Profiles of Tenacity: River Gracey

River Gracey encourages students to pursue their interests and study subjects that they are truly passionate about. (Photos: submitted)

Profiles of Tenacity: River Gracey

October 19, 2023

Second-year graduate student River Gracey is pursuing a Master’s in Mass Communication and Journalism, emphasizing Public Relations. Read more about his path to Grady College below.

Why did you choose your major?

I entered my undergraduate career at Augusta University undecided about what I wanted my major to be. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s Lymphoma during my first semester. I had to withdraw from classes to do treatment. After my treatment, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that made me happy and fulfilled. I quickly fell in love with our communications department and the instructors who shared similar passions to me. Those professors motivated me to continue my academic journey in graduate school, and following their advice has led me to Grady College. It is the best choice I have ever made in my life.

What does tenacity mean to you?

Tenacity means that anything is possible. The journey we take in life, whether academic, professional or personal, will have hardships. There are many moments where a person will be tempted to give up. So many moments when we have every reason to believe we can not accomplish something. I promise that you can do it. Our dreams are only crazy until you do it.

Gracey poses in front of The Arch at UGA.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?

Make your experience what you want it to be! My passion in life is sports, but I am also interested in healthcare and other public relations subjects. Grady College does a great job of making a lot of personal interests worth researching and discussing. People who work in academia want to help you and make you feel welcome. When you are good to Grady College, I promise that Grady College will be good to you.

Who has had the most significant impact on my life at Grady?

Dr. Yan Jin has been both helpful and a key motivator to my success so far. I enjoy her lessons, ranging anywhere from public relations to crisis communications. She has been the most significant reason at UGA for why I plan to pursue my Ph.D.

What is your favorite place on campus?

It may sound like a strange answer, but my walk from the WUGA office to Grady College gives me so much joy. When I was younger, I never thought college, especially one as large as UGA, was a realistic option. Going to a university and doing something that is your passion is something many people miss out on. Walking past the giant scoreboard daily gives me an appreciation I will never take for granted. It reminds me how far I have come.

What motivates you?

My cancer diagnosis motivated me like nothing else could. I did all my treatments in the children’s hospital in Augusta, and I was the oldest patient at 18. All of those kids who were robbed of a fair chance at a long life would do anything to be in my shoes, and I never forget that. I just want those kids to be proud.

What are you passionate about?

My passion is sports. I love all the Atlanta professional sports teams and UGA’s athletics. When we won the national championship in 2021, the year before I was a student, I almost got kicked out of the restaurant where I was watching because I stood on the table celebrating the win. My professional passion is wanting to work in a collegiate academic role. All of the most influential people in my life have been teachers at some level, and I want to have an impact on others the way they impacted me.

Gracey smiles in the stands at an Atlanta Braves baseball game.
What is the best piece of advice you have received? 

When I asked my dad for his thoughts about me pursuing a Ph.D. and working for a college, he gave me the best advice I had ever heard. He said, “If I could start over and do anything I wanted, I would do something that helps people.” It took everything in me not to cry when he said that. It was almost like a final confirmation that I was in this for the right reasons. It gave me a lot of validation.