#ProfilesofTenacity: Raynor Manley

Fourth year public relations student Raynor Manley emphasizes the importance of joining clubs and getting involved as a student at the University of Georgia. Her involvement in organizations such as the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and Talking Dog Agency has helped her find the things that she is passionate about.

What does “tenacity” mean to you?

Tenacity is the quality of persevering even when faced with challenges. It is the unwavering commitment to putting forth your best effort, regardless of the obstacles encountered. Tenacity means to display resilience in all you do while maintaining confidence in yourself and your abilities. It means to not allow your mistakes to define you and stay committed to achieving greatness.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

Without a doubt, my favorite Grady professor is Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru. Her unmatched teaching style has been a burst of positivity throughout my time in Grady. My first class with Dr. A was her Public Relations Management course, which was an exceptional learning experience. The practical and valuable PR knowledge that I gained from this class motivated me to take another course with her. And, as luck would have it, I was fortunate enough to take my PR capstone class, PR Campaigns, with Dr. A as well. Th

Manley leads a break-out session and gives other students resume advice at a PRSSA meeting. (Photo/submitted)

is was an unforgettable experience; working on an outstanding campaign with a professor who possesses a deep passion for what she teaches, and who is incredibly kind and encouraging. Dr A has undoubtedly left a lasting mark on my academic journey.

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

The UGA Mentor Program has been an invaluable resource throughout my time at UGA. I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with three different mentors through the program. One of my summer internships actually resulted from one of my mentor relationships! I am so passionate about this program because of its ability to match students with mentors from a diverse range of industries, allowing students to gain insight into various career paths. The program allows students to explore mentors and select one that closely aligns with their aspirations. Mentors offer guidance, expertise and unique insights. This program has been an incredible way for me to network with professionals in my field and explore new career path options that I might want to pursue in the future.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

My most memorable Grady experience, by far, has been my involvement and leadership in PRSSA! I joined PRSSA as a general body member after I was accepted into the PR major. I fell in love with the incredible knowledge and advice that I received in each of the meetings and knew I wanted to get more involved. In my junior year, I was appointed as the Director of Content on the Executive Board, where I managed our blog and website. This year, I have been serving as the Public Relations Director, where I am responsible for creating graphics and promoting PRSSA. PRSSA has provided me with the opportunity to gain valuable insight from various industry professionals across diverse PR sectors, including sports,

Manley smiles for a picture with her fellow PRSSA Executive Board members. (Photo/submitted)

entertainment, cosmetics, politics and more. PRSSA has also allowed me to make some of my closest friends and build a relationship with a wonderful mentor. If you don’t already know Kim Landrum, you should. I am a firm believer that everyone should have a Kim in their lives. Kim has been a phenomenal advisor to the PRSSA board, and we would not be half as successful without her. Overall, PRSSA has been an integral experience in my Grady journey, enabling me to learn from experts, enhance my leadership skills and forge lifelong friendships.

What are you passionate about?

Joining clubs and taking different classes within Grady is a really great way to discover new passions. Talking Dog Agency has been instrumental in helping me discover a new passion of mine – client engagement and management. As an Account Executive with Talking Dog this year, I have discovered a new love for serving as the liaison between my client and our team, ensuring seamless communication. I am a huge advocate for joining clubs because these experiences can lead you to new passions that you might want to pursue for the rest of your life.

What motivates you?

My campus involvement serves as a great source of motivation for me. Being able to give back to the UGA and Grady community and support my peers is something I truly enjoy. I am constantly on the lookout for new opportunities to get involved, take on leadership roles and continue making a positive impact on campus.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?
Manley poses with her Talking Dog Agency team. She serves as the account executive for their client, Shay Latte Coffee. (Photo/submitted)

Get involved early! Getting involved can definitely be overwhelming with how many different clubs are offered on campus. To avoid this, I suggest starting slow. Start by exploring the various clubs available, make a list of the clubs that interest you and then learn more about them. Then, narrow it down and be intentional in deciding which clubs you want to join. Avoid the temptation to join multiple clubs just to pad your resume. Instead, choose clubs that genuinely interest you and align with your passions. These are the clubs that will enhance your college experience in more ways than one. Once you’ve joined a club, take the time to learn about the leadership opportunities available. Most clubs offer committee positions, which provide a great starting point for getting more involved. As you gain more experience, you can then move on to higher positions, such as serving on the executive board or as a director.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Reach out to professors, peers and those in leadership roles you might want in the future. Throughout my time in Grady, I’ve learned that people are more than eager to help and offer advice in any way they can. There is always someone willing to provide guidance and share their experiences. Asking questions not only helps you gain a better understanding but also shows that you are interested and invested in learning. It’s important to remember that everyone was once a beginner, and by asking questions, you are showing a willingness to learn and grow. So, don’t be afraid to ask, because chances are someone is more than happy to help!

