#ProfilesofTenacity: John Atkinson

Why did you choose your major?

I am double majoring in advertising and computer science because of the technical and creative capabilities they both bring to my education. By starting out with advertising as a major and venturing into the New Media Institute with classes like web development, I reignited my passion for computer science and now actively pursue it in my day-to-day through my organization, UGAHacks.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

Megan Ward can truly teach a class, and her New Media Industries class holistically converged all of my education into one semester. While learning from industry professionals about various career paths, I was able to hone my personal skills by creating business cards, identifying key milestones for my credit, and solidifying my interviewing skills. This was my most memorable Grady experience.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

Favorite professors are always a hard topic for me because Grady has such a high quality of professional staff simply teaching the students, not to mention the wonderful advisors and facilities staff. While it changes each semester, I would say my current graphic communication professor, Sabrena Deal. Each day in her class is a learning experience where I can challenge my standards and produce new creative pieces for my assignments. From my interactions with her in class to my interactions with her while helping run AdPR Connection and the Grady career fair, I would say all of them were meaningful and positive. I can’t wait to see how I will continue to apply the knowledge I have learned from her.

What motivates you?
Atkinson points to a poster board with colorful post-it notes
Atkinson is a counselor for Dawg Camp Innovate. (Photo/submitted)

I would say I follow many conventional norms of a college student: I stay up late studying for my exams, I avoid 8 a.m. classes as much as I can, and I try as many things as I can. What I would say motivates me to go beyond other conventions would be general curiosity and interest in learning. Now, while it requires a little bit more planning, I still enjoy involving myself and trying as hard as I can because I am simply curious as to how much I can achieve.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

I would say my largest accomplishment in the last year would be helping plan, organize, promote, and run UGAHacks’ first sustainability themed ‘Makeathon.’ With four university partners, two corporate sponsors, and 250 ‘Makers’ in attendance, it was an overwhelming success! I am now looking towards planning our main event, UGAHacks 8, which will take place February 3-5.

a group of Grady ADPR students pose on stairs
Atkinson (pictured in front row, left) participated in the Grady New York study away program this past May. (Photo/submitted)
What do you plan to do after graduation?

As I now look for remote summer internships based in California or New York in software engineering, I continue to update my 1-3-5 year plan. After graduation, if I don’t move immediately after the ceremony to start working in a different city, I will celebrate. I can only speak for myself, but I believe most individuals who come through UGA couldn’t do so without tremendous support from friends or family. I want to celebrate this occasion as not only my own, but all the people who came with me along the journey.

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

To tie it all together, I would say I actively used the skills I learned in Megan Ward’s New Media Industries class using my study away trip to New York this past summer. A larger reason why I appreciated that class is because I had immediate replications of the skills I learned, such as using business cards and interview prep, while interacting with C-Suite level individuals and UGA alumni who worked in advertising/marketing/PR in companies like Google, Wieden+Kennedy, and Klick Health. The casual atmosphere that I had with those people was made possible through my interactions and course work done in that class. If I had the chance again, I would take it all over again (By the way, I am! It’s an open seminar session, so I look forward to what next semester has to offer).

NMI students build brand to support local Georgia seafood

Eating your way through local seafood cuisine along the Georgia coast may sound like a dream come true, but for a group of Grady College students, it was another day working on a class project.

The five students are in this semester’s New Media capstone class, which challenges students to build new media solutions that address specific client problems, explore and implement emerging technologies, or both. Cierra Cordak, Hunter Lanius, Sam Perez, Tallie Pietragallo and Carson Reynolds are creating a brand to promote local seafood within the state.

The Georgia Seafood On My Mind Team traveled to the coast with professor John Weatherford. (Photo: Sam Perez)

Georgia Seafood On My Mind is for proprietors of unique coastal seafood restaurants to promote culinary adventures in Georgia. The idea developed from the What’s the Hook? seafood pitch competition led by UGA’s Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant. The competition was designed to generate innovative ideas that support Georgia’s working waterfronts and seafood products. New Media Institute Professor John Weatherford and Terry College’s Director of Entrepreneurship Bob Pinckney‘s concept won.

Along with the Weatherford and the NMI’s Chris Gerlach, the team traveled to six coastal counties to curate content that will be distributed across the brand’s social media platforms. The pictures and videos will also be shared with the local restaurant owners featured for their own marketing and promotional use.

“There’s a sense that we’re not just highlighting Georgia businesses, but Georgia people and communities,” fourth year marketing major Hunter Lanius said. “It’s a lot more sentimental than what you might expect from a food and travel-promoting brand.”

The group took over 1,700 photos and 600 videos over the course of three days including pictures of the food, restaurant interiors and exteriors, drone shots and interview segments.

