#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).

Stepping Stones UGA app traces history-making paths of UGA desegregation

Following the steps that Charlayne Hunter-Gault (ABJ ’63) and Hamilton Holmes took leading to the UGA Admissions Building…the terrifying night of riots at Myers Hall…and the refuge of the Killian House, are just a few of the scenes brought to reality through a new augmented reality iPhone app developed by a team of New Media Institute (NMI) students.

Stepping Stones UGA provides a tour of a few of the most significant scenes on campus and in Athens when Hunter-Gault and Holmes desegregated the university by enrolling as students in 1961. The app provides AR recreations of the way campus buildings and other Athens-area scenes looked in the early 1960s, along with maps of key sites and news clips of Hunter-Gault and Holmes stepping onto campus for the first time. The app can be used with geo-location while users interact with the app as they walk those same areas on campus, or it can be used remotely to understand UGA history.

Click above to view the Stepping Stones UGA app in action at The Arch.

The app was the vision of the Black Faculty and Staff Organization (BFSO) of UGA, which helped direct and partially fund the project. When Charles Davis, dean of Grady College heard about the project, he contributed some funds and introduced the organization to John Weatherford, NMI faculty and director of the NMI’s undergraduate capstone program.

“Because campus has changed and buildings have been renamed, we wanted to have a walking tour for historical purposes for the community,” said Susan Williams, current BFSO secretary and interim assistant dean for Diversity Equity and Inclusion at the Poultry Diagnostic and Research Center. “That way when folks come to campus, that would be an option to learn more about UGA.”

Weatherford knew this vision would be a great capstone project, especially since a similar app had been developed in prior years, but the technology advances had advanced so quickly that an even richer experience would now be possible.

The group started working with Maurice Daniels, dean emeritus at the School of Social Work, and co-founder and director of The Foot Soldier Project for Civil Rights Studies. Daniels helped research key stops to be included in the app like the UGA Arch, where Holmes and Hunter-Gault arrived on campus; what is now the Holmes-Hunter Building where they registered for classes; the Killian House where Holmes lived during his studies; Myers Hall, where Hunter-Gault lived; and the Athens Courthouse, where the lawsuit was filed approving Holmes and Hunter-Gault as students.

“Projects like this are very much at the heart of what NMI is all about,” Weatherford said. “We focus on applied real-world experiences that allow students to engage with and be more informed about the world around them. We always aim for experiential opportunities, but when we are able to add the additional layer of learning more about our institution, that elevates the students’ learning opportunity to a different level.”

Although the Stepping Stones UGA app is not part of his capstone project, a graduate student in the NMI’s Emerging Media masters program, Ryan Fernandez, stepped forward to help. Fernandez is co-founder of Alpha Design Studio, an Athens-based firm specializing in architectural 3D renderings, animation and virtual reality. He was able to study old pictures that were available, take measurements and create the scale replicas of the landmarks as accurately as possible.

In the case of the Killian House, a private residence that was torn down years ago, Fernandez only had two partial pictures of the house and had to create approximate renderings based on nearby homes of a similar architectural style.

“Recreating buildings with minimal information are things I do all the time,” Fernandez said. “The photos don’t show the detail very well, and without plans, recreating what I thought was going on is about the only way to do it.”

Chelsey Perry (AB ‘21) was one of the students who worked on the project. Perry had been on the team that produced a documentary by Grady College commemorating the 60th anniversary of Desegregation.

“As a black student at UGA it felt nice to know that the University was devoting resources to creating an app like this,” said Perry. “I had previously interviewed Charlayne Hunter-Gault as well as other notable Black UGA graduates for UGA’s 60th anniversary of Desegregation documentary, so it was wonderful synchronicity to be working on this project at the same time.”

In addition to Perry, other NMI students involved with the project included Meghan Dougherty, Alex English, Bristol King and Frank Wu.

The Stepping Stones UGA app is available for iPhone users and can be downloaded from the App Store.

Williams concluded by saying she believes there are a lot of people who work on campus, let alone visitors to campus, who don’t know details about this pivotal time in the university’s history.

