#ProfilesofTenacity: John Atkinson

Why did you choose your major?

I am double majoring in advertising and computer science because of the technical and creative capabilities they both bring to my education. By starting out with advertising as a major and venturing into the New Media Institute with classes like web development, I reignited my passion for computer science and now actively pursue it in my day-to-day through my organization, UGAHacks.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

Megan Ward can truly teach a class, and her New Media Industries class holistically converged all of my education into one semester. While learning from industry professionals about various career paths, I was able to hone my personal skills by creating business cards, identifying key milestones for my credit, and solidifying my interviewing skills. This was my most memorable Grady experience.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

Favorite professors are always a hard topic for me because Grady has such a high quality of professional staff simply teaching the students, not to mention the wonderful advisors and facilities staff. While it changes each semester, I would say my current graphic communication professor, Sabrena Deal. Each day in her class is a learning experience where I can challenge my standards and produce new creative pieces for my assignments. From my interactions with her in class to my interactions with her while helping run AdPR Connection and the Grady career fair, I would say all of them were meaningful and positive. I can’t wait to see how I will continue to apply the knowledge I have learned from her.

What motivates you?
Atkinson points to a poster board with colorful post-it notes
Atkinson is a counselor for Dawg Camp Innovate. (Photo/submitted)

I would say I follow many conventional norms of a college student: I stay up late studying for my exams, I avoid 8 a.m. classes as much as I can, and I try as many things as I can. What I would say motivates me to go beyond other conventions would be general curiosity and interest in learning. Now, while it requires a little bit more planning, I still enjoy involving myself and trying as hard as I can because I am simply curious as to how much I can achieve.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

I would say my largest accomplishment in the last year would be helping plan, organize, promote, and run UGAHacks’ first sustainability themed ‘Makeathon.’ With four university partners, two corporate sponsors, and 250 ‘Makers’ in attendance, it was an overwhelming success! I am now looking towards planning our main event, UGAHacks 8, which will take place February 3-5.

a group of Grady ADPR students pose on stairs
Atkinson (pictured in front row, left) participated in the Grady New York study away program this past May. (Photo/submitted)
What do you plan to do after graduation?

As I now look for remote summer internships based in California or New York in software engineering, I continue to update my 1-3-5 year plan. After graduation, if I don’t move immediately after the ceremony to start working in a different city, I will celebrate. I can only speak for myself, but I believe most individuals who come through UGA couldn’t do so without tremendous support from friends or family. I want to celebrate this occasion as not only my own, but all the people who came with me along the journey.

What is an example of a time you used your skills in a real-world experience?

To tie it all together, I would say I actively used the skills I learned in Megan Ward’s New Media Industries class using my study away trip to New York this past summer. A larger reason why I appreciated that class is because I had immediate replications of the skills I learned, such as using business cards and interview prep, while interacting with C-Suite level individuals and UGA alumni who worked in advertising/marketing/PR in companies like Google, Wieden+Kennedy, and Klick Health. The casual atmosphere that I had with those people was made possible through my interactions and course work done in that class. If I had the chance again, I would take it all over again (By the way, I am! It’s an open seminar session, so I look forward to what next semester has to offer).

#ProfilesofTenacity: Justin Nemetz

Fifth-year journalism major Justin Nemetz is passionate about the visual medium. He has been fascinated by film and television from a young age and he has a minor in film studies here at the University of Georgia. As Nemetz continues his educational journey, he is excited to keep learning about video editing and the visual medium.

What does “tenacity” mean to you?

It’s all about resilience. It’s about putting yourself in situations that challenge you. It’s so much easier to learn from mistakes than staying in your comfort zone. The more you search for those opportunities, the more confidence you grow.

Why did you choose your major?

I got really interested in politics during the 2016 election. I think that cycle exposed a war of information brought on by the internet and social media. That necessity for credible information is at an all time high, and I like to think of myself as honest. I have always been into video, so the idea of telling real stories in the visual medium was a pulling factor. I also love sports, so the idea of working on a broadcast was always a big dream.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

I can’t choose one. Professor Vassileva is an incredibly patient and kind teacher, and her calm demeanor really helps balance the demand of Newsource. Professor Cantrell sees the best in you and pushes your talents everyday. She can also be funny and witty, which helps in a hectic newsroom atmosphere. But I guess I have to give it to Professor Shumway, not only is he super chill but I can credit him for honing my video skills. He also puts me at ease when I am stressed about my career.

Nemetz fills in for his assistant director at a Northwoods League broadcast. (Photo:submitted)
What are you passionate about?

