PhD student Xuerong Lu wins 2021 IPR-Ketchum Don Bartholomew Award for Excellence in Public Relations Research

Public relations PhD student Xuerong Lu was recently announced as the winner of the 2021 IPR-Ketchum Don Bartholomew Award for Excellence in Public Relations Research. The award honors the work of a public relations scholar and helps them connect their research to public relations practice in the professional setting.

“I was on cloud nine for several hours,” Lu said. “I called my parents who were in China and proudly told them I won it.”

Lu’s research focus is crisis communication. Specifically, she examines how organizations communicate crises to audiences on social media when conflicting information exists.

The award links Lu to a legacy of renounced public relations scholars, including two members of the Grady College faculty. María Len-Ríos, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, won the same award in 2000 and Bryan Reber, Advertising and Public Relations Department Head, won it in 1999.

“I’m glad that Ketchum continues to support this award,” Reber said. “I received it more than 20 years ago and it’s exciting to have one of our own earn the honor and experience of the Bartholomew Award. I’m glad to have Xuerong in the fraternity of winners of this award.”

“It’s a huge inspiration for me,” said Lu. “Dr. Reber and Dr. Len-Ríos are big names in the PR field. It was my dream to have my name listed with their name somewhere one day.”

In her research, Lu worked with Yan Jin, AdPR Assistant Department Head, on a study published by Public Relations Review that focused on how information is vetted when be used to manage crisis communication. Jin, who also serves as Lu’s faculty advisor and dissertation chair, also guided Lu through the IPR-Ketchum Award application process.

“Xuerong’s passion for advancing communication theory and practice via social and behavioral scientific research is remarkable,” Jin said. “As doctoral student, Xuerong has published in some of the top journals in our field and received external research funding, with extensive experience of leading projects and collaborating with scholars and practitioners in the U.S. and worldwide. She is bright, diligent, optimistic, creative and perseverant.”

Lu says the experience with a leading global public relations agency gives her greater perspective on the field of public relations.

“Such experience really opened my eyes to the PR industry, which is also really helpful to my own PR research,” Lu said. “It helps me to rethink “so what” questions in a deeper and wider manner when doing my own research.”

Lu plans to pursue a faculty position at a research university to continue her passion and contributions to scholarly work in public relations and crisis communication.

You can learn more about the Bartholomew Award and see the full list of previous winners at their website.

Glen Nowak shares goals of graduate studies at Grady College

In the first few weeks as the Grady College’s new associate dean for research and graduate studies, Glen Nowak has welcomed a new group of first-year graduate students, strategized with fellow faculty members and begun his new UGA administration responsibilities. In his new role, Nowak knows the value that Grady College students and faculty bring to other researchers and instructors on campus.

Nowak was named the associate dean for research and graduate studies at Grady College in 2021.

“We are an asset to the larger UGA academic ecosystem because of our expertise in communications technology and content,” Nowak said at a recent “Lunch and Learn” presented by Grady College.

Nowak was an Advertising and Public Relations Department faculty member from 1989 to 1998, and since rejoining the faculty in January 2013. In between, he spent 14 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He joined CDC in 1999 as communications director for CDC’s National Immunization Program, a position he held for six years before becoming the agency’s director of media relations.

Nowak told graduate students and fellow faculty that Grady College is well qualified to help lead UGA with its strategic goals because the media and communication expertise, work and research in the College are highly valued by a wide arrange of disciplines. He said it promotes collaborations with other researchers here and at other organizations because Grady faculty can bring needed perspectives and tools, including communication technologies, to projects that need or want well-design communication strategies or materials. In addition, the media and communication skills and experiences that Grady provides graduate students well equip them for securing employment upon graduation.

“Employers value our graduate students particularly when it comes to research skills and communication capabilities,” Nowak said.

Ultimately, Nowak says the main goal for graduate studies at Grady College is to help PhD and master’s students achieve their learning and career goals.