“Maybe the app will show them that where they walk every day on campus has historical significance,” Williams said.

Grady InternViews: Erin Riney

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

Briefly describe your internship and your responsibilities.

As a project management intern, I am working on the Regions Bank and Blue Cross Blue Shield accounts this summer. I will be working under two senior project managers. In this role, I will be creating timelines, estimating budgets, and scoping the necessary resources for all our projects.

How will this role guide your future career path?

I knew that I wanted to pursue project management at the end of my undergraduate career. I have prior experience creating timelines and managing a team, but I have never done anything regarding budgets or resource management. I am excited to learn more about these so I have a complete skillset as a project manager. These next two months will also help me decide whether I want to work at a bigger agency (like Luckie) or a smaller one after I graduate with my master’s degree.

What has been the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far?

Be flexible! Agency life is fun, but it is also extremely fast-paced and challenging at times. Sometimes proofing takes a little longer than expected, or a design is finished earlier than the date listed on the timeline. Regardless, be flexible and work together to submit the deliverable to your client when promised.

What has been your favorite part about your internship so far?

My favorite part of the internship has been the people. Everyone that I have met at Luckie so far is incredibly talented, but they are also extremely welcoming and willing to help in whatever way that they can, even if they do not work in your specific department. I have also enjoyed working with some of the bigger clients that Luckie has.

Erin works in an office in Duluth, GA. (Photo:submitted)
If you could describe your internship in only three words, what would they be?

Challenging, hands-on, rewarding.

What advice would you give to students looking to pursue similar opportunities?

For those who want to pursue a career in advertising, I would suggest working in an agency at least once. Even if you decide that you want to work on the client side, agency life challenges you and causes you to grow extremely quickly. It is also beneficial to know both sides of the industry.

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.

Jen Galas uses her UGA Athletics social media skills to teach in New Media Institute

For more than a decade, Jen Galas’ (MA ‘12) work has been the bridge between college athletes and their fans. She specializes in capturing the current moment in a way on social media that lasts beyond the present. She is currently the director of social media strategy and digital identity for UGA Athletics and has amassed a vast network of talented communicators in college athletics. 

Students in Galas’ class gain access to her vast network of sports media professionals.

Galas is now sharing that network and her experience with New Media Institute (NMI) students at UGA. She is a faculty consultant at Grady College and is currently teaching “Creative Content in College Athletics” to 17 NMI undergraduates. 

“I hope that the students get a real-life snapshot of what working in creative in college athletics is like,” Galas said. “From planning, to content creation, to copywriting, I want the students to understand the wide-range of skills that are needed to manage and create for social media accounts.” 

Whether sharing the tools she uses to create eye-popping Instagram posts or bringing in industry colleagues to share about the lifestyle of working in sports, Galas wants students to get a real-time glimpse about what it is like to work in sports digital media. While teaching students, she is also observing their interests and seeing how it can be used to elevate social media content with UGA Athletics. It further expands the pipeline of NMI and Grady College students who also learn on a job with UGA Athletics. 

“As we begin to add more and more student assistant positions within the social/creative department at Georgia, we can already have an idea of who might be able to fill these roles,” Galas said. “We can then continue to develop the talent and send the students out with a wide skill set and real-world experience that could turn into jobs for them. It’s truly a win-win!”

The idea for the course was generated with talks including Dean Charles Davis, Darlene Camacho, senior associate athletic director for strategic communications, and Megan Ward, the director of NMI.

Galas’ class was the result of a partnership with the New Media Institute and UGA Athletics.

“So much of what New Media students learn through the certificate is how to innovate how users and audiences experience their areas of interest,” said Ward. “Jen Galas helps our students see the opportunities available to them in sports and in social media content creation.”

The inaugural class is comprised of all women, which was especially exciting for Galas. 

“I hope that seeing someone who looks like them in the type of role that I have makes them realize that there is space for them in this industry,” said Galas.

When preparing for the course, Galas harkened back to her time as a masters student in Grady College, which included classes in NMI. She remembered the classes that most helped her in her career and how they focused on challenges and opportunities that professionals face in the present.

