Jenna Monnin is graduating with dual majors in journalism and political science major, and has also earned a Public Affairs Communications certificate. She has served as a Tieger Fellow for the PAC program, a student volunteer for Grady Newsource and a Panhellenic delegate and nomination committee chair for her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. During her time at Grady College, Monnin also participated in the Grady D.C. program, served as a hotline editorial intern with the National Journal and worked as a technology and Press Freedom Project and Policy intern.
To Monnin, tenacity means always giving yourself a chance. “It’s the act of doing the bold thing of starting, trying, applying, even when it seems impossible. Tenacity is a blend of stubbornness, authenticity and courage, and it’s something I live by,” she explained.
The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
Why did you choose your major?
When I first came to UGA, I was an “intended” journalism major. From my experience with my high school’s newspaper, I knew I was drawn to investigative stories—especially when they involved politics. By the end of my freshman year, I had officially added my political science major. Double majoring has been difficult at times because journalism and political science are very different areas of study. However, I’m so glad I followed this path because I think it’s helped set me up for the career I hope to find in the journalism field.
What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?
Professor Joseph Watson and the Public Affairs Communications program have had such a great impact on my life during my time at UGA. Without Professor Watson’s guidance, I’m not sure if I would have been accepted to the Grady DC Field Study & Internship Program. If I didn’t have the opportunity to live and work in DC last summer, I don’t think I would feel as confident in my decision to pursue a career in journalism after I graduate. Additionally, Professor Watson chose me for the Tieger Fellowship in Media Relations for the PAC program, and this has allowed me to work on behalf of a program that has given me such awesome experiences.
What is your most memorable Grady experience?
My most memorable Grady experience was getting the opportunity to live and work in Washington, D.C. on the Grady DC program during the summer of 2022. While I was there, I had two part-time internships: in the mornings, I was the Hotline Editorial Intern for National Journal, and, in the afternoons, I was the TPFP & Policy Intern for Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Getting to work in political journalism while also working to protect press freedom (an issue I’m particularly passionate about) was the most amazing experience. While living in UGA’s Delta Hall, I made dozens of new friends outside of Grady’s program. I’m so thankful that many of these friends will also be moving to DC in the future, so when I eventually head back up to the Capitol, it won’t be so lonely!
What are you passionate about?
Ever since I was a kid, I have always been the type of person to question everything. The pursuit of knowledge is something I am passionate about, but not necessarily in the way you might expect. I have loved my time in school (and I will admit, I am a bit afraid of life without academic structure), but the kind of knowledge that thrills me often cannot be found in a classroom. Going out into the world and asking questions is what excites me! The pursuit of information and sharing what you find with others is exactly why I want to be a journalist. Knowledge allows us to make our own opinions, engage with others, and hold our institutions accountable. I recognize that it is truly a privilege to “be in the know,” and my time at UGA has equipped me with the ability to think critically about what it means to be informed.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?
One piece of advice I would give Grady students (especially those majoring in journalism) is to be confident in yourself and your abilities. Interviewing influential subjects or sources that have a sensitive story can be very intimidating. I’ve found that it’s very difficult to function as a journalist when you allow self-doubt to creep into your work. This may sound cliche, but, for me, being confident can sometimes be about “faking it till you make it.” Whenever I am nervous, I imagine how an extremely confident person would act in that situation and just try my best to emulate that. Let yourself be OK with being scared, but don’t let it impact the confidence you have in your own abilities.
What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?
One thing people might be surprised to know about me is that despite my love of politics, investigative, and breaking news, I would literally drop everything right now if I had the opportunity to be a wildlife photographer or documentary filmmaker. My passion for conservation and love for animals started when I read my first copy of National Geographic many years ago.
What are you planning to do after you graduate?
After I graduate, I’m hoping to move to D.C. and pursue a career in journalism. I have a summer internship with a D.C. publication called The Capitol Forum, an investigative news organization, and I am very excited to experience what it’s like to cover antitrust and corporate investigation stories. I have experience in print, digital, and broadcast journalism, so I am trying to keep myself open to any opportunity that may come my way over the next few months. I would like to enter a journalism role that allows me to be near the action, so breaking news opportunities—especially those that can put me close to political issues—are something I am very interested in as a young journalist. In the future, I could see myself going to graduate school or law school, but I want to work for a few years before I make that decision.
What motivates you?
I would be remiss if I did not mention that my mother is my biggest motivator because she has been the best support system over these past few years. However, as a journalist, I am motivated by the First Amendment privileges this country affords to members of the press. During my time at UGA, I’ve studied what it means to enjoy a truly free press and how that impacts both journalists and the public they keep informed. My summer internship at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press showed me that there is still so much work to be done in this area and that any government encroachment can lead press freedom down a slippery slope. The First Amendment’s guarantee of a free press motivates me to take full advantage of this protection by ensuring that my work both elevates silenced voices and provides a forum for discussion and debate.
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?
My biggest accomplishment in the past year was definitely my contributions to Grady Newsource’s political show this fall. Two of my packages ran on the election night shows, and I was able to work as a field anchor reporting live during Georgia’s Senate runoff. I am so thankful for the feedback and instruction I received during this time, and I am very proud of myself for putting in many hours of work to create multimedia projects. Working with this show in a politically relevant state like Georgia is an experience that I will never forget.