“Our students graduating and having accomplished their goals and objectives — that is what success looks like,” Nowak said.

Other graduate studies goals include increased university and public visibility, achieving success with external funding proposals and involved in research collaborations with faculty across UGA.

John T. Edge teaches Grady College MFA students to explore narrative to better understand the world

The words “story” and “narrative” are in most responses from John T. Edge when he is asked about what students learn in Grady College’s MFA in Narrative Media Writing.

Edge watches the “TrueSouth” screening at Grady College.

It is a simple reminder of the essence and foundation of the low residency graduate program.

Edge has taught in the program since its inception. He mentors three or four students per semester to provide hyper-individualized instruction.

“I act as their first and best editor,” Edge said.

His editing knowledge stems from a vast resume including authoring many books, most recently “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South.” He has written a column for the New York Times, and now serves as a columnist for Garden & Gun and Oxford American. He has won three James Beard Foundation Awards for his writing. He is also the host of “TrueSouth” on the SEC Network, a show that tells honest stories of the modern South.

Larry Scott of Scott’s Bar B-Q and John T. Edge pose for a photo at the screening of “TrueSouth.” The episode hosted by Edge featured Scott’s story and restaurant.

Edge says his students share common characteristics even if they have interests in different subject matters.

“A hunger for story is first and foremost, a rage to explain, a want to tell complicated, nuanced stories using narrative devices,” Edge said.

He counsels them on what to read to fuel writing and what research is required to become a better writer. He encourages students to apply the same devices found in fiction such as characters and story arc to non-fiction narratives.

“Narrative transforms our understanding of our place and the people who inhabit it,” said Edge.

Grady College MFA narrative instructors have specialized interests including food, health and biography, among others.

“The people who teach in this program have a wide range of expertise,” said Edge. “The crazy quilt we stitch together makes this thing work. That is what our students draw upon.”

Learn more about Grady College’s MFA graduate program in nonfiction narrative.

Grady College alumna honored with 2017 Makovsky Best Master’s Thesis of the Year Award

Ruoyu Sun’s thesis investigated the risk perception and purchase intention of Millennials in China and the U.S. toward genetically modified food


The Institute for Public Relations has awarded Ruoyu Sun, a recent graduate of Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication’s master’s program, the 2017 Makovsky Best Master’s Thesis of the Year Award based on her work studying source credibility on digital media toward Millennial purchase intention of genetically modified foods. Thanks to the new sponsorship of the award by Makovsky, an integrated communications firm, the award annually celebrates a master’s thesis that most contributes to advancing research-based knowledge in the field of public relations.

Sun’s thesis, “Effects of Source Credibility via Social Media on The Risk Perception and Purchase Intention Toward Genetically Modified Foods: A Cross-Cultural Study between Young Millennials in China and The U.S.,” found that long-term communication and education about genetically modified foods to young Millennials are necessary before one can increase his/her purchase intention. Her thesis suggests public relations practitioners in China should have scientists serve as a credible information source to inform stakeholders about the benefits of GM foods. In the U.S., a mixed approach of scientists and government was found to be more effective.

Sun will receive a cash grant of $2,000 and Juan Meng, Sun’s faculty advisor, will receive $1,000 at the IPR Annual Distinguished Lecture and Awards Dinner on Nov. 29 in New York City.

“I am extremely honored to receive this award from IPR,” said Sun, now a doctoral student at the School of Communication, University of Miami. “It encourages me to work harder and to do more scientific research which could contribute to the effective practice of PR in the future. Thanks to IPR, Makovsky, and my advisor, Dr. Juan Meng at the University of Georgia, for her unwavering support throughout this project.”

Meng, an associate professor of public relations, described Sun as passionate about conducting research that can have an impact on the public relations profession.

“I am eager to see Ruoyu continue to develop her research expertise during her doctoral program and I look forward to collaborating with her in future research projects,” Meng said.

