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.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Sydney Dangremond

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

To me, tenacity is holding on when it would be easier to let go. Holding onto loved ones, holding onto the truth, holding onto our humanity, holding onto hope. I think the past year has served as a case study in tenacity for all of us. For a year now, without reprieve, the hits have kept on coming and weighing on our collective conscience. The ability to move through hardship, listen and learn from experts, have empathy and not become numb to the world is an incredible expression of tenacity. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

Finding out I had earned a staff position at The Red & Black was probably my proudest moment this year. I was still relatively new to the paper, but had already fallen head-over-heels for the work, the people and the culture. Finding out that the feeling was mutual was really wonderful. Since then, I’ve had the honor of covering some of the biggest news stories, from the Senate runoff to the insurrection to the Wall Street squeeze. I’ve loved every minute.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I’ve been a member of the Save the Manatee Club for 15 years. I did a report on them in second grade and immediately fell in love. Spring semester freshman year I had the incredible opportunity to swim with the manatees in Florida on a trip with the UGA Outdoor Recreation Center. Seeing them in the wild was definitely a high point of my college career. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

Studying abroad at Oxford University completely changed my life. Not only did I get to study at one of the best universities in the world, but I also made the most incredible friends who I know I’ll stay close to for the rest of my life. 

What are you passionate about?

I love to learn, and I love to tell stories. These passions have taken many forms from curating a TEDxUGA talk to writing for The Red & Black, but both have allowed me to expand my knowledge and perspective and tell important stories to a broader audience. 

Who is your professional hero?  

I don’t know if I have any heroes, but I have a great professional respect for people who have a gift for storytelling. From Aaron Sorkin and Jon Meacham who inspire to Tina Fey and David Sedaris who elevate humor with their intelligence, and Jonathan Goldstein who is sentimental but never cloying, to Roman Mars who can make the most mundane seem fascinating, there are a number of great storytellers I admire.

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

Growing up, my mom told me that no matter how you squeeze an orange, the only thing that’s going to come out of it is orange juice. It’s made me consider my reactions and view them as a display of who I am rather than a result of anyone else’s actions. This advice has saved me from many a misguided text or tweet. 

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

By far the most bizarre part of starting a new job during the pandemic has been the formation of relationships entirely over the internet. I’ve made friends and communicated regularly for months with people I’ve never seen in person. Slack, you are both my enemy and my lifeline.

What is your favorite app or social media channel? 

Lately, my favorite social media has been Twitter. Obviously, I enjoy the jokes and memes, but I also think it’s a great place to join conversations about the news. Yes, misinformation is a major issue on social platforms, but sometimes I think seeing people’s reactions to the news can be just as informative as the news itself. At their best, Twitter and other platforms have opened the door to broader conversations and unique perspectives on the issues facing the world. 

Where is your favorite place on campus?

I’ve always been a sucker for the lawns on north campus, but even more so since COVID-19 struck. Over the summer, lying out on north campus, enjoying the weather and doing classwork was my favorite way to feel connected to my community in a time of significant isolation. The lawns have also provided a safe way to spend socially distant time with friends and for that, I am so grateful. 

Grady’s Emerging Media graduate program expanding to online offering

One of Grady College’s fastest growing graduate programs, the Master of Arts in Emerging Media, is offering a new program that features curriculum completely online. The Emerging Media Masters Online program will not only double the capacity of the program, but will also enable the curriculum to be accessed from literally anywhere in the world.

The EM online program has been under development for a few years, and with the recent increased focus on online learning due to the coronavirus, this program is expected to be even more sought after.

“We have seen incredible interest and growth in the Emerging Media program since introducing it in 2016, and offering this online component with curriculum that is completely accessible via the internet is a natural evolution,” said Jeff Springston, associate dean for research and graduate studies for Grady College.

Springston said the online program will be especially popular for people in early- or mid-career stage who want to advance their digital skillset, as well as international students who want to improve their digital education.

The EM online program follows the same curriculum as the residential program and educates students on technology and design for digital media. Both programs focus on interactive digital media through a project-based curriculum that encompasses design, development, digital storytelling, social strategy, data analytics, brand identity, user research, product ideation, project management and emerging technologies. Eleven classes or 33 hours are required to complete the degree.

The EM program has been developing its online curriculum since 2017 thanks to an Online Course Innovation Grant from the Office of Online Learning. The summer 2020 class represents the first EM class that will be completely online.

“The online cohort will still be very collaborative like the residential cohort,” explained Megan Ward, administrative director for the New Media Institute. The NMI advises the EM students.

Online EM students will have a choice of taking classes in an accelerated one-year program, or as a two-year program designed for part-time students and working professionals. The residential program will be closely aligned with client projects through UGA’s new Innovation District. Students will apply for and be accepted for one program or the other, but there will not be any overlap.

