Faculty profile: Joseph Watson, Jr.

According to Joseph Watson, Jr., to understand a person, one has to understand who his heroes are and who he admires.

Watson, who spends his days teaching about public advocacy, issues management and shaping public opinion in political contexts, focuses on the ideals of individuals who have helped guide his professional path.

“Encouraging civility and civil discourse are my true motives,” Watson says, explaining not only what guides him, but what characterizes his heroes.

He is proud that his list of heroes is bipartisan, and includes Mother Teresa, William F. Buckley, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others. And, then there are material nods to his other heroes, including his penchant for bow ties, a tribute to the late Democratic Sen. Pat Moynihan, and his black, horn-rimmed glasses modeled after those worn by Atticus Finch in the film, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”=

It was Watson’s father who planted the seed of a career related to politics at an early age.

Watson grew up in a household where his father, a union steelworker, followed Democratic politics and regularly watched shows like “Meet the Press” on television.

An ideology class in college led him to re-examine his political leanings, with a new fascination for conservatives like former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and later, former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp.

It was also during this time that Watson started tutoring students in economics and realized the satisfaction that comes from teaching.

“I am most comfortable prepping others,” Watson explains. “I like working behind the scenes, and I get a natural high from working with young people to help them achieve their goals.”

Two years out of law school, Watson began working on Capitol Hill where he served as the legislative director for Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, which led to an appointment working on Internet policy in the George W. Bush Administration. A move to the private sector in 2005 brought him to Exelon, a Fortune 100 energy company, where he ultimately served as the director of public advocacy.

Three years ago, the urge to teach returned to Watson, and he left Exelon to serve as the Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communications. The Public Affairs Professional Certificate program is offered in partnership with the School of Public and International Affairs and is the first of its kind in the country, offering an education that promotes a holistic combination of political science, journalism and public relations courses for undergraduates.

Joe Watson frequently brings guests into his class to talk with as a way of keeping his lessons fresh and current. (Photo: Dayne Young)

While Watson doesn’t care for the current climate of political divisiveness, he does appreciate the learning opportunities it provides.

“Whatever is going on, we are going to talk about it,” Watson says about his teaching that brings students together at watch-parties during political debates and mid-term elections.

Watson also relishes the special topics courses he teaches, including one on civil rights and his current class on the women’s rights movement taught for the centennial of the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. and Susan B. Anthony used public affairs communications to achieve their objectives and create an environment where those laws were passed. I teach my students to use those same tools.”

Watson also directs the intensive Grady D.C. program each summer where students live in Delta Hall while working full-time internships and taking an online class.

“One of the most important lessons I can teach is how to renormalize bipartisan relationships and friendships,” Watson says. “It’s important at an early age for students to get comfortable with people they may not see eye to eye with and have meaningful conversations.”

Watson is proud to be working alongside Tieger in developing the program. Tieger is a 1969 alumna of Grady College who has prospered in a public affairs career spanning more than 40 years in Washington, D.C., and most currently in Naples, Florida.

“It’s an honor to lead the first program in the nation that prepares undergraduates in this area,” Watson said. “There are several master’s programs that focus on public affairs communications, but there is no reason that students should have to wait until graduate school for this education.”


Three students selected as Summer Tieger Fellows in Public Affairs Communications

The University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication announced the selection of three new Tieger Fellows for the summer of 2019: Maggie Cavalenes, Carter Chapman and Austin Gibbons. The Tieger Fellowship supports the mission of the College’s first-in-the-nation Public Affairs Communications (PAC) Program by providing students the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to real-world public affairs work promoting the PAC program.

The summer fellows will work to bolster the program’s digital brand, spotlight student success and showcase how the PAC program is contributing to the career pursuits of recent alumni.

Cavalenes is responsible for managing the program’s social and digital media. Chapman is charged with spotlighting students and alumni in Washington, D.C., especially those participating in the Grady@DC summer program. Gibbons is responsible for managing internal and external communications for the PAC program.

The Tieger Fellowship is funded by alumna Carolyn Caudell Tieger, a 1969 Grady graduate, who also funds the Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professorship currently held by Joseph Watson, Jr. Tieger spent a successful 40-year career in public affairs and politics in Washington, D.C. Professor Watson, also a veteran of politics and public affairs, held executive positions in both the public and private sectors before joining Grady.

