could have never imagined will instead. Embrace the outcomes you can’t control and live them to the hilt. Love your people deeply. Keep your eyes open for new opportunities, but never at the expense of being faithful with what’s entrusted to you today. Be sure your life, and calendar, reflect your highest priorities. Anytime you feel overwhelmed, focus on doing the next right thing…and then the next one again after that. Pray for wisdom, humility and power in weakness to the God who promised to give them.

What skill(s) or advice should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers?

First, don’t underestimate the compounding interest of long-arc faithfulness. In a world that defaults to, or even applauds, jumpiness and newness more often than consistency and perseverance, it’s remarkable to stay devoted to people and responsibilities for the long-haul – especially when it’s difficult, frustrating or boring. Devote yourself to being a good keeper of the opportunities in your hands today and run your race with servant-hearted endurance. Others tend to realize that those who can be trusted with little can be trusted with much.

Second, don’t network — make friends. As you walk through the hallways of your office, make eye contact with the people you pass and say hello. Use the couple of minutes on the elevator or walking in from the parking lot to speak to those beside you. Know the custodians in your building by name. I’ve never had a new role or experience come from a networking interaction aimed at my own self-centered interests. But I’ve had some amazing relationships and invitations from people I sincerely wanted to know and was never looking to get anything from.

Finally, I’m convinced two of the most remarkable traits that set people apart in workplaces, organizations, or anywhere else, are excellence and kindness. As to excellence, care for your work with diligence. No responsibility has to consume your life – count the cost of what you are agreeing to lead. But once you’ve agreed, follow through on your promise. Answer the email on time. Submit the report with everything they requested, and maybe a few things they didn’t, but will appreciate. Proofread that presentation again. Be punctual. Take notes. Stay to the end. And do it all with kindness. Smile at people. Remember their names, and the names of their family members, too. Ask about their weekend. Thank them for their work. Call out people’s talents. Overflow gratitude, not grumbling. Be a trustworthy confidant, encourager, and friend.

Kaitlin Febles and a work colleague hold signs in the TODAY Show Plaza.
Katilin Febles (left) and a work colleague promoting Chick-fil-A at the TODAY Show Plaza.
What inspires you?

Reminding myself of the “why” that’s driving my work and of the people I get to do it with is always a fresh wind in my sails. I work for an organization with a corporate purpose I deeply believe in: “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that’s entrusted to us, and to have a positive impact on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.” I also work with people I sincerely respect and admire. I hope it’s true that you become like those you surround yourself with, because I would be thrilled to know they’re rubbing off on me.

What does success mean to you?

Success is living toward the end of what I want to be remembered for and what kinds of things I want to be said at my funeral. It’s not a list of the job titles I’ve held, although I’m grateful for my work. It’s not our net worth, although I’m grateful we have what we need. It’s not the clothes I wore, or the house we owned, or the miles I ran, or how many books I read, or how full my calendar was. I hope to be known for loving God and loving people with everything I had in ways I was uniquely created to do.

A group of people in front of Tower Bridge in London.
Febles cites London as a favorite place she has traveled. She traveled to London with other Chick-fil-A staff members and operators as a part of the non-profit Lifeshape, for which she serves on the advisory board.
Favorite Podcast 

“That Sounds Fun” with Annie F. Downs – who is actually a fellow UGA grad!

One job-related tool you can’t live without

My Outlook calendar – generally-speaking, I hope I’m still running it, because day-to-day, it definitely runs me.

Favorite restaurant in Athens

Cali N Titos – chicken tacos and a side of maduros (aka plantains).

Favorite place you’ve traveled

London – I’ve been for both work and fun, and it’s still my favorite.

Item on your bucket list

Build a life with my husband that we love and are proud of.




Six Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. Grady College alumni honored in 2023 include:

  • Kim Gebbia Chappell (ABJ ’06)
  • Kaitlin Miller Febles (ABJ ’13) *
  • Christina P. Koebel (ABJ ’07)
  • Mallory O’Brien (ABJ ’12)
  • Mandy Rodgers (ABJ ’08, AB ’08)
  • Stacy Willingham (ABJ ’13)

Please plan to join us on Friday, Sept. 22, for a breakfast reception to help welcome them home. We will gather in PAF 10:15 – 11:15 a.m. All faculty, staff and students are invited.

