Against The Grain Productions (ATG) functions as a traditional 501(c)(3) nonprofit…but with a twist. In the true spirit of its name, ATG finds unconventional, innovative and entertaining ways to promote leadership, positive identity, unity and artistry in the Asian American community; promote awareness of Asian American culture; give a platform to emerging Asian American artists; and provide inspiration to the community around us to think and act “outside the box.”
Our StoryClick to Learn How ATG Started
No one embodies our mission better than ATG President and Co-Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. After learning about Operation Babylift, a 1975 U.S. initiative that airlifted more than 2,500 Vietnamese orphans out of her war-torn homeland, Tammy decided to give voice to these orphans’ untold stories through her award-winning documentary Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam.
Inspired to raise funds for similar orphanages in Vietnam today, she, along with her husband George and mom Aileen Nguyen, founded ATG Against The Grain Productions, Inc. in Dallas, Texas. Having a creative and artistic background, she found that the best way to raise money and awareness for this cause was through creative and artistic platforms that would most effectively draw the community together. As ATG blossomed, she extended the mission to include support for Asian American culture, arts and young artists and leaders. She and her family’s passion to help others has now become our official vision: One Voice. Many Stories.
Timeline and AchievementsClick to See Our Achievements Over the Years
- In 2009, we released the award-winning feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, which screened at more than a dozen festivals and won two awards.
- In 2010, we created the Artistic Scholarship fund to support Asian American students pursuing a degree in the arts.
- In 2011, we distributed nearly $10,000 for orphanage aid and outreach programs, gave $2,000 Artistic Scholarships to two exemplary students and raised more than $20,000 at Fashion for a Passion, which more than 300 guests attended.
- In 2012, we provided $13,500+ of aid to half a dozen orphanages in Vietnam and Thailand; awarded $2000 in Artistic Scholarships; gave $900 in scholarships for young adoptees to attend culture camps; selected our first recipient for the $5,000 Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship; and raised nearly $30,000 net at Fashion for a Passion, which was attended by nearly 400 guests.
- In 2013, we hosted two major outreach events (Groundbreakers Speak and Fashion for a Passion), provided nearly $18,000 of aid to our supported orphanages in Vietnam and Thailand, awarded $5,000 in Artistic Scholarships to five amazing high school seniors, $1,000 in heritage/culture camp scholarships to ten young adoptees and gave almost $1,000 to disaster relief, raising nearly $45,000.
- In 2014, we made a strong start with our #beCAUSE campaign; hosted our first ever all-female panel at the 3rd Annual Groundbreakers Speak; attracted more than 450 guests to and raised more than $35,000 at our 6th Annual Fashion for a Passion; raised more than $50,000 total with other fundraising events (100% of which will go towards our giving budget for 2015!); gave nearly $20,000 to orphanages in Vietnam and Cambodia (with more than $5,000 in additional funds earmarked for The Philippines and Thailand in 2015); awarded an unprecedented ten scholarships to talented high school seniors, undergraduate and graduate students; and provided $1,000 in camp scholarships to ten young adoptees to attend culture/heritage camps across the country.
ATG in the Press
Click here to read about the latest news about ATG in the Press.
Meet the Against The Grain Family
Against The Grain Productions is led by a Board of experienced, dedicated and passionate young Asian American professionals and community leaders, none of whom are paid – except in smiles. Together with an equally spirited and talented team of Ambassadors and Advisors, the Board represents a diverse group of advocates from various cultural backgrounds, of different ages and with unique perspectives.
2015 Board Members
- Tammy Nguyen LeeTammy Nguyen LeePresident and Co-Founder
Tammy Nguyen Lee is a passionate producer, filmmaker and actor who founded ATG with her family as a result of her own experience as an American actor and filmmaker. Fueled by her determination to give other Asian Americans a creative outlet, she also strives to raise awareness for Asian American issues and aid for worthy causes.
A first generation Vietnamese American, she grew up a bit unconventional by nature, dedicating her free time to honing her skills in the performing and fine arts. She attended gifted and talented schools, graduating near the top of her class with a full International Baccalaureate diploma from Garland High School. She received a scholarship to attend Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts, where she studied abroad in Paris and graduated with honors with a B.A. in Cinema and double minors in French and Business. She later was accepted into the University of California – Los Angeles’ (UCLA) elite Producers Program, where she received her M.F.A. and became a twice-over Finalist in the Producers Guild-sponsored UCLA Marketplace competition. For her work in the arts, she has received several national scholarships and honors, including the Women In Film.Dallas College Scholarship and the Mickey Dude Diversity Fellowship. Her short films have screened at film festivals nationwide.
A passionate, creative and innovative leader, she has been an active advocate, volunteer and speaker as a former Miss Asian American Texas and for such SMU groups as East Asian Student Association (President), Program Council (Films Chair), Asian Council (Secretary) and non-profit community organizations like Wilkinson Center, AIDS Resource Center of Dallas, Deep Ellum Film Festival, Asian American Professionals of Dallas (PA2), Asian Professional Exchange (APEX) – Los Angeles, Monster Diversity Leadership Program, Asian American Leadership & Educational Conference (AALEC), The Vietnamese American Center of Greater Dallas and The Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce. She previously served on the Women In Film.Dallas Board as Membership and Programs Co-Chair. She is a recipient of numerous scholarships and leadership honors, including the prestigious 2010 SMU Distinguished Alumni Emerging Leader Award, given to an alumae/alumnus who has graduated within the past 15 years and brought distinction to the University. She was recently honored with one of the 2012 NAAAP-DFW Leaders of Excellence Awards.