“We are excited to welcome Maggie, Carter and Austin as our first Tieger Summer Fellows,” said Watson. “This fellowship is made possible by the vision and funding provided by Carolyn Caudell Tieger. This support allows us to provide these exceptional students with the opportunity to promote the PAC program and develop skills that will prepare them for their careers. I have full confidence that these three students will do an outstanding job of showcasing our students and recent alumni this summer.”

Cavalenes, Chapman and Gibbons are putting their PAC training to good use for the program, on UGA’s campus and in their workplaces this summer. They look forward to using these skills in their future careers.

Maggie Cavalenes is a rising senior who came to the University of Georgia from Cumming. During her time in Athens, she has studied public relations with a Public Affairs Professional Certificate. Cavalenes has honed her social and digital communications skills through public relations internships with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the Disney College Program and UGA’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations. While spending her summer in New York City, Maggie will work as an intern for Guardian Insurance.

Carter Chapman is studying political science and public relations with a Public Affairs Professional Certificate. Since coming to UGA from Acworth, Chapman has spent time with the UGA Wesley Foundation and the UGA College Republicans, where he now serves as vice chair. Chapman’s summer will be spent in Delta Hall interning for Global Grady and Senator Johnny Isakson. After receiving his undergraduate degree in May 2020, Chapman will continue his studies at UGA by pursuing a master’s in advertising through Grady’s 4+1 program before pursuing a career in public affairs communications.

Austin Gibbons, a senior from Stone Mountain, is majoring in political science and public relations, with a Public Affairs Professional Certificate and a certificate in personal and organizational leadership. Last year, Gibbons held a research fellowship with UGA’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government while being involved in several campus organizations. This summer, he is living in Delta Hall while interning for the American Red Cross and Senator Johnny Isakson’s office. Gibbons hopes to pursue a career in government relations after graduation.

Two Grady students selected as new Tieger Fellows in Public Affairs Communications

Students to conduct media relations for the nation’s first Public Affairs Communications program

The University of Georgia Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication announced the selection of two new Tieger Fellows for the spring of 2019: Madison Gable and Anna Leigh Herndon. The Tieger Fellowship supports the mission of the College’s first-in-the-nation Public Affairs Communications (PAC) Program by providing students the opportunity to apply skills learned in the classroom to real-world public affairs work promoting the PAC program.

The new Tieger Fellows are responsible for managing media relations on behalf of the program and succeed the program’s first media relations fellow, Sarah Cunningham, who graduated in December. Herndon is responsible for managing local media relations while Gable is responsible for conducting national media relations.  

The Tieger Fellowship is funded with support from Grady College alumna Carolyn Caudell Tieger, who graduated in 1969 and who also funds the Tieger Professorship currently held by Joseph Watson, Jr.

“We are proud to welcome Anna Leigh and Madison as our newest Tieger Fellows,” said Watson. “This fellowship would not be possible without the vision and funding of Carolyn Caudell Tieger. Through her support we are able to continue to build upon the early successes of the program by recognizing amazing students and providing them with a unique opportunity to support the PAC program and develop skills that will prepare them for their careers.”

As members of the 2016 PAC cohort, Herndon and Gable have enriched their academic experiences with real-world applications. They are looking forward to serving the program in their respective roles and eventually using these learned skills in their careers.

Madison Gable is a senior studying journalism and political science and is expected to graduate in May 2019. Last year, Gable served as the director of policy research on UGA’s Student Government Association and was a staff writer at Georgia Political Review. Originally from Roswell, Georgia, Gable spent this past summer interning in the communications office at Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization in Washington D.C. After graduation, Gable hopes to pursue a career in public affairs communications.

Anna Leigh Herndon, from Valdosta, Georgia, is a senior studying public relations and political science. In addition to her role as a Tieger fellow, Herndon currently serves as the marketing and branding manager for The Red & Black student newspaper and the C. Richard Yarbrough Crisis Communication intern for the UGA Crisis Communication Coalition. Last summer, Herndon participated in the Grady@DC program, working as a press intern for U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and a communications intern at the Institute for Energy Research. Upon graduating, Herndon would like to work in political communications.