Manley smiles in her Grady Ambassadors uniform while working the Dawgs with the Dean event. (Photo/submitted)
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

My biggest accomplishment in the past year is being selected to serve as a Grady Ambassador. I was selected out of a highly competitive pool of 90+ applicants, with only 20-25 positions available. However, it took me two application periods to finally secure the role. This experience taught me the invaluable lesson of perseverance as well as the importance of self-confidence. This accomplishment is one that I am immensely proud of, not only because of the prestige that comes with it but because it taught me to never give up on my goals. I want all of you to know that it’s okay to try again. Don’t give up and keep trying because sometimes all you need is a little confidence boost to achieve the goals you are striving for.

What are you planning to do after you graduate?

I was just accepted into UGA’s Graduate School last week! I will be spending one extra year in Athens to obtain my Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication in Grady College, with an emphasis in Integrated Advertising and Public Relations.

#ProfilesofTenacity: Dolores Trobradovic

Dolores Trobradovic is a fourth year public relations and international affairs student who understands the importance of getting involved on campus. Trobradovic serves as the president for the UGA Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), an organization that has had a large impact on her college experience.

What does “tenacity” mean to you?

To be tenacious is, above all else, to be persistent. Over my four years at Grady, I have learned that the key to success in academics and career is to just keep going. Natural talents can only take you so far, but in order to truly achieve your goals, you have to be willing to put in the work consistently. Tenacity means having a strong will and not giving up even when your dreams seem unattainable. It means pushing through difficult times and knowing that hard work will lead you to where you are supposed to be.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

As all public relations students do, I took Public Relations Communications my junior year with Tom Cullen. Professor Cullen’s class is by far the most difficult and rewarding Grady class I will ever take. PR communications taught me truly what PR is in terms of practical skills. Beyond that though, Professor Cullen pushed me to do my best work in that class. I grew a lot in that class not just as a PR student but also as a human being. And all of that was thanks to Tom Cullen.

What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?
Trobradovic leads PRSSA members through team bonding exercises at this year’s kickoff meeting. (Photo/submitted)

The UGA chapter of PRSSA has had a huge impact on my time as a student at UGA. Throughout my time serving on the executive board, what I have learned about commitment and leadership through that has been so important to me as a person. PRSSA has given me invaluable industry insight, networking skills and above all a sense of community at Grady and UGA. I have made amazing friends through PRSSA and the best memories that I will take with me after my time at UGA.

What motivates you?

When I was a little girl, I loved watching my mother dress in her high heels and professional outfits. I had this admiration for her as a working woman and internalized that to create a sort of vision of myself in her position. I am motivated by that image of myself in the future all dressed up, successful and happy with the contribution I am making to the world.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?
Trobradovic poses with a friend at the 2022 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. (Photo/submitted)

My most memorable Grady experience is undoubtedly my study abroad experience in France this summer. I was lucky enough to participate in the Cannes Lions study abroad where I went to the Cannes Creativity Festival. I was able to hear speakers of diverse backgrounds from the creative industry and the world, such as Malala Yousufzai, Ted Sarandos and so many more. This summer helped create a real excitement for my career and what I can do after my time at Grady that I will always be grateful for.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of advice I have ever received is to know your worth. It can be easy to think that as young college students with no industry experience, you should take every and any opportunity that comes your way. While you should take opportunities to get experience and grow, it is important to understand to know what opportunities will truly be beneficial for you as a person. Knowing your worth is integral to forging a successful path in your career and in your personal life. If you believe in yourself, then so too will others.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?
Trobradovic smiles for a photo with her fellow PRSSA executive board members at their kickoff meeting. (Photo/submitted)

Get as involved in clubs as you can. The earlier you get involved in organizations, the better. Grady offers so many amazing opportunities to learn and experience new things within the communications world and it is so important to take advantage of it. Don’t be afraid to run for positions of leadership and commit yourself to clubs, because they will not only teach you invaluable career skills, but they will also bring you some of your fondest memories of this time in your life.

