Emerging Media students create Historic Athens app

Using 21st Century technology to provide users with a sense of history from the 1800s and 1900s is the goal of a new Historic Athens app, created by a team of Emerging Media students.

The app was developed as the Emerging Media capstone project by Olivia Sprott (MA ’22), Meghan Telling (AB ’20, MA ’22) and Dakota Werner (AB ’20, MA ’22). They worked on the app with Tommy Valentine, executive director of Historic Athens, who was excited to work on a town and gown project.

“This is the type program you hope to have from your local university — one that provides public benefit while sharpening the skills of students,” Valentine said.  “We are very grateful for this partnership,” Valentine said.

A screenshot of the Historic Athens app.
Historic Athens app showing a listing detail and map of historical locations around Athens.

The app provides users a map of downtown Athens with historic homes, buildings and neighborhoods identified. Each location includes a picture, a brief description and a timeline of when that area was significant. A calendar, description of the mission of Historic Athens and an invitation to join the organization are also included.

The Historic Athens app was developed as a capstone project for the Emerging Media master’s degree offered through the New Media Institute. Capstone projects provide in-depth technology solutions including apps, websites, podcasts and other applications.  The projects typically span multiple semesters and cover key learnings from class from research, design concepts and prototypes, to usability studies, focus groups and development of the project. While some projects are conceived by the students, other projects like the Historic Athens app, are projects that solve needs for clients.

“Collaboration was a big part of this project,” said Telling, who now works in employee communications at CommCast. “Working for a full year as a team teaches you a lot about strengths and weaknesses and working style. Creating the road map for the year was key.”

The students benefitted in several ways and in addition to gaining valuable skills, they were able to contribute to a lasting legacy project for the community.

“I enjoyed being able to be part of something else in the community,” Sprott said. “Getting to know the Historic Athens team team and playing a small role in the larger community was an honor.”

Valentine was impressed with the creativity the team developed to introduce people to Historic Athens, as well as the longevity of the app using connectivity like syncing the calendar through a Google API to ensure event listings are up-to-date.

“This was a very impressive batch of students and what they didn’t know already, they taught themselves,” Valentine said. “Communicating a sense of history around Historic Athens was our top priority. As they worked through alpha and beta versions, they created succinct and intuitive ways to introduce people to us.”

The app, available for iOS in the app store.


A video introduction to the Historic Athens app.

Innovative NMI student project teaches transferable skills, boosts employability

The Blitz team, from left to right: Gabriella Austin, Raika Kachwalla, Owen Reynolds, Viktoria Kangas, Nicolas Tschirhart.
The Blitz team, from left to right: Gabriella Austin, Raika Kachwalla, Owen Reynolds, Viktoria Kangas, Nicolas Tschirhart. (Photo: NMI)

Identify a gap or problem, and find a solution. That’s one of the mantras of the New Media Institute (NMI), housed on the fourth floor of Grady College. And that mindset was exemplified through the work of the Blitz team, a five-member student squad that, last year, developed an innovative flashcard app, available now in the Mac App Store. 

Developed through an NMI group assignment given in NMIX 4410: New Media Capstone, the culminating class of the New Media Certificate, the app allows for simple and efficient digital flashcard creation.

Unique, in part, because all of its functions are completely free, the app allows users to translate images on their Macs into editable text on digital flashcards, which can then be used to study for upcoming quizzes and tests. Fittingly, written on the homepage of Blitz’s website is the brand’s slogan, “Less typing. More studying.” 

In addition to creating something valuable for their peers, the creators of the Blitz app picked up transferable skills, better preparing them to land and excel in jobs after graduation. 

“The New Media Capstone provides students with interdisciplinary team-based experiential learning opportunities that help prepare them for life after graduation,” said John Weatherford, a senior lecturer and the instructor of the capstone course. “It’s always such a joy to mentor a team of talented students from various backgrounds as they work together on a semester-long project.”

One of the members of the Blitz team was Owen Reynolds, who served as the squad’s chief technology officer. A fall 2022 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a certificate from the New Media Institute, Reynolds is currently working as a software engineer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). 

“Getting the experience of working in a team and also working with SwiftUI, and just Macs in general, that was something, as a developer, I hadn’t really done at that point,” he said. “That was so valuable for me. It is great experience.”

A quote card that reads, "Publishing an app in the world's largest macOS app store is an accomplishment that will elevate the post-graduation career opportunities for each student on the team."Additionally, Reynolds iterated how valuable the teamwork aspect of the experience was. Despite some of the members graduating, he said the Blitz team regularly stays in touch. Primarily, they simply check in with one another to say hello and touch base on any educational or career developments. But also, they stay in touch because they “want to keep this project alive,” said Reynolds. 

“We all really fell in love with the idea, just this notion of these really cool features being free for students.”

Additional members of the Blitz team include Gabby Austin (AB ‘22), a graduate of the Advertising Department, Raika Kachwalla, a student in the Entertainment and Media Studies Department, Viktoria Kangas, a student in the Journalism Department, and Nicolas Tschirhart, a student in the Entertainment and Media Studies Department. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of the work done by the Blitz team to not only create the NMI’s first native macOS app, but to see the project across the finish line and publish it to the App Store,” said Weatherford. “Publishing an app in the world’s largest macOS app store is an accomplishment that will elevate the post-graduation career opportunities for each student on the team.”

