#GradyGrit: Meet Tony Phan

Editor’s Note: #GradyGrit is a new series of profiles of Grady College students who show determination, leadership and outreach to the community. Search “#GradyGrit” on the Grady College website for additional profiles. 

Hometown: Morrow, Georgia

Year: Senior

Grady degree: Entertainment and Media Studies major

Activities and Involvement: University Union coordinator of marketing, Filipino Student Association general body member, Grady student ambassador, founder of Phantastic Media Project, Asian American Student Association general body member, videographer for the Office of Dean of Students

How has Grady influenced your time at UGA?

It is really difficult for me to find the words to encompass everything that Grady has really done for me. I came into the University of Georgia to pursue a Bachelor’s of science in biology. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to fulfill a dream — to make my parents proud of me. I soon found out that the dream I was fulfilling wasn’t … my dream. I think it was more so the idea of making my parents happy. I just didn’t enjoy what I was studying, and I felt as if everything was so much more tense and uptight than they needed to be. When I realized that my passion wasn’t for biology but for digital media, I instantly changed my major and applied to Grady. When I got accepted, I felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was finally going to be able to do something that I actually enjoyed doing. I left what seemed to be a fight to the death, and I joined something that I would gladly call a family. Everyone was so friendly and accepting. No one was scared to be themselves. It was relaxed and fun, and that is something I noticed immediately when I switched over from Franklin to Grady. Grady has given me a family. Grady has given me an environment that allows me to grow as a person, to be my truest self and to let my creativity run wild without anyone saying anything about it.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

My most memorable Grady experience so far has to be the day that I was accepted to become a Grady College Student Ambassador. I say this because the fact of the matter is that the University of Georgia is a competitive place. The clubs, the classes and the sports are all competitive — as they should be. As soon as I was accepted into UGA, I knew I wanted to be make a difference and to leave my mark on the campus. I started off my freshman year talking to everyone and networking as much as I could, and my sophomore year was when I began to apply for positions that I felt could help me accomplish my goal. I applied to be a Dawg Camp Counselor, a member of the Student Government Association, a residential assistant for the dorms and the list goes on. Unfortunately, I was denied every single one. For a time, I felt as if I just wasn’t good enough. I felt as if I was doing something wrong, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. You don’t always get what you want, but it’s how you deal with the failure and rejection that really matters. I decided that this wasn’t going to be it for me. I still wanted to leave a legacy behind, so I applied to be an ambassador. Now, I am in a position to impact people in a positive way that will allow them to see UGA for what it truly is and why they belong there.

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

I’ve always been a people person. I’ve always been the guy that had no circle and was always mingling with everyone. I wanted to be accepted by everyone I met, but I realized that life just doesn’t work that way. I think the moment that had the biggest impact on my life was the day I realized that. It takes too much effort trying to make everyone happy with who I was and what I was doing. There is no way to please everyone. Once I came to terms with that, it really opened up a lot of doors for me. You can’t always live your life in fear of upsetting someone or people not liking you because then you aren’t living for yourself. You’re living for somebody else.

What is your best advice for a student taking their first class at Grady College?

The best advice I could give a student would be to make your Grady experience completely your own. It is entirely what you make of it. Make your cohort your family. These are the people that are going to be with you for the years to come, so why not make it into something that you’ll want to remember for the rest of your life? Be outgoing, be open and just be yourself. Make Grady your family, too. It’s definitely become my family. Everyone is so open-minded, so welcoming and so driven to be successful. The atmosphere of Grady, in my opinion, is an experience you won’t get anywhere else on campus. The atmosphere is so lighthearted and fun. It is a place of creativity. It is a place where you can make your dreams a reality while having fun at the same time.

Tony Phan is the founder of the Phantastic Media Project.

What motivates you?

The thing that motivates me the most is the goal of becoming successful in a way not defined by the amount of money I will make or the material things I will have but in the measure of how happy I am. It’s the idea of me doing what I love doing in the future, it’s the idea that I have built myself up from the ground up and it is the idea that despite every single thing life has thrown at me, I have persevered.

Last show/favorite show you binge watched?

I would definitely have to say the usual Black Mirror, The Office, The 100, and I’m starting on Stranger Things (yes, I’m very late).

Favorite quote?