What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

I lived in Frankfurt, Germany for four years. From the age of 11 to 15, I experienced new cultures and traveled across Europe. Living abroad at such a young age definitely gave me a unique way of thinking and perceiving the world. It wasn’t always easy living in a foreign country, but the difficulties gave me a confidence in myself that has shaped the young woman I am today.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?
Trobradovic leads a PRSSA meeting in studio 100 with guest speaker and alumna Amanda Maddox. (Photo/submitted)

This past year I have had the honor of serving as the president for PRSSA. My proudest moments are when our members tell me how much they have learned from our speakers or enjoy coming to our meetings. PRSSA has given me so much, and as president I want to ensure that everyone else has that very same experience. Knowing that I am able, even if it is in the tiniest manner, to help someone else in their journey at Grady is so rewarding.

Where is your favorite study spot?

This may not be a very popular destination for getting serious work done, but I often find that I am most productive at the Tate Student Center. While some prefer the silence of the MLC or Grady’s fourth floor, I thrive in the hustle and bustle of Tate. The energy and spirit of UGA brings me a lot of joy and I feel undeniably comfortable in the midst of all my fellow peers going about their days throughout the building.

#ProfilesofTenacity: Suley Rostro

Fourth year public relations major Suley Rostro is passionate about contributing to inclusive work environments. She hopes to help increase Latino representation in the communications industry. Currently, Rostro is a public relations specialist at Talking Dog Agency. This summer, Rostro worked as a product PR intern at Apple in Cupertino, California.

Why did you choose your major?

I chose public relations because it incorporates writing, creativity and collaboration. I knew I wanted to work for brands that I am passionate about and make a change. PR exposes you to many industries and large organizations that have the influence to spark change in important global issues. I also knew I wanted to work in a reactive and cross-functional environment. PR is at the forefront of many crisis and celebrations; it is a very fast-paced environment and that’s where I believe I thrive!

What does tenacity mean to you?

Tenacity to me means exhausting your resources to meet your goal. I believe that a tenacious person looks for and creates opportunities that will help better themselves.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I hope to be a senior PR manager or a product manager at a company that I am passionate about. I hope to manage a team and assist in creating useful products. 

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about creating and contributing to an inclusive work environment. I believe that the best PR is done when working in a team that is diverse and accepting of others’ opinions. Also, I am passionate about increasing the amount of Latino representation in the communications industry. I hope to inspire other Latinas to pursue a career in public relations and contribute to making a change in organizations. 

Suley poses in front of a white wall with the Apple logo
Suley was a product public relations intern for Apple this summer, and worked out of their headquarters in Cupertino, California. (Photo/submitted)
What would people be surprised to know about you?

I went to South Korea alone for a month! I really enjoy solo traveling; it’s a great way to self-reflect. 

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

My biggest accomplishment was landing my dream internship this summer. I interned at Apple and worked out of their headquarters in Cupertino, California.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

I hope to do in-house public relations for a mid-large sized organization. I am aiming to stay within the tech, gaming and animation industry.

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

An example of when I used my skills in the real-world was when I wrote a post for Apple’s newsroom. Initially, I was not on the task, but I raised my hand, offered a helping hand, and was given the opportunity to lead the post! That experience put my PR writing skills to the test and taught me to not be shy when it comes to raising my hand. 

Where is your go-to restaurant in Athens?

My go-to restaurant is The Place in downtown Athens. They have a great selection of Southern food. I recommend going for brunch and trying their chicken and waffles!

Where’s your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus has to be the main library. I enjoy reading novels written by East Asian novelists. I find that their writing style is very raw and emotional, and the main library has a huge selection of East Asian novels. Whenever a book that I’m interested in comes up, I immediately look it up, and the main library always has it on their shelves.

Talking Dog internship gives local high schoolers immersive advertising and public relations agency experience

From September 2021 to April 2022, a cohort of eight juniors and seniors from four local high schools participated in an immersive internship program with Talking Dog, Grady College’s in-house, full-service, student-led public relations and advertising agency. 

Each intern was placed on a team consisting of six to eight Grady Talking Dog students assigned to a national or local client. The interns were also individually paired with a Grady student mentor who helped guide them throughout the process. 

“Talking Dog gives students an inside look into what working in an agency is like,” said Valentina Drake, the interns relations director at Talking Dog.

Interns Relations Director Valentina Drake (left) stops for a picture with copywriting intern Sophia Beasley (right)
Interns Relations Director Valentina Drake (left) stops for a picture with copywriting intern Sophia Beasley (right). (Photo: Submitted)

In addition to being on client teams, each intern was also assigned to one of Talking Dog’s departments, which include copywriting, art, public relations, digital media, production and research and strategy.  

Throughout the seven-month program, interns grew their skill sets and had the opportunity to network at regular department meetings, agency-wide meetings, client meetings and intern-only meetings, which often included lectures from guest speakers.  

“Being an intern showed me that I am capable of having a career in advertising and public relations, which I never would have thought possible before,” said Sydney Elrod, a productions intern from Athens Academy. 

