Profiles of Tenacity: Elisa Fontanillas

Advertising student Elisa Fontanillas found the intersection of her passions at Grady College. Self-described as bright, bold and full of color, Fontanillas seeks creativity in all aspects of her life.

Why did you choose your major?

Well-designed things, pretty things, colorful pieces of art and pieces of communication have always caught my eye, especially growing up. I’ve always been infatuated with the way that people create art, magazines and the advertisements that are featured in them. With the rise of social media, I found myself more involved with a pathway that ultimately led to advertising! I find it’s the perfect major that combines my love for creativity, interest in technology and passion for working with people. Ultimately, this drives my love for what I’m studying, and I think I’ve made a pretty good choice.

Fontanillas poses in front of the Chicago skyline.
What does tenacity mean to you?

Tenacity means having unwavering passion and commitment to your craft and getting enjoyment out of always wanting to get things done in the best way possible. It means when you accomplish something you truly worked for, you get that warm fuzzy feeling that fuels your next fire.

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

I think it’s so important to be honest with yourself about what pathway you want to take with your career. It’s easy to get caught up in what other people are doing and ultimately model your own path based on others’ opinions, but you need to stay true to yourself and stay confident in what is going to make you the most satisfied and happy with your life. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience?
Fontanillas alongside other summer interns at Razorfish Health, a Publicis Groupe company.

Spending this last summer on the Grady Chicago Internship and Domestic Field Study was an unforgettable experience. Living and working in the city was not only a dream come true, but also a fantastic way for me to learn more about myself and what I want to do post-grad. Chicago is a beautiful city, and I would absolutely love to go back!

What has been the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?
Fontanillas embraces her fellow New Student Orientation leaders.

Being a part of New Student Orientation changed my trajectory at UGA. This program pushed me with my personal and professional growth and is what ultimately led me to decide to truly pursue my path down advertising. NSO connected me with some of my closest friends, and an incredible community that continuously pushes me to be better! 

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

I’ve been taught that comparison is the thief of joy and that your time is now! Your life right now is not a dress rehearsal, so act as if you are in the show now and don’t take any opportunity for granted. 

What would you tell your freshman self?

I would tell her to embrace change, be honest with what she truly wants, and stay present by enjoying every moment.

Profiles of Tenacity: Kelly Gago

Fourth-year Entertainment and Media Studies student Kelly Gago uses the skills she learned in her classes to create short films and prepare herself for life post-graduation. She encourages students to take all opportunities given to them, and make the most out of their college experience.

Why did you choose your major?

Right before the COVID-19 lockdown, I went on a trip to Disney World with my parents. I remember sitting in Hollywood Studios with my dad telling him how I had no idea what I wanted to major in. Then he was like, isn’t this your favorite Disney park? You love movies, you can major in that. And Voila a month later I got into UGA and immediately changed my major from Business Management to Entertainment and Media Studies.

What does tenacity mean to you?

To me tenacity means perseverance. It means that even when things get hard you will continue to follow your goals.

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

Okay hear me out but YOLO. (I promise I did not just time travel from 2012.) Scared to apply for your dream internship? YOLO. Nervous about applying to a study abroad program? YOLO. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there or follow your dreams! You’ll only be an undergrad at Grady once so you might as well live this opportunity to its fullest.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?
Gago (left) working behind the scenes on her short film “Cafecito.”

There are so many but I think one of my most memorable would be writing an entire TV show with my friends in my Writing for Entertainment Media class. Also in May 2022, I was able to attend the Cannes Film Festival which was an amazing opportunity. Not only was it the ultimate test of stepping out of my comfort zone ( I had never left the country and I did not know a single word of French) but being in an environment where everyone was so passionate about film really solidified that this is the path for me.

What are you passionate about?

As the daughter of Cuban parents and a proud Cuban American, I am super passionate about telling Latinx stories. I’m also passionate about whatever my current hyper-fixation is. (This week it’s Letterboxd, my Kindle and Maluma’s new album).