* Will not be in attendance


GAB Profile: Erina Lambeth (ABJ ’87)

Before Erina Lambeth set foot on campus, she knew she wanted to earn a degree from Grady College. She used the skills and knowledge garnered at the University of Georgia to launch a successful career in communications. Her experience includes all facets of internal and external communications, change management, marketing and community relations.

Today she serves as the head of Employee and Leadership Communications for Siemens Digital Industries division. Prior to this, Lambeth served in roles of increasing responsibility for Cox Automotive, GE, Tyco International, ADT and Prudential. Early in her career, she managed public relations and marketing for the Cayman Islands and the national flag carrier Cayman Airways.

Lambeth is a proud advocate for children with disabilities and supports two Georgia-based non-profits: Lekotek of Georgia, an organization dedicated to helping children learn through play, and The Moe Project, a non-profit dedicated to helping students with disabilities feel included on college campuses. She is also a founding Board Member of Mike’s Angels, whose mission is to help children in need in Guatemala.

When she’s not working or volunteering, you will find her playing Pickleball, traveling with her family and friends, enjoying a walk in the woods or reading a good book.

Three people sit in front of a green screen in a production studio.
Lambeth and some colleagues on a production set at Siemens.

Below is a brief interview with Erina Lambeth that have been edited for clarity and length.

Grady College: Why are you involved with the Grady Alumni Board?

Erina Lambeth: Service is an integral part of the University of Georgia’s mission and campus culture. I have carried that philosophy with me throughout my career and personal life. I am happiest when serving others. Being on the Grady Alumni Board enables me to give back to the University that has given me so much. Plus, it gives me an excuse to come back to Athens more often, walk down memory lane, and connect with the students who will shape the future of communications.

Erina and her neice, Claire, who will be a freshman at UGA in the Fall.[/caption]

GC: What are you hoping to contribute to the Grady Alumni Board during your time of service?

EL: I am a connector by nature. I hope to help open doors for the students and share my knowledge with them, though something tells me I will learn more from them than they will learn from me.

GC: What does being a graduate of our College mean to you?

EL: Being a Bulldog is an honor and a privilege. To be a part of this academic community means the world to me. With intention, I carry the UGA spirit of innovation with me wherever I go. I try to foster a growth mindset every day and make a positive impact in everything I do.

Two women show off their UGA shirts.
Lambeth and her niece, Claire, an incoming freshman this year, show off their UGA shirts.
GC: What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?

EL: Stay one step ahead of technology. Harness its power to make the world a better place. Always treat everyone who crosses your path with kindness.

GC: What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

EL: Being in the presence of Dr. Beverly Bethune and learning from one of the first female professors at Grady was a gift. She kept pushing me to become a stronger storyteller. She showed me how to use a photo to tell a story. I went on to take photos for The Red & Black and learned the importance of looking at things from different angles, a trait that serves me well to this day. She influenced my leadership style as I watched as she treated all her students with kindness and always took a personal interest in their success.

GC: How has the network of fellow Grady College alumni helped you in your career?

EL: I’ve met so many wonderful alumni throughout my career. The Grady connection speeds the path to friendship. Friends naturally want to help each other and every alum I have ever met has been willing to help me, be it brainstorming a solution to a problem, discussing communication strategy, or opening a door.

GC: What modern challenges would you like to see current students and recent College alumni solve?

EL: The biggest challenge is how AI and ChatGPT will change the landscape of communications. The students of the future can influence how AI is applied and governed. We must harness the technology for the greater good.

Picture of four female students from the 1980s.
Lambeth and her friends from Creswell Hall during the mid-1980s.
GC: What is your favorite place on campus and why?  