The visual medium. As a kid, the incredible detail of our world fascinated me. I remember in 7th grade, my vision started to blur. I became nearsighted, and every time I watched a movie or TV shot composition blew my mind with its detail, since I wasn’t able to see this way before correction. Once I got contacts, the observance of my world changed; everything was crisp and clear. That got me into video. Once I began to learn how powerfully and purposefully every shot is composed in a feature film, I was hooked. I made my first video the next year for a school project, and then I would do them for classes even if they weren’t an option. Since then, it’s the one thing I want to get better at. I love video editing, and it both scares and excites me with how much I still have to learn.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?
Nemetz and his friend and fellow journalism major, Gabriel Kahaian, take a picture in Bill Taunton Stadium after the last game in Willmar, Minnesota where Nemetz had an internship as a technical director. (Photo:submitted)

I technical directed a baseball team’s broadcast in the Northwoods League. It was the smallest market team, their setup had many problems, and every camera operator was in high school. Most teams had a group of six to ten interns working their broadcast; we had two. The league also made a deal with ESPN+ and sadly, my team was not selected for any season games due to past broadcasts. Through my hard work, I was able to turn their reputation around, and was able to secure 4 ESPN+ home games, including the playoffs. I technical directed multiple ESPN+ games.

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

Find your niche, whether its video, photojournalism, scriptwriting, graphic design, sports etc. Whatever your skills are will be the best way you express yourself through your work. Do as much as you can outside of school to build upon those skills. You can never stop improving.

Who is your professional hero?

Matt Pearl. The way he tells stories is incredibly engaging, and his attention to video structure just helps send that home. The way he writes for video and what he chooses to show you draws you in, no matter the story. I want to get as good as him.

What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

I am left handed and right footed, but also kind of ambidextrous. I write with my left, but cast a fishing reel with my right hand. When I played baseball, I was a right handed batter but I threw with my left hand. When I played soccer, my right foot was my dominant. I like to think my left and right brain are always kinesthetically at war with each other.

Photo of Bill Taunton Stadium taken by Nemetz after a Sunday game. (Photo:submitted)
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. It can be easy to compare yourself with others, but this university has people from all around the world, with different backgrounds and upbringings. You have the rest of your life to work, so learn from your own college experience.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

The first day of classes in Fall of 2021. I transferred during the Covid Spring of 2020, so my first couple of semesters were as weird as many remember. Once students came back that first day, it felt very promising, and as a college community we were beginning to move forward. I was more optimistic about my Grady career.

#ProfilesofTenacity: Suley Rostro

Fourth year public relations major Suley Rostro is passionate about contributing to inclusive work environments. She hopes to help increase Latino representation in the communications industry. Currently, Rostro is a public relations specialist at Talking Dog Agency. This summer, Rostro worked as a product PR intern at Apple in Cupertino, California.

Why did you choose your major?

I chose public relations because it incorporates writing, creativity and collaboration. I knew I wanted to work for brands that I am passionate about and make a change. PR exposes you to many industries and large organizations that have the influence to spark change in important global issues. I also knew I wanted to work in a reactive and cross-functional environment. PR is at the forefront of many crisis and celebrations; it is a very fast-paced environment and that’s where I believe I thrive!

What does tenacity mean to you?

Tenacity to me means exhausting your resources to meet your goal. I believe that a tenacious person looks for and creates opportunities that will help better themselves.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In 10 years, I hope to be a senior PR manager or a product manager at a company that I am passionate about. I hope to manage a team and assist in creating useful products. 

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about creating and contributing to an inclusive work environment. I believe that the best PR is done when working in a team that is diverse and accepting of others’ opinions. Also, I am passionate about increasing the amount of Latino representation in the communications industry. I hope to inspire other Latinas to pursue a career in public relations and contribute to making a change in organizations. 

Suley poses in front of a white wall with the Apple logo
Suley was a product public relations intern for Apple this summer, and worked out of their headquarters in Cupertino, California. (Photo/submitted)
What would people be surprised to know about you?

I went to South Korea alone for a month! I really enjoy solo traveling; it’s a great way to self-reflect. 

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

My biggest accomplishment was landing my dream internship this summer. I interned at Apple and worked out of their headquarters in Cupertino, California.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

I hope to do in-house public relations for a mid-large sized organization. I am aiming to stay within the tech, gaming and animation industry.

What is an example of a time you used your skills in a real-world experience?

An example of when I used my skills in the real-world was when I wrote a post for Apple’s newsroom. Initially, I was not on the task, but I raised my hand, offered a helping hand, and was given the opportunity to lead the post! That experience put my PR writing skills to the test and taught me to not be shy when it comes to raising my hand. 

Where is your go-to restaurant in Athens?

My go-to restaurant is The Place in downtown Athens. They have a great selection of Southern food. I recommend going for brunch and trying their chicken and waffles!

Where’s your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus has to be the main library. I enjoy reading novels written by East Asian novelists. I find that their writing style is very raw and emotional, and the main library has a huge selection of East Asian novels. Whenever a book that I’m interested in comes up, I immediately look it up, and the main library always has it on their shelves.

#ProfilesofTenacity: Marillyn Heigl

Marillyn Heigl is a fourth year student majoring in advertising, international affairs, romance languages and Latin American and Caribbean studies. Heigl is a strong believer in lifelong learning and a lover of stories, and her college experience has been heavily impacted by the organizations that she is involved in on campus.

