Grady Salutes energized by Dean’s Medalist Caroline Edwards and new Athena Studios

It was an evening for recognizing former faculty members who made an impact, envisioning the future of production and film at Athena Studios and saluting bravery in defending the U.S. Capitol, as nearly 170 Grady College alumni, faculty, students and friends celebrated honorees at the 2023 Grady Salutes: A Celebration of Achievement, Leadership and Commitment.

The dinner gala took place April 28 thanks to a special arrangement at the new Athena Studios, a 14,000-square-foot creator space that the College shares with Georgia Film Academy for the purpose of teaching production classes to students in Entertainment and Media Studies and the MFA in Film, Television and Digital Media. The studio space is donated to Grady College for five years by Joel Harber, developer of the studio complex, who was also in attendance.

Perhaps the highlight of the evening the presentation of the Dean’s Medal for Leadership Excellence to Private First Class Officer Caroline Edwards (ABJ ’12). Edwards was the first police officer injured during the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. She testified to the Jan. 6 House Select Committee on June 9, 2022, where millions of television viewers were riveted by her bravery and calm under pressure.

“Her fearlessness, her courage and her devotion to duty embody the best of us,” Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College, said in his introductory remarks.

She accepted her award to a rousing standing ovation.

“Bringing an unthinkable story to life, giving words to those who cannot speak for themselves and telling the truth, despite personal costs, is what Democracy’s Next Generation is all about,” Edwards said, tying together her testimony with the motto above the front door of Grady College. “It is what we are called to do every day as journalism majors, despite what career we end up in.”

  • Maura Friedman at the lectern
    Maura Friedman accepts her John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)
Set against the backdrop of house scene used for class productions, honorees accepted their awards. Those receiving awards included Alumni Award recipients:

Fellowship inductees included:

Gentzler, as the Lifetime Achievement recipient, was also inducted into the Fellowship.

Brian PJ Cronin of The Highlands Current also accepted the McCommons Award for Distinguished Community Journalism, recognizing his work including a multi-story series on food insecurity, titled “Hunger in the Highlands.”

Susan Percy at the lectern as Dean Davis looks on.
Susan Percy shares comments after her Fellowship induction. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)

Each recipient shared brief personal narratives about how their education directed their professional life.

Friedman thanked those who bought a Georgia Lottery ticket and helped fund her education.

“I am very seriously a testament to loan-free, public, quality education and that is a cause and need of support across Georgia,” said Friedman, a senior photo editor at National Geographic.

Many honorees recognized faculty who encouraged them and gave them confidence while they were students. Emeritus professors Bill Lee and David Hazinski, who were in the audience, were mentioned several times, along with Bill Martin.

Hicks, who is a writer, executive producer and showrunner for “The Upshaws” on Netflix, talked about discovering her writing talent while a student at the College. She recalled a conversation with the late Barry Sherman after she turned in a project where she wrote the first 30 minutes of a film.

“’Did you write this?’” Hicks recalled Sherman asking her. “’Because, this is what you should be doing.’ I will forever be grateful for that moment in his office because he led me down this path. The foundation I got from this school has shaped who I am.”

Travis, an investigative reporter at Fox 5, talked about the lasting impact of his education.

“I thank Grady,” Travis said at the end of his acceptance speech. “As all the people who have walked up on this stage tonight can attest, you made our dreams come true. You really are the dream factory.”

Caroline Edwards accepts the Dean’s Medal for Leadership Excellence from Dean Charles Davis

See the UGAGrady Flickr album for the entire set of pictures.


Alumni Award Profile: Maura Friedman

The following is one installment of a series recognizing alumni and friends who will be honored at the 2023 Grady Salutes celebration on April 28, 2023. For more details, please see our posts about our Fellowship honorees, Alumni Award recipients and Dean’s Medalist.

  • Friedman looks through various photos of birds at the National Geographic office.


Congratulations to Maura Friedman (ABJ ‘13), recipient of the John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award.

Friedman is a senior photo editor at National Geographic where she curates and commissions photography on stories across print, digital and social media.

Before starting at National Geographic, Friedman worked at the Urban Institute, the Chattanooga Times Free Press, and as a freelance visual journalist producing stories across the Southeast United States.

Friedman takes a photo in a cemetery.

She has produced work for many well-known organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Whole Foods and YouTube. Friedman has also served on juries and portfolio reviews for organizations such as American Photography 39, Visa Pour L’Image and the International Center of Photography.