Tammy produced and directed her first feature documentary Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, an independent passion project that took nearly five years to produce and won the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film (Vietnamese International Film Fesival) and the Documentary Audience Choice Award (Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival).
A seasoned actor, she has appeared in films, television, national commercials and print campaigns. She has worked extensively in film/television production and has overseen the development and marketing of a heavy slate of non-fiction television series and documentary programs for major cable networks. Now, as a working mom to two adorable daughters, Tammy’s focus is on her family, growing ATG and continuing to work as an actor, film/television producer and development consultant.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Daring to go bravely in the direction that no one else has. Forging a unique path apart from where others have gone. Standing steadfast and passionately to one’s own voice and beliefs.”
Quote to live by: “You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it come true. You may have to work for it, however.” – Richard Bach, Illusions
Passionate about: Family, film, food, traveling and leading a life of meaning and purpose
Favorite food: Soup, comfort food and street/fair food
Can’t live without: My loves (especially my two daughters) and really good food
Color Personality: True Blue/Action OrangePresident and Co-Founder
- Renae VirataRenae VirataVice President
Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Renae Virata is the daughter of immigrant parents who left the Philippines in the mid-1970s to pursue a better life for their family. Sandwiched between an older sister and younger brother, she and her siblings were surrounded by old-world stories told in Tagalog as well as Filipino meals that connected them to their heritage. A Gemini to a “T,” she has always pursued some form of communication and creative outlet, playing the piano, writing short stories and entering numerous drawing and design contests.
Renae attended Vanderbilt University from 1998 to 2002, where her Asian American heritage set her apart from a majority of the student body. It was during her time there that she became more active in learning about, helping to promote and participating directly in Asian American awareness and culture. She held numerous leadership roles across campus, including secretary then president of the Asian American Student Association, Vice President of the Alpha Delta Gamma National Fraternity chapter at Vanderbilt, a resident adviser and a freshman orientation leader.
After graduating with a degree in the Communication of Science, Engineering and Technology, she worked in a variety of fields and industries, first as an assistant buyer at Foley’s Department Stores in the young designer area, then as an award-winning sales consultant at CareerBuilder.com and finally, today, as the founder and president of her own marketing firm revXmktg. No matter what role she filled, Renae continued to find opportunities both in her jobs as well as outside the office to hone her writing and creative skills.
Renae is excited to join ATG and looks forward to contributing her marketing and public relations skills and experience to furthering the mission of the organization. As a recent transplant from Houston, she also hopes to learn more about and actively participate in the Dallas community, especially through her involvement with ATG.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Doing things differently from what you are expected to do or how you have always done them. That can be as simple as choosing a different entrée from your favorite restaurant or as complex as leaving a strong career to go out on your own. I have done both and every measure of going against the grain in between. Life is just more exciting when you expand your horizons and take a leap of faith to follow your heart, despite what others around you may say.”
Quote to live by: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Passionate about: traveling, writing, fashion, staying active, learning new things, helping bring out the best in people, going against the grain
Favorite food: Mangoes, ice cream, dark chocolate with almonds, mac ‘n’ cheese, my mom’s kare-kare and a Filipino dessert called turon (can you tell I have a sweet tooth?)
Can’t live without: God, my family, my boyfriend, my friends, my dogs, my journal, manicures and massages
Color Personality: Action OrangeVice President
- Thao LaThao LaSecretary
Thao La escaped Vietnam during the fall of Saigon in the Spring of 1975 with her parents and younger siblings. With the support of a charitable Lutheran Church, her parents each found a full-time job and a supplemental job in order to save up for a better life for their family. Thus at the age of nine, Thao took on the role of a responsible big sister for her younger siblings.
Thao excelled at an inner city public school in Baltimore and was offered a full scholarship at the end of the fifth grade to attend an all-girls private school. Thao graduated with a BA from the Johns Hopkins University in 1989. Thao took on many leadership roles in high school and in college and was also actively involved with the Vietnamese community youth group in the Washington DC area. She helped put together speaker events and concerts to raise funds for the Vietnamese refugees and boat people. She was also one of the speakers at the College Day events to help local high school Vietnamese students to learn more about the college application process. Thao obtained a Master in Healthcare Administration from the Tulane University School of Public Health. She was accepted to do a paid summer internship with the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington DC, and one year of executive-administration residency at the Tulane University Hospital and Clinic prior to attending the University of Richmond TC Williams School of Law. Since receiving her JD, she has worked as a law clerk or as an attorney at the Maryland Attorney General Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Dallas Criminal District Courts, the U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Assistance and the Civil Division of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. Thao is currently an in-house attorney for the Dallas County Hospital District and is a member of the DWLA, DAABA, NAPABA, ASC and NCVAA.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Accept and learn from failures along the way, continue to compete with your best attitude , and take that extra step to elevate your team members.”