Qualified participants in the inaugural class of the Emerging Media Online Masters will be accepted on a rolling basis until the class is full or until May 1, 2020.

Applications for the 2021 residential and online Emerging Media programs will be accepted until March 1, 2021.

Applicants must submit the following to be eligible for consideration: GRE scores, Graduate School application, Grady College supplemental application, three letters of recommendation and a statement of Interest.

More details can be found on the UGA Online Learning webpage.

#GradyGrit: Meet Luke D’Agostino

How did you choose to major in public relations?

Honestly, I didn’t really know what I was doing when I picked my major. I knew I was broadly interested in marketing and in getting people to pay attention to good products or services, whatever they may be. It’s frustrating to me to see something cool, whether it’s a piece of music or a great service or a helpful product, that’s just not being marketed in a tactical way, so it’s not reaching anyone even though it’s good. That’s something I’m passionate about. I knew that I wanted to go Grady pretty early—I was drawn into the friendly, community feel that didn’t feel competitive. It felt like the people in Grady weren’t trying to prove too much, but more so were passionate about their studies and the work that relates to it.  I was actually pretty jaded about my major for a while and really toyed with the idea of dropping out for most of junior year, but as I’ve finally gotten deeper into my PR classes I feel like I’m getting some insights into the field of public relations and why it matters.

Who has been your favorite professor and/or class and why?

My favorite professor has been Jonathan Peters, who I had for Communication Law. I really enjoyed getting to think about how media law relates to so many of the things that happen on a daily basis – from unsolicited recordings to the President’s tweets – and Dr. Peters was absolutely hilarious, while still making the content easy to digest. He also really, really cared about us as students and people.

The best class in my major has hands-down been 5920, PR Communication with Tom Cullen. We’re working with real-world clients creating media kits, and Tom is refreshingly honest and true to his word in holding us to a standard of work that will make us employable. I feel like I’ve taken so many classes in college that I just got next to nothing out of, which is really, really frustrating in my position—when you’re growing a business outside of school, making real money and doing real work that you’re passionate about. It’s hard, to say the least, to care about them at all, and there have been many times in college when the reasons to leave were compelling. They still are, but much less so now, largely because of Tom’s class. I feel like I actually have an understanding of public relations, how to implement it with a client, and why it works instead of just relying on advertising.

What are you planning on doing after graduating with a Grady degree?

I am planning on moving to be with my girlfriend in a city by the water and establishing my freelance presence there. I’ve done all kinds of freelance work over the last few years—from music to non-profits to weddings to graduation to families to small businesses. I feel like I have an understanding of how to establish myself somewhere else – of course it would be easier to stay in Athens or Atlanta, where I have an existing network, rather than reestablish myself somewhere else, but I trust my ability, and I can barista on the side or something like that until I’m re-established. I want to shoot destination weddings, I want to tour with a major artist and make videos for them, I want to travel and document beautiful destinations and unique causes. I want to tell stories and be free and independent. None of that has to do much with a degree, but that’s my plan.

How do you think Grady students are unique compared to other students on campus?

Grady feels like a community. People are happy to be a part of this school, and they build each other up. I think we do good work, and people study the things they’re really interested in.

What is your favorite Athens restaurant? Or restaurants?

Utage, Athens Bagel, Ahi on Clayton. People will call Mama’s Boy overrated, but they just say that to be quirky and unique. Mama’s Boy still slaps, and people sleep on the banana bread.

Who is the best UGA mascot and why?

Megan Ward. She’s a bulldog that you don’t want to mess with, but she’s also like a loving mom to me. She’s also my boss.

If you won the lottery today, what would be your first purchase?

I’d buy a Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 100mm 2.8L, and more plane tickets to Hawaii, where my girlfriend lives.

If high school you met current you, what would they think?

Oh goodness, I don’t want to think about high school me. High school me had some good foundations in place, but he sure had a lot to learn. I think he’d say, “hey, cool camera,” and “hey, I didn’t realize you’d already have your dad’s hairline, just three years later.”

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.

New Media Institute publishes native apps from capstone class

A new bar has been set by the New Media Institute capstone teams with the acceptance and publication of four new native apps in the Apple App Store.

The mobile apps created by the spring 2019 cohort of the NMI are now available for complimentary download in the App Store. The four new apps include:

    • Athens Georgia Weather — a partnership with University of Georgia Geography Department that highlights local Athens weather forecasts and videos. Available in Android, too.

    • Hunter-Holmes AR Experience — an augmented reality app that transports the viewer back to 1961 through original video, audio and photographs as Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault integrated the University of Georgia.

      • Peabody Awards — a listing of award winners since 2015 and videos of interviews with winners, special Peabody spotlight features and awards ceremonies.