Why did you choose your major?

For a very long time, I had no idea what I wanted to study in college.Admittedly, it’s stressful to be surrounded by people who seemed like they’d known they wanted to be doctors or lawyers since middle school when you’re struggling to figure your future out. But, that all changed in December of 2016 when I watched Google’s 2016 Year in Search. I watched that video practically on a loop obsessively. That video did such a beautiful job of capturing the rawness of that year and making it into something beautiful. Even now, I cry like a baby every time I watch it and look forward to the new Year in Search every single December. I remember realizing how powerful it was that a video produced as a way of promoting a company could be so moving. Because of that video, I realized I was interested in studying the ways that communication can influence emotions, thoughts, and actions.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

Right now I’m taking Telenovelas, Culture, and Society with Dr. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru as my final Grady class and she is absolutely fantastic. Dr. Acosta-Alzuru is the epitome of someone who has identified a personal passion and pursued it with determination. She is incredibly knowledgeable and her expertise never fails to blow me away. For anyone who speaks any Spanish, I would absolutely recommend taking this class with Dr. Acosta-Alzuru, I promise you won’t regret it.

Heigl holds up a sign she made for the homecoming parade at the UGA Visitors Center. (Photo: submitted)
What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

The most impactful part of my college experience has been having the privilege of working at the UGA Visitors Center as a tour leader. I applied my freshman year expecting to be turned away and was ecstatic when I got the phone call telling me I would get to do my dream job. I can’t begin to try to express all the ways working at the VC has changed my life. The job itself has made me more curious, a better listener, and comfortable with vulnerability. Getting to play a small part in such an important life decision for prospective students isn’t something I take for granted. Additionally, many of the people who work there, between my coworkers and bosses, are not just friends and mentors but also like family. When I walk into the VC I feel like Michael Scott from The Office — it’s my favorite place to be.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

My most memorable Grady moment was when I found myself listening to the first minute of Birthday Song by 2Chainz on a loop for 20 minutes so I could remix it to be about Krystal, the fast food chain. For context, my advertising capstone had us present a campaign to promote Krystal’s new big chicken sandwiches and 2Chainz had been named their new head of creative marketing. That remix is honestly the weirdest thing I have ever created for a class but it was fun too.

Heigl was a Peer Leader for Connect, one of SGA’s First-Year Programs. Here, she and her group smile for a picture at one of their weekly meetings in the MLC. (Photo: submitted)
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

Back in April, I received the Student Organization Achievement and Recognition (SOAR) Award for Commitment to Peer Mentorship. I had the honor of being a Peer Leader for Connect, one of Student Government Association’s First-Year Programs, during the 2021-2022 school year and it was one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in college. I was able to walk alongside some very special freshmen as they navigated their first year at UGA and now get to watch them step forward as inspiring campus leaders. It was meaningful to be recognized for my investment in other students because it affirmed that I had paid forward the effort that my mentors have invested in me.

Heigl and other Student Alumni Council members help welcome the newest freshman class to UGA. (Photo: submitted)
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I live by the following advice from my parents: don’t let the classroom get in the way of your education. Yes, I came to UGA to get my degrees and graduate but education can’t be restricted to PowerPoint presentations and exams. Anyone hoping to be a lifelong learner needs to shift their mindset to where they seek to learn from experiences that aren’t traditionally academic. From watching interesting Netflix documentaries to traveling in new environments to the people I’m surrounded by, I find myself learning all the time. You don’t need to sit in a classroom to keep learning, that’s something I hope to never lose sight of.

Who is your professional hero?

My professional hero is UGA graduate Brandon Stanton, the man behind Humans of New York. Stanton moved to New York and survived off of unemployment checks while photographing portraits of New Yorkers to tell their stories. Since starting HONY in 2010, the whole thing has blown up. The Instagram is wildly successful with over 12 million followers, he has traveled all over the world and has sold many books full of the stories of the people he’s met. In fact, one of Stanton’s books is prominently featured on the coffee table in my apartment as I write this. Stanton is a master storyteller and has highlighted so many of the complexities and truths of the human experience. His work has touched the hearts of many, including mine. What I wouldn’t give to sit down and get a coffee with him, he must have the best stories to tell.

Heigl poses with a friend in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris during her summer 2022 study abroad program. (Photo: submitted)
What are you planning to do after you graduate?

I am still figuring out the answer to this question and that’s okay. I have some extra time to figure it out, though. My application to do the capstone for UGA’s Portuguese Flagship Program is being reviewed and if selected I will be in Brazil in 2023 from February to December. I will go to a university there for four months and then get an internship and work for six. This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity so while it’s a little terrifying, it’s also exciting. I’m hoping that the internship component of this 10-month program will provide me with more insight that will inform what direction I’d like to go in after graduating in the Spring of 2024.

What is one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?

