#GradyGrit: Meet Polo Vargas

Editor’s Note: #GradyGrit is a new series of profiles of Grady College students who show determination, leadership and outreach to the community. Search “#GradyGrit” on the Grady College website for additional profiles.

Describe Grady College in three words.

Eccentric, dedicated, talented.


What is a highlight from your time in Grady so far?

My highlight from my time at Grady thus far has been getting to know professors who have such vast knowledge in their professions.


What is your dream job with your Grady degree?

My dream job is to become a political reporter for broadcast news.


Why is journalism important to you?

Journalism is important for me because I believe it is a public service to citizens that allows them to make informed decisions.


What do you like to write/report about?   

I like to write about political related news, whether its local, state, national, or international news.


What have you learned writing for the Georgia Political Review?

While writing for the Georgia Political Review, I have learned a large amount about the way other countries’ governments systems differ from the United States government. This is especially true in certain topics such as immigration and health care.


What made you decide to participate and take on a leadership role in the Hispanic Student Association?

I felt a desire to take on a leadership role in the Hispanic Student Association because I wanted to serve the organization that helped me make some of my closest friends.


Who is your favorite/most inspiring journalist?

My favorite journalist is Jorge Ramos from Univision because he has been a trustworthy source for the Hispanic community in the United States for a few decades now.


Special talent/hobby?

My hobbies are reading about soccer and political news in my spare time.


What is your rapper name? 

My rapper name is El Conejo de la Calle (Spanish for “The Rabbit of the Street”).


Cat Hendrick chosen for 2019 TEDxUGA: Amplify

Tickets to TEDxUGA 2019: Amplify, can be purchased at the Classic Center Box Office between now and showtime on March 22. Tickets are $20.

For junior journalism major, Cat Hendrick, choosing a condition called “imposter syndrome” as a topic for the TEDxUGA 2019: Amplify event made sense.

This subject is not random for Hendrick. Two years ago, she suffered from imposter syndrome after receiving an opportunity to report at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

As part of the New Media Institute’s TEDx class, students are required to nominate peers for TEDxUGA. Upon nomination, Hendrick deliberated talking about her many passions in life, such as sports and mental health, before settling on imposter syndrome.

“The more I thought about it, the more I realized it was the idea that scared me the most that was what I needed to do,” Hendrick said.

Cat Hendrick says she prepares for TEDxUGA by practicing in the mirror until she has a speech memorized. (Photo: New Media Institute)

As a 19-year-old freshman whose only experience was journalism homework, Hendrick received an email congratulating her for being a semifinalist. This exciting news eventually led to feelings of uncertainty as Hendrick discovered the other candidates were mostly juniors and seniors with experience such as writing for the Red & Black. After months of interviews, she was selected for the job.

“It suddenly occurred to me that after I got the job, I would have to do the job,” Hendrick said. “I was sure they had made a mistake in choosing me.”

Over the following months, gratitude for the opportunity shifted to feelings of crippling concern for not being qualified for the job. Hendrick stopped leaving her house, sleeping and would completely avoid talking about the Olympics.

“I convinced myself I would be a disappointment to everyone,” Hendrick said.

After missing a deadline for a short article that felt impossible to write (she describes it as the SpongeBob episode where he spends all night writing one letter), Hendrick sought out help from therapists. She was told she could be suffering from anxiety or depression, but something about her paranoia felt different.

Finally, Vicki Michaelis, director of Grady Sports, responded to one of Hendrick’s journal entries within the capstone class. Michaelis recommended researching imposter syndrome as a possibility for what Hendrick was feeling.

Hendrick hopes using her experience combating imposter syndrome for a TEDxUGA presentation will impact her audience and spread awareness of the phenomenon.

TEDxUGA 2019: Amplify will give her more time on the subject than the Student Showcase where she first presented, and she says she will work on delivery and relatable content for a broader audience.

“I [think back] to the moment of relief I had when I realized what it was and how grateful I was for the person who introduced me to imposter syndrome,” Hendrick said. “I figured if I could be that for somebody else, it will be worth the fear of being that vulnerable in front of the whole world.”


