|4+1 student Steven Coulombe|
What encouraged you to apply to Grady College?
I was first drawn to Grady by its reputation. It has been topping the lists of best journalism schools in the country for quite sometime. That and, of course, the in-state tuition was a big motivator (as opposed to attending another university). However, after experiencing Grady, I would be remiss if I did not praise a couple other things. What I mean is there are things I did not know about the college before being accepted, but have ended up having a big impact on my education and future career aspirations. First and foremost, the faculty is phenomenal. The professors are experts in their fields and, most importantly, they give to their students. I don’t want this to sound like a tired cliché because the support I received from my professors was anything but commonplace. Also, I want to say that there is such a thing as the Grady family. Alumni of the college want to come back, give back, to the current students. This can have a major impact when beginning to apply for jobs. The great thing, too, is Grady alumni are everywhere, all over the globe. But it is not just alumni that Grady has great relationships with, its agencies and companies too. In case you didn’t know, a few Grady students were featured on the cover of Ad Week for their involvement with PHD. That is an exclusive research opportunity that was coordinated between PHD and the Grady offices. There are tons of other opportunities like that. For example, Moxie—a digital advertising agency in Atlanta—offers exclusive tours and campus visits to Grady; Omnicom (the holding company over BBDO, Porter Novelli and Ketchum) has an exclusive fellowship open to only Grady students and recent grads; Performics, runs Google Adwords certification programs on campus; and Coca-Cola reserves space for two to three Grady interns each year. Yeah, Grady is pretty cool that way.
What's the 4+1 experience like? Why did you decide to pursue a masters?
The 4+1 experience has been awesome. I mean at face value it’s a cool program: You are getting a Master’s degree in a year. Do you need more convincing? Probably not, but I’ll say my piece anyway. It is becoming more and more common for companies (both on the agency and corporate side) to practice integrated marketing communication. The 4+1 program gives you the background you need to succeed in this changing environment. For public relations majors, for example, you will round out your education with an advertising major (and visa versa for advertising majors). You are doubling your skill set (at least) and familiarizing yourself with a new practice. This makes you more versatile and able to apply to more positions. Also, you will avoid culture shock. Public relations majors won’t be surprised when they enter an ad agency and see people in jeans. The program also lets you see many through lines between advertising and public relations. For example, both disciplines are heavily rooted in research. In order to be a successful strategist, creative or whatever you’ll have to be able to pull insights from different data. This is just one example of what 4+1 has done for me.
I decided to pursue a Master’s degree for a couple reasons. First, if this program lasted two or more years I would not have done it. I figured I could afford to take one more year at school (foregoing a paycheck) in order to have a master’s degree that could help me further my career down the line. Second, it was also a selfish decision. I had a hard time deciding what to major in as an undergrad. This was a great way for me to get experience in two fields that interested me. Finally, I wanted to be prepared for an industry that was increasingly integrated.
What activities are you involved in at Grady/UGA/Athens?
As a graduate student I am not involved too much around campus anymore. I have a part-time job at Performance Pediatrics and Sports Medicine. I work on their marketing initiatives. Between that and school I am pretty busy. As an undergrad, though, I was involved with PRSSA. My senior year I was the Digital Media Director for the chapter. I encourage everyone (public relations major or not) to investigate PRSSA. They bring in some great speakers and open up many internship and job opportunities. I also was a Junior Account Executive for Creative Consultants. Creative Consultants is a fully functioning, student-run, public relations agency. You get to work with real world clients with real world problems. I also was involved with Miracle and Shop With A Bulldawg.
What kinds of internships or work have you been involved in, and what were your responsibilities? (If you haven't been involved in internships or work, you can mention activity experience)
I have been very lucky in the internships I’ve held. The high points are my experiences with the Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta Magazine and Parent to Parent of Georgia. I was the public relations intern at the Georgia Aquarium. Most of my responsibilities involved pitching local, regional and national media outlets; facilitating special events and giving high(er) profile guests behind-the-scenes tours. (I saw Reese Witherspoon!) At Atlanta Magazine, I wrote press releases, pitched placements in the magazine, and helped out on some events. Parent to Parent of Georgia was a nonprofit organization geared to help families of children with disabilities. I was a team member on special project to produce a multimedia annual report.
What were the best parts of these experiences?
My summer with Georgia Aquarium has too many high points to recount here, but one I want to discuss in detail is "Fishercise." This was a viral video idea the public relations and social media interns collaborated on. Based on the topical video "Prancercise" we devised a video to promote the Aquarium's summer special: Imagination Nights. What I like most about this experience is I got to see the entire process happen, from idea to implementation. I even had the opportunity to perform as the marquee mascot in the video.
At Atlanta Magazine I was the only public relations intern on staff and it was my responsibility to assist in any capacity that could help to promote the magazine. It was a unique experience garnering media attention for a media outlet, but extremely important for the magazine's livelihood.
At P2P I interviewed four different families across the state of Georgia. It was my responsibility to get these families to discuss difficult and personal moments from their lives. It was hard, but very rewarding. I was moved by their stories and genuinely amazed at their strength.
What part of your Grady experience (classes, professors, etc.) has been helpful in your internship or work experiences?
I completely credit every bit of success I’ve experienced to Grady. Recently, I received an offer to be a Fellow with Omnicom. I think this might be the perfect forum to say thank you. First, without Grady I would not have even had the program to apply to. Like I said before, Grady provides unique and exclusive opportunities to their students. The Omnicom Fellowship is one such program. I want to say thank you to Dr. Reichert and Dr. Roushanzamir. They have been in my corner, pushing me to apply to things I thought out of my league, keeping me informed on all the opportunities available to me, and being good friends. Also, the 4+1 program improved my knowledge about communications work in general. This gave me confidence when I began interviewing for positions.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering pursuing an Ad/PR program? or a 4+1 program?
Take advantage of this program! It has made all the difference for me. The program is designed for students that are planning on going into the communications industry (instead of those geared toward academia). Therefore, the classes tend towards a practical approach to the study of communications. The program is also designed for optimum customization. For example, I have decided to do an internship for credit hours, but I could have gone to the Creative Circus, on a study abroad trip, or taken more classes. You get to make your Master’s whatever you want it to be.
What are your career goals and interests?
I want to start out in an agency. I think that could give me experience with a lot of different clients across many different product and service categories. I think this will give me a good idea of what I like and don’t like to do. Down the road, I really would like to find myself at an integrated marketing firm doing strategy work. I want to be the insights man; I want to take data and pull insights from that to inform really awesome creative work.