EL: Creswell – It’s where I made lifelong friends. I recently went on a life-changing mission trip to Guatemala with three Georgia alumni. The bonds made at Georgia have given me some of my life’s best memories and experiences. I am thrilled that my niece Claire is headed to UGA in the fall, and I hope she lands in Creswell.



GSAB Profile: Robby Thomas (ABJ ’04)

Robby Thomas (ABJ ’04) is the vice president and general manager of WIS-TV, a television station in Columbia, South Carolina, affiliated with NBC.

Robby Thomas at the 2007 Georgia-Florida game gesturing up at the scoreboard that reads "Georgia: 42, Florida 30.
The 2007 Georgia vs. Florida game. Thomas was on the sidelines shooting highlight video on behalf of BTC-2, the local channel he launched for Brantley Telephone Company, Inc. in Nahunta, Georgia.

Born and raised in rural Nahunta, Georgia, the work ethic Thomas learned on his family’s farm helped him graduate magna cum laude with a degree in advertising from Grady College, where he also anchored the student-produced “Georgia Gameday” for two seasons and spent all four years working for UGA Public Affairs Broadcast Video & Photography. Thomas remains involved in the University of Georgia Mentor Program and as an unapologetic fan of Georgia football.

Following is a brief interview with Robby Thomas.

Grady College: What are you hoping to contribute to the Grady Alumni Board during your time of service?

Robby Thomas: I am enjoying a very rewarding career in local media. I think my experience in the industry for which Grady is working to prepare students gives me valuable insight into the ways we can ensure they achieve the best possible outcomes. Specifically, I majored in Advertising and aspired to work in New York City after graduation. I did that, but decided shortly afterward that NYC was not my long term desire. I only learned later that essentially every local television station in the country has a marketing and creative services department that is its own internal ad agency. I’m passionate about helping students understand the infinite pathways that can exist for them to pursue their goals if they’re open-minded.

GC: What does being a graduate of our College mean to you?

RT: It connects me to a network of tens of thousands of alumni who will immediately take a meeting with me based on our shared experience. Beyond that powerful network advantage, it also gives me great personal pride to have been a part of one of the country’s top programs.

GC: What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?

RT: “There’s a difference between compliant and committed.” It’s a Kirby Smart quote from a couple of seasons back, but I loved it because it’s a reminder that you have to be willing to commit to a standard of excellence. If it comes easy and cheap, you appreciate it so much less. If you’re just going through the motions, you’re not going to excel. It takes a strong work ethic and professional discipline to truly earn success. Look for the ways you can make a positive impact, and make it. Get after it.

Robby Thomas holds up his hand indicating a number one while petting Uga 10 in front of his dog house on the sideline.
Thomas with Uga X at Sanford Stadium. 
GC: What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

RT: I’m where I am today because of Georgia Gameday. After a few of my friends dared me to try out my sophomore year, I wound up earning a seat on the anchor desk for my junior and senior years. My peers and those experiences helped expose me to professional interests and opportunities I may have otherwise never discovered. In fact, it was my Georgia Gameday co-anchor Jessica Foster-Bonner who recognized my voice on my resume reel when her news director was reviewing tapes for an opening with WMBB News 13 in Panama City, Florida, where I got my start. She vouched for me. I got the interview and ultimately the job.

GC: What modern challenges would you like to see current students and recent College alumni solve?

RT: Today’s changing media landscape creates all kinds of challenges as it relates to earning the attention of the audience. We see an entire generation of journalists entering their professional careers who have been bombarded by social media’s influencer culture and never really had the same relationship I had with some of the world’s most trusted media brands. Clicks and likes have been over-valued. Misinformation and disinformation are clear and present threats to our democracy. Artificial intelligence introduces new ethical considerations that will greatly impact journalism as a profession. But, technology also presents more opportunities than ever for our citizenry to be informed, prepared and connected. We can empower communities like never before.

GC: What is your favorite place on campus and why?