A lot of people would be surprised to know that I went to an immersive language school in the middle of Indiana for 9 years.

Where is your favorite study spot?

Any dining hall where I can sip on a Dr. Pepper while I do my work with either my earbuds in or while chatting with friends!

#ProfilesofTenacity: Xander Chiaramonte

Third year Xander Chiaramonte says tenacity is all about persistence. The entertainment and media studies major co-founded Clear Mountain Entertainment, LLC. with his brother, which he also serves as the chief creative officer.

Why did you choose your major?

Since I was very little, my younger sisters and I would create all sorts of short content on iMovie or take photos of flowers for hours. I feel that in a lot of ways, and because of the internet, digital media and our generation matured in extremely congruent years. This constantly emerging digital medium always captivated me, and the more I explored, the more enthralled I became. This curiosity led me into photography and videography as means of expression, philanthropy, and value I could provide to my community. 

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

I think my most memorable Grady experience has to be my first day of “Production Basics.” It was the first time I was able to work on tangible production work in an academic setting, whereas I would always seek those experiences outside of school throughout high school. Finally getting to experiment with this type of work in school with Professor Biddle and my equally excited classmates is so refreshing. 

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

Professor Fortmueller provided me with an invaluable perspective into the landscape of the film and television industries, which allowed me to form a better understanding of where I wanted to fit in within that landscape. Professor Fortmueller is a fantastic and approachable resource for me to discuss my ideas and to learn about topics that I am excited about outside of class, especially Ciné! 

What does tenacity mean to you?
Xander films with a 360-degree camera at Classic City Jam. (Photo:submitted)

Tenacity, to me, is synonymous with persistence. Many people are smart, talented, or driven, but in the face of adversity or true challenge, none of that will ever matter. It is persistence and persistence alone that drives individuals through those experiences. 

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

The best advice I have received regularly is that “everything changes.” My mother always reminds me of this and grounds me in the reality that in life, just like in nature, everything is in a constant state of change. This advice has always helped me to not get hung up on the little things and keep on moving. 

Xander with his mom, holding up a Classic City Jam poster
Xander says his biggest accomplishment in the past year was organizing the Classic City Jam event he organized. Here he is pictued (middle) with his mom and Grady student James Hawran (right). (Photo:submitted)
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

My brother and I formed Clear Mountain Entertainment, LLC in 2021. In this past year, the biggest accomplishment has to be holding a day-long festival called “Classic City Jam” in downtown Athens. The reception from the Athens community and UGA students was unbelievable and has allowed us to begin working on much larger events and productions than we expected to produce at this point in our business.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

After graduation, I plan to pursue an MFA in film and television production and continue to work on Clear Mountain Entertainment in Athens and Atlanta. I hope to work on productions in the Atlanta film market and continue learning and connecting with driven individuals in the industry. 

What is an example of a time you used your skills in a real-world experience?

Almost everything I work on outside of school has been centered around these digital media skills, both within Clear Mountain Entertainment and Xander Chiaramonte Media (xanderchiaramonte.com). Through these two endeavors and constantly testing myself into different software programs, technical roles, and ideation has allowed me to constantly surprise myself as to what I (and anyone) can do simply with a computer or camera. 

Where is your go-to restaurant in Athens?

Chuck’s Fish on Broad. Some uptown chicken and a sushi roll or two from Chuck’s can change your whole life.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Aleesa de Castro

A division one athlete, fourth year entertainment and media studies major Aleesa de Castro says tenacity is all about persistence and resilience. Aleesa and her sister Cate share a passion for film, and together they founded de Castro productions and organized the first ever Backlight Student Film Festival this past spring. Aleesa serves as the vice president of The Industry, is a videographer for Strike Magazine, and she is currently interning for the Producers Guild of America.

Why did you choose your major?

I enrolled into the University of Georgia as a biology major, but I’ve had a strong love and passion for film all my life. As a freshman, I was looking to get more involved on campus and stumbled upon the entertainment media industries club, better known as The Industry. I began to meet others who shared my passion. Many of them were entertainment and media studies students who were looking to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. I was truly inspired by my peers. Watching them follow their dreams assured me that this too was a career path I could follow. I changed my major and began cultivating my career in the industry.

What is your most memorable Grady experience?

This past summer, I attended the Cannes Film Festival study away program. All in all, there is no other way to describe this trip than a dream. As an aspiring film producer, there was no better fit than the Cannes Film Festival. For the two weeks of the festival, my classmates and I were at the global epicenter of the film industry. We were meeting filmmakers and buyers from all over the world. We were able to grow our networks and open our eyes to a variety of careers that exist in the entertainment landscape. It was magical. Every day consisted of screening international films, attending press junkets, dressing up for red carpets, meeting talent and industry professionals, trying different French foods, and exploring the French Rivera. I look back at this experience and it almost doesn’t even feel real.

aleesa wearing uga jersey mid-run
Outside of her involvement at Grady College, Aleesa is a division one athlete, and runs both cross country and track and field. (Photo:submitted)
What does tenacity mean to you?