Quote to live by: “I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” — Maya Angelou
Passionate about: Getting the task completed; accomplishing the next task/goal
Favorite food: Sweet exotic fruit (including the King of Fruit), coffee, dessert
Can’t live without: Family (especially my teens), friends, food, books, movies
Color Personality: Can change dailySecretary
- Uyen TranUyen TranCo-Treasurer
Uyen Tran was born and raised in Danang, Vietnam and came to the U.S. as an international student when she was 18 years-old. She graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a Master’s degree in Taxation. During her college years, Uyen was a volunteer tutor for the America Reads/America Counts program and actively participated in community service projects for the Vietnamese Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Dallas. She has also volunteered for the Asian Film Foundation of Dallas and filmAsia by the Crow Collection of Asian Art. Uyen is currently working at STMicroelectronics as a Tax Specialist. She has previously served as ATG’s Treasurer.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Having the courage to pursue what you love doing even if that means having to take bigger risks.”
Quote to live by: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” – Plato
Passionate about: Family, travels and FIFA World Cup
Favorite food: Sushi
Can’t live without: My iPhone
Color Personality: True BlueCo-Treasurer
- Ivone VuIvone VuCo-Treasurer
Ivone Vu was born in Houston, Texas, and raised in DFW. She graduated cum laude from The University of Texas at Dallas in 2008 with an MS in Accounting and Information Systems. Drawing from ten years of experience in public accounting as both a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Management Accountant, Ivone worked at the local CPA firm BDO before joining TravisWolff in her current position as a tax manager.
With a passion for making an impact on children’s lives by helping them learn, Ivone has volunteered for the past ten years as a Sunday School teacher at a Vietnamese parish in Carrollton, working with students from ages five to nine.
In her free time, Ivone likes to spend time with her husband, family and friends.
Quote to live by: “I believe that everything happens for a reason…” – Marilyn Monroe
Passionate about: Family and friends
Favorite food:Anything carbs
Can’t live without: My husband, family, friends, and my contacts
Color Personality: Solid GoldCo-Treasurer
- Anne Marie GanAnne Marie GanCo-Dir Fundraising
Anne Marie was born and raised in Dallas by parents who immigrated from Thailand. She graduated from Emory University with a BA in Art History and Italian Studies, after which she spent a year in Cambodia working at a museum as a Henry Luce Scholar. After returning to the US, she joined Bain & Company in Atlanta as an Associate Consultant, where she led volunteer consulting engagements with area non-profits. She will complete her MBA and MA in Arts Management at Southern Methodist University in May 2015 and is passionate about helping others enrich their lives through the arts.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
Going against the grain means finding out what your heart wants and pursuing it – even if it’s not what anyone else has done or what anyone expects you to do. History and art aren’t rulebooks, but rather illustrations that help us discover more about ourselves, our desires, and our futures.
Quote to live by: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
Passionate about: Art, good food, and my family
Favorite food: popcorn!
Can’t live without: my iPhone
Color Personality: Solid GoldCo-Dir Fundraising
- Tien TruongTien TruongCo-Director Fundraising
Tien was born in Saigon, Vietnam. She came to Arlington, Texas in 1996. She graduated from University of Texas at Arlington with a Bachelors in Finance. She also has a Baking and Patisserie degree from Le Cordon Bleu Dallas. She has prior experience in Accounting and Finance and bakes on the side. Her hope is to open up a bakery one day.
Tien loves volunteering for non-profit organizations. She was a Board Member for Tre Giup Tre for 8 years. This is a non-profit organization where funds are raised through an annual Vietnamese Concert hosted by local volunteer performers. For many years, she helped gain sponsors, for Tre Giup Tre shows, through visiting local Vietnamese businesses and presenting the Tre Giup Tre Sponsorship Package.
Tien enjoys yoga, signing, watching movies, bowling and salsa dancing. She has a two year old shih-tzu named Nala whom she cannot live without.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “It means no matter what your culture or your stereotype says about your race, you follow your heart and be yourself, pursue the things you truly love. ”
Quote to live by: “Love others, love your experiences, and most of all, love yourself, so much so that you understand your happiness comes from within, and the people and experiences who fill your time here on earth enhance your joy, but are not the sole source of it” – James Michael Sama
Passionate about: Salsa, Volunteering, Yoga, my family and dog. Vietnamese and Spanish language and culture
Favorite food: Vietnamese egg noodles in seafood broth
Can’t live without: My phone, water
Color Personality: Pink!!!!Co-Director Fundraising
- Jennifer DevanyJennifer DevanyCo-Director Community Outreach
Jennifer Devany was born and raised in the Philippines by her grandparents before she joined her mother and new family in Dallas, TX at the age of eight years old. She was adopted by her step-father who became a monumental inspiration and mentor to her life and well-being. Simultaneously she took on the role as a big sister to her younger half-sister and half-brother who she grew to love and adore.