RT: Walking South Campus. It has changed dramatically since my time in Athens because of the demolition of my dorm, the old McWhorter Hall, but I like to walk those streets remembering my days as a work-study student for UGA Public Affairs’ Broadcast Video & Photography division in the Georgia Center. I worked all four years with that team and it played as pivotal a role in my development as Grady College.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault named to American Academy of Arts & Sciences

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a Peabody and Emmy Award winning journalist, author and University of Georgia alumna, has been named to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

“I am so honored to be included in this amazing list of new members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” Hunter-Gault said. “But, I got here thanks to the shoulders I have stood on throughout my life. And I honor each and every one of them, for there were many.”

Hunter-Gault was one of eight members inducted in the Journalism, Media, and Communications section of the honorary society. The nearly 270 members elected to the Academy in 2023 are selected from academia, the arts, industry, policy, research and science and include more than 40 International Honorary Members from 23 countries. Joining Hunter-Gault in this year’s class are biochemist and geneticist Emmanuelle Charpentier; songwriter, actor, director, producer Lin-Manuel Miranda; and political scientist Daniel Ziblatt of Harvard University.

“With the election of these members, the Academy is honoring excellence, innovation, and leadership and recognizing a broad array of stellar accomplishments,” said Academy President David W. Oxtoby. “We hope every new member celebrates this achievement and joins our work advancing the common good.”

Hunter-Gault along with Hamilton Holmes were the first two Black students to integrate UGA in 1961. After graduating from UGA with a degree in journalism, Hunter-Gault joined the staff of “The New Yorker,” followed by The New York Times, PBS’s “MacNeil/Lehrer Report” and what is now the “PBS NewsHour.” In 1997, she became the chief correspondent in Africa for National Public Radio. She joined CNN in 1999 as its bureau chief and correspondent in Johannesburg, South Africa, and returned to NPR as a special correspondent in 2005. Hunter-Gault has written several books including “To the Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement” and most recently, “My People: Five Decades of Writing About Black Lives,” published in October 2022.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences honors excellence and convenes leaders from every field of human endeavor to examine new ideas, address issues of importance to the nation and the world, and work together, as expressed in its charter, “to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people.”

MFA Film thesis film to premiere at Atlanta Film Festival

“Black Butterfly,” a thesis film written, directed, produced and edited by Kelvin Summerhill (MFA ’22), has been selected as one of the narrative short films to premiere at the 47th Annual Atlanta Film Festival.

“This is a huge accomplishment since more than 10,000 of filmmakers submitted films to the festival and only 40 or so narrative shorts have been selected,” said Neil Landau, executive director of the MFA Film, Television and Digital Media program at the University of Georgia. “This is a big milestone for Kelvin and our program.”

Kelvin Summerhill talks with Cinematographer Garland McLaurin.
Kelvin Summerhill talks with Cinematographer Garland McLaurin (back to camera), a former EMST faculty member. (Photo: courtesy of Kelvin Summerhill)

The festival runs April 20-30 at multiple venues in Atlanta and virtually.

Black Butterfly,” is a 13-minute film about an ambitious Black man experiencing a mental breakdown on the day of his dream promotion. What should be an exciting day for the main character turns into a nightmare as the code-switching mask that he wears in the world begins to crack.

Summerhill was inspired to write the film to acknowledge mental health and as a way to honor a friend whom he lost to suicide.

“My goal with this film was always to save lives,” Summerhill said. “That’s been my number one mission and vision and what got me through looking at a blank sheet of paper when you’re coming up with an idea. My hope is that by showing it on a huge platform, it will reach people who see it and realize that it’s okay to discuss mental health struggles. It’s okay to seek healing; it’s okay to recognize it. And, most importantly, the film says ‘your life matters.’”

Throughout the film, Summerhill has left numerous Easter eggs, or hidden messages, for the audience, from the title that comes from boxing legend Mohammed Ali’s mantra, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,” to using the poem “We Where the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, which is used as a framework for the plot. Even the main character, Clay Frazier, is intended to be someone who could be molded as a work in progress, with nods to Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr., also known as Mohammad Ali, and Joe Frazier, another boxing legend.

Summerhill, who currently works as a directing assistant for Disney’s “Decendants 4” which is wrapping up filming in Atlanta, acknowledged that it takes a village to make a film and there are many who helped him with this endeavor.