TEDxUGA 2019: Amplify will be March 22 at the Classic Center. Tickets are available at tedxuga.com.

#GradyGrit: Meet Taylor Lee

Editor’s Note: #GradyGrit is a new series of profiles of Grady College students who show determination, leadership and outreach to the community. Search “#GradyGrit” on the Grady College website for additional profiles.

How did you choose your Grady major?

I actually began my career at UGA as a dance major, following in the footsteps of one of my high school dance instructors and my role model. I quickly realized that something was missing, so my second semester I took Intro to Advertising with Dr. Nate Evans since Advertising was my “fallback” option if I wasn’t accepted into the dance program. I fell in love with the class and profession and saw a future in a career doing something that I love. Three years later, I still feel just as excited about my major as I did the first day of my intro class!

What is one example of using your Grady skills in a real-world experience?

My junior year, I had the opportunity to manage the social media accounts for the UGA Dance Dawgs. My courses in Grady really helped me understand the most effective way to communicate with our audience and produce meaningful content for our followers. I also had the opportunity to study abroad and attend the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity, where I was one of two social media interns! My experiences as a Grady student helped me to network and communicate effectively with executives while I was overseas.

What is the most rewarding part about being a Grady student?

The most rewarding part of being a Grady student is the community that is established solely from being a part of the college. Grady is a family and I have been blessed to work with people who push me to be the best version of myself professionally and personally.

Describe Grady College in three words.

Innovative, challenging, colorful.

Which Grady class has been your favorite?

My favorite Grady class was my Advertising Message Strategy class with Mrs. Sabrena Deal. Though I’ve absolutely loved every class I’ve taken in Grady, this stands out in my mind as what shaped my love for my major. My group presented many ideas to Mrs. Deal for our final project, and she pushed us until we found the best possible solution for our company. Working with professors who are so passionate about what they do, makes learning from them so rewarding. In class, she once told us, “In order to survive in this industry, you HAVE to be excited about ideas other than your own.” That will stick with me forever, so thank you, Mrs. Deal!

How has Grady shaped your college experience?

Being in Grady has allowed me to think freely and not be afraid to take risks! Because of my college, I have become more of a “yes” person and that has changed my life drastically. I’ve also met lifelong friends through Grady, and every class I go into is with friends, not just classmates.

Taylor was one of two social media interns during the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity program.

What was the highlight from your experience in the Cannes Lions program?

I’d say my favorite memory was getting the opportunity to write for PRWeek with my good friend Birdie, then finding out that we were published at the final night party of the festival! Having the chance to study abroad gave me the trip of my dreams, connections to push me forward in the working world and friendships that will last a lifetime.

As a senior captain for UGA Dance Dawgs, what will you miss the most about your team after graduation?

I will definitely miss the companionship. The Dance Dawgs have been my family since my very first day on UGA’s campus. I am going to miss dancing, singing, laughing, eating and doing pretty much everything else with these girls. They remind me every day that I will always have a home in Athens. 

What is something you’re passionate about?

I’ve been passionate about dance for most of my life, so I’d have to say something new that I am passionate about is being present. My life is always in fast-forward with my full schedules and making time to go home to see my family, so in my last year at UGA, I made a promise to myself that I would take in moments as they come instead of looking forward to the next thing on my agenda. 

Best song on the radio right now?

There are a lot of great songs on the radio, but John Mayer is releasing a new song on February 22nd so that’s all I can really think about right now.

One thing about yourself people don’t know?

Most people don’t know that despite having pretty good balance, I absolutely could not ride a bike until my freshman year of college. It’s one of my favorite things to do now!

#GradyGrit: Meet Taylor Gerlach

Editor’s Note: #GradyGrit is a new series of profiles of Grady College students who show determination, leadership and outreach to the community. Search “#GradyGrit” on the Grady College website for additional profiles.

What is the best part about being a Grady student? 