The same skills and personality that help Galas bridge athletes to fans is now serving as a bridge on campus and in the sports industry.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Jillian Smalls

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

I decided to come to UGA specifically to attend Grady College. Among all the colleges I was interested in, none of them offered a major that was as comprehensive of my interests as the entertainment & media studies major. I grew up writing stories and watching classic movies, so I’ve had a passion for storytelling for as long as I can remember. I loved that the EMST major encompassed so many different aspects of the entertainment industry beyond film production, so I knew Grady would be the place where I could grow and continue to hone my passion for storytelling. 

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

Tenacity means believing in yourself every step of the way towards achieving a goal. I believe that by having self-confidence, you can transcend the impossible. You can achieve anything you want in life if you believe you can achieve it. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

My most memorable Grady experience would have to be when I took my first production class in the fall of 2020. I will never forget making a short film documentary from start to finish during a pandemic. The process was challenging and stressful, but I think it was a valuable experience that taught us the importance of work ethic and perseverance to complete a project under unfavorable circumstances. Our documentary was about an art school student and how the pandemic and online school affected their creative process. It was inspiring seeing the positive impact storytelling can have on a situation like the pandemic. I was also grateful for the time I got to have with my teammates as we bonded over our experiences as college students in a pandemic. 

Headshot of Smalls
Smalls, an EMST major, is also pursuing a marketing degree and the New Media Certificate.
What are you passionate about?

I have a passion for serving others. I am a former site leader for IMPACT and that was probably the most fulfilling experience of my life. However, I believe that service can manifest itself in many ways beyond volunteering. I think storytelling is a form of service in some ways because stories that amplify marginalized voices, for example, are a form of service to audiences. 

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

Last summer, I was a digital marketing intern for Verint, a customer engagement software company. Even though this was a marketing position, I felt like my storytelling background through EMST is why I stood out from other candidates for the position. During the internship, I was tasked with many projects, but for one of them, I had to write and produce a series of promotional videos for one of their products. I worked in collaboration with animators to write a script and storyboard videos that showcased the features of the software. It was an awesome experience seeing my courses of study work together in the real world. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

My favorite piece of advice is “stay curious.” It’s a short and vague piece of advice, but that is why I like it. I think it can be applied to pretty much any situation. For me, it means avoiding becoming complacent. I think that in school, work or even relationships we can get too comfortable in a routine. By staying curious and being inquisitive, you will learn new things and open your mind to different points of view. 

What are you planning to do after graduation?
Smalls and a fellow Grady Ambassador checking students in
Smalls, a Grady Ambassador, assists incoming Grady students at the Spring 2022 New Admit Fair.

I will be working full-time at Cox Enterprises in the LEAD Program after graduation. I am excited to bring the skills I acquired from experiences in Grady to LEAD.

What is your favorite app or social media channel and why?

TikTok has been my favorite app lately. I enjoy both music and video, so the way the app fuses the two together is fun and interesting to me. I love that TikTok is showing people the endless possibilities of what they can create with just their smartphone. It’s been inspiring seeing that you don’t need an expensive camera to create successful video projects.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I am a huge foodie. I love cooking or baking new recipes in my free time. I also love trying new restaurants and cuisines. Tlaloc and The World Famous are my favorite places to eat and hang out in Athens.

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus is the area outside of the Peabody Archive on the third floor of the Grady building. I love the view of Sanford Stadium and Hooper Street from there. It is the perfect spot to take phone calls and wander around when the weather is nice. I think of it as one of Grady’s hidden gems.

 

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Jane Congfei Lian

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

For me, tenacity means always staying positive when facing tough circumstances or situations. The most important difference I found between human beings and animals is that we are born to be adaptable. I came to the U.S. two years ago across the Pacific Ocean with two suitcases. Studying abroad during college is like uprooting a tree to an entirely new field. Tough times came, with everything being unfamiliar, strange, unexpected and different from what I used to. However, I always reminded myself why I came here. I tried to build connections with new people, get involved in organizations and learn different cultures. I strived to adapt to the new environment and improve my personal development skills. The biggest takeaways from my college experience is to never be afraid of stepping out of your comfort zone, to explore all opportunities and to not underestimate how strongly adaptable we can be. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

I have countless memorable Grady experiences. My favorite one was the moment I was awarded the New Media Certificate. Standing on the stage with my fellows and professors, I finally became a certificate alumni. This was the first degree I finished at UGA. This certificate not only proves the skills I’ve learned, but also represents the effort I invested in paving my career path.   

