Profiles of Tenacity: Liz Rymarev

Liz Rymarev taking a photo of a man outside.
Rymarev on assignment for The Red & Black covering the Veteran's Day flag placement done annually by the Student Veterans Resource Center. (Photo/Chamberlain Smith)

Profiles of Tenacity: Liz Rymarev

January 25, 2024

Fourth-year journalism student Liz Rymarev serves as the editor-in-chief of the Red and Black. She values the impact her professors have had on her love for journalism.

Why did you choose your major?

I came to UGA wanting to be a veterinarian and even applied to be a College of Agriculture ambassador. I wanted to be an advocate for the animals and was even vegan for seven years. But, I learned that my passion for history, writing, photography and learning about different cultures allowed me to advocate for all types of beings and communities. As I was in the middle of changing my major, my dad advised me that I should try journalism because I like to talk and write. He pointed me in the right direction, and I just kept going down the path.

What does tenacity mean to you?

Tenacity is having the courage to care deeply, and to be vulnerable where others aren’t.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?

If you have the passion, if you have the drive, and you care deeply, you will make it. Don’t compare yourself to a classmate or a professional who is 10 years ahead of you in the field. But, to get to where you want to be, you have to push yourself past what you’ve already done. Take every opportunity and assignment, get feedback and connect with your professors. Journalism needs students like you.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

My experience with the Cox Institute’s Covering Poverty project was very formative. In my first two semesters at Grady, I was able to take on stories that dealt with heavy topics, and the lessons I learned from those stories and the people I interviewed has helped me find ways to connect with my community and learn about the struggles they face here at UGA and in the Athens-Clarke area. I even had my stories published in the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, which was exciting to know that it had a larger audience and people saw the sensitive work we did throughout the year.

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

Headshot of Liz Rymarev
Rymarev is the editor-in-chief of The Red & Black for the fall 2023 and spring 2024 semesters. (Photo/Sidney Chansamone)

My professors at Grady have had the biggest impact during my time at UGA. Lori Johnston, Andrea Hudson, Mark Johnson, Charlotte Varnum, Dodie Cantrell and Amanda Bright are a few professors I consider my mentors and supporters. Everything I’ve questioned, pondered on or wondered about journalism, they’ve all been able to answer it and guide me through my work.

What are you passionate about?

Besides baking a good loaf of bread, playing Beethoven and Tchaikovsky on the piano and diving into an old book, I am most passionate about journalism. I know it’s cheesy for a journalism student to say the career they are going into is their passion – but I believe deeply in this field, and I hope to shape the future of journalism, one story at a time, and one photo at a time. The world needs more passion and more care, and it should start here, in Grady.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

I used to have my path all mapped out and all of the cities and communities I wanted to cover, but I realize that the best experiences are the ones you don’t plan for and you jump right into. Taking a leap of faith is scary, but it is necessary for growth. I hope to be in a community where I can make a difference with the work I do. Whether it’s in the smallest county in the country, or the biggest city on the east coast, I want to inspire others and document history.

What motivates you?

My staff at The Red & Black. They keep me going, and they push me to be the best version of myself so I can be a better leader for them. As editor in chief, I get to be a mentor to so many people and be the first face they interact with in Grady and in journalism. I learned that the more I push myself and the bounds of what I am capable of, the more they push themselves, and it’s rewarding to see all of us grow together.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

 Rymarev shows a photo to a child during her study abroad in Havana, Cuba in May 2023. (Photo/Roaslie Richey)

Last semester, Dawn Sawyer and I flew to New Jersey to speak with the family, friends and coaches of former UGA offensive lineman Devin Willock, who passed away about a year ago in a car crash after celebrating the second national championship win. We pitched the trip to our executive director at The Red & Black because we knew how important visuals for the story would be, and we wanted to do the story and his memory justice. It was my most emotional, challenging story, and as a photojournalist, I learned a lot about intimacy, timing and humanity. My photos and Dawn’s story were printed on the front cover a few days after we came back.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

One of the most influential people in my professional life is Mark Johnson. When I came to Grady, previously a pre-vet major, I didn’t know anything about the importance of journalism or why we do it. I just wanted to cover some concerts and talk to some cool artists, but after taking his photojournalism classes, I learned that journalism goes beyond the coverage. It’s about the people, human connection, social justice and always advocating for what is right. Professor Johnson has inspired me to be an advocate for visual journalism, where the landscape of the field is changing with the introduction of AI and mass layoffs in visual departments around the world. Our many chats in his office helped me decide to pursue photojournalism and how to be a leader in the practice.

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

You cannot compare the experiences of others to your own. You are exactly who you are supposed to be today, tomorrow and the next day. The only person you should compare yourself to is who you were yesterday. This was the hardest truth I learned in my time at Grady. Imposter syndrome is real, and the more opportunities you take, the more pressure you can feel to be perfect and flawless. But we are humans, and we are students – we make mistakes and the beauty is that we get to learn from it.

Grady photojournalism student Liz Rymarev assists on a photoshoot of assistant professor Gaurav R. Sinha at the School of Social Work.

Where’s your favorite place on campus and why?

I really want to gatekeep this spot because of how quiet it is, but the third floor of the main library in the graduate study room. I’m actually not sure if you have to be a graduate student to study here, but if I stay quiet and do my work, no one suspects a thing. It’s got this cool 70’s vibe and huge comfy chairs that face the main library lawn where I get to people watch.

Who is your professional hero?

All of the women photojournalists in the field who have paved the way for my generation to do important work, take up space and be the voice for so many issues that only women have knowledge or access to are my heroes. I had the chance to speak with Lyndsey Addarrio through the McGill symposium last fall and hear her stories as a war photographer covering the largest global conflicts. Her courage to keep going back to dangerous warzones to cover the people affected inspires me to be courageous here, in my community, and to be brave and bold when covering issues that are bigger than me.

What advice would you give to your freshman self?

If I could sit down with my freshman-year self, I would tell her to buckle in for the adventure that the next four years will bring and to always be kind to herself. Oftentimes, we are the worst critics of ourselves, and although each experience, good or bad, has taught me something, I would tell my freshman self to go through it all with grace and self-compassion.

How have the classes at Grady prepared you for your future?

I like to think that the classes in Grady exposed me to different areas of the field. Starting with communication law, and learning about First Amendment rights, to my current social justice capstone where I am learning about biases and covering issues everyday people face, I am exposed to many different ways of thinking and angles of approaching stories. I like to advocate for pairing your classes with an experience outside of class to create a holistic learning experience that will set in stone what you are taught in class with what you do in the field.

Editor: Morgan Jones |