New Grady Fellowship inductees announced; Dean’s Medal to be awarded

Grady College proudly announces four honorees who will be inducted into the Grady Fellowship this year.

Grady Fellowship honorees for 2023 include:

  • Regina Hicks (ABJ ’85, MFA ’90)
  • Robin Hommel (ABJ ’96)
  • Susan Percy (ABJ ’66)
  • Randy Travis (ABJ ’82)

The Grady Fellowship honors friends of the college whose accomplishments, friendship and service to the industries they serve have made a positive impact on Grady College.

The 2023 recipient of the John Holliman Lifetime Achievement Alumni Award, Doreen Gentzler (ABJ ’79), will be inducted into the Fellowship, as well.

Caroline Edwards (ABJ ’12), a U.S. Capitol police officer who responded to the Jan. 6 attacks, has been named the Dean’s Medal for Leadership Excellence recipient, the College’s highest honor.

Private First Class Officer Caroline Edwards, a public relations major and current U.S. Capitol Police Officer, will be awarded the Dean’s Medal at Grady Salutes.

The induction of Fellows and recognition of Edwards takes place along with the presentation of 2023 Alumni Awards on April 28 at Grady Salutes.

Grady College looks forward to celebrating the Fellowship inductees:

Regina Hicks has spent her career writing for television. She is currently an executive producer and showrunner for “The Upshaws,” a sitcom on Netflix that she created. She is also a writer and co-executive producer of “The LWord – Next Generation” on Showtime, and “Insecure,” on HBO. Other writing credits include “The Mayor,” “Marlon,” Girlfriends,” and several made-for-TV movies including Jump In and Camp Rock for the Disney Channel.

Robin Hommel is a three-time Emmy Award-winning producer and showrunner whose career spans network news, daytime talk and primetime programming. She currently serves as the executive broadcast producer of the ABC News daytime talk show, “The View,” where she has worked since 2015. Prior to “The View,” Robin served as co-executive producer of VH1’s “Big Morning Buzz Live.” Hommel was the creator and executive producer of “Grady Greats,” a panel series in collaboration with ABC News featuring Grady College alumni, ABC talent and media leaders offering insight and analysis into and decisions made behind the scenes.

Susan Percy is a Metro Atlanta-based journalist who has spent most of her career in magazine journalism. She was executive editor and editor of Georgia Trend Magazine from 2001 through 2013 and editor-at-large from 2014 through 2022. She wrote an award-winning monthly opinion column for more than 20 years and remains a regular contributor.

Randy Travis is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for FOX 5 Atlanta. Randy joined WAGA in 1990. In 1994 he moved to the station’s distinguished investigative unit, the FOX 5 I-Team.  In addition to the Peabody Award, Randy’s investigative work has earned him two national Edward R. Murrow awards, plus more than 20 regional Emmy awards.  Travis is also the recipient of the 2005 Mid-Career Alumni Award from Grady College.

Dean Charles Davis is also pleased to recognize Caroline Edwards as a Dean’s Medalist. The last Dean’s Medal was presented to Loran Smith (ABJ ’62) in 2017.

Caroline Edwards is a Private First Class Officer with the U.S. Capitol Police. Her law enforcement career started in 2017 and she has served for six years on the Department’s First Responders Unit. On January 6, 2021, Officer Edwards was the first police officer injured by the rioters while stationed on the West Front of the Capitol. She was knocked unconscious and suffered a traumatic brain injury. On June 9, 2022, Officer Edwards testified to the January 6th House Select Committee. She graduated from Grady College with a degree in public relations.

More information about the Grady Fellowship and a list of past inductees can be viewed on the Grady Fellowship webpage.

The registration link for the Grady Salutes celebration on April 28, 2023, will be available in early March. 

Alumna Profile: Kelsey Coffey (ABJ ’20)

This is the third in a series of profiles celebrating the work of our alumni for Black History Month. Please see the newslider at the bottom of this article for additional profiles.

Kelsey Coffey (ABJ ’20) is a multimedia journalist at WEAR-TV in Pensacola, Florida. After graduating from Grady College in December 2020, she took a job in advertising before landing her current role.

Coffey meets with Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Hunter-Gault’s editor while working on the book, “My People: Five Decades of Reporting About Black Lives.”

“I was toying between PR and journalism for most of my college career,” Coffey said. “But, thanks to encouragement from Dean Davis and Professor Dodie Cantrell, I changed my mind.”

Coffey anchored for the documentary about the 60th Anniversary of Desegregation at the University of Georgia. She said retelling the story reminded her why she picked a major of journalism in the first place.

“Through that project, I learned so much about the history of UGA and really seeing how our institution played a big part in Black history,” she said. “We were on the national stage when that happened.”

Coffey built a relationship with Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63) while working on the documentary. She then was reached out to by the late Professor Valerie Boyd about an opportunity to work with Hunter-Gault on her book, “My People: Five Decades of Reporting About Black Lives.”