With Jennifer’s step-father’s influence, she developed and honed in on her God-given gift to compassionately give and help others, to love the arts, to be a leader, and to impact the community by making a difference in children’s lives. She is doing just that to this day. She has volunteered her time to children’s charities such as The Dallas Margarita Society, Love for Kids, the Police Athletic League of Dallas, and Big Thought. She has volunteered her time as an Ambassador for the Dallas Arts District, and the Green Bandana Group as part of her passion for the arts, music, and dance; and she has also volunteered her time with reTreet America in an effort to replant communities and bring awareness to riding bicycles.
After obtaining her AAS at Colorado Technical University and pursuing her major in HR Management, Jennifer found her calling in Human Resources. Working for FGR Food Corporation and Kenexa, supporting UnitedHealth Group in the Human Resources department, aided in her desire to work not just in any HR field, but to work for a non-profit where she is impacting lives of others. This desire brought her to work with Methodist Health System (a non-profit hospital) where she obtained a position as HR Specialist, and was quickly promoted as Benefits Specialist, her current role. As tae bo instructor, Billy Blanks says, “where I am today is where my mind put me. Where I am tomorrow is where my mind put me.”
From 2008 through 2010, Jennifer traveled throughout Europe and some parts of The Middle East where she quickly learned about herself, the meaning of truly living life to its fullest, and the influence of different cultures. During her stay in Germany, she befriended a local German/Filipino local, where they joined forces to raise awareness for German/American cultures and co-founded the German-American Women’s Club of Bitburg. The club is still going strong and just recently celebrated its six year anniversary. In addition, Jennifer started a wandergruppe (hiking group) in Bitburg, DE in an effort to get to know local Germans and learn about their culture, and vise-versa for them. In all that does, she sees the importance in others’ culture and to respect it. Lastly, to complete her stay in Germany, she and a few military friends she befriended participated in a salsa dancing performance during two culture events in Germany and The Netherlands. It would not be Jennifer without dancing in her life.
Upon returning to the U.S., a life changing event occurred that tested her friendships, her family, her strength, and her faith. She was diagnosed with a Psuedopapillary tumor and had a Whipple surgery on October 2010 where she remained in the hospital for approximately a month while she recovered. After her surgery, her outlook on life changed and she continued living her life helping others, assisting in making a difference, and living a holistic lifestyle. She has volunteered any of her spare time to helping the community. She has devoted a majority of her free time to ATG the past two years as Secretary, and this year she is ecstatic to tackle her new role as Community Outreach. She also became a Pescetarian (fish vegetarian) that year of her surgery, and still continues to live that lifestyle to this day.
When she’s not working, she thoroughly enjoys mountain biking, salsa dancing, and educating herself on God and leadership. Jennifer is a new mom to a one year old beautiful daughter. With her involvement with ATG and other non-profits, she would like to be an example and leave a legacy to her daughter, just as her step-father had done for her.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Being comfortably uncomfortable with being and thinking deeper than the norm, pushing the boundaries, taking life to the edge, and questioning normalcy.”
Quote to live by: “You can’t make footprints in sands of time by sitting on your butt. And who wants to make buttprints in the sands of time.” – Bob Moaward
Passionate about: Faith, family, serving others, traveling, thoughts and ideas by others, writing, and my constant desire to want something more out of life.
Favorite food: Anything Filipino to bring me back to my roots, Korean food, crab legs, sauted garlic and onions (weird)
Can’t live without: My family (particularly my daughter), my faith, my boyfriend who inspires me to be the woman God has created me to be, and outdoor sports
Color Personality: True BlueCo-Director Community Outreach
- Julianne NguyenJulianne NguyenCo-Director Community Outreach
Julianne Nguyen is a graduate of the Baylor Law School in Waco, TX. She graduated from Southern Methodist University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. While at SMU, she was active in Asian Council, EASA, VSA and AALEC. She also helped to establish ASCEND, a student business organization on campus. At Baylor, she is involved in Diversity in Law and Asian Law Student Association. She recently passed the Bar and returned to Dallas, TX to start her legal career. Julianne previously served as ATG’s Secretary.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “To go outside the box, to go against stereotypes and expectations, to be fearless.”
Quote to live by: “I never regret anything. Because every little detail of your life is what made you into who you are in the end.”
Passionate about: Family & friends
Favorite food: All types of Asian food, from pho to sushi to bibimbap and Italian
Can’t live without: My cellphone
Color Personality: Solid GoldCo-Director Community Outreach
- Sharon ChanSharon ChanCo-Director Programming/Events
Sharon Chan was raised in Carrollton, TX, and is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, where she received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting with minors in Economics and Chinese. Sharon was a BBA Scholar and was awarded the President’s Scholarship at SMU – the highest academic merit award given by the University. During her time at SMU, she was active on campus and served as the Chair of the Asian American Leadership and Educational Conference (AALEC) and the President of the East Asian Student Association (EASA). In addition, she was active in Asian Council, was part of the Emerging Leaders Program, and studied abroad in Beijing, China and Paris, France. After graduating from SMU, Sharon attended the University of Texas at Austin where she received a Masters in Professional Accounting. Sharon currently works at Ernst & Young, LLP in Dallas, TX as an Assurance Associate. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, trying new foods, and spending time with her family, friends, and Meatball, her Yorkie.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “To be an innovative thinker and to never be afraid to stand up for your beliefs and reach for your goals; To have the courage to explore new avenues and to always keep an open mind to all the possibilities around you.”