“I got through the process because of Neil Landau, my thesis chair,” Summerhill said. “He had a personal touch along the way looking at every draft and every cut. His insight has been invaluable.”

Summerhill also consulted with director Chuck Hayward, an executive producer for “Ted Lasso” and writer/producer of “WandaVision.” Summerhill and Hayward were paired through the UGA MFA Film’s Industry Mentor program, connecting students with industry professionals who help with project guidance, industry advice and networking.

“Chuck, he’s been amazing,” Summerhill said of the relationship that has resulted in valuable feedback. “His level of industry experience has really helped me grow. Another thing about Chuck is that representation matters, and being able to see someone who looks like me performing at such a high level has been so impactful.”

In addition to Landau and Hayward, Summerhill said he was greatly helped by Shandra McDonald of the MFA Film faculty, and former MFA film faculty member Bryan Cole. He also used many resources available to him, including much of the crew which was comprised of Georgia Film Academy students; current MFA Film student Jordyn Seever, who helped the costumes and creating the progression of the cracking mask; and Dan Cathy, owner of Trilith Studios, chairman of Chick-fil-A and supporter of the MFA Film program. Cathy and the Trilith and Chick-fil-A teams were instrumental in helping Summerhill secure film locations, including Chick-fil-a headquarters.

Kelvin Summerhill at graduation with Neil Landau
Kelvin Summerhill is congratulated by Neil Landau at the 2022 MFA Film graduation as Shandra McDonald of the MFA Film faculty looks on. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Summerhill graduated with the inaugural class of the UGA MFA Film program, which educates students for a year in Athens on the UGA campus and at Athena Studios, and a year at UGA’s satellite campus in Trilith Village and in partnership with Georgia Film Academy, adjacent to Trilith Studios. Summerhill, who graduated from Morehouse College, discovered the new MFA Film program when he was looking for a change after living in New York pursuing an acting career. He always loved writing and was interested in exploring directing, and the location of this program near Atlanta was appealing.

“Atlanta is the gold rush for film; why would I leave this place?” Summerhill asked himself. “The rest is history.”

“Black Butterfly” premieres Saturday, April 22 at 9:30 p.m. at The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta.
A package of six short films can be purchased here.
Patrons have ten days to view the films and are eligible to vote for the best short film.

“Black Butterfly” trailer

Recent EMST grad wins a top award at Atlanta Film Festival Screenwriting Competition

Jonathan Hyman (AB ’20), a recent graduate of the Entertainment and Media Studies (EMST) Department at Grady College, has received high recognition in the 2023 Atlanta Film Festival Screenwriting Competition. His script for a feature film titled “Freaknik” has been named one of the festival’s three winners.

“To win a competition like this is just awesome for Jon,” said Matthew Evans, an assistant professor in EMST, who worked with Hyman to help develop the script. “To put it in perspective, the Atlanta Film Festival gets thousands of submissions—so it’s extremely competitive. It means that Jon beat out a lot of really good scripts.”

A quote car that reads: “I think the best thing about Jon’s screenplay is that it’s authentic. It’s authentically funny. It’s authentically sweet. And it’s authentically fresh, in terms of its point of view,” said Evans. “But more important than the recognition is the industry support and mentorship that Jon will get as a winner.” Hyman’s script takes readers to Atlanta’s Freaknik festival during spring break of 1993 and follows a tight-knit circle of friends that matures over a weekend full of parties, love and drama. 

“Being one of the feature winners for this year’s Atlanta Film Festival Screenplay Award feels a little surreal,” said Hyman. “For the most part, though, it feels like a challenge to keep pushing forward. There’s so much about the craft of writing itself and the entertainment business as a whole that I still have left to learn. I am very grateful and appreciative that the script was so well-received by the Atlanta Film Society, and my hope is that one day I’ll be able to share ‘Freaknik’ with audiences as a feature film.”

His whole life, Hyman explained, has been full of stories from family and friends about how exhilarating Freaknik was. That, along with a desire to center his writing around Atlanta-based stories, inspired Hyman to write his award-winning script. 