“For both of us to have an opportunity to learn from a trailblazer like her was was incredible, and to see how she has been able to speak about the Black community and advocate for the Black community throughout so many generations is incredible,” Coffey said. “No matter what was going on, she still was able to be effective in her reporting.”

What motivates you and keeps you going on challenging days?

My job is a gift and a privilege. It is difficult to be a journalist, especially in today’s world where people don’t trust us in the media and we get a lot of pushback. I believe that truth matters, I believe that fairness matters, and local journalism matters. People need to know what’s going on in their city council, on the school board and their local police department because those people and those entities are what impacts people’s lives the most on a day-to-day basis. The fact that I can live and work somewhere where I can try my best to do something, to make a difference in someone’s life – it’s great.

Coffey has been reporting in the Pensacola area since May 2021.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you would have done in college that you didn’t do that you think would have helped you in your career now?

I don’t regret any part of my story because it’s my own and things happen the way that it should have for me and my personal growth. But, I wish I would have taken more time to be involved specifically with the Grady College and do more volunteering with Grady Newsource, so I could have better prepared myself for what the real world was going to look like whenever I got a job. No one could have told me that I would have graduated in the middle of pandemic and my Newsource experience would have been virtual.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black history means celebrating a people that have brought so much to this country, even when they didn’t get the credit for it. The fact that we are such an intricate part of the fabric of American society is something that is worth being celebrated. I’m proud of who I am and where I come from. It’s a privilege to be a Black woman. I love it, and no one can take my identity away from me.

What piece of advice do you live by?
Coffey is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

The first thing that comes to mind is really about loving God and loving others. As a young adult, when you’re in college, you’re so focused on what you want to do. Instead, you should be focused on who you want to be. I love my job. It’s difficult, and I enjoy doing it, but my job does not define me. The driving force that leads me in whatever I do and all of my decision making is the fact that I should be pouring into others and shining a light on other people. I may not be a journalist forever. As much as I enjoy it, it may not be my career for the rest of my life. But, whatever I do will be centered around loving God and loving people because that’s what I really feel like I’m put on this earth to do.

Where do you see yourself in five to ten years?

I see myself happy. I see myself continuing to live a life that I love, surrounding myself with people I love, and doing what I love to do. I don’t know what that looks like. I don’t know where I would live. I don’t even know what job I would have – whether it would be full-time reporting or full-time anchoring – maybe doing a little bit of both. Either way, I see joy.

Alumnus writes book about Civil War newspaper

Biased news is a common criticism about some news outlets today, but as Bill Hendrick (ABJ ’71) pointed out in his recently-published book, it’s not a new complaint.

Hendrick and co-author Stephen Davis, examine the methods a local newspaper covered the War Between the States in their new book, “The Atlanta Daily Intelligencer covers the Civil War.” The Atlanta Daily Intelligencer was described in the book as “a pro-Confederacy, anti-Lincoln propaganda organ.”

Davis, a historian by trade, wrote about the battles and the strategy in winning them, while Hendrick focused on how the newspaper covered the war, received updates from the battlefront and wrote about human interest stories like messy divorce cases and people who were drunk. And, the advertisements are almost as interesting as the news, Hendrick adds.

“I think that’s what’s interesting to most people about the Civil War — it doesn’t make any sense. The communication was bad and sporadic and that’s what my interest is: how journalism was accomplished back then,” Hendrick said.

Journalism has been a lifelong interest for Hendrick. From the décor in his home office that includes preserved and framed front pages from newspapers declaring “Germany Surrenders Unconditionally” and “Nixon Resigns,” to his preserved collection of journalism artifacts that includes an issue of Harper’s Weekly from 1863, Hendrick is fascinated by the way events are covered in the news.

Hendrick’s interest in newspapers was influenced by his career, which started as a journalism student at Grady College in the late 1960s. Following graduation, Hendrick traveled to international cities like Budapest, Berlin, Warsaw, Buenos Aires and England, as an AP correspondent before landing a job as a reporter at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He wrote about business news, features, metro and science— almost everything except sports, but he even reported on an occasional football game now and then.

It was a story he was writing for the AJC that piqued his interest in The Atlanta Daily Intelligencer.  He was reporting on a site downtown Atlanta where a Rich’s department store had been demolished. Under the rubble, a shell was found that had been fired by Gen. William T. Sherman, but had not detonated. His research led him to interview the historian Franklin Garrett, which started the path of Civil War research.

Hendrick explains that news gathering was quite different back then and most news arrived by telegraph where people had to pay by the word, so dispatches were short and sweet and sometimes took several days or weeks to be reported.

“It was hard to tell what was a story and what was an editorial, and they were pretty much editorializing in every story. It’s obvious in the book that you see things that no newspaper would allow anyone to get away with now,” he explained. “For instance, when reporting the Battle of Gettysburg, The Atlanta Daily Intelligencer didn’t admit it was a Confederate defeat for more than four months even though they had all kinds of information that it was a serious loss. They put the best possible face on it. For instance, instead of saying ‘General Lee retreated across the Potomac,’ they would say ‘General Lee redeployed his troops across the Potomac’—like he had a grand scheme to do something else. They put their best face on it or they would ignore it.”