Quote to live by: “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor” – Charles Dickens
Passionate about: Food and Traveling
Favorite food: Anything Sweet
Can’t live without: My Family and Friends
Color Personality: Curious Green/Solid GoldCo-Director Programming/Events
- Vivien RosalVivien RosalCo-Director Programming/Events
I grew up in California and relocated to Texas 20+ years ago. I have a very diverse background from owning my own franchise business, to coordinating fund raising events, and promoting franchise’s brand name throughout the Dallas Metroplex.
I have a degree in Fashion Design and worked as a Pattern Maker for several years at the downtown historic fashion center in Los Angeles in the early 90s. I also hold a degree in Business Administration with a background in MIS with a minor in Accounting.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “It’s to step out of my comfort zone to do the unthinkable and the impossible. We give to others what God has given to us. Everyone has a unique gift to make a difference in this world.”
Quote to live by: “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be. Things turn out the best for people who make the best of the way things turn out. Do not let what you can do interfere with what you can do. It’s little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” (Peron Jones) Another favorite Quote: The best way to predict your future is to create it.” Anonymous.
Passionate about: Foodies and Travel
Favorite food: Soups
Can’t live without: Steam Rice
Color Personality: True BlueCo-Director Programming/Events
- Teresa VuongTeresa VuongCo-Director Programming/Events
Teresa Vuong graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas with a degree in Computer Science. Being one of very few females in her class at a time when the industry was dominated by mostly men, she went against the grain even before she knew what it meant. While a CS degree opened many doors to a fruitful career in IT, her creative side was left unchallenged. Through helping her friends and family in numerous weddings, Teresa discovered a knack for event planning and has since moonlighted as a Wedding/Event Planner. Event planning not only allowed for a creative outlet but also helped her pull off her own wedding within a short 6 weeks.
Teresa has participated in the Pacific Asian Student Association (PASA), Asian American Professionals of Dallas (PA2), Foundation for Children of Vietnam (FCVN), and ATG. She looks forward to joining ATG and helping to make a difference.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Go Against The Grain’ means pursuing your dream even if it’s against what you’re culturally programmed to believe is ideal.”
Quote to live by: “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.”
Passionate about: Traveling and good eats
Favorite food: Anything that tastes good
Can’t live without: My iPhone
Color Personality: Curious Green/True BlueCo-Director Programming/Events
- Aivy NguyenAivy NguyenSocial Media Chair
Aivy Nguyen graduated from the University of North Texas with a degree in Business Marketing and a passion for advertising. She has been an active member in many Asian American student organizations, serving as an officer on the Executive Board for UNT’s Asian Student Association, Public Relations Director for the annual Asian Pacific American Empowerment Conference and as Regional Representative for the 2007 Vietnamese American Student Conference. She had the honor of being recognized as one of VANG’s 2007 Top 40 Vietnamese American Student Leaders. She formerly served as ATG’s Director of Marketing/Public Relations. Since graduating, Aivy has traveled back to Vietnam to continue efforts to aid various orphanages abroad and serves as a counselor at Vietnamese Culture Camps. She’s currently living her Mad Men dreams as a Senior Account Executive at Leo Burnett Worldwide in Chicago.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “‘Going against the grain’ means being extraordinary and striving to be unconventional. It means to be a catalyst for change, whether that is within yourself or society.”
Quote to live by: “Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” – James M. Barrie
Passionate about: Learning
Favorite food: Anything in the Chicago restaurant scene
Can’t live without: Happiness!
Color Personality: True BlueSocial Media Chair
- Ann ChaoAnn ChaoAmbassador
Ann Chao is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, where she received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management and a Master of Arts in Alternative Dispute Resolution. Most recently, she received her J.D. from Dedman School of Law, where she was a Sarah T. Hughes Scholar. During law school, Ann was inducted into the SMU Barristers Honorary Service Society, and she was also invited into the National Order of the Barristers. She was the Champion of the SMU 2L Moot Court Competition and the Regional Champion of the Thomas Tang National Moot Court Competition.
At SMU, Ann has served on the executive board of Asian Council, Student Senate, the Board of Advocates and the Association for Public Interest Law. She was also President of the National Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, President of the SMU Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and the Manager of Business Development of the SMU International Law Review.
Ann has also been a volunteer for the Genesis Women’s Shelter and a counselor for a national crisis hotline. She has helped raise over $160k for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, Bryan’s House in Dallas, Project Night Night and the March of Dimes. Additionally, Ann has served as the ATG Director of Fundraising, Secretary and on the Street Team.
Before law school, Ann was an Enterprise Technology Consultant at Dell. Since then, she has worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, the Texas Attorney General, and both state and federal judges. Ann passed the bar in 2011 and is currently working as in-house counsel at BT Furnishings.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Following your heart, no matter what else is going on around you, and inspiring others to do the same. Forging a new path and persevering through so that others may have more opportunities.”
Quote to live by: “Shoot for the moon, because if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars.”