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

This past year I wrote (and directed) my first ever short film, Cafecito, for my Directing for the Screen class. Honestly, I never considered myself a writer so writing a screenplay was something I never thought I would do but I had an idea and I knew I had to be the one to write it. I ended up submitting my film to the Elevate Film Festival and got nominated for best screenplay. It was such a full circle moment for me.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?
Group photo at Cannes Film Festival
Gago (back left) attended the Cannes Film Festival in May 2022.

I loved all my professors at Grady but if I have to narrow it down it would be Professor Sridhar and Professor Biddle. For Sridhar’s class, we were divided into groups and had the goal to write an entire episode for a TV show that we created. The task was daunting at first but Sridhar would always make us laugh and encourage us to do our best! I had Professor Biddle for Production Basics and he truly helped me gain confidence as a filmmaker.

Where’s your favorite place on campus and why?

I am a simple woman. I love anywhere with a charger nearby and a comfy chair. My favorite places to locate these must-have essentials would be the 5th floor of Tate, the reading room in the Main Library, or the Homecoming office in the ELS.

Who is your professional hero?

My professional hero is definitely Greta Gerwig. As cheesy as it sounds she really is Director Barbie; Many of her works, both as a writer and director, focus on the experiences of complex, independent, and authentic female characters and they have been crazy successful as well. Whenever I wonder if becoming a director is just a pipe dream I think of Greta.

40 Under 40 honoree profile: Michael Waldron

Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10), a screenwriter and producer, is one of six Grady alumni in the UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class this year. Waldron began his career as an intern on the first season of “Rick and Morty” and has since created “Loki” for Disney+, wrote “Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness” and created “Heels” on STARZ, among other accomplishments. Waldron has received numerous awards and accolades for his work, including a People’s Choice Award award for Loki Season 1 and a share of an EMMY for the fourth season of “Rick and Morty.” We are pleased to highlight Waldron in his own words.

Waldron (left) stands next to Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino, the two stars of the Loki series.
Waldron (right) stands next to Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino, the two stars of the Loki series. (Photo:Submitted)
What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

This one’s easy: I met my wife in our Intro To Production class and later proposed to her in that same classroom. I’m only here today because of her. And generally I am where I am on any day because of her. She does most of our scheduling.

What skill(s) or advice do you have for young alumni to help them have success early in their careers?

Hollywood is literally in your back yard – go to work on a set, in any capacity you can. You’ll gain firsthand experience and knowledge others would kill for, and make connections that will lay the foundation for your career.

Is there a piece of advice from one of your Grady College professors that still guides you today?

Professor James Biddle taught me how to make movies in his Advanced Production class. More than any single piece of advice, I remember learning from him that what seemed impossible was always, in fact, achievable. He demystified the technical filmmaking process, and vanquished my assumption that this wasn’t a viable career path. Like I said, he made the impossible achievable.

What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?

In April, the Georgia Football Instagram dropped a Loki-themed countdown hype video. That’s the top of the mountain for sure.

Graphic with a Michael Waldron quote that reads: More than any single piece of advice, I remember learning from him that what seemed impossible was always, in fact, achievable.How do you get inspired?

I play golf. Poorly.

Favorite podcast?

Pardon My Take.

One job-related tool you can’t live without?

My dog. (Most writing is done on our walks.)

Favorite restaurant in Athens?

Pauley’s or Amici.

Favorite place you’ve traveled to?

Mallorca, Spain.

Favorite book?

Recently I really enjoyed the Mike Nichols biography by Mark Harris, and “Sea of Tranquility” by Emily St. John Mandel.


Six Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. GA graphic advertising Grady's 40 Under 40 alumni panel. rady College alumni honored in 2022 include:

  • Emily Curl (ABJ ’14)
  • Lauren Culbertson Greico (ABJ ’09)
  • Christie Johnson (ABJ ’07)
  • Chad Mumm (ABJ ’08)
  • Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16)
  • Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10)

We will welcome five of the honorees back to Grady College on Friday, Sept. 9 for a “Message to My Younger Self” panel. Please join us in the Peyton Anderson Forum (room 238) at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be offered.