Grady Society Alumni Board Profile: Sara Robertson (ABJ ’99)

We are grateful for the support and enthusiasm of our Grady Society Alumni Board members. This series profiles members of the alumni board who make a positive difference in our College.

Sara Robertson (ABJ ‘99) has an extensive background in production for broadcast and digital platforms. As Senior Vice President for Production at Austin PBS, she is responsible for strategic planning and execution of station produced content. Robertson has increased community impact through programming, grown national audiences for locally produced and presented shows and developed a digital-first production strategy. Before coming to public media, she worked in broadcast news. 

Robertson is active in her community and is the vice chair of the board of directors for CLOVES Syndrome Community, whose mission is to support, educate, empower and improve the lives of those affected by CLOVES Syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by tissue overgrowth and complex vascular anomalies. She also serves on the Grady Society Alumni Board.

In 1999 she received her degree in Telecommunication Arts from the University of Georgia. Sara and her family live in Austin, Texas and enjoy exploring the outdoors.

Why are you involved with the GSAB?

I was inspired to join the GSAB after a reunion trip to Athens. I had been living in Austin for 20 years and was finding it harder and harder to stay connected to my Georgia roots. At the same time, I was exploring ways to volunteer in an area of media, education and/or mentorship. The GSAB helps me fulfil these goals and more, including introducing me to an inspiring network of colleagues.

What advice do you have for today’s Grady College students?
Robertson and her classmate, Kellie, work in the College newsroom on the broadcast show, then called Newsource 15.

If you are a communicator, often your role is to be a translator of ideas and issues. I would encourage you to take classes on different topics. Experiment with storytelling and media platforms. Feel free to explore your interests and find new interests. Hopefully college won’t be the end of your education but just the beginning. Embrace learning now and it will make you a better communicator forever. 

What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Hands down my biggest influence and fondest memories from Grady College are from my time at NewSource15. I have incredible friendships to this day and still have a lot of pride from the work we did during that time. I was also extremely prepared for the workforce and was hired on my first two jobs because of the reel and experience I had gained.

What modern challenges would you like to see current students and recent College alumni solve?

Everyone working in media has a responsibility to put representation at the forefront of their work. There continues to be a lack of diversity in all aspects of our industry, on camera and behind. When communities don’t see themselves represented, they disengage and bad things happen from there. Representation is empowering and necessary for journalism to succeed.   

How has your field changed from your graduation to now?

The media world is nothing without constant change but social media has transformed my field. Individuals no longer need to rely on broadcasters or a company with an established audience to promote their message, they are able to do that themselves with tools that are very affordable if not free. I believe that means building trust with our audience is more crucial than ever.

Michael Cacciatore awarded $2.5 million grant for research

Funds from the U.S. National Science Foundation support research for PBS TERRA, a science-themed hub on YouTube

Michael Cacciatore, co-director of the Center for Health and Risk Communication at Grady College, has been awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning program.

The funds will provide research for PBS Digital Studios’ TERRA, its science-themed hub on YouTube, as they launch a new slate of STEM content.

Dr. Cacciatore is a co-principal investigator for the grant that also includes Dr. Sara Yeo of the University of Utah.

The grant from NSF will support a two-pronged PBS initiative to create STEM-related, short-form videos and conduct follow-up research to better understand how and why these videos attract underrepresented groups.

“Dr. Cacciatore’s work exemplifies the very best in collaborative research on issues of great importance,” said Charles N. Davis, dean of Grady College. “It’s a reminder that all grant-funded research contains a communicative element, and that Grady College faculty can help design and implement rock-solid empirical studies of message design and effectiveness.”

Cacciatore explains that PBS not only wants to expand its audience with new and underserved audiences, but the organization also recognizes the importance of bringing research into decisions so they are informed by data. He expects part of the research to focus on the role of humor in communicating science, an area PBS already utilizes and that Cacciatore studies.

“For me, this project builds naturally from a lot of the work I’m already doing on humor as a tool for science engagement,” Cacciatore, an associate professor in the Department of Advertising and Public Relations, said of the three-year grant. “At the same time, this project places more of an emphasis on the practical side of things. We’ll have a chance to collect data, analyze the underlying trends in that data, and then see our work influence the content PBS is producing.”

Cacciatore is excited to work with content producers like PBS.

“From an institutional perspective, I love the idea of PBS, arguably the most important provider of educational programming, partnering with UGA, the birthplace of higher education. I think it’s a perfect marriage,” Cacciatore said.

Currently, YouTube’s most popular STEM creators are disproportionately white and male, and viewer data and PBS surveys suggest that Black and Hispanic viewers, as well as women overall, are underrepresented in audiences for STEM content online. With support from the NSF grant, PBS Digital Studios aims to remedy this by expanding PBS TERRA to new, diverse audiences, and examining its impact.