Passionate about: Family & friends, great food & wine, exploring the world, good music, relaxing on white sandy beaches with crystal clear blue water, the Dallas Cowboys and cooking
Favorite food: Pastas, fries, ice cream
Can’t live without: My iPhone and Gmail
Color Personality: Solid Gold & Curious GreenAmbassador
- Elizabeth DinhElizabeth DinhAmbassador
This Texan is thrilled to have travelled around the country for her career, and to be back in her hometown area to continue telling the stories of the fascinating people she meets each day. Elizabeth joined KTVT as a reporter for the CBS 11 Morning News in December 2012. She was born in Irving, then raised in Grand Prairie and Arlington. Elizabeth graduated from Sam Houston High School and UT Arlington. During college, she anchored and reported for the Fort Worth City Cable before moving to the Texas Panhandle to become weekend anchor/reporter at KAMR TV in Amarillo. Another amazing opportunity then brought Elizabeth and her husband Kevin to WFTS TV in Tampa, Florida. Three years later, the duo, along with their pugs Tiny and Coco Chanel, travelled to the Pacific Northwest where Elizabeth joined the KOMO TV news team in Seattle, Washington.
Elizabeth also speaks Vietnamese – something her parents made sure she did at home since childhood. During the Fall of Saigon in 1975, her mom and dad fled Vietnam before settling in Texas. She is the youngest and only daughter among 6 married brothers (plus 17 nieces and nephews, and counting). Her love for Vietnamese culture is expressed in making dishes at home or trying them at one of many great local restaurants.
She believes she’s part of an amazing love story because in June of 2012, Elizabeth’s husband, Kevin, donated one of his kidneys to her when a condition called IgA Nephropathy caused both of hers to fail. The selfless gift of life from him has renewed her health and her spirit after living with failing kidneys for nearly two years.
Elizabeth is proud to be a former Miss Asian American Texas, recipient of the Girl Scout Gold Award (the highest award a Girl Scout can achieve) and is a member of the Asian American Journalists Association. Elizabeth formerly served as ATG’s Director of Marketing/Public Relations.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Following one’s heart toward achieving their dreams, despite any setbacks, no matter what others may say. It’s about having the courage to be ambitious, the faith to believe in yourself and the power to make a difference.
Quote to live by: “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.” – Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel
Passionate about: Fashion, Life
Favorite food: Sweets, especially ones with chocolate, coconut or peanut butter
Can’t live without: My family and friendsAmbassador
- Annie Tran EllisAnnie Tran EllisAmbassador
Annie Tran Ellis graduated from the University of North Texas in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, emphasizing in News Editorial/Print Media. Throughout her years in school, she realized her interests and passions submerged through writing. As a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Dallas NuPros, Annie is known as the person who would encourage her friends and family to support in the highest fashionable way. Annie was born and raised in Dallas and believes to uphold a high image of each company she has worked for, letting potential clients know what is offered.
She hopes to travel the world and make a difference, since learning her family’s daily experiences while visiting Vietnam for the first time in 2011. Annie wants to focus on finding her very own career path and ATG has helped point her in the right direction. In her spare time, she enjoys R&R and exploring her hometown with friends and family. She has formerly served as ATG’s Director of Marketing/Public Relations and currently works in Accounting at Sewell.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Discovering your passion and being original in your chosen path.”
Quote to live by: “Go the extra mile, it’s never crowded.”
Passionate about: Writing – I believe any writer can impact any reader by expressing their true thoughts without any extreme boundaries.
Favorite food: Burgers and Fries – I’m an All Asian American girl!
Can’t live without: Cable televisionAmbassador
- Liz Nguyen HoLiz Nguyen HoAmbassador
Liz was born in Denver, Colorado, and raised in Houston, Texas. Now living back in Dallas with her husband and daughter, Liz works at Hewlett Packard under the Technology and Operations organization as the Business Applications Program Manager for Global Real Estate. Prior to her move, she worked at PCS-CTS as the PMO Director, where she was in charge of the program management group in Houston and heading the business development ventures for the company in the Americas, Asia, Europe and Latin America regions.
With an experienced background in account management and customer support, Liz has portrayed a strong record in leadership and service. This experience was built on top of a solid education as a marketing and psychology major at Southern Methodist University. During college, she was active in various organizations including Asian Council, East Asian Student Association, Vietnamese Students Association, Student Senate, Student Foundation, Mustang Marathon (fundraiser benefiting pediatric AIDS) and Student Rep of the Students Affairs Committee for the Board of Trustees. She was awarded SMU’s most coveted recognition the “M Award,” which is given to students, faculty, staff and administrators in recognition of exemplary service to the University.
When not working, she enjoys cooking, yoga, singing, goofing off with family and friends and volunteering as a martial arts instructor for Unified Tae Kwon Do. She has previously served as ATG’s Co-Director of Marketing/Public Relations and Treasurer. Liz is married to her college sweetheart Binh, has one daughter Elise and another soon on the way.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “If someone asks me what does it mean to ‘to against the grain,’ my first thought involves breaking boards in martial arts – you never want to hit against the grain because it is harder. In the context of the question, “to go against the grain” means to go outside the box, beyond conventional thinking, possibly outside your comfort zone in order to achieve above and beyond expectations. Standard practices set the current boundary of possibilities. To extend the boundaries and to remove the ‘im’ in impossible, you have to go ‘against the grain.’”