I love being a part of a student body that is passionate about what they do. I’ve also really enjoyed gaining real, hands-on experience at Grady. While other programs are more theoretical or based on building a foundation of background knowledge, I love working with the equipment I’m going to be using in my real career and jumping right in. 

How did you decide to be a journalism major? 

I’ve always loved writing and being creative through photography and videography, but I saw them in two different spheres throughout high school with English and art classes separate. I love being able to combine all of those passions into one cohesive career! I’m also majoring in Social Work, and I hope to pair the two by using digital storytelling for social justice. Combining the two fields has given me even more tools to responsibly share stories with empathy. 

How has Grady impacted your college experience? 

Grady has introduced me to professors who teach and mentor with a contagious passion. Even required courses that I was dreading taking have turned into my favorite classes because of the knowledgable and compassionate people who teach them.

What is an example of a time you used Grady skills, such as at an internship/job? 

I’m applying for two internships this summer where I’ll use Grady skills every day. One is with Silent Images where I can assist a storytelling team in producing photography and videography with a social impact focus. The second internship is with Seacrest Studios in the Levine Children’s Hospital, where I can produce a daily radio show for children in the hospital with special celebrity guests, games with patients, etc.

What sets Grady students apart on campus? 

Grady students are the weird kids that come up to you and ask you for a photo for the photojournalism class (haha). I see Grady students that are firmly planted in the real world. They’re students who know that they are more than just students. They know that their career has a profound impact on the world and they don’t take that lightly.  

What do you love to write/report about? 

I love hearing and sharing people’s stories, so profiles are my favorite to write and shoot photos for.

Taylor Gerlach mentors children for the Whatever It Takes organization, a student-run program working to improve academic and healthy lifestyles.

What drives your motivation for community service?

When I moved to Athens in August 2018, I was determined to do just that: move here. I didn’t want to spend four years as a tourist. I wanted to connect with the community around me outside the perceived walls of campus. Maybe it’s the “social work major” in me, but I live to interact with others and understand their unique world and experience. I’ve always enjoyed exploring my community through service, and I love having the time and freedom to take that in so many different directions at UGA.

What do you think it means to show “Grady Grit”? 

To me, showing Grady Grit means using what we’re learning in a professional manner to impact our community. It means taking the skills and knowledge we learn in the classroom beyond those walls and beyond the borders of campus. 

How did you get started in CrossFit, what makes you enjoy it? 

I swam competitively in high school and our team did CrossFit as “land training.” When I stopped swimming, I still wanted to be active and be in a competitive, team atmosphere, so I went back to CrossFit. I love that it’s a new challenge every day, and it’s so conducive to building strong communities. 

What is one thing you’re really looking forward to? 

Interning this summer! I’m excited to use the skills I’ve been learning and build upon them outside of Athens!

#GradyGrit: Meet Akyra Kelley

Editor’s Note: #GradyGrit is a new series of profiles of Grady College students who show determination, leadership and outreach to the community. Search “#GradyGrit” on the Grady College website for additional profiles.

What made you choose advertising?

I initially did not want to be an advertising major; I preferred public relations, but when I applied to Grady I was accepted as an advertising major. Once I finished my first two major classes, I was in love with advertising.

What will you miss the most about Grady after graduation?

I will most definitely miss the faculty here. Grady instructors support you throughout all of your endeavors. I’ve made so many connections with professors and instructors who have changed my perceptions on life overall. I am truly grateful for all the lessons they have taught me and the encouragement I have received.

Most impactful Grady class/teacher and why?

This is such a hard choice because most of my professors have impacted my life, but if I HAD to pick one, I would pick Dr. Karen King. I had her for Media Strategy and Activation my first semester in Grady and ever since she has sent my numerous opportunities for me to develop my skills outside of our classwork. Every once in a while, she would forward me a professional development program geared specifically towards minorities. She has so many connections in the industry and she does everything she can to use those connections to help her students.

How do you feel diversity is represented within Grady?