What are you passionate about?

Serving people. I have a strong desire to serve as a bridge for everything I’m working on. In Grady activities, I aim to connect juniors who are pursuing media with people in professional industries. As a world leader for International Student Orientation, I aspire to help them make UGA feel like coming home and to connect cultures. When it comes to serving my clients, I want to help them to build relationships with their target customers. To put it briefly, I believe credibility builds relationships.  

Lian pictured with Women in Media executive board
Lian (front row, right) is the social media manager for Women in Media at UGA.
What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

Serving as the social media manager at Women in Media has left a deep impact throughout my UGA life. WIM’s mission is to motivate creative women in all forms of media. Through WIM, I have learned we can not only grow ourselves, but also help our peers grow. That is true women’s power.  

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’ve been a big fan of Taylor Swift since I was 10 years old. I have TS on my wall, my clock, my ruler and my blanket at my home in China.

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

The first floor study area near Studio 100 inside Grady. That’s where I spent most of my time to complete my schoolwork. It’s quiet and easy to find a spot. You can see outside from the door and eat snacks from the vending machine when you are hungry. 

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

Take an example of when I was serving as a Junior Research Strategist in the Talking Dog Agency. Our client JT Hanna is a family run screen-printing business. My job was to craft a survey on Qualtrics in order to help our client gauge the Atlanta market’s awareness as well as customers’ screen printing preferences. Although I have no previous knowledge on using Qualtrics or creating insightful research, I reached out to other colleagues to gain ideas about what questions I should set up in my survey to reach our client’s goal. Finally, I drafted the survey along with another strategist and got 215 responses. This ultimately helped our client to improve their brand position. 

Lian (pictured second from right) is a former Junior Fetch Strategist for Talking Dog.
What are you planning to do after graduation?

I wish I could land on a job or internship with a structured advertising & marketing agency to enhance my skills. My dream job is to be a brand strategist because I believe brand storytelling is the future of marketing. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

Last year I was unable to see my friends or go back home to see my parents. I cannot describe how much I missed home and I cannot see what comes next in the future. But I did not choose to stop, instead, I utilized the gap year to improve my resume, cover letter and portfolio to strengthen myself. I also started to use LinkedIn to build connections with alumni and reach out which helped me find many great school organizations that alumni are involved in. I began to apply to different organizations such as Talking Dog and Women in Media to find opportunities to grow. I couldn’t have reached where I am without the Covid year because it gave me more time to think about what I want to pursue and what skills I should develop to arrive there.   

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

My father has influenced me in many aspects. He is the one who has strongly supported me to study abroad and pursue what I love. “Go and see the big world, and you will find yourself and who you want to be,” he always tells me. “You learn to be critical by immersing yourself in different places and hearing from a variety of people’s perspectives.”  

 

NMI students thrive in Innovation District

Nicholas Kreitz pours a cup of coffee, exchanges a few words with his boss as they pass one another by the kitchenette and slings his backpack over his shoulder as he heads to his office.

His office is in the new University of Georgia Delta Innovation Hub, a sleek renovated warehouse with high ceilings, exposed brick and glass walls that invite passers-by to view the collaboration and idea formulation taking place within the collaborative spaces.

Kreitz’s office is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling white boards, which don’t look very white because there is so much blue, red and green writing: numerals and jargon and dates that appear to be haphazardly recorded, but most likely make sense to those who need to read them.

