Three students selected as Tieger Fellows will promote the Public Affairs Communications program at UGA

The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication announced the selection of three Tieger Fellows for the fall of 2020: Sarah Geary, Melissa Hevener and Hannah Payne.

The Tieger Fellowship supports the college’s first-in-the-nation Public Affairs Communications (PAC) program by enabling students to apply campaign skills learned in the classroom towards promoting the program.

Tieger Fellows manage the PAC program’s media relations, social and digital media and event promotion. Fellows work under the guidance of Joseph Watson, Jr., program director and Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communications.

The Tieger Fellowship is funded by Carolyn Caudell Tieger (ABJ ’69) who has over 40 years of experience working in political and public affairs communications. The alumna also funds the Tieger Professorship currently held by Watson, who also has extensive experience in the field.

“We are delighted to announce the selection of Sarah, Melissa and Hannah as our newest Tieger Fellows,” Watson said. “This fellowship, made possible by the vision and funding of Carolyn Caudell Tieger, is even more critical today than it was at its inception. These students will bring a fresh approach to the promotion of our program at a time when it is greatly needed. I look forward to working with these remarkable students to serve the PAC program.”

“While the PAC program was just a vision a little more than two years ago, it has become a highly competitive offering by Grady, thanks to the exceptional leadership of Professor Watson… and I could not be prouder of how far we have come.” Tieger noted.  “The Tieger Fellows have an opportunity to help the College spread the word even further about this unique and exciting program for students who are interested in a career in politics and public affairs.”

Geary, Hevener and Payne are all working towards the PAC professional certificate and have supplemented their education with numerous internships and leadership positions.

Sarah Geary, from Smyrna, Georgia, is a senior majoring in public relations with a minor in political science. Along with her role of Tieger Fellow, Geary worked as the communications intern for the Institute for Energy Research this past summer. She intends on pursuing a career in public affairs communications after graduation. Geary serves as the media relations fellow. 

Melissa Hevener, from Biñan City, Philippines, is a senior studying public relations and political science. Last year, Hevener served as the student body vice president for UGA’s Student Government Association. She spent this past summer working as a creative marketing intern at Mitchell McClure, LLC, in Atlanta, Georgia. After graduation, Hevener hopes to pursue a career in public relations or political communications. Hevener serves as the program promotion fellow.

Hannah Payne, from Rome, Georgia, is a senior majoring in public relations with a minor in political science. This past summer, Payne worked as a marketing coordinator for Abbson, a New York-based digital marketing firm, and as a press intern for U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler. After graduation, Hannah plans on pursuing a master’s degree while continuing her work in political communications. Payne serves as the social and digital media fellow.

All three look forward to using their skills to promote the PAC program.

#GradyGrit: Meet Melissa Hevener

Why did you choose public relations as a major?

I got involved on an SGA campaign my first year, and I didn’t anticipate to work on the communications committee, however, I found myself drifting towards that area. In a few short weeks, I played a role in ironing out our communications strategy and recognized during this process that this was the type of work I wanted to pursue long-term. Some wonderful mentors guided me in the right direction to major in public relations and political science so I could continue working in the public affairs communications sphere and specifically, messaging for political campaigns.

Who has been your favorite instructor? Class?

I will forever and always love Cacciatore’s intro to PR class. I just got such a good taste for PR through his class and his fun jokes! I also really love a class I am currently in: Intro to Public Affairs Communication with Professor Watson.

What is the hardest part about being a Grady student?

As cliché as it may seem, sometimes the hardest part is being able to grasp the depth of resources and opportunities available to you through Grady. One thing I personally struggle with is knowing that there are a plethora of Grady organizations and pre-professional opportunities that I could not possibly take advantage of in two short years.

What is the last show you binge-watched and would you recommend it?

I recently have been binge-watching Netflix’s The Politician – yes! It has been such a fun rollercoaster of a show, and I’d recommend it to anyone, especially anyone that has had some experience in student government and can appreciate its quirks.

Summer highlight?

Orientation, for sure! Between meeting thousands of students new to the university, hearing their stories and lived experiences or spending time with my Orientation team, there wasn’t one thing that was the greatest highlight of my summer. A treasured memory I will always have is the dancing we’d do right before Orientation Live every Day 1 of a First-Year Session. Being up there dancing with my team and encouraging first years to break out of their shell and let loose a little bit is always such a special experience.

What do you do when you’re homesick?

Whenever I am homesick, I will always try to seek out some good Filipino food. I always find eating food that tastes like home makes me feel a little better and closer to the Philippines.

What is your favorite creative outlet?

My favorite creative outlet is tinkering around with Adobe Photoshop. As nerdy as that seems, I really enjoyed learning Photoshop for one of my Grady classes. After the class, I decided to keep the program and I have really found making creative work digitally to be so therapeutic.

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.