Hendrick also said the reporters were not afraid to mince words, routinely writing things like ‘President Lincoln is baboon.’ As soon as Lincoln was assassinated, the reporters changed their tune because they disliked President Andrew Johnson more.

Hendrick and Davis started writing their book in 2017 and met almost daily for several years to complete it. They employed many resources including leaning heavily on library research, their personal book resources and internet resources like

After more than 45 years as a reporter, Hendrick has some advice for today’s journalism students.

“Always be early,” is his first piece of advice. “Be strictly objective, always hide your point of view if you have a point of view, get it right and be fast.”

“I have had a great career and have traveled the world over,” Hendrick concluded. “I lived in the heyday of newspapers and every journalist wants to write a book, which I have now done. I  found a subject about a newspaper that could sink my teeth into, and I did.”

Elizabeth Newton is newest Grady alumna to be honored at Bulldog 100

The most recent class of Bulldog 100 honorees as selected by the UGA Alumni Association will be honored Feb. 18 in a ceremony in Athens. Bulldog 100 celebrates the fastest-growing businesses owned or operated by UGA alumni.

Grady College is proud to have four alumni recognized this year: first-time honoree Elizabeth Newton (ABJ ’99), founder and CEO of enewton design, and three honorees who have been recognized in the past:

Elizabeth Newton is a first-time honoree and we had a chance to catch up with her about her popular jewelry, most known for their classic and stylish necklaces, bracelets, rings and earrings.

Newton graduated with an advertising degree from Grady College, and she comes from a long line of Bulldogs including her husband, Ben, who she met at UGA, her parents who met at UGA orientation, a brother and grandparents, among other family members.

Newton was involved with Kappa Alpha Theta as a student, which set a strong foundation for one of her guiding principles of connecting with others.

“Relationships are so important in business development,” Newton said.

Following graduation, she went to work for a dot-com company specializing in bill pay online, long before it was commonplace. She then went to work for a furniture design company.

Her company, enewton design, started in 2011 the way many passion projects do…as a hobby. Once she had kids, she started making bracelets for friends, her kids’ teachers and others. Before she knew it, she was making sales calls to boutiques when she was on the road during traveling soccer tournaments where her triplet daughters were playing.

“People were literally buying jewelry out of the trunk of my car,” she says laughing.

Today, enewton design is an Atlanta-based company employing more than 75 people who craft all the jewelry by hand. The jewelry is available in more than 1,200 boutiques nationwide.

Here are a few excerpts from an interview with Newton. The following comments have been edited for clarity and length.

Grady College: What lessons learned from your time as a Grady College student have most helped you succeed in your professional life? 
Elizabeth Newton and her family.
For Elizabeth and her husband, Ben, attending UGA football games with their four children is a family affair. They are pictured here at the Orange Bowl Dec. 31, 2022.

Elizabeth Newton: I have been a Bulldog since birth because my family has generations and generations of Bulldogs. I can remember one thing my dad always said was that that your education is not always in the classroom, but it’s also the people you meet. As an advertising major, I recall a lot of group projects. And, as a former athlete, I learned from an early age to learn to work as a team. I have learned to capitalize on the strengths of others and make sure everyone is aligned with what makes them excited, since that is typically what they good at. In my classes, we talked a lot about the end customer—who is your audience? My entire career, that is something I try to think about. We have one focus and that’s our customer. Learning to really emphasize our audience and understand demographics is something I learned at Grady College.

GC: What skills should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers? 

EN: One of the first things we do before we go to interview someone is go to their social media platforms—and I am thankful I didn’t have Instagram when I was in college! I really hate it for them because it is such a liability, but understanding your personal brand and knowing what’s out there is something we want to see.

Another thing my Dad taught me is that hard work is what pays off. For example, we have a UGA graduate, Rebecca Christopher, on our executive who has the mentality to be the first one into the office in the morning and the last one to leave. She is focused and she does everything she can to learn and absorb and go the extra mile beyond just what’s being asked of her.

Another piece of advice is stay off your phone when you are at work unless you are doing work on your phone. We make our kids put them in a drawer, unless it’s for your job.

Finally, observe, listen, learn and make a difference. You are only going to be as good as the work you put in outside of what everyone else is putting in. And, it’s pretty simple, but always speak up, look people in the eye and be kind.

GC: As a working mother with an incredibly successful business, how do you manage the work/life balance?

EN: This company started when our kids were young. The jewelry was originally gifts for friends. We built the company to support our lifestyle and call on businesses where we traveled for soccer. My husband is incredibly supportive and we both have flexible jobs and my children have been involved since day one. Another lesson my Dad taught me is to surround yourself with people who excel in areas that aren’t my strength and because I have tried to do this, it enabled all of us to be successful. But make no mistake, we have worked our butts off, but we also enjoy life. And, we don’t miss our kids stuff.