Tenacity is all about persistence and resilience. As a division one athlete, this is something that has been instilled in me; however, I also feel there is a component of giving back and looking out for others. Someone who is truly tenacious is also focused on uplifting their teammates and those around them.

Who is your professional hero?

Fred Rogers is someone I really admire. He had a profound effect on television and media in general. He touched the lives of millions and his messages continue to resonate with me. In his commencement speech at Dartmouth he said, “You never have to do anything extraordinary to be special.” This is something I think about often. It reminds that what is important in life is loving, acknowledging and recognizing those who have loved you and supported you, and sharing this same love with others in your life.

The Industry holds a meeting in the PAF
Aleesa serves as the vice president of The Industry, an entertainment and media studies club. (Photo:submitted)
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

I’m involved with The Georgia Way, an organization that helps athletes develop their leadership skills both in sports and life in general. A great piece of advice they shared with me is that leadership is all about energy. The energy you bring onto the track, on a film set, in a meeting, and so on has the ability to uplift those around you or bring them down. I believe a strong leader believes and invests in their team.

What are you passionate about?

Spending quality time with my cat and dog. Shoutout Luke and Bobbi.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

Something most people don’t know about me is that I am an identical twin. My sister is a superstar finance and entertainment and media studies major, and also my best friend. We share our love for film together and hope to eventually become producing partners. We have even founded our own production company in Athens and are currently producing a feature film!

twin sisters pose on red carpet
Aleesa (right) and her twin sister Cate organized the first Backlight Student Film Festival, which took place in April of 2022.  (Photo:submitted)
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

My proudest accomplishment this year was co-founding the Backlight Student Film Festival. It started out simply as an idea to unite and showcase filmmakers’ work, but it quickly grew into so much more. It truly took a village to make this all happen, and it was so rewarding to see so many Grady and UGA students working together to celebrate one another.

twin sisters pose on red carpet
Aleesa is currently interning for the Producers Guild of America. (Photo:submitted)
What do you plan to do after graduation?

The one thing I know for certain after graduation is that I will return to the Cannes Film Festival. For the two weeks of the festival, I aim to work with either an agency or production company before returning to the United States. After that, my future is less certain. I will then either make the move across the country to Los Angeles to work for a studio or agency, or I will continue to grow my network here in Atlanta by working on film sets and developing content. Either way, I am certain Grady College has prepared me for my future career as a film producer.

Where’s your favorite place on campus and why?

One of my favorite places to meet on campus is the new MFA room located on the first floor of Grady, or the “the fishbowl” as we like to call it. The fishbowl is where I run into all my peers before class. We catch up, share what we are watching, what we are working on and so on. It lightens my day seeing them all and demonstrates what a supportive community the EMST program is.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Olga Diaz-Nasser

Olga Diaz-Nasser is a fourth year public relations major with a minor in French and a certificate in public affairs communications. She is also a double dawg and will be getting her masters in public administration. She is heavily involved in and outside of the Grady community, serving as the executive director of University Judiciary, the member relations manager for Women in Media, a Grady Ambassador and a Carolyn Caudell Tieger Fellow for the public affairs communications certificate.

What does “tenacity” mean to you?

Tenacity means going after your goals no matter the obstacles that are in your way. To me, it means determination, perseverance, and resilience. It’s something I hope to embody throughout my daily life.

Who is your favorite Grady professor and why?

Professor Watson is definitely my favorite Grady Professor. His public affairs communications classes have helped me explore my career interests and develop my goals for the future. His experience, advice, and kindness have been invaluable as I’ve delved further into the intersection of politics and communications.

Diaz-Nasser gives a speech as the incoming executive director of University Judiciary at their Jenny Penny Oliver ceremony in April of 2022. (Photo:submitted)
What or who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?

I’m involved in an organization called UniversityJudiciary and it has truly defined my path here at UGA. University Judiciary has given me a supportive community to encourage me as I work towards my dreams and allowed me to gain the confidence in myself needed to achieve them. I’ve met my closest friends through the organization and the Office of Student Conduct staff have become some of my mentors. Judiciary has helped me grow as a person, leader, and friend.

What are you passionate about?

Helping others! My senses of justice and empathy have always driven me to serve others and that is what I’ve tried to do throughout my time here at UGA. I hope to keep working hard to help underprivileged and minority communities around the nation in my future career.

What is one piece of advice that you would give to other Grady students?
Diaz-Nasser poses for a picture with other members of the 2021-2022 University Judiciary executive council. (Photo:submitted)

Getting involved is absolutely essential. Freshman year is tough and your first year when you officially get accepted into Grady is tough too. Having people who support you and encourage you to go for it will be vital to your success and happiness. Grady has so many opportunities for students to get involved, learn new skills, and meet other passionate, driven Grady students. Don’t let any of these opportunities pass you by. Branch out and get involved!