“The purpose in our sponsoring this award is to help attract the brightest minds to pursue a career in public relations,” said Ken Makovsky, president of Makovsky. “Large businesses are facing increasingly complex challenges such as digital disruption, marketing cyberattacks, shareholder activism and an increased focus on governance.

Established in 1981, the award honors a winning master’s thesis that focuses on the development of research-based knowledge in the field of public relations, and the degree to which the research is relevant or has an impact on the profession. This is the first year the award has been given since 2010 thanks to a new sponsorship by Makovsky to recognize and encourage graduate study and scholarship in public relations.

About Makovsky

Founded in 1979, Makovsky ( is one of the nation’s largest and most influential independent integrated communications firms. The firm attributes its success to its original vision: that the Power of Specialized Thinking™ is the best way to build reputation, sales and fair valuation for a client. Based in New York City and Washington, D.C, the firm has agency partners with nearly 2,000 professionals in 30 countries through IPREX (, the second largest worldwide public relations agency partnership, of which Makovsky is the founder.

About the Institute for Public Relations

The Institute for Public Relations is an independent, nonprofit research foundation dedicated to fostering greater use of research and research-based knowledge in corporate communication and the public relations practice.  IPR is dedicated to the science beneath the art of public relations™. IPR provides timely insights and applied intelligence that professionals can put to immediate use. All research, including a weekly research letter, is available for free at

Grady College offers Double Dawgs accelerated master’s programs

Grady College has expanded its Graduate Studies opportunities to include a total of eight linked-degree Double Dawgs programs in which students earn both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years or less.

The Double Dawgs programs designed by Grady College faculty are among 113 Double Dawgs programs to date at the University of Georgia, giving UGA one of the nation’s largest selections of accelerated master’s programs.

“The ability to come out with both degrees in a fairly short period of time gives students an edge,” said Jeff Springston, associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies at Grady College. “Students will come out of here in a stronger position both in the professional world and if they want to come back for a terminal degree.”

Students also save time and money by earning a master’s degree in one year instead of two through the Double Dawgs program.

“I’m very sensitive to the kind of debt that students have to take on these days, and I like the idea that we can reduce the cost,” Springston said.

The Grady College now offers eight pathways. The full list includes:

  • Advertising AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(ADPR 4+1)
  • Advertising AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Emerging Media)
  • Entertainment and Media Studies AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Emerging Media)
  • Journalism AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Emerging Media)
  • Journalism AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Journalism)
  • Music AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Advertising)
  • Public Relations AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(ADPR 4+1)
  • Public Relations AB/Journalism and Mass Communication MA/(Emerging Media)

Springston noted that additional Double Dawgs programs will likely roll out in the future.

Double Dawgs applicants follow the same steps as other Grady College graduate program applicants: they must take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and complete application materials required by the UGA Graduate School, as well as supplemental materials required by the Grady Graduate Studies Office.

Students should apply for a Double Dawgs program during their first year in Grady College (or third year at UGA) by March 1, according to Springston. Three courses, or nine hours total, will count for both their undergraduate and graduate work.

Students interested in Grady College’s Double Dawgs programs are encouraged to meet with Springston.

“We have fabulous students,” he said. “I love having our undergrads move into our graduate program when it makes sense for them, and they typically do extremely well.”


UGA Double Dawgs Program from UGA OVPI on Vimeo.

Inaugural class of MFA students graduate from Grady College

The final chapter was written August 5 as the inaugural class of MFA students at Grady College was recognized in convocation ceremonies.

The fourteen graduating students completed two years of the new narrative media writing program in a low-residency format. Five students graduated from the screenwriting track and nine students graduated from the narrative non-fiction writing track.

“It’s amazing to see the fruits of our effort that began in 2009 in an idea that Valerie Boyd presented me,” said Jeff Springston, associate dean of graduate studies and research. “Nate Kohn quickly added to that idea, and though the road of establishing the degree was not always easy, the results have been spectacular.”

There was a lot of love and affection shown for the program’s directors and mentors. The directors included Valerie Boyd, who led the narrative non-fiction program, and Nate Kohn, who directed the screenwriting track.