Leading up to the trip, the team spent time developing a brand. They created social media accounts, designed a logo, strategized about branding guidelines, conducted user research and began connecting with local seafood restaurants in the coastal region.

Applying classroom lessons beyond NMI

Tallie Pietragallo serves as her group’s Client Relations lead. (Photo: John Weatherford)

Fourth year advertising major Tallie Pietragallo utilized skills she has learned in other classes and throughout internships to develop relationships with clients before the group embarked on the trip. For her, the client-racing role was “a really rewarding and exciting experience.”

“I kept in touch with the owners of six local restaurants across the coast of Georgia and learned more about their stories and the connection they have to the local community,” Pietragallo said. “Being in Grady helped make the connection from the owners stories to their restaurant and brand and lead to brand storytelling though our social accounts.”

Third year advertising major Cierra Cordak is the Project Lead and is heading up the team’s website development.

“Getting to take what I’ve learned in a classroom and use it to create something that looks like websites I actually visit, and not just another project, that will be live online for people to discover and use has been so exciting,” she said. “It has definitely developed my skills in that area beyond what they were before working on Georgia Seafood On My Mind.”

The team started in Camden County at Captain Seagle’s Restaurant and Saloon. They toured the attached hotel Riverview Hotel, which was built in 1916. Seagle’s is the oldest continually operating restaurant and bar in St. Mary’s, and the team got a chance to sit down with server Neal Schroeder to learn about the restaurant’s recipe for success.

“It’s hard to beat when you get the food right off the boat,” he said. “You’re not getting some of that store-bought seafood from the freezer or that was prepared a long time ago.”

While they had developed a course of action ahead of time, the students got to learn on the spot and strategize how best to capture the content. Multiple members of the team took turns capturing pictures of the seafood while fourth year journalism major Carson Reynolds focused on videography.

The team captured both photos and videos to promote local Georgia seafood. (Photo: Sam Perez)

“It was super cool to work on this project from a video planning viewpoint, especially with the budget and the gear we were able to use. We had professional level gear like lights, reflectors, and microphones, which made shooting feel very easy while also being impressive and professional for the person being interviewed,” Reynolds said. “The multiple camera and sound setup was great to use and made editing really easy. Overall, from the video and editing side of things, this was one of the most planned-out and professionally shot projects I’ve ever worked on and taught me a lot about working with different equipment and editing from different sources.”

Next, the group headed to St. Simons Island where they visited Georgia Sea Grill.

On day two of their adventure, the students drove to The Fish Dock in Townsend, Georgia.

Sunbury Crab Company catches crabs fresh from the water outside the restaurant each day. (Photo: John Weatherford)

Next up on the itinerary was Sunbury Crab Company in Liberty County. The team tried their hand at cracking open blue steamed crabs and heard from co-owner Elaine Maley who touted the freshness of the restaurant’s all-natural ingredients.

“We get the shrimp, they’re local, and they’re never been dipped, so they don’t have chemicals on them,” she said. “A lot of people that say they usually couldn’t eat shrimp can eat ours. We gather our own oysters and we have have our own crab lines.”

For the final leg on their second day, the team drove to Fish Tales at Fort McAllister Marina in Bryan County.

Collin Russell started as general manager at the restaurant just a few months ago. In his time there, he’s seen how the local community rallies around Fish Tales. In fact, he says he sees most of the guests “anywhere from four to seven times a week.” What keeps them coming back? According to Russell, it’s all about the seafood caught just a few feet away.

“I mean, it’s just a fresh taste,” he said. “A lot of our customers and stuff will tell you the difference between our seafood and you know, seafood that’s north and south of here, is that the shrimp – you can taste how fresh it is. I mean that is always what people say about here:  how sweet our Georgia shrimp is and that’s what we love bringing it to people.”

Just one of the dishes the team got to try while on their trip. (Photo: Sam Perez)

To conclude their three-day trip, the students stopped in Savannah where they met up with Robyn Quattlebaum, the proprietor of Driftaway Cafe before heading back to Athens.

Preparing for SLAM

Now, the team is combing through the content, editing pictures and videos, communicating with the restaurant owners to deliver the material and fine-tuning the brand’s social media. All of this preparation comes ahead of SLAM, an end-of-semester showcase that celebrates student projects and certificate recipients. On May 7, industry guests and NMI alumni from near and far will attend the day of showcasing, networking, reminiscing and interviewing job-seeking certificate students.

Editor’s Note: This feature was written by Sam Perez, a 2022 Yarbrough Fellow in the Grady College Department of Communication and member of the Georgia Seafood On My Mind team.