 

Through the Innovation Hub and the larger Innovation District ecosystem, Kreitz lives in a dual universe. First and foremost, he is a student studying data science in Franklin College and earning a certificate through the New Media Institute at Grady College. Secondly, he is a machine learning intern with Metropolis.tech, a burgeoning software development company dedicated to matching medical professionals with health care providers looking to hire. Kreitz is one of three interns working on web and app development, coding and user interface among other technology tasks. In their time together, they have improved functionality and algorithms of the app, created an applicant tracking system, and are building an iOS app that will be launched soon.

Gaining professional experience on campus in a tech field is an opportunity Kreitz does not take for granted.

“It’s been a great experience being here,” Kreitz said. “Being on campus and being one of the first companies and first students to be involved with that is an honor.”

The chance to earn a paycheck for a job that will set the stage for his future career, isn’t bad either.

Built in the 1940s for the Cofer Seed Co., the Spring Street building is the Innovation Hub today.

“Earning money through the actual field I want to have a career in versus working at a restaurant is one of the greatest things,” he continued. “I have worked different retail and service jobs, but this one feels like I am just doing something that I love, and I don’t even realize I am at work.”

Tapping into student talent

The accessibility to tap into student talent was a huge draw for Scott Edwards, an alumnus of Family & Consumer Sciences, when he considered returning to Athens as one of UGA’s inaugural entrepreneurial companies in the Innovation Hub. Edwards, CEO and co-founder of Metropolis.tech and its parent company, Adaptive Medical Partners, relocated product development for Metropolis from Irving, Texas.

“It was really interesting to me that you could give projects to the students that were real life problems, real world issues, and they could get class credit [for solving them],” Edwards said.

The Innovation District is an initiative by the University of Georgia to foster innovation, entrepreneurship and learning. Among the goals of the program are a focus on increasing university and industry collaboration, while providing experiential learning opportunities for students.

The New Media Institute at Grady College is a partner organization with the Innovation District and Chris Gerlach, an academic professional with NMI, serves on the Innovation District Advisory Council.

Scott Edwards talks about the compass, or direction, of the Metropolis projects.

Edwards met Gerlach when Metropolis was considering the move to Athens and was impressed with the possibilities the NMI students could provide his young start-up.

“NMI has found me probably the best software engineers I have ever worked with,” Edwards said. “They have exceeded my expectations in every way. They help me chase that vision and they do it with unbelievable coding, user interface, user experience and machine learning components.”

Metropolis.tech calls itself a marketplace for healthcare jobs. It matches doctors and other healthcare professionals with providers who are hiring. The service meets a demand that is frequently constrained due to lack of time by physicians to look for jobs. Because of the sensitive nature of healthcare providers moving, all parties remain anonymous until the match has been made.

NMI identified Kreitz and fellow NMI student Aries Aviles, a computer science major, as students who had the skills, initiative and education Edwards was seeking. They had both taken a combination of iOS app development and rich media production classes through the NMI and had a strong foundation in new media production. Edwards interviewed and hired them for internships before moving to Athens.

Aviles recommended classmate Calvin Butson, a data and computer science major, when the need for someone with increased knowledge of artificial intelligence and machine learning became apparent.

“As a team we’ve looked at what we’ve accomplished and we are just amazed,” Aviles said. “We are learning new computer languages together that we haven’t learned before, but we are also branching out and pushing the boundaries about what can we do and what can we create.”

Since their internships started in the summer, Edwards has been so impressed with their work that he invited the trio back this fall. And, while they packed in 40+-hour work weeks during the summer, the work load has gone down to 20-hours a week while school is in session.

“That’s the biggest challenge working with the students,” Edwards reluctantly admits. “School gets in the way…but, school comes first and I would have it no other way,” Edwards adds.

Scaling Up and Looking Ahead

The team of interns that Edwards has gathered has proven that the model works that UGA envisioned when starting the Innovation District, and he has full confidence in their abilities.

“If I dream it, they can build it,” Edwards says. “It’s that simple, which is crazy. If someone had told me that beforehand, I would have said they are full of it. But now that I’m here and I have actually worked with these students, [I know] they are as capable as anybody out there who is working for a major, huge company as a software engineer.”

Interns Calvin Butson, Nick Kreitz, Aries Aviles and Metropolis CEO Scott Edwards.

