Journalism student Ciera Walker named 2022 Disney UNCF Corporate Scholar

Ciera Walker, a Journalism student from Columbus, Georgia, has been selected by the Walt Disney Company and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) to be a 2022 Disney UNCF Corporate Scholar. Walker is one of just 21 students throughout the United States to be awarded this opportunity.

Through the highly competitive program, Walker will be interning with ESPN’s social media team, working alongside professionals in the department to create and produce content for ESPN’s social media platforms.

Ciera Walker stands outside wearing an ESPN shirt.
Walker, who is on track to graduate in 2024, is a Film minor. (Photo: Submitted.)

While the internship, which runs from June 6 to August 12, is primarily virtual, Walker will have the opportunity to travel to ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, during the summer to meet the ESPN social team and other ESPN interns in person.

“This accomplishment gives me the opportunity to learn, network and grow within the media industry,” said Walker. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to work alongside ESPN executives who can share their experience and offer feedback or advice on what I need to do to excel in this career. It’s not often that you’re able to learn and develop your personal skills while also being paid, so I’m grateful for this privilege.”

In addition to receiving a paid summer internship, each Disney UNCF Corporate Scholar is awarded a $5,000 annual scholarship, mentorship opportunities and assistance securing possible full-time roles with Disney after graduation.

“Being a Disney UNCF Corporate Scholar means a lot to me,” Walker added. “I’m able to learn from industry professionals already working in positions I aspire to be in one day, and I also have the opportunity to mature as a leader. What I enjoy most so far is being able to connect with the other scholars who are succeeding in their own ways and getting to share our knowledge with one another.”

As a Corporate Scholar, Walker will be joining a growing cohort of students supported by the program, which, according to Disney, is designed to nurture rising Black talent pursuing degrees in finance, human resources, legal, production/media and technology.

“Disney’s longstanding relationship with UNCF, including our collaboration on this scholarship program, is an important part of our efforts to reimagine tomorrow by amplifying underrepresented voices and untold stories,” said Latondra Newton, Disney’s senior vice president and chief diversity officer. “For more than 75 years, UNCF has helped generations of students claim a brighter future. Together, we’re carrying on this proud legacy, ensuring promising students are supported in their education and connected with Disney mentors and career opportunities.”

#GradyGrit: Meet Luke D’Agostino

How did you choose to major in public relations?

Honestly, I didn’t really know what I was doing when I picked my major. I knew I was broadly interested in marketing and in getting people to pay attention to good products or services, whatever they may be. It’s frustrating to me to see something cool, whether it’s a piece of music or a great service or a helpful product, that’s just not being marketed in a tactical way, so it’s not reaching anyone even though it’s good. That’s something I’m passionate about. I knew that I wanted to go Grady pretty early—I was drawn into the friendly, community feel that didn’t feel competitive. It felt like the people in Grady weren’t trying to prove too much, but more so were passionate about their studies and the work that relates to it.  I was actually pretty jaded about my major for a while and really toyed with the idea of dropping out for most of junior year, but as I’ve finally gotten deeper into my PR classes I feel like I’m getting some insights into the field of public relations and why it matters.

Who has been your favorite professor and/or class and why?

My favorite professor has been Jonathan Peters, who I had for Communication Law. I really enjoyed getting to think about how media law relates to so many of the things that happen on a daily basis – from unsolicited recordings to the President’s tweets – and Dr. Peters was absolutely hilarious, while still making the content easy to digest. He also really, really cared about us as students and people.

The best class in my major has hands-down been 5920, PR Communication with Tom Cullen. We’re working with real-world clients creating media kits, and Tom is refreshingly honest and true to his word in holding us to a standard of work that will make us employable. I feel like I’ve taken so many classes in college that I just got next to nothing out of, which is really, really frustrating in my position—when you’re growing a business outside of school, making real money and doing real work that you’re passionate about. It’s hard, to say the least, to care about them at all, and there have been many times in college when the reasons to leave were compelling. They still are, but much less so now, largely because of Tom’s class. I feel like I actually have an understanding of public relations, how to implement it with a client, and why it works instead of just relying on advertising.

What are you planning on doing after graduating with a Grady degree?

I am planning on moving to be with my girlfriend in a city by the water and establishing my freelance presence there. I’ve done all kinds of freelance work over the last few years—from music to non-profits to weddings to graduation to families to small businesses. I feel like I have an understanding of how to establish myself somewhere else – of course it would be easier to stay in Athens or Atlanta, where I have an existing network, rather than reestablish myself somewhere else, but I trust my ability, and I can barista on the side or something like that until I’m re-established. I want to shoot destination weddings, I want to tour with a major artist and make videos for them, I want to travel and document beautiful destinations and unique causes. I want to tell stories and be free and independent. None of that has to do much with a degree, but that’s my plan.