GC: How has the network of Grady College alumni helped you professionally? 

EN: The importance of relationships built at UGA are so important. They can help catapult your career and instead of going through the chain, you can just pick up the phone. I will pick up the phone and it’s amazing how receptive Georgia alumni are in helping one another.

Elizabeth Newton founded enewton design in 2011. Today, the company is based in Atlanta and hires nearly 75 employees who hand-craft the jewelry.

Alumnus Profile: Alex Woodruff (ABJ ’14)

This is the second in a series of profiles celebrating the work of our alumni for Black History Month. Please see the newslider at the bottom of this article for additional profiles.

Alex Woodruff (ABJ ’14) is a sales executive and independent filmmaker. He has eight years of experience working with C-level stakeholders, positioning technology solutions across all industries. He owns an Emmy Award-winning film company in Atlanta where he has produced and directed projects that spotlight underrepresented narratives.

What does Black History Month mean to you?
A headshot of Alex Woodruff.
Woodruff’s Atlanta-based film company focuses on projects that spotlight underrepresented narratives.

I passed a car in Atlanta yesterday with the message “Without Black History There Is NO History” scrawled across its rear window. I liked that. Black history is as essential and unstructured as water. And this month of remembrance is as much a vehicle for change against systemic bigotry as it is a means to champion unheralded innovators, activists and artists. 

For me personally, I wish it were enough. Each February we exalt the stories of our forebears whose wisdom transcends generations. We mold our plight into a message that has the potential to truly move people, while acknowledging the leaders who got us here. 

Then we witness the barbaric police murder of Tyre Nichols. Just two weeks later we find ourselves in a fight for whether schools will allow black history to be taught in full, or at all. I know our battles pale in comparison to those our parents and grandparents fought, but it still can feel insurmountable at times. 

However I know that it isn’t. I hope this month serves as a space for reflection and unification among the community who will lead this generation in the spirit of those who came before. 

What led you to your current career path?

My path is guided by a longing for artistic expression, healthy competition, and to provide for those I care for. I’ve meandered through different corporate and creative channels in pursuit of those three drivers until I found my current dual-career, which feels like the ultimate happy-place. 

While in undergrad at UGA I sold glasses at the local LensCrafters to help pay my tuition and mounting student loans. There I developed my love for sales and the competitive joy of having a high-performing day. Simultaneously I managed my schoolwork and began to enter professional sales competitions (yeah, those exist) that I felt could lead me toward a career with financial freedom one day. By night I was producing music and videos both as a rapper and director, which led to opportunities to open for Kendrick Lamar and Big Sean. 

Graduating in 2015 with a six-figure sales job allowed me to build my financial footing, while benefiting from being able to make my own schedule. As an artist, that freedom afforded the time to pursue my craft, and the money to invest in it. Ultimately I found a new channel, filmmaking, that I grew to love. What enchanted me was the potential to create entire worlds from imagination and then dazzle a captive audience both sonically and visually for 90 minutes. Not even a great song can do that. 

In the years since, I’ve grown in both aspects of my dual-career. I’m the co-owner of an Emmy Award-winning film company with several exciting projects releasing this year, and last year I was named Global Director of Sales for Duality Technologies

What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?
On Set of Mysore Magic: Alex Woodruff produces Mysore Magic, a film by Abijeet Achar, in 2022.
On set of “Mysore Magic.” Alex Woodruff produced “Mysore Magic,” a film by Abijeet Achar, in 2022.

In furtherance of the duality theme here, I was a double-major at Terry and Grady colleges during my time at UGA. While Terry gave me the on-ramp to my first job out of school, it was Grady that afforded me the license to explore myself as a student and a writer. As I transitioned my major from Newspaper, to Broadcast, then Public Relations, before finally settling on Advertising, I found myriad ways to professionally channel my creativity and passion for writing. 

It’s hard to pinpoint the most influential experience I had, but the one that most closely mirrors where I am today was landing my internship at in 2013. This was an advertising position that required me to relocate to New York for 3 months. I’ll never forget that summer, because as a born-and-raised ATLien, I was forced out of my Georgia bubble for the first time in my life. I learned the speed and language of the corporate world, while being able to pursue my creative ambitions in a completely different environment. There are hundreds of Grady alumni in New York, many of whom are eager to pay-it-forward to the younger generation, and I took full advantage of that boost.

What is one challenge that you’ve faced in your professional career and how did you overcome it?

Being taken seriously. This particular challenge isn’t unique to me and, like many others, it is one I feel constantly pit against. In any forum I strive to bring my whole self: vulnerable, Black, curious, fallible and accomplished. Invariably, though, people want to categorize other people into pre-existing buckets that reinforce their worldview. Especially in a corporate setting, time is of the essence, and a strong elevator pitch is a prerequisite. As soon as you’ve uttered half a sentence, your audience is already forming their opinion about your words using everything from your clothes to your accent. 