Friedman has been recognized with several awards for her work as an editor as well as for her work in the field. Her own visual work has won Tennessee Associated Press awards, a Dart Award and it has been part of a Pulitzer finalist special project.

During her time at UGA, Friedman received her Bachelor’s in Magazine Journalism with an emphasis in photojournalism. She also completed the New Media Certificate. She decided to pursue a career in photojournalism because she truly enjoys it.

“I was trying to figure out what to do when I was graduating and I thought to myself, ‘What has felt like the least amount of work?’ And that was photojournalism,” Friedman said.

The path to photojournalism

Friedman has been interested in photography since she was little. Because of her mom’s background in art history, she grew up going to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. During these visits, she would take pictures of the artwork, and she even remembers saving up her babysitting money to buy her first DSLR camera: a Canon Rebel.

When Friedman arrived at UGA, she knew that she was interested in studying magazine journalism. However, it wasn’t until she immersed herself in organizations like Ampersand Magazine that her passion for photojournalism began to take root.

“I was becoming the managing editor at Ampersand, and I was like, ‘I need to have some context for leading the photo editor and these teams of photographers.’” Friedman said. “So I dove a lot more into [photojournalism] and decided to apply to the emphasis and I ended up loving it.”

Friedman said that her time at Grady College and her involvement in different organizations on campus prepared her well for life after UGA.

Friedman poses with other students in her photojournalism class at UGA.

“The way that we conducted ourselves at The Red & Black and Ampersand, along with the expectations from all of my professors, and especially Mark Johnson, has made such an impact on me,” she said.

After graduation, Friedman decided to pursue a career in photojournalism. With the help of Grady funding, she attended a northern short course workshop through the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). There she met a leader in NPPA who was also a friend of Professor Johnson’s, and she asked him to look over her portfolio.

“He looked at my photos and he was like, ‘Do you really want to do this?’ And I was like, ‘Yes,’” Friedman said. “And he essentially said, ‘Okay, well, you’re not very good, so you should just take a lot more photos and I would suggest that you apply to one of the six month newspaper internships around the country because you’ll get a lot of experience and be taking photos every day.’”

Friedman took his advice to heart and created a spreadsheet of all of the newspaper internships and then applied to every single one. She diligently followed up with each of them and ended up getting a position at the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Friedman said that the Times Free Press had had a great experience with UGA interns before, but that her persistence also probably helped her secure the internship.

“I think they were a little eager to go back to UGA interns and also, I was told later that I was given a phone interview so I would stop calling the newsroom,” she said.

Persistence is key

As she has moved forward in her career, Friedman has noticed that new doors continue to open as a result of seeking out overlaps between her interests and gaps in the interests of others.

“When I was at the Times Free Press, it was a pretty seasoned team of photo journalists and so they weren’t very eager about video,” Friedman said. “So I worked a lot on video and was able to kind of pitch myself into a multimedia reporter position.”

Friedman smiles with her camera during her internship at Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Friedman also took the time to invest in new skills that didn’t necessarily fall directly within the responsibilities of her role at the time. She turned to the larger photojournalism community, attending workshops and getting connected with people in order to continue learning and pursuing her interests.

“I learned about how editors work with stories and curation… and people were always like, ‘Oh, if you need someone to look through an assignment, Maura can do it,’” Friedman said. “The Week also used to have a photo column that I wrote for them for free with the caveat that the editor, when she inevitably rearranged my whole photo edit, would tell me why she did that and kind of walk me through the process.”

All of this learning and searching for overlaps led Friedman to her jobs at the Urban Institute and National Geographic.

“A lot of opportunities or things that ended up helping me stand out or advance just came from looking at issues with curiosity,” Friedman said.

National Geographic

During her time as a senior photo editor, Friedman has been able to build long-lasting relationships with the photographers who she works with. Additionally, National Geographic still has a filing system which does not allow you to delete any images, so the editors look at every single picture taken by the photographers.

Friedman edits the Appian Way story at the National Geographic office.

“When I’m going through someone’s entire take, it feels like I can tell what they’re feeling and what they’re thinking,” Friedman said. “And it makes for really productive conversations.”

She added that advancing the work of these photographers is one of the most rewarding parts of her job as a senior photo editor.

“For me, it’s most rewarding when I talk to photographers and our collaboration has, in some way, advanced their body of work, whether it’s that the assignment that we did has been meaningful and has contributed to the archive that they’re building, or that they were on assignment for someone else and heard me in their head,” Friedman said.