“There were other ideas that I had (and still have) in mind, but Freaknik had yet to be explored in film, and I had a treasure trove of stories from my family to pull inspiration from, so it felt right,” said Hyman. 

The origin story for Hyman’s “Freaknik” goes back to the fall of 2019, when he asked Evans to supervise an independent study. In early January of 2020, Hyman brought three feature film ideas to Evans, “Freaknik” being one of them. Over the following months, Hyman wrote a synopsis, then an outline, and then each subsequent act, piece-by-piece. Evans provided thoughtful feedback and honest critique each step of the way, Hyman explained. 

“I think the best thing about Jon’s screenplay is that it’s authentic. It’s authentically funny. It’s authentically sweet. And it’s authentically fresh, in terms of its point of view,” said Evans. “But more important than the recognition is the industry support and mentorship that Jon will get as a winner.” 

For his award-winning script, Hyman will receive a cash prize and accommodation at the festival, plus an all-access badge, invitation to the exclusive Atlanta Film Festival Screenwriters Retreat and an opportunity to take part in a staged reading of an excerpt of his winning screenplay during the Atlanta Film Festival, conducted by Atlanta SAG/SAG-Aftra actors. 

“These are the connections that can help take Jon’s career to the next level, such as finding literary representation and getting ‘Freaknik’ read by producers,” Evans added. “Those are the first steps to getting this movie made. Anybody who wins a competition of this caliber will definitely be seen as a new writer to pay attention to, so lots of people are going to want to read this script. And ‘Freaknik’ is a spectacular calling card.”

Ryan Lavner: Staying the Course

Not everyone gets to live out their dream job, but for Ryan Lavner (ABJ ’09), being an Emmy award-winning golf writer seems to suit him pretty well.

Augusta National. St. Andrews. Pebble Beach. Though his home base is Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, each year Lavner travels to about 14 tournaments around the world as a senior writer for the Golf Channel. He spends his week interviewing players, talking to tour officials, and, sure, sneaking in a few holes when he can.

Ryan Lavner (left) interviews Adam Scott, winner of 31 professional tournaments, including the 2013 Masters.
Ryan Lavner (left) interviews Adam Scott, winner of 31 professional tournaments, including the 2013 Masters.

“I’ve really enjoyed being able to tell the backstories of guys who worked their way up through the mini-tours, as well as these can’t-miss players like Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, who I covered as junior golfers and everyone just knew that they were going to be fantastic,” Lavner says. “Everyone has a different backstory to reach the pinnacle of the sport.”

Lavner, 35, grew up in Canandaigua, New York, a world away from the hot Georgia summers. Being a sportswriter was always the plan, and Lavner knew he wanted to live in a completely different environment, with big-time athletics to cover. So the University of Georgia was a natural choice.

After graduating from Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, he went to work for a small newspaper in Sebring, Florida.

“It was a two-man staff, so I did everything from writing to shooting, editing to page design,” he says. “It was an all-encompassing job, and I absolutely loved it.”

In 2010, he got the opportunity to write about a women’s amateur golf tournament called the Harder Hall Invitational. Lavner covered it with the same dedication and energy as if he were at the Masters, writing six to eight stories a day, with detailed features and his own photos.

Ryan Lavner is a writer at his core, but he makes frequent on-camera appearances, like here at the British Open.

Lavner’s passion caught the eye of a senior writer at Golfweek magazine, who was also covering the event. They swapped information, and a week later, a job opened up as though it were meant to be. Two years later, Lavner signed with Golf Channel, and he’s been there ever since.

Now, in addition to his award-winning writing, Lavner also does live hits for “Golf Today”, “Golf Central”, and “Live From,” and works on longer-form TV features. As modern media has evolved, he has also moved on to producing digital videos and podcasts. Often, he’ll join TV segments from the comfort of his home office, broadcasting through a live camera feed. The different formats allow him to talk about golf in different ways and with a variety of people.