The interns, too, know a good experience when they see it.

Kreitz, for example, received an attractive offer to intern at a global technology company last summer at the same time he received his offer at Metropolis. He chose the Metropolis offer because he liked the fact it was a small company where he could be more involved with product development. It also aligned with his future desires of starting his own company someday.

One of the projects Kreitz branched off and developed on his own is an internal analytics dashboard for the product that can be used instead of manually gathering data.

“With the knowledge that I have learned from UGA classes and the NMI, I was able to put together a web application that they could use to look at internal stats and sales. Being able to do that as an intern and have an actual impact on other employees is a big thing for me,” Kreitz continued.

Edwards is excited by that innovation and wants to continue scaling up his operation using students to help him. Since the introduction to NMI and programs at Grady College, Edwards has started working with students in the Emerging Media program, Grady’s graduate degree that focuses on emerging digital technologies and design solutions. The Emerging Media team works on SEO, UX design and website marketing for Metropolis. Additionally, a new partnership has recently started with Grady’s Talking Dog, a student-run advertising and public relations agency, which is helping Metropolis with brand messaging, ad placements and product trials.

Edwards knows that start-up tech projects like this will keep more graduates in the area once they have their diplomas in hand.

“There’s not anything they can’t do,” he concludes. “And some things that they can’t do, they are teaching themselves and they are doing very quickly. That does not put a ceiling on their potential. You are never done innovating.”

While Edwards continues thinking of the future of Metropolis, Aviles and Kreitz are thinking about their futures after graduation. Whether they continue at Metropolis for a while or branch off to other professional adventures, the experience they have earned through the Innovation District allows them to bypass the entry-level market with real world experience and working apps they can show future employers.

With the future uncertain, Kreitz knows one thing for certain: “It’s very cool to place down the building blocks that Metropolis will live off of in the future.”

New Media Institute students Aries Aviles (l.) and Nick Kreitz credit the NMI with offering classes that helped them build a solid skill set while in school. “Getting involved with the NMI is when my college experience really started,” Kreitz said.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Nick Milavec

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study? 

I knew Grady was an amazing school and I wanted to study mass communications. I came in as a Journalism major but switched to Advertising because I was fascinated how my love of art and creating art could intertwine with mass communication into one major. 

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA? 

My mom has 100% had the biggest impact on my life during my time at UGA. She is constantly encouraging me in every endeavor, whether it be a challenge I’m going through or a great thing that happens to me. Her support is unwavering, and I am so grateful for her. She is the true definition of tenacity, and I am proud that I got to learn that from her. 

Who is your professional hero? 

I wouldn’t say I have a specific professional hero. However, the reason I fell in love with the field of advertising and typography was the work of Neville Brody. His posters were what inspired me to fuse my love of art and design with Mass Communication. 

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

I never actually toured UGA. I grew up a Georgia Tech fan, and it was my dream to go there. However, once I came to UGA’s campus for a drum major camp my junior year of high school, it just felt like home to me, and I knew it was where I wanted to be. It felt like I didn’t even need to tour because I was so certain. 

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you? 

The word “tenacity” to me means being adaptable. With the immense changes that have seemingly persisted over the last few years, everyone has had to adapt to something new or a new way of doing things. However, tenacity means embracing the need to adapt and trying to do it to the best of your ability in a determined and hardworking fashion. Rather than lamenting on the way of life you had before the need to adapt, tenacity to me means running headfirst into that new way of life and making it as best as possible. 

Where is your favorite place on campus and why? 

I absolutely love Bolton Dining Commons. I know it might be an odd place to love, but it is just such a good place for community to thrive and an environment that welcomed me as a freshman. Plus, they make some pretty good food. I keep buying a meal plan year after year because it is somewhere where I can experience a lot of different activities, such as grabbing a quick bite on my way to my car, or finding a table to study at or eating a meal with my friends. At Bolton, you can do it all. 

What are you passionate about? 