“I worked with real-world clients to create advertisements that made an impact on the client and their target market and audience, so it was very fun to see the ideas the team and I made come to life,” added Sophia Beasley, a copywriting intern from Oconee County High School. 

While designed to introduce students to life working for an AdPR agency, The internship is not only for those set on pursuing such careers. It provides valuable professional development and networking opportunities that are applicable to students no matter the path they choose.

“Even if I do not pursue a career in public relations or advertising, I will be more comfortable with any workplace I go into in the future and more familiar with how that experience will look and feel,” said Erin Wyatt, a public relations intern from Clarke Central High School.

Yerahm Hong, a research and strategy intern from North Oconee High School, added: “As the year progressed, I was able to make very good friendships and long-lasting connections. It really felt like a family! It was also very inspiring to be working alongside such high-achieving individuals.”

Echoing the interns’ overall sentiment, Kathryn Nichols, an art intern from Athens Academy, said: “I am so grateful for this experience, and it will be incredibly beneficial for my future endeavors.”

Now three years old, the Talking Dog internship has grown significantly since its start in 2019. At that point, the program had a total of two interns from one local high school, Athens Academy, dedicated to two client teams.

Interns pose for a picture at Grady College.
Interns pose for a picture at Grady College. From left to right: Andrew Cash, Yerahm Hong, Kathryn Nichols, Kyla Scott, Sophia Beasley and Sydney Elrod. (Photo: Submitted.)

In 2020, despite having to go virtual due to the pandemic, the program grew to include a total of seven students and welcomed two new high schools, North Oconee High School and Oconee County High School. This year’s program, which was open to students from five local high schools, was the biggest yet, and it will only continue to grow. 

“Our goal is to continue our outreach and increase participation from these schools to provide invaluable experiences for students interested in advertising and public relations,” said Missy Hill, program manager for Grady’s AdPR Department. “Working with local area high school administrators to collaborate on community outreach and experiential learning opportunities has been invaluable. The support from them has been overwhelming.”

“This is an outreach program that we are really proud of,” added Bryan Reber, head of the AdPR Department. “I’m really grateful to Missy Hill for initiating this three years ago and to the Talking Dog student intern directors who do such a great job integrating the high school students into the Talking Dog Agency.”

The high school administrators Hill has worked with to make the program happen include the late Jean Bennett, a former school counselor at Oconee County High School, Christy Conley, a school counselor at North Oconee High School, Wesley Mellina, the workforce development coordinator for the Clarke County School District, and Brian Olsen, the dean of student life at Athens Academy. 

“We loved the experience that our students had access to over the past few years and are looking forward to participating in the years to come,” said Conley.

“We are pleased to help recruit CCSD students from programs that connect with this opportunity, including our students studying marketing, A/V film technology, journalism and graphic design,” added Mellina. 

Additional interns not quoted above include Andrew Cash, a public relations intern from Oconee County High School, Alexandra Navas, an art intern from Clarke Central High School, and Kyla Scott, a digital media intern from North Oconee High School. 

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Jane Congfei Lian

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

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

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

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

What are you passionate about?

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

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

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

What would people be surprised to know about you?

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

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

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

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

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

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

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

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

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

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

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


Athena Studios donates space to Grady College, partners with Talking Dog

Athena Studios, a new $60 million sound stage development in Athens, Georgia, is set to have a huge impact not only on film production in Georgia but also on Grady College.

Specifically, the developer of Athena Studios, Reynolds Development, enlisted the help of Talking Dog Agency, a student-run advertising and public relations agency, to oversee its ground-breaking announcement and marketing efforts. A student-team handled all the announcement materials, media relations, graphics and photography when the studio broke ground on Nov. 16, 2021.

When the studio opens in 2022, it will also donate one of its studios for exclusive use to Grady students in the Department of Entertainment and Media Studies for five years. The studio space will be a custom-built, 14,600-square-foot sound stage for film and television production. Features include a 28-foot ceiling and double-truck doors allowing for a vehicle as large as a semi-truck to deliver sets and equipment to the studio.

“When you talk about experiential learning, rarely do you gain access to a site that replicates the working environment of film and television professionals,” said Charles Davis, dean of Grady College. “This opens enormous possibilities for the Entertainment & Media Studies department, and we are grateful for this special opportunity given to our students by Athena Studios.”

The Athena Studios space will be used by undergraduate students and will complement the recent renovation of studio space on the first floor of Grady College designed for graduate students in the MFA in Film, Television and Digital Media program. The MFA students move their studies to Fayetteville, Georgia, and to Trilith and Georgia Film Academy studios during their second year of studies.