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

Ok, in all honesty I found this quote on Pinterest but it still echoes in my head every day, “The grass is greener where you water it.” I struggled a lot freshman year. I was shy and nervous about getting involved on campus and making new friends. I had spent so long wanting this ideal version of what my freshman year was supposed to look like, that I forgot that I was the one who was supposed to make it happen. This quote pushed me out of my comfort zone. I realized it was my responsibility to put myself out there, join clubs, meet new people, and water my own grass. I try to live by this quote every day. Everything I do is to water my own grass, because I know if I put in the effort then no matter what happens I’ll be proud of myself.

What motivates you?

My parents are my biggest motivators. My mom is a Colombian immigrant and her story is what has inspired me to want to work in immigration policy. Both her and my dad have always been my biggest supporters and I do everything I can to make them proud. I’m thankful for all of their encouragement; without them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Diaz-Nasser smiles for a photo with Congresswoman Lucy McBath (D-GA 6) during her summer internship in Representative McBath’s D.C. office. (Photo:submitted)
What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

This past summer I had the opportunity to intern in the office of Congresswoman Lucy McBath and live in UGA’s Delta Hall in Washington D.C. through the Honors in Washington program. Getting into Honors in Washington is definitely my biggest accomplishment this year. I was so honored to have been a part of the group of talented, passionate students that were in Washington D.C. with me and blessed to have been able to work in the office of my own representative, Congresswoman McBath. This summer was one of the best of my life and I’m so grateful to have been able to experience it alongside the UGA students in Delta Hall.

What are you planning to do after you graduate?

I hope to work in Washington D.C. My studies in the field of public affairs communications has really ignited a passion for policy and politics in me. I’d like to work in immigration policy on a federal level, hopefully in a committee in Congress!

Where is your favorite study spot?

I love to study on the fourth floor of the Main Library. It’s the floor where you can talk or take zoom meetings if you need to, and nobody will get mad if you’re speaking at a normal level. I hate studying in absolute silence so I love being able to study without being afraid of typing too loud or rummaging through my backpack too much.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Sydney Hood

Journalism major Sydney Hood balances her time at Grady with working as a weekend multimedia journalist for WRDW/WAGT News 12 NBC 26. She also serves as the president of DiGamma Kappa Broadcast Society, works as a senior production manager for Grady Newsource, is a reporter for the Newsource election show, and she writes for the Cox Institute’s Covering Poverty Initiative.

What does tenacity mean to you?

Being tenacious is all about stepping up to the plate when life knocks you down. It’s working for the life you’ve always dreamed of despite criticism and hardships. It’s embracing the uncomfortableness and facing adversity head-on. Tenacity means being fearless in pursuing what sets you apart from the rest and finding what makes YOU special. 

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

Do not take yourself too seriously. Take your job seriously, but not yourself. I am a ridiculously goofy person. I cut up and laugh (cackle actually) at every little (and silly) mistake and stay optimistic about the obstacles. When it comes to spaces with rules (school, work, meetings), my quiet, no-nonsense side creeps out. I practice rigorous self-judgment and hold myself to the highest of high standards. It’s an approach that robs me of the peace that comes with self-acceptance and celebrating those smaller but just as big goals. I am slowly realizing that not taking myself seriously allows for people to see the real, genuine me. The silly, quirky, hardworking and determined me. The human in me. It’s a practice I am constantly improving on everyday, but I believe that loosening up on yourself allows for exploration and change.

Sydney doing a liveshot on camera, holding a microphone and pointing to a group of people at a health fair
Sydney was a “future focus” intern for WRDW/WAGT News 12 NBC 26 this summer in Augusta. (Photo:submitted)
Why did you choose your major?

I’ve always had an itch for writing – whether it was an essay for school or an entry in my journal. I am a naturally curious (borderline nosey) person. I love history. I enjoy digesting new information and the ability I have to captivate one’s attention by explaining this information. With all of this said, journalism was always in the back of my head growing up. As a soft-spoken and shy person afraid to leave her comfort zone, I didn’t think this was possible for me. Ultimately I let that fear get to me and abandoned my dream. I started college as a biology major and it took a mid-semester crisis (and UGA chemistry) my freshman year to realize that was not for me. Ultimately, sitting in the middle of my dorm room crying my eyes out because I didn’t know what to do with my life, I pulled myself together and finally declared myself as a journalism major. I always look back and think of this as an “ah-ha” moment because it was truly  the first time I really walked out of my comfort zone. It really is true that nothing good comes from staying in your comfort zone. I’ve realized my passion for storytelling was far bigger than my fear of not succeeding. Grady has shown me that journalism is much, much more than writing and telling stories. This place has taught me – and continues to teach me – how I can go from good to great and be the best in my field. Long story short, I am forever grateful 18-year-old Sydney took a leap of faith.  

What motivates you?