I struggle against these confines in nearly every new interaction because I despise stereotypical boxes. A related (and harder to admit) challenge here is that I never truly know how much of this exists in my imagination versus in reality, and the answer to that question often rests just beyond my reach. There’s a clip of Trevor Noah from “The Daily Show” musing on this phenomenon that I often think about.

Because of this, the way I combat those feelings of being commoditized or judged is to press forward with self-confidence. I center myself in the knowledge that I am where I am for a reason, and most reasonable people will understand that eventually, if not immediately. It’s not a curative approach, and it doesn’t solve the more pervasive problems that cause this challenge in the first place. But it helps me get by, and I think that’s a fine goal for now. 

What is one piece of advice you live by?

That there are only two modes you can live by: in love, or in fear. Whichever mode you choose, the point is that you have to actively choose. I try to channel every decision through a loving lens. 

I pursue my passion because I love it, not because I’m afraid of being a failure. 

I care for my body because I love me, not because I’m afraid of what people will think of me. 

And I love my people because I love my people, not because I’m afraid that they’ll stop loving me if I don’t.

Alumnus Profile: Ron Schofield (ABJ ’83)

This is the first in a series of profiles celebrating the work of our alumni for Black History Month. Please see the newslider at the bottom of this article for additional profiles.

Ron Schofield has spent his career working in broadcast media and currently serves as executive producer of owner & operator relations at NewsNation/Nexstar in Chicago, a company where he has served various roles for more than 20 years. NewsNation was started about a year ago as a three-hour nightly national news show broadcast nightly to more than 190 local stations and 75 million households.  Prior to Nexstar, Schofield served in various communications roles including WYCC PBS Chicago, City Colleges of Chicago and 11 years as Midwest bureau chief of ABC News.

Schofield as a junior at UGA.

Schofield was a broadcast journalism major at UGA and was involved with Kappa Alpha Psi and WUOG, where he produced the “Power of Soul” radio programming, served as a DJ and worked as a news anchor.

“My best friends in life came from UGA and we all still stay in touch,” Schofield said of his days on campus.

He also serves on the Board of Directors for the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Chicago/Midwest Chapter. He has two daughters: one who is a fellow UGA alumna and a physician in Atlanta, and one who is in college in California studying strategic corporate communications.

Following are excerpts of an interview with Schofield:

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

Ron Schofield: I had two professors in journalism school, Bill Martin and Al Wise. To this day, I am a stickler for being on time after taking a class from Al that started at 7:50 a.m., because he only allowed you to come in late once. A second late arrival dropped you a letter grade and after three, you failed his class, which we needed to graduate. His reasoning made sense to me: If you are going to be in TV news, you must always make deadline and being a few seconds late is unacceptable. Bill Martin did two things that I found memorable, and helpful. In broadcast writing we would always ask questions like “how do you say, ‘the officer was shot in the chest?’” His answer would be, “say it just like that and don’t try to spice it up.” He also took us to O’Malley’s, which was a bar down the street from the journalism school, on Fridays. His reasoning also made sense to me: if you’re going to be in this business, you need to learn to socialize and still keep your head about you.

GC: Looking back, what do you wish that you would have done in college that would have helped you in your career?

RS: I really wish I had networked more, or at all. I had a tendency to rely on people I know and reluctant to approach those I did not. I would do a better job at reaching out for contacts, maybe even taking a few more chances instead of being terrified at failing. We graduated during a recession in 1983 and I got a ton of rejection letters, but the job I found came from a call from my professor to a former student.

Schofield was one of four people on the NewsNation Team when it started last year. Today, the operation includes more than 150 team members.
GC: What advice would you give to young students of color who will soon enter the workforce?

RS: No one owes you anything, go work hard, put in the effort and get what you want. You have to work hard and if anyone is willing to help you, accept it and take advantage of the opportunity.

GC: What is one piece of advice you live by?

RS: Not everyone will be good at their job. Accept that and remain true to your own work ethic.

GC: What motivates you and keeps you going on challenging days?

RS: I’m a few years from retirement and more than looking forward to it. I don’t want to go somewhere new at this point, nor do I want the biggest job in the room. The people who work for me have a great deal of respect for me and I know that. They know they can count on me and I can do the same with them.

Alumnus Beau Ward navigates a changing entertainment industry

Beau Ward (ABJ ’15) is a producer, director and creative executive at LD Entertainment. He’s worked in various roles in the entertainment industry, working on feature films, Broadway shows and documentaries. He’s best known for projects including “Introducing, Selma Blair”, “Jackie” and “Mama’s Boy.”

Grady L.A. changed it all

While a student at Grady College, Ward majored in mass media arts (now entertainment and media studies), and participated in the Grady L.A. program. Ward says he made about 100 cold calls to different places in L.A. while in search of an internship before landing one with LD Entertainment.

“Really, that Grady L.A. summer is what changed it all for me,” Ward said.

Ward and fellow classmates from the Grady L.A. 2014 cohort. (Photo/submitted)

Ward said before the program, he was deciding between moving to Atlanta, New York or Los Angeles after graduation. After spending the summer in L.A. and having friends who were moving there, he decided on L.A.