Quote to live by: “Live everyday of your life to the fullest. Hope for the best to come and…Love every single moment of it.”
Sign: Taurus/Dog Passionate about: My family + loved ones (Elite 10)
Favorite food: Anything that tastes good… oohhh! Scallop Hand Roll at Sushi Sake
Can’t live without: My iPhone & lip balm
Color Personality: True Blue/Action OrangeAmbassador
- Nikki Duong KoenigNikki Duong KoenigAmbassador
Nikki Duong Koenig spent her early childhood immersed in Vietnamese culture before her family immigrated to Dallas, TX. As a kid, Nikki was passionate about art/fashion and was nurtured by her family to pursue all her creative endeavors. She attended the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU and received a B.A. in Advertising and Art. While in school, she was on the SMU national winning advertising team, Praxis, and was active in Asian Council, EASA and VSA.
Upon graduation, Nikki jetted off to New York City to launch her career as an art director, working at global advertising agencies for blue-chip clients such as American Express, Coca Cola, Motorola and Verizon. All the while, she was attending FIT’s CEO Program, growing her business, volunteering and maintaining a long distance relationship. After her successful start in NYC, Nikki returned to Dallas to take her personal and professional life to the next level.
She is married to her college sweetheart and recently left her career in advertising/marketing in 2013 to be devoted full-time as Owner/President of Cykochik Custom Handbags, the business she founded as a student from her dorm room at SMU in 2003.
When she is not busy building her business or designing handbags, Nikki enjoys supporting the arts and philanthropic causes, traveling, painting/drawing and spending time with family and friends. Nikki formerly served as the organization’s Vice President and Director of Marketing/Public Relations.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “It’s a state-of-mind, being able to trust/follow my instincts and not second-guessing myself despite external obstacles or influences.”
Quote to live by: “Just Do It” – Nike
Passionate about: The Arts
Favorite food: Vegetables
Can’t live without: The Internet
Color Personality: Curious Green/Action OrangeAmbassador
- Hue Dao MinerHue Dao MinerAmbassador
Hue Dao Miner currently works in cholesterol research at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations and Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of North Texas. She served on the Board of Directors for ATG for four years in the roles of Director of Community Outreach, Director of Marketing/Public Relations and Secretary. Hue is a first generation Vietnamese American, uniquely raised in both an Asian American home and an Anglo American home. Through her own personal experiences, she has mentored her four younger siblings about the Asian American identity. She is passionate about extending cultural awareness to the public. In her free time, Hue enjoys good food, salsa dancing, running and off-road biking.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Setting yourself apart. Doing what you feel is best. Being in control of your own thoughts and beliefs.”
Quote to live by: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
Passionate about: Faith, family, health and fitness
Favorite food: Breakfast and fruit smoothies
Can’t live without: Love, beauty and sleep
Color Personality: True BlueAmbassador
- Carol NguyenCarol NguyenAmbassador
Carol Nguyen is an alumnus of the University of North Texas where she earned a B.F.A. in Communication Design and B.B.A. in Business Marketing. Her work was showcased at the 2008 Dallas Society of Visual Communication National Student Show and she was awarded with a Fort Worth Addy in 2009. Carol has been in the professional design industry for 5 years, gathering experience from large agencies, smaller in-house companies, and local private businesses. She has gained much insight through working with diverse industries such as technology, education, oil & gas, medical, food, entertainment and beauty. Currently, she is a Creative Director at Mosaic Creative, located in the historic West End of Downtown Dallas.
Carol’s interest in philanthropy have led to her involvement with several organizations. She is a member of the National Association of Asian American Professionals and volunteers with the Marketing team. She is also the Director of Marketing with Pros for Paws and serves breakfast regularly at the Bridge Homeless Recovery Center. She helped to build and maintain the website for Blended Profit – an online resource promoting responsible business practices. Carol has previously served as ATG’s Graphic Designer and won the 2013 MVP Award for her dedication to the organization and outstanding team performance.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Going ‘against the grain’ means being proactive about change and carving out a path for yourself instead of following in the footsteps of others and waiting for change to occur.”
Quote to live by: “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” – James 1:22
Passionate about: Family, dancing, local music and great food
Favorite food: Blue Bell Ice Cream and Nutella
Can’t live without: MacBook
Color Personality: Action OrangeAmbassador
- Kate NguyenKate NguyenAmbassador
After attending the University of Texas at Arlington, Kate Nguyen has established a career as a Financial Analyst within the Telecom industry. She then worked as a Mobile Coordinator at Belo, one of the largest multi-media companies in Dallas. Currently, Kate is a Project Coordinator at HP.
Kate has past non-profit experience volunteering for the Vietnamese community, the United Way Campaign and as an active volunteer with ATG for the past several years and previously served as the organization’s Treasurer. She has always found that the act of giving your time to a worthwhile cause is its own reward with unexpected benefits.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “It’s an ability to knowingly go down the road not taken, knowing when to take risks and follow your own path.”