I am motivated by my constant fear of being just average. I do not want to go through life feeling like I had all this potential and never touched or used it. I always strive to be intentional in everything I do. I am also motivated by the word “can’t.” I am often told I can’t handle everything I am involved in from school to work and everything in between. When someone tells me I can’t do something, I make it my mission to not only do it, but do it better. 

Students gather for a group picture outside a building in Copenhagen
Sydney says her most memorable Grady experience was going on the travel writing program to Copenhagen. (Photo: R. Vassileva)
What is your most memorable Grady experience?

This past summer, I lived in Copenhagen for a month and studied travel journalism with some pretty amazing people. To say this was an experience I’ll never forget in quite the understatement. I tested all of my creative outlets, pushed myself beyond my comfort zone and opened my eyes to understand the flow of global news. This trip also instilled in me some practical knowledge of solutions journalism: what it is, what it is not and the importance of this type of journalism. All of this I still carry with me and will continue to do so beyond my career at Grady.

What are you passionate about?

I love putting a story together, hearing what people are passionate about and understanding what drives them. The people you meet and speak to are the ones who create and tell the story. It’s exciting to connect with people, listen to their extraordinary stories and provide a voice for them. I am always amazed at how a simple idea at a 9:30 a.m. pitch meeting formulates into a 6 p.m. story with real people and real life impact. 

What is an example of a time you used your skills in a real-world experience?

Every time I am out in the field or in the newsroom, I always think back to the tips from various professors. The “SWEFF” checklist from Professor Shumway is tattooed in my brain. “Write to the video you have and not the video you wish you had,” from Professor Cantrell is something I have to remind myself each time I sit down to write a script. I learned all the fundamentals in the classroom, but it is outside of the classroom where I put all of my tools into practice and learn beyond the walls of Grady. Before Grady, I did not know how to shoot video. I didn’t know how to white balance or frame a camera. I didn’t know where to find sources or how to find people. I’d never published a story before. Now, I shoot, write and edit all on my own. 

Sydney gets footage of a pony
Sydney gets footage of a pony while working on a story for WRDW/WAGT about how the Aiken Equine Horse Rescue was able to recover after a fire. (Photo:submitted)
Who is your professional hero?

Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Robin Roberts, Judy Woodruff, Barabara Walters – all for the obvious reasons.  

What would people be surprised to know about you?

I do not have it together all the time. I am bad about putting up a perfect front and acting like I have all of my ducks lined up in a row (when in fact a lot of them are at the bottom of the  pond). It is important to share the lows in life just as much as we share the highs. College is hard. Work is hard. Life is hard. And that is all okay. Sure you are going to have days where you are stressed and overwhelmed. But in the end trust that it is going to all be okay.  

I also enjoy running (like, a lot). Everyday I set aside at least one hour for a run – rain or shine, day or night. I do this not only for my physical health, but also for my mental health. It’s the one time in my day I can clear my head and step away from reality. I ran my first 5k when I was six and haven’t stopped since. I trained for and ran two full marathons before graduating high school (for the awkward 12-year-old Sydney who couldn’t run a mile without crying, this was (and still is) a big deal for her). I also love a good half-marathon – I signed up for one out of the blue while studying abroad in Copenhagen to get familiar with the city (I still needed to use Google Maps afterwards to find my way around the city but it was worth a try!). 

 

#ProfilesOfTenacity: Heaven Robinson

Fourth year advertising major Heaven Robinson uses her design skills both in and out of the classroom, serving as the art director for Pandora Yearbook and Talking Dog Agency. Robinson was a 2022 MAIP fellow, interning for Saatchi & Saatchi this summer. After graduating in December, she will pursue a masters degree in emerging media.

Why did you choose your major?

I chose to major in advertising because I have always loved creative thinking, and advertising really champions both strategy and creative working. Visual storytelling has been a constant in my life and I wanted to explore all that it entails in a professional setting, working with brands and clients. I’m most interested in design and graphic communication, so I knew that Grady College and the advertising major would expose me to that, plus the range of disciplines in the industry from account to UI/UX. I also wanted to explore the different career options in advertising and see where I best fit among them. Plus, everyone at Grady genuinely wishes to help us learn and succeed, and I knew the major and the community would provide a great foundation for my career in advertising.

What does tenacity mean to you?

Tenacity means pushing through obstacles and not losing your will to reach your goal. It’s having the determination to succeed and taking the steps necessary to achieve whatever you set your mind to.

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

The best piece of advice I’ve received was to apply for any and everything you might be interested in. You never know what will happen and the experiences you’ll get from it. It’s similar to the “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” quote in that you’ll miss out on greatness if you don’t make the effort or take a chance.

photo of seven female students wearing purple with a fall background
Robinson with other executive board members of Women in Media. She formerly served as a content creator for the club. (Photo:submitted)
What would people be surprised to know about you?

I love singing. I’m not one to get up in front of a crowd or anything, but I enjoy singing along to a musical or playlist.

What has been your biggest accomplishment in the past year?