    • UGArden Herbs — a resource to track and view data about herbs grown through the student-operated UGArden to assist in the organic certification process. Available only on the iPad.

These join other apps produced by NMI students in previous semesters including NMI’s first app, UGA Stickers, introduced in 2016, and subsequent apps WUOG, Ebb and Film Norcross.

“It’s really cool to see in five years the progress our students have made from producing proto-type apps, to a point today where we are regularly releasing apps on behalf of our clients,” said John Weatherford, a lecturer in the New Media Institute.

Students who work toward their certificate in New Media are required to finish with the capstone course, where they work in teams with a client to solve a technology challenge. While all the teams work on websites, apps or social media campaigns, only a handful are developed to the point that they are published.

Not all the teams have the time above and beyond classroom requirements to publish an app. The teams have to be willing to put the effort into apps to be eligible for publication in the App Store, including having everything up to code quality, preparing marketing write-ups, screen shots and documentation.

Each team, including the Hunter-Holmes AR Experience, is required to design booth space to show off their project at SLAM.

“There is a level of polish required to submit to one of the largest software markets in the world,” Weatherford said.

Having a tangible project that students can show future employers is only one benefit.

“Having marketable skills and being able to leverage their degree is a huge advantage,” Weatherford continued.

For the apps that are published, students need to also focus on documenting the site and preparing it to hand over to clients. Several students continue working with their clients after the projects to develop future content, as well.

NMI instructors Chris Gerlach and Emuel Aldridge help with mentoring and guiding the students in submitting their apps for publication and understanding marketplace.

Over the past several years, Weatherford said that the introduction of Apple’s programming language called Swift made the programming syntax used in developing apps easier to use. It was about that time that NMI started offering a course specializing in native apps.

“That course was very marketable and attracted a variety of different majors including computer science students,” Weatherford said. “This gave us a deeper bench to have a diversity of students with different majors.”

Weatherford also cites the interest in augmented reality for an increase in the native apps.

One of the most popular apps was the first one that NMI published called UGA Stickers. This app features digital stickers with UGA athletics icons and messages that people attach to their text messages. Regular updates are published, and more than 20,000 installs of the app have occurred to date.

Several other apps, including one for Grady Newsource, are expected to be published in the next few months.

Interest in the NMI certificate continues to grow and the Spring 2019 capstone course featured 84 graduating seniors working with 15 clients.

NMI students make an impact in Grady County

It may be a coincidence that Grady College and Grady County share the same namesake in Henry W. Grady, but they also share something else in common: a group of dedicated students making an impact with their skills and talent.

The Grady County logo that Megan Flory designed incorporated the Trout Lily, a special flower found in Grady County.

Grady County has been the semester-long focus of a group of students from the New Media Institute capstone course. Through the UGA Archway Partnership, these seven students were tasked with using their new media technology skills to improve the visibility and tourism in this small rural county in southwest Georgia.

“Our goal is to change this town for the better,” Kelly Buckman, an Entertainment and Media Studies student, said.

Over the course of the semester, the group has made the 500-mile round trip to Grady County three times getting to know the community, talking with its residents and uncovering the hidden gems that make this community special. They have toured sites, conducted research, taken pictures, edited video and enjoyed a lot of Grady County cuisine.

The NMI team members and their majors: (front, l. to r.) Elle Henderson (Advertising), Megan Flory (Graphic Design), Aisleigh Edouard (Communications); (back row, l. to r.) Tony Phan (EMST), Cassiday Chakroun (EMST), Maggie Duncan (psychology) and Kelly Buckman (EMST)

The students lovingly refer to themselves as the misfit team, but each student has his or her unique role in making sure the project is complete. The team consists of photographer Tony Phan, website specialist Elle Henderson, social media specialist Maggie Bell Duncan, content creator Aisleigh Edouard, videographer Kelly Buckman, design specialist Megan Flory and team leader Cassidy Chakroun.

Their guide throughout the semester was Sharon Liggett, operations coordinator with the Archway Partnership. It is Liggett’s role to match rural communities with projects, services and resources with which University of Georgia students can help. When Liggett found out that Grady County was in need of contemporary, current messaging focused on tourism, she turned to the New Media Institute. The NMI offers an interdisciplinary certificate program that focuses on using technological applications to address problems. The certificate is open to all majors at UGA and is housed in Grady College.

“This was a pretty exceptional project for Grady County and we couldn’t have done it without the New Media Institute students,” Liggett said.

The initial goal of project was to design new media messages through a web presence that could be used in a variety of local applications like education, retail and healthcare. What the community leaders of Grady County are receiving is more encompassing. Following extensive research and the development of personas of the type of traveler who would be interested in Grady County, the NMI team created a new logo and slogan, took high-quality photography, produced a 90-second video to be shown in visitor’s centers in neighboring states, designed print advertising and a one-page tourism guide, and enhanced Grady County’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. And, they created a website.