Having the accessibility from campus to a studio of this size will be a huge benefit to undergraduate students, as well as Georgia Film Academy, which is expected to use the space in partnership with Grady College.

Athena Studios is a partnership between Athens-based commercial real estate development and brokerage firm Reynolds Capital and local developer Tim Burgess.

Athens Studios Groundbreaking
Those breaking ground on the new Athena Studios project included (from left): Charles Davis, dean of Grady College; Lee Thomas (ABJ ’87), deputy commissioner of the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development; John Raulet, vice president of Raulet Property Partners; Joel Harber, president of Reynolds Capital and CEO of Athena Studios; and Jeff Stepakoff, executive director of the Georgia Film Academy.

Once completed, the 45-acre campus located in Clarke County will feature more than 350,000 square feet of purpose-built space for film and television production providing multiple sound stages, support buildings, production offices and a state-of-the-art educational facility.

“Making sure we plan and deliver a best-in-class project has been a priority from the very beginning, and we are excited to be able to offer one of the best purpose-built soundstage campuses in Georgia utilizing the latest construction methods and technology,” said Joel Harber, president of Reynolds Capital and CEO of Athena Studios.

As a native Athenian and UGA alumnus with a successful track record in commercial real estate development, Harber wanted to help bring this industry to Athens, not just for one feature film but indefinitely.

“Watching such tremendous growth in the film industry in Georgia over the last eight years has been great, but we haven’t really seen productions filming in Athens. Not having a proper sound stage space has really kept our area from realizing its full potential,” Harber said. “By developing a first-class soundstage campus and providing educational space for the University of Georgia and the Georgia Film Academy, Athena Studios will not only help put Athens on the map for film and television production, but also help grow the talent ecosystem in Georgia in a great city near its flagship university.”

Often content is developed in Hollywood, filmed in Georgia, then shipped back to California for post-production work. Having both creators and the labor force required to produce content are key pieces of the puzzle.

“Athena Studios will not only provide a purpose-built film campus for productions to bring exciting new content to life, but it will also provide space to help educate and train the next generation of film professionals. Hopefully over time more components of the industry like development and post-production will grow in Georgia and Athens specifically making it more than just a great location to film,” Harber said.

Construction on the project started earlier this month and the first phase is scheduled for completion in November 2022.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Shruti Muruganandan

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study? 

I decided on advertising as my course of study by sheer luck. I came into UGA without a clear idea of what I wanted to pursue and took ADPR 3100 upon the recommendation of my advisor, who suggested it because I was interested in a career that combined creativity with logic and critical thinking. ADPR 3100, or Principles of Advertising, introduced me to the field and to all the limitless bounds of possibilities of creative and strategic work, and I decided then that it was for me.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

My name in Sanskrit means “melody” or “music”. Not surprisingly, music was a huge part of my life growing up – I played the viola, the violin and even a bit of the drums. I was involved in Indian Carnatic singing and was a Bharatanatyam dancer for a while.

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

To me, tenacity describes someone who has the courage and determination to keep on the path they believe in, irrespective of what others think or do. Choosing the field of advertising often meant that I didn’t have anyone in my immediate community to go to for advice or guidance – I don’t have an aunt, a cousin, or a family friend in the industry that I might look to for assistance. It also meant that, as a woman of color, I don’t see many people who look like me or have a background or upbringing like me in my industry. My perspective is often unique compared to that of my peers, which sometimes leaves me feeling like the odd one out. Being tenacious means that regardless of any challenges I face or setbacks I must deal with, I am determined to stick to my path because I believe that advertising can be meaningful and powerful enough to create an impact and that I am capable of being in and thriving within this field. 

What are you passionate about? 

I really stand by the power of diversity and representation within the field of communications. A mentor once told me that marketing and advertising often serve as mirrors to society. What we choose to advertise and communicate often reflects our image of society and the people that we speak to. Knowing this, I don’t believe that advertising has reached its true potential, as many minorities of different backgrounds and perspectives are not spoken to or celebrated. Advertising has the ability to create and impact human culture and providing and striving for adequate representation in media and advertising benefits all parties involved. Advertisers are inherently storytellers, and it’s vital that the stories we choose to tell are inclusive of all. I’m passionate about this issue because I feel that advertising has the unique power to bring about real change in this world and I hope to help achieve this goal during my lifetime.

Who is your professional hero?

