Three students selected as Fall Tieger Fellows in Public Affairs Communications

The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication announced the selection of three new Tieger Fellows for the fall 2021 semester: Caroline Kurzawa, Megan Mittelhammer and Jake Strickland. The Tieger Fellowship gives students pursuing the Public Affairs Professional Certificate in Public Affairs Communications (PAC) the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to real-world public affairs work promoting the PAC program.

The fall Tieger Fellows are responsible for day-to-day efforts to promote the program through media relations, social and digital media and events on campus for current and prospective PAC students. Fellows work under the guidance of Professor Joseph Watson, Jr., program director and Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communications.

“We are delighted to announce the selection of Caroline, Megan, and Jake as our newest fall Tieger Fellows,” Watson said. “This fellowship, made possible by the vision and funding of Carolyn Caudell Tieger, continues to serve a vital role for the PAC program and its students. These students will bring their unique talents together to support the promotion of our program and keep our students connected. I look forward to working with these talented students to serve the PAC program.”

The PAC program provides students with practical training in the strategy and practice of public affairs communications focused on public policy and politics. The program is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year.

The Tieger Fellowship is funded by Carolyn Caudell Tieger (ABJ ’69) who spent 40 years in Washington, D.C. working in public affairs and politics.

“I continue to be in awe of the success of the PAC program, which is the only one of its kind in the country,” Tieger said. “Professor Watson is making a significant contribution to the future of our democracy by equipping PAC students with not only the skills to succeed but instilling in them respect for each other and the political process. Congratulations to these three students who will be our ambassadors for promoting the program and serving as leaders for the college.”

This summer, Mittelhammer and Strickland put their PAC education to good use for the program. The addition of Kurzawa will prove beneficial for spreading word on campus about what PAC has to offer students now and in their early careers.

Mittelhammer is charged with writing about PAC students, alumni and program events. Strickland will continue to manage the program’s social and digital media. Kurzawa will organize in-person events throughout the semester.

The new Tieger Fellows are excited to get started and use their training to serve the program that has helped prepare them for their future careers.

Megan Mittelhammer is a senior from Atlanta, Georgia, majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. This summer, she interned in the communications office for the Office of Governor Brian Kemp. On campus, Mittelhammer has experience working as editor-in-chief, news editor and social media editor for The Red & Black. Mittelhammer also serves as a Yarbrough Public Relations Fellow through Grady College.

Jake Strickland is a senior from Dallas, Georgia, majoring in public relations and political science with an Arch-Ready professional certificate. Strickland spent his summer in Washington, D.C. through the GradyDC program and interned as a digital media and marketing intern for the Human Rights Campaign. Strickland has previously interned for The Partnership, a PR agency, and as a field intern for Let America Vote. On campus, he has worked as engagement editor and social media editor at The Red & Black and for the Professional Clothing Closet as communications director.

Caroline Kurzawa is a senior from Johns Creek, Georgia majoring in journalism with a women’s studies minor. She spent her summer in Washington, D.C. through the GradyDC program as an integrated communications intern with Lockheed Martin. On campus, Kurzawa is involved with Women in Media as communications director and recording secretary of Delta Phi Epsilon sorority. She has previously served as a Cox-SABEW Fellow with Grady’s Cox Institute.

Grady InternViews: Morgan Gonzales

This is part of a series where we ask Grady College students to describe their summer internship experience.

Briefly describe your internship and responsibilities. 

I work for the Dallas Morning News, my title is Medicine and Science Reporting Fellow and I am working from my apartment in Athens, GA.

I am on the Business desk and report on medical and science news. I am responsible for reporting and writing my stories. A typical day includes our morning team meeting over video call, reaching out to sources, planning stories, writing and editing.

How is it structured? 

I’m working remotely. Many of my co-workers are still working remotely, so the team has been fantastic about accommodating my lack of physical presence. It’s difficult to not be able to go check out things that I’m covering in person, so I’ve made a ton of phone calls, looked at places on Google Maps and attended some live streams of events. Last week I covered a nurses strike and “attended” via Facebook live. I got help from a veteran reporter on a story about a new, more affordable insulin option, and Google Docs made it easy for us to both be in the document and talk through it together. That experience was so informative. I’m really grateful for the team on the business desk.

What has been the biggest growth you’ve experienced so far?
Morgan Gonzales sits at her desk as she works remotely from Athens, GA. (Photo: submitted)

My writing and interview styles have been the most noticeable improvements to me. I think both of those require experience and time to improve, so I’m so grateful for this opportunity to hone my skills.  

How do you feel that Grady has prepared you for tackling the job?

My professors in the journalism department have done such an amazing job preparing me for this! Professor Sabriya Rice told our class about this opportunity, and because of the reporting skills I gained from her class I decided I should apply. She has been truly inspirational. I came into grad school with no experience actually reporting, so her class taught me critical skills that I’ve relied on heavily during my fellowship. My advisor, Dr. Karin Assmann, has been so supportive while I’ve been in school and during the fellowship. She always checks in on me and makes sure I am doing alright, and has been instrumental in my progress as a reporter. I am so lucky to be in this department and to have the mentors I do!

What is the most memorable experience you have had during your internship? Tell us a story if you have one!

I got to interview a gold medal winning Olympian, Laura Wilkinson, for one of my first stories! That was a highlight for sure. She was great to talk to and that story was fun to write. I’m going to Dallas to do some in-person reporting the first week of August, so meeting my coworkers and working on projects together will be the most memorable experience, I’m sure.

What lessons will you take back with you to Athens in the fall?

I’ll definitely be utilizing the lessons I’ve learned with my writing in the future. But also flexibility, I’ve learned stories don’t always go the direction I think they will, and my day often goes in a different direction than I anticipate. The stories that surprise me are usually the best.

The purpose of the Dallas Morning News-Grady Health, Medicine & Science Reporting Fellowship will be to train the next generation of health care journalists over the next several years. More specifically, the fellowship program will provide journalists-in-training at the University of Georgia with hands-on reporting experience in a big-city newsroom. Each summer, a Grady journalist will work with a Dallas Morning News editor and cover the business of healthcare.