When Ward moved after graduation, he didn’t have a full-time job lined up, but he accepted a position as a temporary receptionist at LD Entertainment.

“That sounded a lot better to me than running pizzas,” he said.

Ward said he drove across the country with a mattress on the roof of his car, thinking he would save money and not have to buy one when he arrived in California. To his surprise, the wind resistance from driving across the country with a mattress on the roof ruined his car and cost him about a thousand dollars in damage.

“My car was falling apart by the time I drove into Los Angeles,” he said.

Upon moving to Los Angeles, Ward said having friends with him there helped while they were couch surfing and sleeping on floors, being “starving artists.”

Ward directed and produced a web series “News to Me” for James Biddle’s advanced production class. (Photo/submitted)

“Looking back it seems sort of romantic, but at the time was not super fun. But, It was great to have a whole bunch of my friends and former classmates from Grady. We were all out there doing it together…finding jobs and rooting each other on.”

Wearing many hats at LD Entertainment

Within six months of working for LD Entertainment, Ward was working as the assistant to the CEO. After working in that position for just over a year, he was promoted to his current role as a creative executive. In his current role, Ward says he wears many hats. His role includes developing scripts, finding projects to bring to investors, and seeing projects through post-production, including casting.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to really be able to see films through from their very inception through production through post-production and then even into distribution and making sure it has an appropriate release,” Ward said.

Ward said there are two projects that he’s especially proud of.

He was a producer for the documentary, “Introducing, Selma Blair,” a Critics Choice nominee that was presented at South by Southwest film festival.

The documentary follows the life of actress Selma Blair following a diagnosis of multiple sceloris before she was about to embark on a risky medical procedure that involved stem cell replacement.

“So, it’s following her not only going through these medical treatments, but learning what it means to live with a disability and how she maintains her identity and her sense of self and even grows through this chapter of her life.”

Ward was a producer for the documentary, “Mama’s Boy,” which follows the life of Dustin Lance Black, a screenwriter who went on to be an activist for equal rights and fought for marriage equality.

“It’s about how he used the values that his mom instilled in him in terms of resilience and fighting for what you believe in and not letting the world tell you how to live your life … taking those things and then helping so many people through his through his activism,” he said. “So that’s one that I’m very, very proud of.”

Ward said “Mama’s Boy” was shot in 2021, and he and his crew traveled across the country to the different areas featured in the documentary.

“Traveling is one of my favorite parts of the job,” he said.

Recently, Ward shot an upcoming film in New Mexico. He lived in France for three months in 2019 while working on a film called, “The Cursed.”

Ward scouting a location for the upcoming movie, “National Anthem” with film crew. (Photo/submitted)
A changing industry

“It’s a really really interesting time to be in industry,” Ward said. “Streaming is changing everything.”

Ward said the way in which films are financed shifts almost on a daily basis due to changing audience habits. Part of his role is to think about how well a script will do a year into the future once it is past post-production and goes on the market to streaming services. Ward says this is a challenging part of the job, because it’s impossible to see into the future and know what audiences want.

“It’s definitely an exciting if sometimes scary time to be making films because you’re not sure what’s gonna work,” he said.

Ward believes audiences are looking for something different. With the number of streaming services and a “saturated market” of entertainment, he believes they want to watch entertainment that “stands out from the pack.”

“There is, I think a generational change happening. I think you’re seeing a huge wave of perspectives and representation in Hollywood. It still has a long way to go, but you are seeing a big push for increasingly diverse perspectives and voices.”

Ward at the premiere of Introducing, Selma Blair. (Photo/submitted)

Ward offered a few pieces of advice to current Grady and EMST students.

He said internships are important so that students can learn about the flow and pace of the industry and to see first-hand how businesses are run.

Ward said most industries, especially entertainment, are about who you know.

“It is such a who you know career because the creative process can be so intimate and you are dealing with creating a piece of very, very personal creative content,” he said. “So, it makes sense that you want to work with people that you know, and people that you trust that you believe in.”

“My advice would be do as much as you can to meet people to learn where their career has taken them what sort of their paths are, but also just to foster those relationships,” he said.

Dunn, Thomas named Footsteps Award recipients

The University of Georgia has named Richard Dunn (ABJ ’93) and Xernona Thomas (ABJ ’91, MSW ’92, EDD ’17) as the recipients of the 2023 Footsteps Award. This annual award, given this year on the 62nd anniversary of desegregation at UGA, recognizes UGA graduates who are following in the pioneering footsteps of Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63), Hamilton Holmes and Mary Frances Early, UGA’s first African American students.

Dunn, Thomas and Hunter-Gault are all alumni of Grady College. The inaugural recipient of the Footsteps Award given in 2022 was Eugenia Harvey (ABJ ’82), also a Grady alumna.