One of my professional inspirations is Anjali Sud, the current CEO of Vimeo. Sud is an Indian-American woman who became CEO of a (somewhat) failing company and spearheaded a bold repositioning of the brand to set itself apart from competitors like YouTube, and eventually, it grew enough to turn a profit and go public on Nasdaq.  I love that Sud wasn’t afraid to back down from a challenge and trusted her vision for the company enough to see it through to success. 

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

I worked as a Strategy Intern at an advertising agency called Doe-Anderson this past summer through the MAIP program. It was my first time working in an actual agency and I was nervous that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. Looking back, I had nothing to worry about. My team was super welcoming and supportive, and I was given so many challenging and interesting projects to work on. Toward the end of one of my major projects, which was for a new client the agency had acquired and the first campaign the agency was creating, I received positive feedback from not only my strategy/planning team but also from the creative and account team. I felt so proud of the work I had done in that moment. It made me excited that I had found my calling and inspired me to continue creating meaningful work.

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

My time with Talking Dog has had a huge impact on my personal and professional life during my time at UGA. I was accepted to work as a project manager when I was a sophomore and was absolutely terrified at the prospect, since I had little to no experience in advertising, let alone project management. I was totally convinced that they had accepted me on accident. However, I recognized that I had been given a great opportunity regardless and that I should take advantage of it, so I worked hard, learned so much about working on a team and with clients, and grew to be more confident and outspoken. I joined the Board of Directors the year after as the Director of Fetch during the pandemic, which presented its own set of challenges. It proved difficult to build connections with new members using only Zoom but Talking Dog cultivates an incredible and inclusive culture of support and encouragement and because of that, we were able to have an incredible year. Talking Dog gets brought up in interviews all the time because of how unique of an opportunity it is for college students, and I’m always so happy to talk about how much I learned from my experience and how much fun I had. Talking Dog is definitely a highlight of my college career!

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

This piece of advice wasn’t given solely to me – I attended the Publicis MCTP conference in 2020 and one of the panels presented in the conference was hosted by Ronnie Dickerson-Stewart, then chief diversity officer of Publicis Group, and Minda Harts, author of The Memo. They shared that “self-advocacy is one of the greatest forms of self-love.” It becomes easy, especially in corporate America, to want to silence your voice because you might feel that you’re just grateful to be here. But, it’s important to understand that people that hire you and want to work with you will seek you out because you have talents and gifts that they want. It’s important to recognize the power you hold and be your biggest supporter in advocating for yourself.

Muruganandan attributes some of her best memories in college to her involvement in Talking Dog.
What is your favorite app or social media channel and why?

I love Twitter! I hardly ever create my own Tweets but I love the community and expression that’s present on that platform. While the jokes on Twitter are incredible, I really like how people can share experiences, have conversations and build a broader community. 

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

North Campus is a lovely place to be, but my favorite spot is on the lawns in front of the Old College. My freshman year, I spent a ton of time just sitting on the benches and reading or doing homework. It’s beautiful in the spring and the fall, and I love to people watch there!

New agency manager benefits Talking Dog

There is a new top dog at Talking Dog.

Mary Ellen Barto joined the staff at Grady College as the inaugural agency manager for Talking Dog, the student-led advertising and public relations agency.

Barto, a 30-year veteran of agency and corporate marketing, will provide professional guidance for the students, network with current and future clients and help provide operational  consistency.

Talking Dog agency provides students experiential learning opportunities in a full range of advertising and public relations disciplines including market research, strategy, copy writing, website design, messaging and creative to for-profit and not-for-profit clients.

“We created Talking Dog as an integrated ad and PR agency in 2017 with the dream of eventually having a full-time professional manager,” said Bryan Reber, the C. Richard Yarbrough Professor of Crisis Communication Leadership and head of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations.  “We feel so fortunate to have found someone like Mary Ellen.  She has agency and brand experience, so can mentor students whatever their career goals may be.”

Prior to this role, Barto worked for Luckie & Co, establishing a Media Center of Excellence within the agency.  She also spent 13 years as Vice President of Brand Media and Field Marketing at Arby’s Restaurant Group, where she oversaw strategic media planning and field marketing for the company, managed multiple agency relationships, and was part of the marketing leadership team responsible for the brand’s revitalization. Mary Ellen has also held senior positions in some of the most respected advertising agencies, including Ogilvy & Mather/Mindshare (New York and Atlanta) and BBDO/OMD (Atlanta).

Barto has worked with Talking Dog students over the past few years through her role at Luckie & Co. and she was intrigued about the opportunity to assume this new role where she could mentor students and help them launch their careers.

“I am thrilled to be here and excited about the opportunities within Talking Dog,” Barto said. “I love that UGA has an experiential learning program and I look forward to contributing. I have enjoyed my past work and helping to guide and inspire the students. There are so many opportunities to water the next generation.”