Quote to live by: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Passionate about: Loved ones… my friends and family
Favorite food: Home cooked meals
Can’t live without: iPad and sriracha/tobasco Sauce
Color Personality: True Blue/Curious GreenAmbassador
- Vi PhungVi PhungAmbassador
Vi Phung graduated early from Texas Tech University in December 2008 with a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in English. She interned at a local CBS and ABC affiliate in Lubbock, studied abroad in Spain and traveled to various places around the world before graduating. Vi is currently the Director of Online Communications for an online classifieds website, where she’s been working since early 2009. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Vi is excited to be back to spend time with family and friends and focus on her career. She has volunteered for ATG since graduation, previously serving as Co-Director of Marketing/Public Relations and Programming/Events. She loves being part of such a meaningful organization. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her fiance, family and friends. She also loves to shop, travel every chance she gets and eat!
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Always being yourself and letting your personality be your autograph. Going against the grain is being passionate and doing what you love, no matter what anyone else thinks.”
Quote to live by: “Let your personality be your autograph.”
Passionate about: Fashion and culture
Favorite food: Sushi, cheese, lobster, filet mignon
Can’t live without: TV, internet and family
Color Personality: Action OrangeAmbassador
- Claudia SheltonClaudia SheltonAmbassador
Claudia Shelton is a Dallas-born Mexican American with a love for visual and performing arts. Since earning her BA in Corporate Communications from Southern Methodist University in Marketing, she has volunteered as a graphic designer in various capacities. From designing logos to social media integration, she makes it a priority to lend her talents to church, family, friends and organizations.
Claudia’s passion for creativity has always extended to different areas of her life. Her interest in interior design led her to serve in upscale design showrooms purchasing, caring for and managing merchandise. Her as-needed work at the Dallas Theater Center as a scenic painting assistant was instigated by her love of theater and art as a whole.
Claudia thoroughly enjoyed giving her time and talent to ATG a few years ago as Graphic Designer and is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with such a wonderful group again.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “It’s not having a fear of walking alone. It’s not dobe to be different but is necessary to make a difference.”
Quote to live by: “Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8
Passionate about: Life!
Favorite food: Lasagna
Can’t live without: My family
Color Personality: Action Orange/True BlueAmbassador
- Gauthami VemulaGauthami VemulaAmbassador
Gauthami Vemula is the Founder and Managing Partner of Color Me Safe, LLC, a family crisis consulting firm committed to protecting children and families of North Texas by offering guidance and solutions for child welfare and protection issues. Gauthami’s previous experience as a child abuse investigator and department manager at the Department of Child Protective Services made her realize that working with children and families was not just part of a job but more of a calling. She was one of only three investigators hand-picked from Dallas County for a special pilot program, the Skilled Response Team, that investigated more than 40 child abuse cases a month. She was also selected as one of the few in Texas to train new CPS Investigators. In addition to her work in the field, Gauthami was integral in co-authoring Dallas County’s policy and procedure handbook used by all CPS Investigators. She also helped to create a systematic method called ‘Tips, Tools, and Tactics,’ specifically utilized by newly trained CPS Investigators. After a decade of working within the system and becoming aware of its shortcomings, Gauthami invested her knowledge and expertise in founding Color Me Safe with the intention of bridging a connection between the families of North Texas and the CPS System. Now days, as a Child Welfare Consultant and activist, she passionately works towards raising awareness about child abuse/neglect and advocating for families going through child protection issues.
Gauthami is actively involved in the community, serving on the boards and advisory boards of Hope’s Door and Empowering Women As Leaders. Gauthami serves as a mentor for high school girls at the Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School. She is also the sponsorship secretary for HEAL, an international organization working to provide education and health care to children in poverty. Since 2002, Gauthami has been an active volunteer/teacher at Chinmaya Mission of DFW where she educates children and reinforces spiritual and cultural values. Gauthami also recently joined the Dallas Women’s Foundation XIX Society Steering Committee. Gauthami has a passion for music and loves to play and teach piano in her spare time. She recently completed a children’s book and awaits publication and is in the process of writing a new book. Gauthami also studies voice under opera singer/performer, Ronana Gales.
Gauthami has made her debut as a singer this year. She values her family who have encouraged and supported her littlest adventure to her greatest venture. In her spare time, she enjoys participating in a wide array of activities from dancing to blogging. Gauthami is the author of Wheatish Complexion.com; a blog that puts a satirical spin on being a first generation, Indian American woman balancing two different cultures. As an individual guided by her compassion and optimism, she hopes and strives for a commitment where all children are safe, healthy and provided a fair opportunity for a bright future ahead. Gauthami is also the recipient of the Dallas Women’s Foundation 2014 Maura Helping Women Award, which recognizes exceptional leaders who have have/are pioneering the way to improve lives for women and girls.
What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “Going Against The Grain” means to defy convention to make room for innovation and progress, to forge one’s own path, to scale new heights and expand the horizon of what it means to be human.”
Quote to Live By: “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
Sign: Aquarius and Dragon
Passionate About: Family, friends, travel, learning about different cultures, and my DVD collection of “Charles In Charge”
Favorite Food: Whatever Mommy cooks and does not ask me to learn.
Can’t Live Without: My baby nephew, oxygen and water, in that order (wink wink).
Color Personality: True BlueAmbassador
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