“Valerie, when you look out at all of us, I hope you know that your legacy is and will always be strong,” said graduate student Rosalind Bentley at the convocation.

Pete Stone, who graduated from the screenwriting program, expressed appreciation on behalf of the students in his track.  “This is our passion,” Stone said. “This is what wakes us up and gets us through everything else we do. This is why we are here and to find that is just great. I am so happy to find a program that allows that, and I really do thank Dr. Kohn for allowing that to happen.”

MFA graduates from the narrative non-fiction program show appreciation to their families for their support.

Stone and Bentley also praised the vital role of the mentors, the community bond formed among the students and the networking that was created from the special speakers who were invited to speak during the program.

The convocation program included insights from keynote speakers Thomas French, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Jeffrey Stepakoff, a screenwriter and executive director of the Georgia Film Academy.

French encouraged the students to accept the humbling task of chronicling stories. Stepakoff spoke of the burgeoning film and television market in Georgia and his desire to foster writer’s groups in the state that would in turn keep graduates from the MFA program in the state of Georgia.

Benjamin Bolger, another graduate of the screenwriting track added, “Georgia and Atlanta are exciting places for people who want to be in the entertainment and movie business. I can’t think of a better program that is situated to accelerate people’s careers in a very focused direction.”

A clear majority of the students and instructors commented about how the program delivered more than they expected.

“These are stories the world needs to hear,” commented Kohn as he recognized the graduates. “They have exceeded my expectations in every way.”

MFA graduate Benjamin Bolger (right) is congratulated by his mentor, Ramin Serry.

Boyd spoke of the “great enthusiasm, great respect and great love” she had for each of her graduates who filled her with “enormous pride and unbridled joy.”

For narrative non-fiction graduate Andre Gallant, the biggest reward of the MFA program was an in-depth study of the field he loves. “I hoped,

and I think everybody hopes, that the program helps them establish a writing life, a writing practice. It’s kind of hard in our busy lives to treat writing not just as a job but as an art form, as a craft, something we work at and improve. This gives us the first steps to do that.”

Bolger, who has a doctorate from Harvard University and studied at the University of Oxford in Cambridge, concluded that the MFA program compares with other programs he has experienced. “I can honestly say that the University of Georgia, and this program in particular, was really a world-class experience that rivals some of the best competitors that exist. I’m delighted that I was able to participate in this great program.”

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Grady doctoral student receives esteemed Inez Kaiser Award for health communication research

Fourth-year doctoral student, Yen-I Lee was recently selected as one of three recipients of the prestigious Inez Kaiser Graduate Student of Color Award. This award is given by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in honor of Inez Kaiser, the first African-American woman to be a member of the Public Relations Society of America. Lee received the award for her research in strategic health communication.

The PRSA Foundation funds this award given by the AEJMC to encourage diversity within the field of public relations. Lee’s achievement is particularly exceptional as there was a large pool of applicants this year. Lee will be honored on Aug. 10 at the AEJMC Conference in Chicago.

Lee has conducted extensive research at Grady and been a part of many different research efforts, however she is especially keen on researching specific topics regarding health public relations, the strategic use of technology, and cultural psychology in health risk and crisis message design.

Her vast research on these subjects have included projects investigating cancer risk perception, advertising and health product brands on Facebook and scale development of health crisis information seeking and sharing. She also has designed and led several of her own research projects, one researching health-related Facebook content and another examining the effectiveness of flu vaccination PSAs.

Lee is an instructor at Grady College. She has taught as a lab instructor for the social media analytics class and will be teaching a public relations research class this upcoming fall.

Lee is honored to have received the award and says that it has encouraged her to continue in her research.

“I would like to thank Grady College for being supportive of students,” she said. “I also would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Yan Jin, and professors who support and guide me regarding my research interests, so I can continue to make quality contributions to the Grady College.”

For more about Lee’s research, visit