Barto emphasized that even with her new role, Talking Dog will continue to be student-led.

“I see my role as connecting to what’s happening in classrooms to the work in the agency,” Barto continued. “These students are so bright and capable and Talking Dog is absolutely ripe for more opportunities.”

Talking Dog currently serves a variety of local and national clients, and looks to expand its client base in the future. They have worked with clients as diverse as local restaurants and non-profits to Coca-Cola and Porsche.

Carolyn Caudell Tieger (ABJ ’69) worked alongside Reber to bring the new agency manager position to reality.

“The role that Mary Ellen will play is crucial in taking Talking Dog to the next level,” said Tieger, who is instrumental in the Public Affairs Communications certificate program, as well. “It’s all about taking Talking Dog to new heights in terms of quality client service and reputation.”

In addition to Tieger, Brad MacAfee, founder and CEO of Mission + Cause, and John Gardner, president of Luckie & Co., were key in providing encouragement and support.

“At Luckie one of our most valued relationships is with the University of Georgia Grady College and its amazing Talking Dog student agency,” Gardner said. “As one of the initial external supporters of this group we have seen firsthand their talent at UGA, in our business and for our clients.  This relationship will be taken to the next level with Mary Ellen’s addition as she brings unmatched industry experience with a passion for teaching and mentoring our next generation of impact players.”

Nearly 80 students are currently involved with Talking Dog in a variety of roles including account executives, art directors, new business development, communications and PR specialists, copywriters, media specialists, member relations and recruitment.

See the Talking Dog website for more details.


Hispanic Heritage Month Alumni Spotlight: Orlando Pimentel (ABJ ’17)

Editor’s Note: This is one in a series of spotlights highlighting the work of some of our alumni in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. Please watch for more profiles in the weeks to come.

Orlando Pimentel is a senior solutions associate at Heart+Mind strategies. Previously, he worked at Porter Novelli and Hart Research Associates. On campus, Pimentel was involved with Talking Dog, Leadership UGA and the Catholic Center. He participated in The Creative Circus summer program in 2015.

What classes at Grady College did the most to prepare you for your career?

I remember taking a different variety of classes, I think more on the account side. Every class had its own piece to kind of help me out. This field is so diverse and so varied. At different stages of my career, I’ve had to draw from different points. At one point I was an intern at Porter Novelli for the account team, so I had to think more about the account classes. And then before that I was a creative intern, so I had to think of my creative courses. Then ultimately I made the switch to market research in the bulk of my career, and that’s where I really draw on those market research, media planning and statistical-oriented classes. So they all had their importance at different points.

How has your field of study changed since you were a Grady student?

It’s definitely been a big shift. When I got to apply to Grady, I knew I wanted to study advertising, but I didn’t have a focus. After taking some time to try things out, I realized I wanted to do a Creative Advertising route. That was my big thing in my junior and senior year at Grady. I had ambitions to become a designer and an art director. And then after I graduated, I got a creative internship, but it just didn’t pan out like I thought it would. The actual work wasn’t as fulfilling as I thought. My ambition the entire time was to be able to help organizations, individuals and companies tell their story. I thought creative would be that, but I didn’t really feel that connection. I was really removed from that and I didn’t really feel like it was for me, executing other people’s ideas. So I switched over to account and then market research. Ultimately market research won. It’s the synthesis in communications before ideas, everything is kind of based on the data, the idea. It felt closer to that goal of helping people tell their story, being a visionary. It keeps me active and stimulated to be able to be on a different topic every other month, and I thrive on a changing landscape.

How does your Hispanic and/or Latin heritage influence your work? 

It’s interesting because we know that the Hispanic/Latino population in the United States is one of the biggest minority groups at this point. It’s very present now in media and music and more well known industries. But despite that, my observation is the office space or the workspace sometimes doesn’t always reflect that. There’s just not a common place for us to be in this communications or media space. These are the people in charge of reaching out to these demographics, reaching out to the population, whether they be white, Black, Hispanic, Asian American, but the workspace itself doesn’t always reflect that.

There have been a couple of times where I’ve had to kind of speak up a little bit and give my two cents. Like, I can’t speak on behalf of everybody, but it’s important to kind of give your two cents sometimes when you’re going to reach out to a certain demographic. And also consider how things are being represented, how the story is told. I’ve had to remind myself that I can’t put too much pressure on myself either, but I can just reach out to other Latinos in this space with similar backgrounds and share ideas and kind of support one another.

What advice would you give to young students of Hispanic origin who will soon enter the workforce?