One of her favorite pieces that she has worked on so far is a story on the Appian Way, one of the first and most famous ancient roads. Friedman really enjoyed being able to work with photographer Andrea Frazzetta on this project.

“He and I gelled really well,” Friedman said. “We’re both pretty esoteric thinkers, so a lot of our brainstorming was exchanging heroes’ epics and being like, ‘We want to photograph it like the Italian academic period.’”

Working with Frazzetta was also a full-circle moment for Friedman. She sat in on a meeting with him and another photo editor at the start of her time at National Geographic and she said that he was one of the first photographers to really talk to her and look her in the eye in those meetings.

Friedman poses for a picture with photographer Andrea Frazzetta on the Appian Way.

“Andrea is a great guy and was one of the first people to be really nice to me when I showed up at National Geographic and no one knew me. You definitely get treated differently everywhere you go as a woman,” Friedman said. “It feels great to now be working with him in this professional capacity.”

Advice for Grady students

When asked what she would tell herself at 20 years old, Friedman said that she would tell herself that everything works out and to stop being so hard on herself. She would also tell herself to look at more photography.

“I think I was really focused on productivity and making stories and checking things off versus really exploring documentary photography and all sorts of inspiring spaces and getting to know my taste,” Friedman said.

She added that it took her a long time to develop her own taste in photography and that she sees that same gap in lots of other young photographers.

“I think that’s important, not so that you can have an answer for me when I ask about it, but so that you have your own kind of North Star,” Friedman said.

Some of the photographers that Friedman looks up to are Sally Mann, Larry Sultan, Jonas Bendiksen and Alessandra Sanguinetti.

Friedman also shared some of the best advice that she has ever received, which has helped her in her career.

“There are three important things, and you only have to pick two: you can be really good, you can be really nice, or you can be on time,” Friedman said. “I really think that everyone who has a long career fits into those spaces.”

Something else that Friedman has learned throughout her career is the importance of trusting your own creative vision and of finding people whose work you admire and whose input you value.

“I think it is important to decide whose voices matter to you and who you trust,” Friedman said. “You’re always right in your vision.”

Grady College announces 2023 Alumni Award recipients

Grady College is proud to announce honorees for its annual Alumni Awards, recognizing alumni who have established a tradition of service and achievement in their careers.

Alumni Award recipients will be recognized at the College’s annual recognition event, Grady Salutes: A Celebration of Achievement, Leadership and Commitment, on Friday, April 28, 2023. Inductees into the Grady Fellowship also will be recognized at Grady Salutes.

The 2023 Alumni Award recipients include: 

Maura Friedman (ABJ ‘13), a senior photo editor at National Geographic, will receive the John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award. Friedman previously worked as the lead photo editor and projects photographer at the Urban Institute, a multimedia reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press and an independent visual journalist producing photo and video stories across the Southeast United States. The Young Alumni Award recognizes a graduate of the last decade who has experienced a successful early career.

Yolanda Taylor Brignoni (ABJ ‘98), the vice president of external affairs and communications at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), will receive the Mid-Career Award. Prior to joining EGPAF, she was the head of communications for Axios Media. The Mid-Career Award is presented to a graduate for professional achievements, influence and success.

Doreen Gentzler (ABJ ‘79), who retired in November 2022 after a career spanning four decades, will receive the John Holliman, Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for sustained contributions to the profession throughout a career. Gentzler anchored the news on WRC/NBC4 in Washington, D.C. for 33 years. She spent several years honing her journalism skills in Chattanooga, Charlotte and Cleveland, then Philadelphia, before joining NBC4 in 1989. Doreen also filled in on “The Today Show” and “NBC at Sunrise.” Grady College has recognized its Lifetime Achievement recipient for more than 45 years.

George Daniels (MA ‘99, PhD ‘02), an associate professor and Reese Phifer Fellow of journalism and creative media at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Scholar Award. Daniels previously served as assistant dean for administration in UA’s College of Communication and Information Sciences. The Distinguished Alumni Scholar Award honors a graduate for excellence and sustained contributions to scholarship in journalism and mass communication education. 

More information about the Alumni Awards and a list of past recipients can be viewed on the Alumni Awards webpage.

Register here for the for the Grady Salutes celebration on April 28, 2023. Sponsorship opportunities are also available.