“Richard and Xernona’s commitment to education in our state is impressive,” said Meredith Gurley Johnson, executive director of the UGA Alumni Association. “The work they have done in building better communities through education follows closely in the footsteps of Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Hamilton Holmes and Mary Frances Early. We are beyond excited to have the opportunity to honor them with this award.”

Dunn, now retired, served as the executive director of the Athens-Clarke County High School Completion Initiative, a program that he founded to increase the graduation rates in high schools across the county. The program focuses on helping students reach graduation and explore career and education opportunities. In 2010, he launched a weekly radio show hosted by local high school students titled “Education Matters” as part of his efforts to improve graduation rates in Athens-Clarke County, particularly for students of color.

Dunn’s passion for journalism drove him to establish The Athens Courier in the 1980s and address the needs of the minority community in Athens. In addition, he hosted the weekly radio show “Community Forum,” which addresses politics, community issues and more. The show is now the longest-running radio talk show in Northeast Georgia.

Thomas spent 31 years working in education as a social worker, assistant principal, principal, chief of staff, and most recently, superintendent of the Clarke County School District where she became the first woman to serve in the role. Thomas sought to reduce exclusionary discipline practices among students of color by identifying inequitable instructional and disciplinary practices and implementing leadership professional learning. She worked to increase language services, encourage parent involvement, develop a district budget to better support district instructional priorities, and opened Clarke County School District’s first charter, Schoolwide Enrichment Model, Foreign Language Acquisition Program and Professional Development School.

Thomas, who received her bachelor’s degree from Grady College, master’s degree from the School of Social Work, and doctor of education from the Mary Frances Early College of Education, collaborated with the University of Georgia to establish the Experience UGA partnership for K-12 students that launched in 2013. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as superintendent, she provided students with technology devices and internet access while they were not meeting in person and ensured that all students 18 and younger had access to breakfast and lunch five days a week. Thomas retired as superintendent in fall 2022.

“Richard and Xernona are excellent examples of what it means to be UGA alumni,” said Yvette Daniels, president of the UGA Alumni Association. “Their combined dedication to students in the Athens community is improving lives every day. We celebrate them as members of the Bulldog family and the recipients of the 2023 Footsteps Award.”

Dunn was recognized in February, 2022, with the UGA President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award.

Dunn and Thomas will be recognized during the annual Holmes-Hunter Lecture on Feb. 28 in the UGA Chapel. The Honorable Verda M. Colvin, a Georgia Supreme Court justice and UGA School of Law alumna, will present this year’s lecture.

Recent graduate, Sam Perez, writes first book

As Sam Perez (AB ’22) was finishing her journalism major at Grady College and her major in Spanish during the 2021-2022 year, she took capstone classes like Newsource and completed her NMI certificate. She worked as a Yarbrough Fellow and CNN intern. She was a member of Chi Omega and served as a Grady Ambassador. And, she wrote a book.

“Deviate from Denial,” an introspective look at personal stories of people who fight drug addiction and an inspirational account of what can be done to help, was published in September and was largely written while Perez was finishing her studies at UGA.

“Anytime I take something on, I have that initial thought, ‘oh no, what did I get myself into?,” admits Perez, who started work as a multi-media journalist at WLTX News 19 in Columbia, SC, in June. “But, once I commit, I am going to follow through. One thing I’ve learned, is that anything is possible.”

The idea of writing a book was inspired by a class assignment Perez had her junior year. She took Multiplatform Story Production, JOUR 4090, her junior year. Students were assigned to select two topics to write about throughout the semester and the subject of recovery from drug addiction was one focus she chose. She admitted there was a lot of information to cover on the subject and she barely scratched the surface.

Recovery from drug addiction is a subject Perez is passionate about, thanks to her parents, Rob and Diane, who operate restaurants in Lexington, Kentucky, called DV8 Kitchen. The restaurants provide employment opportunities to those recovering from drug addiction. Perez had a front row seat seeing the agony of drug use when her parents opened their first restaurant, but she also witnessed the sources of hope and optimism that employment opportunities provide.

“Drug addiction has so much stigma,” Perez said. “I think people see it as a choice, but it’s a really complex issue. What a lot of people don’t realize is that there are a lot of factors involved, especially for those people who don’t have good role models to look up to and a good support system.”

Also, there is a whole other category of addiction dealing with the opioid epidemic that is misunderstood since many people become addicted based on prescribed medications.

The most salient themes of the book are the interviews Perez conducted with those who have suffered from drug addiction. In the section titled “Stories of Strength and Hope,” Perez tells the stories of Tara who spent years in and out of recovery and homelessness; the mother of Gene who died of a drug overdose after several recoveries…followed by relapses; and Emily, whose mother asked her to take drug tests in her place so future employers wouldn’t know she had a problem.

Perez said it was not hard to get people to agree to be interviewed for the book.

“There was a real drive and determination from them,” Perez said of the people she asked to share their stories. “I feel like when I told them I wanted to write it, they had a desire to make things happen. They were all super big on vulnerability and transparency and were super willing to tell their story. It shows a lot about the issue at hand. They want to find a community of others with shared experiences, which makes them so trusting and so vulnerable.”