My biggest accomplishment this year was obtaining and completing an art direction and design internship at a top advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi. I was offered the internship through the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP) and was beyond shocked when I got the offer. I had heard about the agency and their work before and just couldn’t believe that I got the chance to intern there. I am proud of how much I’ve grown as a creative and grateful for the peers, professors, mentors and supervisors who supported me throughout that experience.

What do you plan to do after graduation?

After I graduate with my undergraduate degree in December 2022, I will be pursuing a masters degree in Emerging Media as a Double Dawg at UGA. I’m really excited to learn more about how technology and design can make some cool, innovative projects for brands. As a designer and advertiser, I find web and app design and development to be very intriguing as well as how users connect with such products. I am looking to have a robust skillset in digital media and UI/UX design as I plan to become a professional graphic designer following my graduation.

What is an example of a time you used your skills in a real-world experience?
five students, exec board members of Pandora Yearbook, stand outside the UGA chapel
Robinson is currently the art director for Pandora Yearbook. (Photo:submitted)

I do freelance work in art and design–mainly acrylic paintings. I market myself as a designer, but still use my skills in fine art for drawing and painting commissions. I have been making art since I was in kindergarten so it’s nice to keep building on that talent and use those skills to make good work for people. One thing I love about doing freelance artwork is the lasting impact. People enjoy having the art as they usually order paintings that remind them or celebrate a special time in their lives like a new baby, a sorority anniversary, a new school year, etc. Clients always bring the work up when I see them again, and it’s rewarding to know that I had a role in memorializing those events in their lives.

Where’s your favorite place on campus and why?

My favorite place on campus is the second floor of the Lamar Dodd School of Art. I love walking through and seeing the art on the walls. I get a lot of inspiration from the photography and graphics, and I like to admire the projects students are working on. There is also an open computer lab where I like to do work. It’s usually pretty quiet and the big monitors are great for when I’m designing and multitasking.

#ProfilesOfTenacity: William Newlin

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

I began my college career as an International Affairs major in SPIA. History, English, political science and economics had always been my favorite subjects, and IA seemed to bring it all together. But as an avid news consumer with a penchant for writing, I realized there was more I wanted to do. Grady allowed me to join a field with colleagues who have goals beyond themselves. I knew it would give me the leeway to find my passion and the opportunity to write with purpose.

What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?

To me, tenacity is a willingness to leave your comfort zone to get what you need, whether in your personal life or professional pursuits. In journalism, it’s not backing down in the face of authority. It’s being dogged, nosy and courageous. In life, it’s sticking to your values and reaching for your goals no matter the obstacles. 

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about improving public debate through good journalism. I think the best reporting keeps important issues centered in our collective consciousness and directs attention to topics that might otherwise fall through the cracks. We need to have more fact-based debate in all aspects of American life, and I’m excited to contribute to that throughout my career.

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

The Red & Black. After joining in fall 2019, I immediately found a group of people who both supported me and created the environment of healthy competition that shaped me as a reporter. Over two years of reporting and editing from contributor all the way to managing editor, I honed my writing, fact-finding and storytelling skills. It was the real-world experience I needed to feel confident in my abilities as a professional journalist and leader.

What has been your proudest moment in the past year?

In March, I presented original research at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s Midwinter Conference. The idea originated in a research theory class the previous fall, and I developed my topic and method alongside Dr. Karin Assmann. Focused on the rhetoric of Fox News’ Sean Hannity, I found the data needed for the project, learned to use a new analysis software and wrote a lengthy paper that was accepted by the AEJMC. Despite taking the non-thesis route in my graduate program, I’m excited to leave with a tangible piece of scholarship. My goal is to submit the finished article for publication in a political communication journal.  

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

Find something interesting in every assignment. Even if you’re covering what seems like the driest beat in the world, there are always people, trends and storylines to keep you and your audience engaged. 

Who is your professional hero?

A few people come to mind. As exemplars of my first journalistic passion – sports writing (specifically baseball) – Tony Kornheiser and Jeff Passan are at the top. Their reporting chops and undeniable style continue to inform my approach to writing. I also greatly admire CNN’s Clarissa Ward and NBC’s Richard Engel. They’re in the most important places at the most important times, and I hope to emulate their unflinching courage to whatever extent I can. And if I had to throw in a historical hero, it would have to be Edward R. Murrow. Aside from the obvious reasons, who doesn’t want a catchphrase?

What are you planning to do after obtaining your degree?

I plan to hit the ground running as a reporter. With experience in sports, news and features, I’m excited to get started and adapt to new challenges.

What would people be surprised to know about you?

It might surprise people that I make music – sort of. I play the drums, can strum a guitar, and I’m oddly decent at composing piano music, which I’ve translated into a few songs. Some are on SoundCloud, and some are just for me. 

Where is your favorite place on campus and why?

The Founders Memorial Garden on North Campus is and always will be my favorite spot. It was my between-classes refuge freshman year and continues to be a peaceful place when I need some quiet time in nature.