Specifically, PBS Digital Studios plans to launch new series and create special episodes for existing series that explore STEM through a variety of lenses, including humor and popular culture. These STEM series will feature underrepresented voices, especially Black and Hispanic science communicators, in front of and behind the camera and seeks to broaden the audience for STEM content online.

“With the help of NSF, we hope to inspire the next generation of scientists by offering diverse and educational programming in a new way. At PBS, we are committed to presenting viewers with topical content that they cannot find anywhere else— and PBS TERRA is a perfect example. This is incredibly important work, and we are excited to innovate with STEM content and study the impact this content has within underrepresented communities,” said Sylvia Bugg, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming at PBS.

The research will be used to show how these groups search for and engage with content related to science, technology, engineering and math. Cacciatore and Yeo will also test hypotheses on the effects of STEM videos featuring scientists and experts that are women, Black and/or Hispanic presenting science content in a variety of ways. A goal of the project is to measure audiences’ attitudes and engagement with science as well as their perceptions of scientists.

The NSF’s AISL program seeks to advance new approaches to and evidence-based understanding of the design and development of STEM learning opportunities for the public in informal environments; provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and engage the public of all ages in learning STEM in informal environments.

Peabody 76 makes PBS and FUSION broadcast debut

Peabody is proving to be a lot more than an awards show these days.

Coming off the high of its 75th ceremony last year, Peabody is capitalizing on its maturity and academic foundation at the University of Georgia through the relaunch of the Peabody Media Center and the growth of the Peabody Student Honor Board. However, its biggest evolution this year is the announcement that the Peabody Awards ceremony will be televised nationally on PBS and FUSION.

The Peabody Awards ceremony returns this year on Saturday, May 20 at Cipriani Wall Street. The host of the 76th annual awards is Rashida Jones, who was a cast member of the Peabody Award-winning “Parks and Recreation.”

While Peabody is expecting a sell-out crowd for the ceremony, the big audience for the presentation will be Friday, June 2, when a 90-minute television special of the ceremony is broadcast on PBS and co-broadcast on the cable network FUSION. This year marks the first time the awards will air nationally on a major broadcast network.

“PBS is a great fit for Peabody,” said Jeffrey P. Jones, now in his fourth year as Lambdin Kay Chair and director of Peabody. “Like public television’s own mandate to supply informative and critical information to citizens, Peabody Award-winning stories are ones that all citizens should watch, hear, and attend to. And, of course, the best way to call attention to those stories is to be on the fifth most-watched network, which is PBS.”

“The Peabody Awards will be seen by more viewers than ever before thanks to our agreement with PBS and FUSION, and we couldn’t have better partners,” Grady College Dean Charles Davis said. “Our goal has been to increase the visibility of one of the crown jewels of Grady College and of the University of Georgia, and thanks to the fabulous work of the Peabody Awards team, we’ve done just that. Our college and our university benefit mightily from the prestige of the Peabody Awards and we’re delighted to be able to share it with more Americans than ever before.”

The Peabody Media Center has named six recipients of the second Annual Peabody-Facebook Futures of Media Awards, selected by the Peabody Student Honor Board. The Futures of Media awards will be presented at the Hotel Eventi on Friday, May 17.

The first Peabody Awards were presented in 1941 and were created by then Grady College Dean John Drewry and WSB station manager Lambdin Kay. The Peabody Awards have been housed in Grady College since the beginning.

The 30 Peabody winners were selected from a group of 60 Peabody finalists.

2016 Peabody Award Winners from Peabody Awards on Vimeo.

The 30 Peabody winners to be recognized at the 76th annual Peabody Awards include:


Norman Lear




“Audrie & Daisy”
“4.1 Miles”
“FRONTLINE: Confronting ISIS”
“Hip-Hop Evolution”
“Independent Lens: Trapped”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“POV: Hooligan Sparrow”
“Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four”
“Zero Days”


“Better Things”
“Happy Valley”
“Horace and Pete”
“National Treasure”


“Arrested at School: Criminalizing Classroom Misbehavior”
“Charity Caught on Camera”
“Dangerous Exposure”
“Heart of an Epidemic, West Virginia’s Opioid Epidemic”
“ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Undercover in Syria, Battle for Mosul”

Public Service

“#MoreThanMean: Women in Sports ‘Face’ Harassment”


“In The Dark”
“The Unexplainable Disappearance of Mars Patel”
“This American Life: Anatomy of Doubt”
“Wells Fargo Hurts Whistleblowers”


“Hell And High Water”