I am passionate about loving others and making them feel welcome. If I can make just one person feel at home or accepted on this campus, then that is a successful college career in my book. I believe that God calls us to love others with an unconditional love, and that is what I try to model at all times. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor/mentor/family member? 

The best piece of advice I have ever received is from my mom. It is a spin on the traditional golden rule, which states “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” However, my mother used to say, “If you don’t have something nice to say, say something nice anyways.” That is how I try and live my life. Everyone has things about them that deserve to be loved and appreciated, and I believe that in those moments where we could just turn away and say nothing, we should look for those things and respond with kindness and love, because you never know just how much a kind word can do a person’s life. 

What is your favorite app or social media channel and why? 

I would have to say my favorite social media channel/app is Instagram. I love the broad range of content you can encounter on the app. I am someone who is passionate about design and photography, so it is so cool to be able to follow accounts that post content and work relating to those while also being able to keep up with my friends and peers and what they are up to, whether they are in Athens or around the world. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year? 

My proudest moment in the last year was uploading my last pictures to our website after my 8-week-long job as the camp photographer at YMCA Camp High Harbour. I came into the job never having been to camp before and not knowing that the job I was going to do would be so non-stop and taxing. However, when I uploaded the 9,856th and last photo of the summer, I was proud of how I adapted to an environment that was new for me and successfully completed a job that challenged me like no other I’ve ever done. 

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Rohit Rammohan

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot recently. In my mind, it means striving despite the circumstances to be the best version of yourself, whether that means being the best classmate, student, friend or family member. Especially given the times we live in now, to me, tenacity is one of the most important characteristics you can have as a person.

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA? 

I don’t think it’s possible for me to choose just one person. If left to me, I’d say that it has been every member of the New Media Institute and the amazing members of WUOG.

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

I’d have to say the day I presented my capstone app’s beta version for the first time along with my team last semester. I walked into this program with almost no knowledge of coding whatsoever, so I thought, probably incorrectly in retrospect given the amazing help I’ve had from my team (shoutout to Andy Johnston and Crysta Jones), that this would be the most uphill task I’d ever have to undertake.

What is your most memorable Grady experience? 

I think that it would be the day I first walked into the New Media Institute at Grady last summer. It was at the start of one of the most uncertain times the world as we know now is seeing. I had just finished online classes for the summer, and I wasn’t sure how classes would be held in the fall. When they announced some in-person classes for the fall and when I walked into Grady for the first time and into the NMI, the warm welcome I received instantly made me feel like I belonged there.

Who is your professional hero?

I actually have two of them. One of them is Steve Jobs. I mean, the company he’s built and his ideas have literally taken over the world. Another one is Elon Musk. His ideas may be crazy and out-of-the-box, but they’re also revolutionary.

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

I’ve always been passionate about the field of Media & Entertainment. A few years ago, I was a web journalist for a short bit writing headline stories and that showed me just how much I enjoyed being able to share stories that mean something to the world. I’ve also been interested and passionate about technology, particularly newer and emerging forms of technology for as long as I can remember. The course at Grady to me appeared to be a one-of-a-kind particularly suited to my tastes and interests.

Where is your favorite place on campus?

I’m torn on this one. A part of me wants to say the North Campus quad since it’s so quiet and serene when you consider what’s on the other side of the quad. The other part of me wants to say that it’s the WUOG lobby at Tate.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?

When I was a kid, my parents always used to tell me that by listening more than I speak, I can learn a lot more about a person and that it was also the easiest way to make friends. Till today, I still carry that lesson with me and it’s proven more invaluable than not.

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

I’d have to say the idea of adapting to working and learning remotely. I’ve always felt that I work so much better when I’m actually sitting in a classroom learning or in an office with my teammates hashing out details. I’d also say it’s the fact that I’ve really had to reduce in-person interaction with my friends. 

What is your favorite app or social media channel?

I don’t really use social media much but I’ve found that Twitter is pretty useful to catch up with everything going on in the world.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

In a past life, before everything that’s going on in the world now, I used to absolutely love traveling. I’ve travelled to I think nine different countries and over 20 cities, and I have a list of several more I want to visit at the first available opportunity.