“I think I’d get really bored if I was just doing one thing – if I was just writing stories, or if I was just doing TV, or the only thing I had to worry about was the podcast,” he says. “I like the versatility and doing a little bit of everything.”

Lavner met his wife at UGA and has been married for nearly a decade. Together, they have two young children, and though they’re not quite old enough to pick up a putter, Lavner looks forward to the day when they can be out on the course with him and fall in love with golf the same way he did.

“Being able to combine my two passions, golf and writing, into a career,” he says, “I can’t ask for anything more.”

The above feature was originally posted by UGA Today and can be found on the UGA Today website

10 Tips for Job Success

As the job search process heats up this spring, the seemingly endless possibilities and deadlines can feel overwhelming. Entering your first professional experience can also feel quite daunting. Check out these 10 tips from Public Affairs Communications students to help focus your search and find success in your professional life.


Abby Peacock is a third-year PAC student majoring in journalism. Last summer, she was a legislative intern in the Office of Rep. Andrew Clyde in Washington DC.

Tip: Be observant! Take notice of the stressors in your supervisor’s day and intentionally find ways to help.

“As an intern for a member of congress, I quickly noticed how busy each day could become. My supervisors would often have so much on their plate that it was difficult for them to pause and look for ways for me to help. I started to intentionally take notice of the tasks that I could assist with. Once I took initiative and offered to help with something specific, my supervisors gained a greater trust in me. They started to give me more responsibility, which allowed me to learn more and cultivate important skills. I highly encourage people to take initiative in their jobs or internships by simply being observant, because it will lead to a more intentional, impactful experience.”


Bryson Henriott is a fourth-year PAC student double majoring in political science and public relations with an Applied Politics certificate and a Personal and Organizational Leadership certificate. Last summer, he was a government relations intern for The Home Depot in Washington DC.

Tip: Show up!

“It seems simple but just showing up is half of success. There were so many opportunities I got to experience because if my boss ever asked if I could do something, go with him somewhere, or to go meet someone I always said yes. I always grew up hearing “hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.” Everyone at UGA is talented or they would not be here but that extra step of hard work and showing up is what separates you from everyone else. People take notice of those who say yes, show up early, and do even the mundane tasks as perfectly as possible. If you show up, doors will start to open.”


Elise Kim is a fourth-year PAC student double majoring in journalism and international affairs with a minor in Spanish. Last summer, she conducted research for the Student Press Law Center and worked part-time as a media monitor for PLUS Communications in Washington DC.

Tip: Start looking for jobs/internships as early as possible and take advantage of the resources that UGA has to offer!

“When I got accepted to the Grady DC Internship and Field Study program last summer, I knew I would have to find an internship. However, I felt very indecisive about what type of position I actually wanted to apply for, so I kept putting it off. Eventually, it was April and I still hadn’t applied to anything because I felt so paralyzed by my fear of choosing the wrong internship that I didn’t even have any to choose from. Thankfully, I was eventually able to find some opportunities and I ended up learning a lot from the whole experience. I now know how important it is to start your search early and to just start applying to places, even if you aren’t 100% sure you could see yourself there—that’s nearly impossible to know just by reading a job description or looking at a website anyway. I also realized that I need to take advantage of as many of the resources that UGA has for its students as I can. I am graduating in May, so I am currently in the job search process and I have been able to get really helpful guidance from the career center.”


Austin Clark is a fourth-year PAC student double majoring in political science and public relations. Last summer, he was a communications intern in the Office of Sen. Jon Ossoff in Washington DC.

Tip: Be a planner and convener!

“Everybody who starts an internship is looking to make new connections and find new friends. Capitalize on that need by stepping up and planning after work and weekend hangouts at restaurants, museums, or coffee shops. Those who show up will be thankful for an out of work opportunity to chat with their colleagues, and associate you as someone who can bring people together. At the end of the day professionals are only as strong as their network – strengthen yours by offering a low stakes, low pressure environment to truly get to know your colleagues!”


Anna Womack is a third-year PAC student majoring in public relations with a minor in communication studies and a Personal and Organizational Leadership Certificate. Last summer, she was a public relations intern at Sloane & Company in New York City.