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.

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.

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.

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 



Mobile application developed by NMI students released in the app store; technology used internationally

There are few New Media Institute projects that are fully developed, funded and released in the Apple iTunes tore. There are even fewer NMI projects that have such specialized technology that they are sought by international researchers.

The Ebb app team included Joe Reisigl (ABJ '16), Clarke Modlin (ABJ ’17), Madison Hall (AB ’17) and Kristyn Hicks (ABJ ’17).
The Ebb app team included Joe Reisigl (ABJ ’16), Clarke Modlin (ABJ ’17), Madison Hall (AB ’17) and Kristyn Hicks (ABJ ’17).

The Ebb app, a fall 2016 NMI capstone project developed by a group of Grady College students, is one of those rare projects.

“Honestly, it came from out of nowhere and came from a period of adversity and turned into something great,” Joe Reisigl (ABJ ’16), the lead developer for Ebb said. “I’m pretty proud of it.”

Ebb was a back-up project for the NMI capstone team that included Kristyn Hicks (ABJ ’17), Madison Hall (AB ’17), Clarke Modlin (ABJ ’17) and Reisigl. When the first project that the team had spent several weeks developing fell through, the team had to scramble to come up with a new idea to summarize their NMI education. Based on a suggestion that Hall had, the team turned to the development of the Ebb app.

Ebb is short for Evaluate, Breathe, Begin.

The Ebb app is used to monitor heart rates that are caused by spikes in anxiety. When the app, which is most functional on an Apple Watch, detects the jump in heart rate, it sends a message to the user suggesting exercises that can be done for a temporary fix including yoga, meditation and spatial recognition. It also includes a feature to journal about the experience so patterns can be detected for the future.

The principle developer on the project was Reisigl, who ironically, didn’t own any Apple products and just recently learned the Swift coding used in Apple apps.

“It is funny that I developed an Apple Watch app that I can’t even use or see,” Reisigl, who is a digital producer at Atlanta Magazine, admitted. “As I was developing Ebb, other people were teaching me how to use an Apple iPhone and apps.”

Reisigl discovered his interest in coding through his coursework at Grady with Bart Wojdynski and Chris Gerlach.

“I was completely clueless when I started, but then I sort of fell in love with it,” Reisigl said of his newly-developed interest in coding. “Honestly, for me it was just burying my head in YouTube videos and tutorials and just Googling everything I possibly could about Swift. I found myself sitting there trying to make something work and, eventually when it did work, I had that rush of satisfaction.”

“It was pretty cool to see that this could actually make a difference in someone’s life if it was applied properly.”

–Joe Reisigl

Emuel Aldridge, a senior lecturer at NMI and the team’s advisor watched the process come together through Reisigl’s coding.

“What Joe did is take what he learned in capstone and adapt it,” Aldridge said. “Joe was able to take a learning experience and turn it into an earning experience.”

The app was first presented in a beta format at the fall 2016 NMI SLAM showcase and by February is was officially launched on the Apple iTunes store.

“For it to work and actually get launched was just like mind-blowing for me,” Hicks, a public relations major said. “It was really cool.”

There have been a few forms of validation along the way. First there was the Atlanta-area psychologist who reached out to the team because she works with patients with anxiety and stress. She said she recommends the app to clients because it suggests some of the same exercises that she recommends to her clients.

“The fact that this psychologist with 20 years of experience told me that my app was viable and could be used to actually help people was one of the greatest compliments I got it about it,” Reisigl said. “It was pretty cool to see that this could actually make a difference in someone’s life if it was applied properly.”

The other source of validation came from Japan.

Shortly after the official launch, Aldridge was contacted by Jim Moore, a professor of large animal medicine at the College of Veterinary Medicine at UGA. Moore also works in developing interactive 3-D teaching materials and had attended an Apple Educators meeting in Berlin where he heard a Japanese researcher talk about his work. The researcher, Takahiro Uchida, was working on methods to help severely handicapped students. Specifically, he was trying to determine when the students were engaged in the classroom, but since they could not speak, their engagement was difficult to determine.

Uchida described a complicated way he had been monitoring their heart rate, and when Moore heard the many steps and rudimentary way he was doing that, he suggested someone at UGA might be able to help make it easier and more convenient. Moore approached Aldridge who was put in touch with Reisigl.

Moore, who said he was pleasantly surprised that this technology came from a student team, said the project has been a success.

“Dr. Uchida is extremely pleased, and now is seeking additional help to make the process even easier so other teachers can use it,” Moore said.

This is one of three apps created by NMI students that have reached the consumer market. An app of UGA stickers that can be added to social media messages was developed last spring, and in October of this year, an app called “Film Norcross” was developed, identifying key movie locations in Norcross.

Drone Summit

Grady College is joining CNN Aerial Imagery & Reporting (CNN Air), Turner Entertainment, the National Press Photographers Association and the New Media Institute to host the first Drone Summit October 20-21, 2017. The event will take place at Grady College.

The Drone Summit will gather the leading practitioners, manufacturers, technologists and educators involved with the unmanned aerial systems (UAS) industry for a two-day program. The event will begin with a Drone Filmfest—a pilot-submitted collection of drone footage—and will also feature panel discussions, best practice forums for using drones in media and entertainment applications and networking.