I think it’s important to push yourself into spaces you may not be as familiar with and really try to take advantage of the resources available to you. Do not let your lack of knowledge of industries, of work, disqualify you. It’s challenging, it was for me, there’s not a lot of Latinos or Hispanics in the communications or media space. The route to pursue a career, it’s not quite as firm or clear as our parents. I think when our parents immigrated here, the idea of becoming either a laborer, or a blue collar worker, or the more common white collar career of a doctor or a lawyer, those are very clear and more easy to understand. I know for myself, I had no idea about the space, I can’t talk to my parents about wanting to become a creative advertiser. Don’t let that intimidate or discourage you if it’s something you want to pursue. Just lean into and ask a lot of questions. Even just admitting it, too, that’s what I did a lot. I don’t have a lot of background or connections in the space, but what can you tell me, what would you recommend, and then kind of piecing it together from there.

What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?

It definitely had more to play when I was younger. I grew up in rural Georgia very isolated from a lot of the conversations and opportunities that somebody may get if they’re in an urban environment. Being in D.C. the last couple years I realized that Hispanic and Latino communities have a big network, have a lot of outreach and support from different people and organizations, but that’s not the same in a rural area; everybody’s in the same space, but just because you’re in the same space doesn’t mean you’re going to be on the same playing field. So in my case, rural Georgia, very far from a lot of awareness of how to figure myself out and how to support myself as a Latino. I remember watching a lot of TV, reading a lot of books. For me, Hispanic media was seeing other people with similar backgrounds thrive and succeed here in the United States and really have pride for those who have similar stories and culture, whether it be language we speak, the things we watch, the food we eat. It helped me think there’s more to life than just being here in rural Georgia. 

We watched the news and TV and saw places as grandiose as New York City or Los Angeles, or even Atlanta. And I remember just thinking, those are really faraway places, how could I ever reach them, what does it take to do things to be in that space? Like watching all these successful Latino figures and Hispanic individuals make their way through life and being highlighted just helped me get a sense of confidence in myself, and I think that was very important for me and for a lot of others. When you see somebody in similar shoes in spaces that you want to be it gives you permission and the boost that you need to think, oh, I can do that, if they can.

Talking Dog gives students an immersive communications agency experience

It is one of the first questions posed to Grady College advertising and public relations alumni when interviewing for jobs: “Do you have any agency experience?”

Hiring managers seek a diverse skillset and the collaborative experience creating when working in an agency environment. In its third year, Talking Dog continues to grow and develop as an integrated, in-house, full-service, student-led agency.

 “Talking Dog is like its own little family in Grady College,” said Hiba Rizvi, a fourth-year public relations major and Talking Dog co-director. “It consists of our college’s most innovative minds that create meaningful work for clients that benefit from their efforts.”

Talking Dog works with real world clients and gives students the opportunity to execute campaigns through traditional and digital methods. This year Talking Dog has 85 students from 11 different majors that work in cross disciplinary teams. They serve 11 clients, the most to date.

A team from Talking Dog worked with The Backpack Project, an organization that provides necessities to the homeless.
(L-R): Jordan Marbury (Copywriter), Sierra Brown (Account Executive), Keagan Ross (Fetch Strategist), Gracie Hamby (Public Relations Specialist), Virginia Matthews (Art Director)

“It is essential that we provide a learning lab like Talking Dog,” said Bryan Reber, department head for advertising and public relations. “I am always amazed by the quality of work they develop for clients.”

Part of Talking Dog’s mission is to foster relationships with local community leaders, businesses and non-profits to help them achieve their goals. That includes a developing a potential pipeline for the next generation of communications leaders. Athens Academy (a local K-12 school) and Talking Dog have a partnership to share knowledge and learn from each other that delivers on that mission.

Built upon a demand from clients to gain more insight from Generation Z, the relationship with the Academy is a win-win. Talking Dog is able to conduct research through surveys with students in grades 9-12, while Talking Dog is mentoring three high school students, serving as interns for specific clients.

“Talking Dog has been an incredible experience for our students, who were fortunate enough to be selected,” said John Thorsen, Athens Academy head of school. “They have learned and grown from the professional environment, and I believe they have also contributed a valuable perspective along the way.”

Teamwork is now even easier for Talking Dog students as they are housed in the recently renovated Yarbrough Campaigns Lab, in honor of C. Richard (Dick) Yarbrough (ABJ ’59). 

“A student-run firm in a university allows fresh minds to cultivate extraordinary ideas with live feedback by their peers as they progress,” Rizvi said.

Students or potential clients can learn more about Talking Dog and contact the agency at: talkingdogagency.com.