Tip: Don’t forget the importance of networking!

“Everyone says networking is important. While we are all oftentimes annoyed by the saying, it means everything in today’s industry. Throughout my internship, I tried to always go above and beyond and leave something a little bit better than I found it. In doing this, I prioritized building connections with my superiors and coworkers, and it has paid off now as I am in the job search process. Networking in New York City was nothing short of daunting, but it has expanded my connections outside of Georgia and taught me so much about the industry in other places.”


Cale Ledford is a third-year PAC student majoring in public relations. He has worked as a tour leader with the UGA Visitors Center in Athens, Georgia since the fall of 2021.

Tip: Be willing to get out of your comfort zone.

“When I started with the UGA Visitors Center, I had a lot of self doubt and felt like I was not qualified for the job. That sense of imposter syndrome kept me from becoming a better tour leader. All of that changed last summer when I gave upwards of 100 tours and worked over 150 hours at the Visitors Center. Almost every day of the summer, I had to get out of my comfort zone and develop my own tour of UGA. Getting out of my comfort zone helped me lose the self-doubt that I had and gave me the opportunity to develop some of my favorite memories from college so far. In the end, it is human nature to want to stay in your comfort zone, but I encourage you to defy the odds and try something different, because it could end up changing your life.”


Sydney Bennett is a fourth-year PAC student majoring in public relations with a minor in communication studies. Last summer, she was a marketing and content intern for Powtoon in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

“While my job was PR based, I was a member of the marketing team. I had never done much marketing work besides in my intro to marketing class at UGA. There were tons of terms being thrown around in meetings that I didn’t understand. I was by far the youngest person in the room and one of the only Americans, so I was always afraid to speak up and ask for clarification in fear of sounding uneducated or dumb. I am so glad I did because I learned so much from asking clarification questions and was able to use these new terms in my work and projects. I think that in a job or internship it is important to ask questions to be sure you do your work correctly and well.”


Sarah Dorr is a fourth-year PAC student majoring in public relations with a minor in general business. Last summer, she was a public relations intern for PR Consulting in New York City.

Tip: Utilize UGA’s vast alumni network!

“If you’re struggling to find an internship, especially in a new city, I recommend centering your search around alumni. LinkedIn has great filters where you can sort UGA alumni by industry and location. Once you have your filtered list, see what opportunities are available where they work and reach out! UGA and especially Grady alumni are so enthusiastic about helping fellow Dawgs out in any way they can. This approach to the internship search was such a game changer for me when it came to finding my position in New York City!”


Jenna Monnin is a fourth-year PAC student double majoring in journalism and political science. Last summer, she was the Hotline Editorial intern for National Journal and a policy intern for Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press in Washington DC.

Tip: Use informational interviews to build your network and focus your job search!

“Not everyone knows exactly what kind of job they are looking for, and that is O.K.! I am interested in both journalism and politics, so it was really hard for me to narrow down my options while searching for an internship in DC last summer. Networking always felt a bit artificial to me, so I had to change my outlook on the entire process. Not every coffee meeting, zoom, or phone call needs to end with you getting a result or a “win” in your job search. Treat these networking opportunities like informational interviews and be curious. Speaking with professionals in my network allowed me to gain a better understanding of what I was going to encounter in the real world and helped me focus on attainable opportunities in DC.”

TIP 10

Anna Chapman is a fourth-year PAC student majoring in journalism. Last summer, she was a social media fellow for the Georgia First Amendment Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia and also worked remotely as a scheduling intern in the Office of Sen. Jon Ossoff.

Tip: Ask for clarification if you don’t understand something! 

“Never, ever feel ashamed for asking for clarification about something you’re tasked with completing. Your supervisors have probably worked in this field a lot longer than you have and may assume you understand something when you actually need a bit more guidance. While working with the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, I’ve had to create communications content about complex legal decisions and processes. I ask my supervisors to read my copy and ensure I have accurately and succinctly conveyed the events without misrepresenting the legal matters.”