#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.