Projects like this are a win-win, Liggett explains. The communities win because they get fresh ideas from the students and professional deliverables that the county would not otherwise be able to afford. The students win because they apply the technological and messaging skills they have learned in their classes to practical, real applications, as well as gaining experience working with clients, meeting timelines and managing expectations.

“There is a real source of pride that we are bringing UGA home to Grady County,” Liggett said. “It’s exciting to have students share their experiences with community members, and to have the residents share their community with the students.”

The students and Sharon Liggett (in blue) enjoyed some home cooked meals during their visits to Grady County.

The relationships the residents created with the students made an impact, too.

Phan, an EMST major, explains that in a small town, people talk a lot, so word of their project spread quickly.

“They definitely know who we are and seem really happy to see us,” Phan said.

While some residents were a little uncertain at first, they quickly saw what the students were doing to help them.

Phan continued: “Most of the residents were super welcoming and were really interested in everything we had to offer.”

Along the way, community members opened their homes to the students for dinners, showed off their personal car collections and sites known only to the locals, and hosted bonfires where they would sit around and hear about what the students were studying.

Liggett said the initial reaction among the community leaders who have seen what the students worked on have very favorable.

“They were all just over the moon about how professional it was and how it captured the essence of Grady County,” Liggett explained. “This could really be a pivot point and a real source of pride to have something this beautiful and this well done that accurately targets the amenities there. This project is going to add so much value in the community.”

Maggie Bell Duncan interviews Michelle Dean, the owner of Pope’s Museum, for a social media post.

Not only has Grady County benefitted from the students, but the students have benefitted from the project by way of technical skills ranging from video editing and photography, to practical skills like managing client relationships.

“Overall, this has been an amazing project,” Duncan, a psychology major, said of the experience.

Flory agreed, and was pleased that many elements of this project were going to be used in the future. “This is a real project, not just a class project,” Flory, a Lamar Dodd graphic design major, summarized. “It has the potential to change people’s lives. That is more pressure, but it feels really good.”

While making a good grade was the initial goal of the students at the beginning of the semester, the project grew into something more than that. These students have made a difference in Grady County, which is a reward in itself.


The video the students produced about their Grady County project.

A few of the images that were taken for the Grady County campaign.

Photos: Kelly Buckman and Tony Phan 



New Media Institute students present capstone projects

New Media Institute students unveiled their capstone projects on Dec. 8 at SLAM, an end-of-the semester showcase of student projects and certificate recipients.

Groups celebrate and demonstrate their efforts to use technology as a tool to enhance daily life.

One group consisting of Christina Conner, Meghan Murphy, Dalena Nguyen, Jaco Van Rensburg and Shan Won developed an app for UGArden, a student-run farm, to enhance digital record keeping. The technological advances can help UGArden become a self-sustainable business.

“The possibilities in agriculture for new media technology are endless,” said Christina Connor. “In our case, new media is helping the garden keep track of important data that will impact the success of the business and the e-commerce component will broaden the herb garden’s reach.”

Connor says consistent record keeping will help UGArden attain organic certification.

To learn more, visit the UGArden NMI project website, or view the video below.

Another NMI group presented their work of using Universal Scene Description Zip Files (USDZ) as a way to sharing augmented reality files on the internet using only a link. The team featuring Caitlin Cooper, Mark Crafton, Brooke LeBlanc and Chanjo Moon pitched the idea of using USDZ files in mobile marketing to Chick-Fil-A as a new function to their mobile app.

“Chick-Fil-A has responded really well to our ideas,” said Brook LeBlanc. “We were able to receive constructive criticism from a Regional Marketing Manager to ensure that our digital products were on-brand, and this could be an activation that could be used in-store.”

LeBlanc says Chick-Fil-A’s international presence prevents widespread implementation of the USDZ technology, but her team is hopeful that brands will use it in the future to captivate current and future customers.

Learn more about the USDZ NMI project by visiting their website or viewing the video below.

To learn more, visit the New Media Institute website.

Emerging Media Double Dawgs informational session

Interested in being a Double Dawg and learning about emerging media?

What is the Emerging Media Master’s Concentration?
Emerging Media Master’s students learn to identify emerging media needs, create solutions to industry problems, develop content and applications, and strategically manage emerging media platforms to further their personal career goals and those of their employers. The degree is designed to accommodate students from a variety of different undergraduate backgrounds and professionals from a variety of industries.

What is the Double Dawgs Program?
The Double Dawgs program gives ambitious and motivated students a competitive advantage in today’s knowledge economy. By earning both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in five years or less, students can save time and money while positioning themselves for success after graduation. This program creates structured pathways for qualified students, and the Emerging Media Master’s Concentration is included in this program.

Questions? Email the Emerging Media Department