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I actually have a project that I’m working on called Phantastic Media. Heh, get it? No? Okay. It’s, in a sense, a little business I’m trying to start where people can hire me to take photos or shoot videos for their organization or for personal use.

Favorite Athens restaurant?

My favorite restaurant has to be Kelly’s Authentic Jamaican Food. Kelly is a super friendly welcoming person. Don’t sleep on the cornbread, the sweet tea or the beef/chicken patties they have. The jerk chicken, jerk pork, barbecue chicken and curry chicken are all super good. Be careful of the jerk entrees because they are SPICY.

Create your own question to answer: What are some of your hobbies?

I used to play tennis all the time during high school. I love to read and write. I love sleeping. I love playing video games. I throw down in the kitchen, like for real. I love eating, trying new restaurants and exploring new places, too.

#GradyGrit: Meet Kira Rakshit

Editor’s Note: #GradyGrit is a new series of profiles of Grady College students who show determination, leadership and outreach to the community. Search “#GradyGrit” on the Grady College website for additional profiles. 

Hometown: Bhilai, India 

Year: Senior 

Degree: Entertainment and Media Studies major, Film Studies and Art History minor 

Activities and Involvement: Peabody Student Honor Board, Grady LA program participant, Cannes Film Festival program participant, producer for multiple student film productions, currently directing an independent short film that I co-wrote, Turner Entertainment Networks Class participant 

How has Grady influenced your time at UGA? 

I have been pushed to work my absolute hardest during my time in Grady. It molded me to become more ambitious and determined. As I graduate this Fall, I am coming out of the program as a completely different person. I have also been fortunate enough to be given a chance to visit some really amazing places — namely France, New York and Los Angeles — and gain valuable practical experience that’ll benefit me tremendously as I move forward in my life. These have created opportunities for me that I could not be more thankful for. 

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

Probably being accepted to my major. My life really changed once I came into Grady. That sounds like an exaggeration, but it most definitely is not. My work ethic became much stronger, and I started working much harder. But I also made so many new friends and connections that I will carry with me even after I graduate. 

What is your best advice for a student taking their first class at Grady College? 

While I can only speak from my experience in EMST, I am sure that every student, after getting into their major in Grady, feels intimidated at first. You finally commit to focus on a specialized area in college where your teachers demand a high level of dedication and intelligence. All of that will seem challenging, but it is challenging for everyone. Take a deep breath. You’ll learn to manage all of it. As long as you’re passionate about what you do, all the hard work will be worth it. 

“As long as you’re passionate about what you do, all the hard work will be worth it.”
 – Kira Rakshit

What motivates you? 

I want to make my family proud. My parents and sister have been so incredibly supportive of my dreams and aspirations my entire life and me striving to work hard is a direct result of that. In addition to that, I want to make the five-year-old me proud. 

Kira Rakshit looks at a monitor as she directs a film.

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

That I grew up in India. People around are usually surprised by that when they first find out. 

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor/mentor/family member?   

I don’t think that I have one singular, all-encompassing piece of advice that I have gotten from someone. But my parents always urge me to have conviction and a positive approach whenever I have a tough time with anything, and if I ever forget, all I have to do is call them. 

Favorite Peabody winner over time?  

The Colbert Report. I do think that I am biased with this answer, however, because of how much I love Stephen Colbert. 

Jittery Joes, Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts?  

Starbucks. Nothing compares to their Iced Matcha Green Tea Lattes. 

Who is your professional hero?  

I feel like I can’t name just one. I have three.  

Kevin Feige. I don’t think any other producer has had to coordinate and oversee films on a scale that he has. If I can be even partly as successful as him in the future, I’ll consider myself to have “made it.”   

Reese Witherspoon. I think the work she has done with her company is really inspirational. Her company’s focus on fostering great stories from women creators is incredibly motivating.  

Nina Jacobson. An activist as well as a powerhouse producer, she went from being fired as an exec in Disney after the birth of her third child to forming a hugely successful production company that has put out really good work in the past years. Pie in the sky dream: I’d see myself working as an executive in studios or production companies before possibly starting a company of mine as well, which is roughly the same career trajectory as hers. 

Create your own question to answer: What has been a major learning curve for you during your time in Grady/your major? 

Collaborating with about 40 different students at the same time while working on the student film productions that I have been a part of has been a huge learning curve for me in college. Whether I was the producer on the project, or more recently the director, it made me develop skills that I didn’t even know I needed.

