#ProfilesofTenacity: Sydney Phillips

What has been your proudest moment in the past year? 

Getting to be a part of the Honors in Washington 2021 cohort and be a communications intern on Capitol Hill, and then being selected to stay in DC through the Washington Semester Program have definitely been my proudest moments of this year. 

Why did you choose Grady and your course of study?

In today’s world, information is everything, and I chose my major because I love getting to shape media narratives in positive, beneficial ways that inform our public. So many people outside of Grady think journalism is the only major where students get to tell stories. They’re completely wrong. Every major here is about telling a story, we just do it in very different ways.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about people. Sounds simple, but I love getting to know people, I love telling their stories and I love advocating for them. Being in Grady has given me a space and a voice to do that. 

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

Working on the Hill this summer felt like the perfect culmination of all my Grady studies and experiences. Every time I was assigned a task by my communications director, I was able to get to work right away because I knew exactly what to do and how to do it. That’s all because of Grady and the professors here who helped me build the practical skills I needed to compile press clips, build a media list or write a press release. 

What would people be surprised to know about you? 

A secret passion of mine is filmmaking! It isn’t something that I’ve ever mentioned to my friends or mentors but I’d love to produce a film one day. 

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

The honors community at UGA has had the biggest impact on me during my time at UGA. Aside from being in Grady, the Morehead Honors College is another academic space where I thrived. It was a springboard for me to leap into so many other opportunities and connected me to friends and mentors who have inspired me, challenged me and educated me on so many issues here at UGA and around Athens. 

Who is your professional hero?

Yvette Noel-Schure! She’s Beyoncé’s publicist and an all-around icon. I deeply admire and am inspired by Black women in media and PR spaces, and she’s just one example of a woman on top of her game. Honorable mention to Olivia Pope, main character on Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal.   

Where is your favorite place on campus and why? 

I think we can all agree Snelling Dining Hall is the place to be. There’s not another place on campus where you can find students studying, sleeping, sharing a meal, having a meeting or singing karaoke all at one time. 

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

At UGA’s annual leadership conference my freshman year, there was a keynote speaker who gave the best advice I’ve heard in a while, and I heed it almost every single day. He said, “If you eat your frogs in the morning, the rest will go down easy. But if you don’t devour your frog it will turn into a fire breathing dragon.” Those words just remind me to tackle my toughest tasks first and not be afraid to dive in and really attack the day. 

Recent Grady College graduate James Thompson named Fulbright Scholar

It’s tough enough being a reporter right out of school and finding the right words to tell a compelling story, but imagine doing that in a country that does not speak your native language.

That is the challenge that James Thompson is embracing. Thompson, a recent summa cum laude graduate of Grady College, was named a Fulbright scholar and has accepted a journalism assignment in Germany.

“International experience is a very large asset to journalists,” Thompson said of the year-long grant. “I think it’s good for people who are reporting and interpreting current events to have a broad range of experiences and knowledge.”

Thompson, a journalism graduate, interviewed the sportscaster Verne Lundquist during his visit in April 2016.
Thompson, a journalism graduate, interviewed the sportscaster Verne Lundquist during his visit in April 2016.

Thompson, a native of Screven County in Georgia, originally heard about the Fulbright program when he was meeting with Maria de Rocher about an honors program scholarship. As UGA’s Fulbright coordinator, de Rocher told Thompson there was a Fulbright program for journalists in Germany, a perfect combination of his dual majors of digital and broadcast journalism and history, and his minor in German.

With his interest piqued, Thompson submitted his proposal which had to include an independent, journalism-related project and an internship affiliation.  Although the projects are subject to change, Thompson’s application and proposal were accepted.

Included in the project proposal are the production of a short documentary film, along with an internship with a daily newspaper in the German city of Freiburg. The film Thompson proposed closely aligns with a subject he wrote about for his senior history thesis: an examination of German faith communities’ outreach efforts.

“In Germany, like most of Europe, religious participation is noticeably less than in decades past,” Thompson explained. “My project would aim to examine how religious congregations seek to engage with those not active in organized religion.”

For the second part of his Fulbright scholarship, Thompson proposed an internship at the daily newspaper in Freiburg, the Badische Zeitung, where he will submit video features for its website.

“I expect to use the exact same video journalism skills that I learned at Grady to tell stories in Freiburg,” Thompson said. “I’ll have to find story ideas, shoot b-roll and do interviews. My German is respectable, but it will certainly be an adjustment to do interviews in German instead of English.”

Thompson’s interest in German began in high school, where he learned from Screven County teacher Jim Sheppard. During this time period his family also hosted German exchange students. While he didn’t have the opportunity to travel to Germany as a high school student, the experience presented itself in college when he spent six weeks in a study abroad program taking a language course at the Goethe Institute and studying sustainability efforts in Freiburg. Thompson looks forward to returning to Freiburg and reconnecting with families he met during his previous travels.

Thompson poses with the Zeuner family during his last visit to Germany
Thompson poses with the Zeuner family during his last visit to Germany

Thompson’s Fulbright studies will also include an immersive 1-1/2-month language course at Phillips University in Marburg.

It is rare to hear the German language spoken in the streets of Georgia, but Thompson admits seeking out those who speak it.

“Whenever I hear German being spoken here, I follow them and make them talk to me,” Thompson said.

One of the aspects he enjoyed most when he was previously in Germany was getting to interact with Germans in their own country. “Getting to be fully immersed in their culture and speaking their language on their turf really allowed me to improve my language skills. It is such a perspective-altering experience to participate in other cultures.”

Thompson is spending his summer before his Fulbright travels working as an intern in Governor Nathan Deal’s Office of Communications, where his duties include assisting with press releases, social media and speechwriting. Politics is an area that Thompson has an interest and he expects to get a lot of questions about the current state of American politics.

“It should be interesting,” Thompson said. “Germany and the U.S. have been strong partners on many fronts. Journalists with a knowledge of both nations will be vital to interpreting that relationship in the future.”

Thompson will leave for his Fulbright travels in early August 2017 and return in July 2018.

Thompson is one of more than 1,900 U.S. citizens who will conduct research, teach English, and provide expertise abroad for the 2017-2018 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Recipients of Fulbright awards are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement as well as record of service and leadership potential in their respective fields.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to build lasting connections between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.