How do you think Grady students are unique compared to other students on campus?

Grady feels like a community. People are happy to be a part of this school, and they build each other up. I think we do good work, and people study the things they’re really interested in.

What is your favorite Athens restaurant? Or restaurants?

Utage, Athens Bagel, Ahi on Clayton. People will call Mama’s Boy overrated, but they just say that to be quirky and unique. Mama’s Boy still slaps, and people sleep on the banana bread.

Who is the best UGA mascot and why?

Megan Ward. She’s a bulldog that you don’t want to mess with, but she’s also like a loving mom to me. She’s also my boss.

If you won the lottery today, what would be your first purchase?

I’d buy a Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 100mm 2.8L, and more plane tickets to Hawaii, where my girlfriend lives.

If high school you met current you, what would they think?

Oh goodness, I don’t want to think about high school me. High school me had some good foundations in place, but he sure had a lot to learn. I think he’d say, “hey, cool camera,” and “hey, I didn’t realize you’d already have your dad’s hairline, just three years later.”

Editor’s Note: Some of the above answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.

For other installments in the #GradyGrit series, visit the #GradyGrit page.

#GradyGrit: Meet Alexandra Rios

How did you choose to study Journalism?

I wanted to be a journalist since day one, never wanted to do anything else. People, places and ideas fascinate me. I am curious about the world: how people think, why they think the way they do and meeting people where they are. Journalism has always been important and is even more important today.

What are you passionate about?

I am always excited to see what other people are excited about. I want to tell stories: document people’s lives and tell stories that will illustrate what it is like living in this time.

What skills will you take away from Grady?

Before Grady, I did not know how to shoot on manual. I never had a story published or studied aboard. I learned all the fundamentals in class, but outside of class is when I put all my tools in my toolbox in practice. I shoot, edit and write all on my own, and it’s all because of Grady College.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from a mentor or instructor?

The difference between an ordinary person and an extraordinary person is the extra. Be intentional in everything you do and are.

What is your favorite quote and why?

I would not be the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication if it was not for my parents. My mom always told us, my four siblings and I, “Siempre hagas lo mejor que puedas y dios se encarga de todo lo de mas,” which means, “Always do your best and God will take care of the rest.” She says, it is sad to know that you can do something, but you don’t. Similarly, my dad says, “Hazlo que queries ahacer, pero hazlo,” which means, “Do what you want to do, but do it.” He has told us to never wait until tomorrow to do what you can do today. I always think about the sacrifices my parents have made for my siblings and I to be brought up in the United States. To be able to speak English, attend the best college in the country and live a life I do not deserve, I can never thank them enough.

Who is your professional hero?

Hasan Minhaj—not a journalist, but super close to being one—is my hero. The amount of research he does for the jokes he presents is impressive. Minhaj is a comedian and has won two of our very own Peabody Awards. He is super authentic and funny. The ability he has to get people to listen is the kind of skill student journalist and professionals, I think, strive to receive. The voice he gives for Muslims and minorities is the same voice I want to give to Latinos and minorities. Check out Hasan Minhaj’s remarks at the 2017 White House Correspondent’s Dinnerif you want to see what I am talking about.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

India, without even giving it a second thought. I am in love with the people, culture and, yes, the food! In fact, I have thought about going vegetarian multiple times now. On top of that, most of my diet is now vegetarian or, at least, it’s more plant-based than it has been in the past. I have also participated in religious celebrations, like Holi (Festival of Colors) and Diwali (Festival of Lights). I have even created a video for Holi as a Grady class assignment for Professor Shumway’s advanced video journalism class. I love everything Bollywood: the music and movies. Cricket is not that bad either. I have been learning the language for the past year now, and I am most excited about being able to speak Hindi to native speakers one day.

Editor’s Note: Some of the above answers have been edited for length and/or clarity.

For other installments in the #GradyGrit series, visit the #GradyGrit page.

PR major is an inaugural Chambliss Fellow

Eleanor Traynham, a double major in political science and public relations, is one of three University of Georgia students selected as the first Chambliss Fellows.

The fellowship program is part of the Chambliss Leadership Forum, which honors the commitment of public service that has defined the lives of former Sen. Saxby Chambliss and his wife, Julianne, and provides a platform to share his insights and expertise with the next generation of leaders.

Traynham is spending the Spring semester at UGA’s Delta Hall Washington, D.C.  working in Sen. Johnny Isakson’s office.  She hopes the internship is the start of a career in Washington, D.C.

“It’s my dream to work on the Hill,” she said, “so interning is a pretty essential first step.”

Traynham knows she wants to work in politics and plans to take this opportunity to decide on the exact role she’d like to play and where she sees herself in the future.

“It’s very fast paced, and every day is different. So far I really enjoy working in that environment,” she said. “I have learned to never be afraid to ask questions.”

Read the full story in UGA Columns.