I feel like diversity in Grady has grown just since my freshman year, specifically among the African American community. I think having cool alumni, like Monica Kaufman Pearson and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, helps our community see how much potential we have in the media world.

What is it like to be a PHD media student?

Being a PHD student has been such an experience. We have been conducting a series of in-depth interviews and panel discussions to understand millennials’ perceptions on three media topics: entertainment, the value of ads and privacy/security. Participating in research here, one of the best research institutions, has given me personal fulfillment. It has definitely been challenging, but I am excited to see our results.

Akyra Kelley and Maria Stagliano served as Co-Directors together for AdPR Connection.

As a Co-Director for this 2018’s AdPR Connection, what were you hoping to achieve with the event, did you meet your goals?

As the Co-director for AdPR Connection, I felt the need to re-brand the event to make it more appealing to students. We hoped to increase student attendance to all portions of the event (the panels, luncheon, mixer and career fair). We also wanted students to believe that they could benefit from attending AdPR Connection, no matter if they were underclassmen. We had over 500 students pre-register for the event, surpassing the pre-registration numbers from previous years. The students truly enjoyed themselves and learned a lot from the panel discussions. Even the professionals were more pleased with this year’s event and they were impressed with the students themselves. If I could do this process all over again, I would do so in a heartbeat.

Who/what inspires you?

I am inspired by my parents. Growing up my parents made sure I had nothing to worry about outside of my school work. My life has been easy because my parents have always worked so hard. I could never fully repay them for all that they have done but I can make sure I am taking advantage of my opportunities to be successful. Ultimately, my goal in life is to make them proud.

Favorite Super Bowl commercial? 

I loved the commercial for “The Twilight Zone”! Jordan Peele is an amazing writer and knows how to captivate his audience. I loved “Get Out” and I can’t wait to see what he does with “The Twilight Zone” and his upcoming movie, “Us”.

What was the last interesting book or article you read, and why did you like it?

The most recent book I read was my forever first lady’s memoir, “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. I’ve always loved her passion and desire for making young black women believe in themselves. Her book is so inspiring to me.

Favorite social networking app?

My favorite social networking app is Instagram. I can sit on the explore page and look at content there for hours on end.

Fiorante, Miller selected as Yarbrough-Grady Fellows

Grady College has named two Yarbrough-Grady Fellows for the spring 2019 semester: Maddie Fiorante from Portland, Oregon, and Allison Miller from Sandy Springs, Georgia. Fiorante will focus on public relations while Miller focuses on graphic design. 

The fellowship, funded through Grady College alumnus Dick Yarbrough (ABJ ’59), is an experiential work program in which Grady College students work alongside the office of communications to produce content for the college website, social media messages and public relations strategy for the semester. 

Fiorante is a junior working toward her public relations degree and communication studies minor while participating on Georgia’s NCAA Division 1 equestrian team. She served as Tigard High School’s newspaper editor her senior year, Class of 2016, which sparked her love for journalism and PR. She attended the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on a study abroad program last summer, and is a member of Public Relations Student Society of America. 

Currently, Fiorante is searching for summer internships within the public relations industry. 

Miller is a fifth-year honors student at the University of Georgia finishing a bachelor’s degree in art education, a bachelor’s degree in public relations and minor in design and media. She has experience designing for on-campus organizations (Student Government Association, University Union and the Office of International Education), and off campus for Lenz Marketing (Decatur, Georgia) and its clients (Emory University, Georgia Urology, SouthCoast Health, PT Solutions).  

Miller plans to complete her degrees this spring, and is pursuing a career in graphic design and public relations.  

Yarbrough has funded the fellowship since 2010, offering students a chance to get hands-on experience in the journalism and public relations field. 

“I can never repay my alma mater for what it has meant to me,” Yarbrough said. “I am so impressed with the quality of the students there today and hope that perhaps the fellowship will give the recipients a learning opportunity they might not have been able to receive otherwise. The only thing I ask in return is that when they are able that they give back to the next generation that will succeed them.”