#GradyGrit: Meet Becca Wright

Editor’s Note: #GradyGrit is a new series of profiles of Grady College students who show determination, leadership and outreach to the community. Search “#GradyGrit” on the Grady College website for additional profiles. 

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia 

Year: Senior 

Degree: Journalism Major, Environmental Law minor, New Media and Sustainability Certificates 

Activities and involvement: National Press Photography Association (President), McGill Fellow, Bag the Bag board member, student media assistant at Dean of Students Office, multimedia at the Office of Sustainability and Photo Editor at The Red & Black 

How has Grady influenced your time at UGA?  

BW: Since starting classes within Grady, I’ve realized how important it is to care about what you do and who you’re reporting on. Not that I didn’t care before, but seeing how much time and care some of the faculty members put into the students and hearing their previous reporting experiences really drives that point home. If you don’t care, then why should anybody else? 

What is your most memorable Grady experience? 

BW: My most memorable experience was actually before I was even a student at UGA. I was touring UGA for the third time, and I still hated it. But I knew I was going to be a journalist, and since UGA has one of the best journalism programs, I wasn’t going to pass it up. (But I was really close…) So during this third tour, I ended up meeting one of the pre-Grady advisers, Beth Rector. I walked into the journalism building for the first time and instantly felt at home. I had toured a few other schools and journalism programs, but none of them felt right. I know that sounds super cheesy, but I hated everything about UGA until I walked into Grady, and when I walked out I couldn’t wait to come back.  

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

BW: Going to the University of Georgia and reporting on the city of Athens has had the biggest impact on my life so far. (I know it sounds cliché, but hear me out.) 

I went to the same Christian private school for 10 years straight, and even though I’d like to think I was aware of what was going on in the city around me, I never pushed my boundaries too much. Almost all my friends were white, middle- or upper-class individuals who weren’t forced to face the reality of our community or the consequences of our actions. And while some of my friends and I cared about social and political issues, none of us did anything about it.  

“Coming to UGA and reporting on Athens-Clarke County forced me to face my privilege and do something to initiate change in my community.” -Becca Wright

Coming to UGA and reporting on Athens-Clarke County forced me to face my privilege and do something to initiate change in my community. Before I came to UGA, I knew nothing about Athens. Now, I know what almost feels like too much. Instead of thinking that I know what’s going on in my city, I actually know what’s happening. I have talked to middle school students who don’t know where their next meal will come from, I’ve met the people who work in the landfill and take care of the products of our throw-away society and I’ve reported on the nonprofits trying to fix our transportation system.  

I don’t think I would have experienced this if I had gone to college back at home, and I’m not sure going anywhere else would have provided me with the opportunity to report on my community the way that I have. I will never look at or think about myself and my privileges the same way I used to, and I hope that the reporting that I’ve done over the past few years has helped others initiate change as well. 

What is your best advice for a student taking their first class at Grady College? 

BW: Take it seriously. A lot of times with early journalism classes I felt like I wasn’t learning anything new, but I regret not working harder on those projects and using the knowledge that I already had to my advantage.  

Becca Wright can often be seen on the sidelines of UGA football games shooting for The Red & Black.

What motivates you? 

BW: Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated because of the current climate surrounding journalism and the “fake news” rhetoric, but at the same time, it’s kind of fuel to the fire. There’s nothing I want to do more than go out and document the people and issues of our community, and by doing so all I can hope is that we’re informing the public of what they need to know to make decisions moving forward.   

Last show/favorite show you binge-watched (more than 2 shows in a sitting)? 

BW: The most recent was The Office, but my favorite is either West Wing or Gravity Falls.  

Favorite quote? 

BW: “It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit.”
— Harry S. Truman 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

BW: My go-to “fun fact” is that I have a black belt in martial arts. Also that I’m part-Cuban, and that I’m originally from Kansas City, Kansas

Favorite Athens restaurant? 

BW: Either Big City Bread Company or home.made.

Create your own question to answer: What’s your favorite project or story you’ve reported on at Grady or during an internship? 

BW: I started a podcast last semester for my multiplatform story production class. It only has two episodes, but for someone who has listened to maybe 15 podcast episodes in her life, I’m super proud of it. I never realized how much I loved audio/radio journalism (I don’t know why, I freaking love NPR), and I’m hoping to continue it when I actually have time.