Two students selected as Summer Tieger Fellows in Public Affairs Communications

The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication announced the selection of two new Tieger Fellows for the summer of 2021: Megan Mittelhammer and Jake Strickland. The Tieger Fellowship gives current students pursuing a 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 summer Tieger Fellows are responsible for day-to-day efforts to promote the program through use of media relations and social and digital media. Fellows work under the guidance of Professor Joseph Watson, Jr., program director and Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communications.

The PAC program provides students with practical training in the strategy and practice of public affairs communications focused on public policy and politics.

This summer, Mittelhammer and Strickland are putting their PAC education to good use for the program and in their workplaces. Mittelhammer is charged with spotlighting students and alumni, especially those participating in the GradyDC summer program. Strickland will manage the program’s social and digital media.

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 am delighted to welcome Megan and Jake as our 2021 Tieger Summer Fellows,” said Watson. “This fellowship, made possible by the vision and funding provided by Carolyn Caudell Tieger, allows us to provide exceptional students like Megan and Jake with the opportunity to promote the PAC program and develop skills that will prepare them for their careers. It is increasingly important to provide students with a practical education in public affairs communications and these students recognize this. I am confident that Megan and Jake will do an excellent job of managing the day-to-day activities of the program this summer and I look forward to working with them.”

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, from Atlanta, Georgia, is a rising senior majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. She is interning this summer in communications 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. This past semester, Mittelhammer served as a Yarbrough public relations fellow, which she will continue in the fall.

Jake Strickland, from Dallas, Georgia, is a rising senior majoring in public relations and political science with an Arch-Ready professional certificate. Strickland’s summer will be spent in Washington, D.C. at the University’s Delta Hall where he is participating in the GradyDC program 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.

Grady InternViews: Jake Strickland

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

Briefly describe your internship and responsibilities.

My days usually start with a check-in with my supervisor Curtis, who is actually a UGA alum (B.A. ‘13). This is when I get my assignments for the day. Assignments have included social media drafting (my favorite), content tracking, rapid response, comment monitoring and website building. I also have meetings throughout the day, and Intern Brown Bags where I get to know about different departments in HRC. All in all, my days usually run 9-5.

My internship is remote. Although I wish I was working in HRC headquarters, I am able to do everything from my laptop – including networking! I’ve added several people on LinkedIn and met several others at intern networking events.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

The biggest challenge has been capturing the voice of HRC when I draft social. I’m always elated when my drafts get approved, but it definitely has taken some adjusting. 

Strickland waving his HRC flag in front of the Supreme Court. (Photo: submitted)
What is the most memorable experience you have had during your internship?

The most memorable part of my internship has been the day that the Supreme Court handed down the Foster v. City of Philadelphia decision. This case involved the protection of LGBTQ+ families, and so HRC had a stake in the outcome. I rushed down to the Supreme Court for a rally that HRC was having, which was an incredible experience. I heard several people speak and proudly waved my HRC flag in front of the Supreme Court.

What is your advice for other students looking to take on a similar role? 

Match the company culture. Being an intern can be nerve racking, but don’t be a robot – be someone co-workers want to converse with, because this will only increase the chance of you networking and landing a job! 

What lessons will you take back with you to Athens in the fall?
Although his internship is remote, Strickland is working from Delta Hall in Washington, D.C. as part of GradyDC. (Photo: submitted)

The biggest skill that I will take to Athens is time management. HRC works at a very fast pace, and I’m appreciative for the opportunity to get my work out at a rapid pace. I am also increasingly confident in my LGBTQ+ identity, and feel more confident advocating for my community in the future.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Jake Strickland

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

I came to UGA as a political science major. And I love politics, but I just felt like there was something missing in my coursework. Did I want to add journalism or international affairs? And then – lo and behold – Twitter of all places had a major impact on my decision. One of my friends got into the public relations program here at Grady and tweeted about it. I got to researching what exactly PR was and quickly came to realization that this is what I had been wanting to learn. I now understand that my true passion is for political communications, and Grady has helped me explore this passion, especially with its Public Affairs Communications certificate headed by Professor Watson.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

That I’m not from Texas – when I say I’m from Dallas, I have to immediately follow it up with Georgia!

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

My proudest moment of the year was balancing an internship and part-time job over the summer. I was pretty much working seven days a week, and while it was exhausting, I was grateful to learn more about the public relations industry while making money to support myself at college.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

My most memorable Grady experience has been taking Professor Watson’s Civil Rights class. Analyzing the civil rights movement from a public relations perspective has made me more aware of just how much patience and determination is required to stir change. 

What is your favorite app or social media channel?

Twitter! I get a lot of my news from Twitter, and a lot of my laughs as well.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about LGBTQ+ equality, particularly in education. Growing up, my favorite subject was almost always history. This can be explained by my love of storytelling, but I eventually realized there was one story that was always altogether ignored: the important contributions that LGBTQ+ people have made in shaping this world. And it’s a shame because we have pretty remarkable stories to tell: Stonewall, Harvey Milk and Marsha P. Johnson, just to name a few. I hope that future generations will be taught this remarkable history, because it’ll make queer youth feel more involved in their curriculum. It’ll make them feel that yes, they can contribute in meaningful ways too.

Who is your professional hero?

I love The Devil Wears Prada, and so I’d say my professional hero is Miranda Priestly. This was difficult for me because I relate more to Andy, but Miranda is so aspirational — she has it all together while managing an international conglomerate. She doesn’t let her emotions get in the way, and she’s not afraid to ask for what she wants. A true icon.

What is an example of a time you used your studies and skills in a real-world experience?

I used a lot of my skills at The Partnership of Atlanta, Inc. where I served as a public relations intern during summer 2020. I wrote several press releases, blogs and social posts, and even pitched stories to journalists from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Partnership is Atlanta’s fastest growing digital communications agency, and so I was thankful for so many people there taking me under their wings and showing me the ropes of PR.

 What are you planning on doing after graduating? What is your dream job?

I plan on getting my bachelor’s in May 2022, and then I’ll stick around Athens one more year to get my master’s in public relations. I’m in the Double Dawgs program, and so I’m excited to see where this dual degree will be able to take me. 

In the short term, I would like to work in Washington, D.C. as a congressional staffer or in some other communications capacity. In the long term though, I want my career to be that of a change maker. As an openly gay man living in the South, my existence would not be possible without the change makers that came before me, and I want to be a change maker for the generations to come.

What has been the hardest part about adjusting to COVID-19 in your life as a student and future professional?

Networking, for sure. There’s just not as many opportunities to network, and it’s especially difficult over Zoom. I also miss networking with fellow Grady students who share similar passions and career interests as me. One thing I will say though is that the pandemic has made me much more confident in reaching out to people. How else are you supposed to connect if you don’t reach out?

Where is your favorite place on campus?

The Founder’s Garden. There’s something so regal about it, and it’s great for photoshoots.