Perez was driven to write the book for several reasons. She felt a need to start the conversation to help erase the stigma. She believes addiction is a subject that is not talked about enough, and that everyone is deserving of a second chance.

“Everyone is deserving of grace — everyone should show compassion and try to understand,” Perez said.
Sam Perez in her graduation cap and gown with her parents Rob and Diane.
Sam Perez with her parents, Rob and Diane, at the Grady Graduation Celebration on May 13, 2022. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

She also saw the incredible example her parents set forth in their community and wanted to provide hope and resources to others who needed it. The book includes chapters dedicated to the DV8 employment model, innovative programs that other communities are trying like needle exchanges and resources for recovery.

“I believe that everyone has some way they can help contribute to erasing the stigma,” Perez concludes. “Now that looks different for everyone, but I feel like my way to contribute to the conversation and to help is to share stories since that’s what I love doing and that’s what I’ve been trained to do.”

And, while she has no plans to follow up with another book anytime soon, Perez is focusing on her new job and continuing to practice those interview skills she learned in class at Grady College.

“There are just so many more stories to share.”

To view more interviews with Perez about her book, Deviate from Denial, please see the following:


Alumna Victoria Inman hopes to spark conversations with new book

Grady alumna Victoria Inman (ABJ ‘08) recently published her first book, “Spark Acceptance.” It tells stories of exceptional people through photography, aiming to create greater awareness and inclusion about people with disabilities.

The book features photos of over 50 individuals, complemented with words from parents, caregivers and the photo subjects themselves.

“I was touched by every single story in here. I’m so incredibly proud of what we’ve produced,” Inman said.

She wrote the book in collaboration with David Carr, a four time Grammy award-winning musician.

Inman works as a client success director for Jabian Consulting. Outside of her day job, she is a photographer and writes a blog. She lives with her two daughters and husband in Marietta, Georgia.

Turning pain into purpose

Inman hopes her book will spark conversations about inclusivity, but her inspiration for writing it comes from her encounters with exclusivity. 

photo of Torie Inman holding up her book
Inman’s book is self-published, and took less than a year to complete from start to finish. (Photo/submitted)

Her daughter is on the autism spectrum, and Inman says she has experienced many unintentional negative and insensitive comments throughout the years.

Inman says comments such as “She doesn’t look like she has autism” and “Are you sure? Because I don’t really see it” degrades her daughter’s diagnosis.

“I knew they had noble intentions with what they were saying, but I just felt in my heart that I’ve got to tell these people what weight the words that they share carry on a person,” Inman said.

These experiences led Inman to write “Spark Acceptance”, a photo book which celebrates people’s differences. 

Inman says the spirit of her book is to turn her pain into purpose, giving others with shared experiences a platform on how to connect with people who are different.

inman is pictured with her husband and two daughters, one of which holds up her book
Inman pictured with her husband and two daughters at her book’s launch party on Oct 14. (Photo/submitted)

“Instead of going up to someone in a wheelchair and saying ‘What’s wrong with you?’, you can present in a way such as ‘Hey, I see that you might need help. How can I help you?’, or ‘Would you mind sharing with me your experience?’”, Inman says. 

When asked what the one takeaway she hopes people will have after reading her book, Inman says she hopes people will pivot their behaviors and become more aware of how certain words can hurt, rather than spark acceptance.

“I would just want people to really take in the words of what these people have shared and think twice about what they say.”

Inman notes that her book in no way is meant to shame people for their past comments, but rather, it’s meant to show what it’s like to be a caregiver for someone who’s different. 

“Hopefully, this book provides awareness of the different disabilities and the impact that words have,” Inman said.

Mic woman memories

During her time at Grady College, Inman majored in public relations. She was the secretary of PRSSA and she served as a Grady College ambassador.

In 2007, Inman made history as the first female mic person for the University of Georgia. (Photo/submitted)

Outside of her involvement at Grady, Inman started the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) at UGA, where she served as president.

In 2007, The Red and Black published a story about Inman (maiden name Trent). She was the first woman to take on the role of mic man at UGA. Click here to read the article. (Photo/Georgia Historic Archives)

She made history as the first female mic person for the university. 

“Traditionally, this role had always been filled by a guy,” Inman said. “I really didn’t even think they would consider me for it.”

After her roommates, who were cheerleaders, encouraged Inman to try out, she went through a week-long audition process.

“When they posted the team roster and I was on it, I was really shocked and excited.”

Inman says coach Shelly O’Brien made the program more inclusive that season, renaming the title of mic man to mic person.

She stays connected with the university by serving as a council member for the women of UGA Alumni Association.

From the idea to the launch party, “Spark Acceptance” took less than a year to complete. This is Inman’s first book, which is self-published.

“Advice that I have is if you are passionate about something, go and make it happen,” Inman said. “If there’s something that you are passionate about, find a way to step into that.”

More information on Inman’s book, along with a link to purchase, is available on this website.

For more alumni authors, visit this page.