About

 
 

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 Story

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-wining 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 Achievements

  • 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.

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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.

PRESIDENT/FOUNDER – Tammy Nguyen Lee

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
Sign: Aries/Horse
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: True Blue/Action Orange


VICE PRESIDENT/PROGRAMMING/EVENTS - Liz Nguyen Ho

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: True Blue/Action Orange


TREASURER – Liz Lean

Liz Lean is a first generation Chinese-American born and raised in Houston, Texas. She moved to Plano at a young age. In 2005, she graduated with a BBA in Accounting and a minor in Chinese from Texas Tech University, in Lubbock, Texas. During her college years, she studied abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, participated in community events, and volunteered for Big Brother Big Sisters of Lubbock, mentoring kids. Shortly after graduation, Liz moved back to Plano, where she currently resides.   Liz is a Senior Tax Accountant at Cain, Watters & Associates, P.L.L.C. and is currently preparing for the CPA exam.  When she has free time, she enjoys shopping, reading, traveling, spending time with friends and baking (her specialty is whipping up some mean cakeballs!).

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“To ‘go against the grain’ is taking your dreams and goals to the next level.  Pushing yourself through challenges to make achieving your dreams and goals that much more worth it.”

Quote to live by: “If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.” – Nora Roberts
Sign: Taurus/Rabbit
Passionate about: Family, Friends & Baking
Favorite food: Sushi & Non-Authentic Italian (Olive Garden)
Can’t live without: Cell phone & TV
Color: Solid Gold


SECRETARY – Jennifer Devany

Jennifer Devany spent a majority of her childhood raised by her grandparents in the foothills of the Philippines, before she joined her mother and new family in Dallas, TX in 1995.  From 2008 through 2010, she travelled throughout Europe and some parts of The Middle East where she quickly learned about herself and the meaning of truly living life to its fullest.  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 did her outlook on life change and she began living her life helping others, assisting in making a difference in the DFW community, and living a holistic lifestyle.  During her spare time she has volunteered regularly for numerous non-profit organizations who raises awareness to local art, music, fashion, culture, and children’s charities. From these involvement, she learned her passion and enthusiasm to helping others, volunteering, and learning about different cultures.  Ironically, this is how she also met her life partner, Bryan Florece, from one of her volunteer activities.  They currently have two fur children, Bruiser and Sasha, and baby girl, Valery, who is a complete joy!

Jennifer obtained her AAS at Colorado Technical University; and she is currently pursuing a major in HR Management.

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“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, love, family, fitness, culture and serving others
Sign: Gemini/Boar
Favorite food: Filipino and Korean Food
Can’t live without: My little family of five
Color: True Blue


COMMUNITY OUTREACH – Julianne Nguyen

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.”
Sign: Pisces/Dragon
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: Solid Gold


MARKETING/PUBLIC RELATIONS – Renae Virata

Renae Virata - Photo 1Born 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
Sign: Gemini/Monkey
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: Action Orange


MARKETING/PUBLIC RELATIONS – Carol Nguyen

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
Sign: Gemini/Tiger
Passionate about:  Family, dancing, local music and great food
Favorite food:  Blue Bell Ice Cream and Nutella
Can’t live without: MacBook
Color: Action Orange


FUNDRAISING – Ann Chao

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.”
Sign: Sagittarius/Boar
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: Solid Gold & Curious Green


FUNDRAISING – Vy Le

Vy is from Vietnam originally, located to Dallas in the year 2002. Vy Le graduated from the University of Texas at Dallas at the age of 19. Since graduation, she had been working as a telecommunication engineer. However, Vy has strong interest in the creative fields, including arts, music and multimedia production. In joining ATG, she hopes to pursue growth through community involvement and making a difference.

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“Taking chances, planting a seed, hoping it will grow into something beautiful despite the odds.”

Quote to live by: “Balance is key.” – Chinese proverb
Sign: Libra/Horse
Passionate about: Family, friends, food, fun and learning
Favorite food: Fried food, chocolate and sushi
Can’t live without: My family
Color: Curious Green/True Blue


PROGRAMMING/EVENTS – Kim Nguyen

Kim Nguyen is a first generation Vietnamese American born and was raised in Carrollton, Texas. She attended the University of Oklahoma, where she was involved in numerous Asian American organizations, including international Asian-interest sorority Alpha Kappa Delta Phi. Within Alpha Kappa Delta Phi sorority, Kim was Secretary, Historian and Special Events Chair. Other organizations she was involved in were Vietnamese Student Association, the Asian American Student Association and President’s Community Scholars.  She is currently working on getting her Bachelor’s in Communications and aspires to become an event planner. In her free time, she likes to spend time with her friends and beloved dog, do arts and crafts and of course, shop!

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“To me, to ‘go against the grain’ means against all odds, no matter what, you should follow your dreams.”

Quote to live by: “If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.”
Sign: Aquarius/Horse
Passionate about: Friends, family and fashion
Favorite food: Sushi
Can’t live without: Moscato and country music
Color: True Blue/Action Orange


SOCIAL MEDIA – Aivy Nguyen

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
Sign: Libra/Ox
Passionate about: Learning
Favorite food: Anything in the Chicago restaurant scene
Can’t live without: Happiness!
Color: True Blue


SOCIAL MEDIA - Vi Phung

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.”
Sign: Aries/Rabbit
Passionate about: Fashion and culture
Favorite food: Sushi, cheese, lobster, filet mignon
Can’t live without: TV, internet and family
Color: Action Orange


AMBASSADOR – Elizabeth Dinh

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
Sign: Virgo/Monkey
Passionate about: Fashion, Life
Favorite food: Sweets, especially ones with chocolate, coconut or peanut butter
Can’t live without: My family and friends


AMBASSADOR – Nikki Duong Koenig

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
Sign: Taurus/Boar
Passionate about: The Arts
Favorite food: Sushi
Can’t live without: The Internet
Color: Curious Green/Action Orange


AMBASSADOR - Hue Dao Miner

Hue b&wHue 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
Sign: Aries/Rabbit
Passionate about: Faith, family, health and fitness
Favorite food: Breakfast and fruit smoothies
Can’t live without: Love, beauty and sleep
Color: True Blue


AMBASSADOR – Annie Tran

Annie Tran 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, especially through one’s life experiences.”

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.
Sign: Capricorn/Rabbit
Favorite food: Burgers and Fries – I’m an All Asian American girl!
Can’t live without: Cable television
Color: Solid Gold


AMBASSADOR – Bao Uyen Tran

Bao 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, Bao 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. Bao 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
Sign: Aries/Boar
Passionate about: Family, travels and FIFA World Cup
Favorite food: Sushi
Can’t live without: My iPhone
Color: True Blue


AMBASSADOR – Rattana Mao

Rattana Mao was fortunate to arrive in Fort Worth, TX in the early 80’s when her family fled the genocide in Cambodia. As a child she was able to experience the authentic Cambodian language and culture of the ex-patriot community. Growing up her family was not able to afford many family outings but took advantage of the free parks and recreation that the community of Fort Worth provided. The Fort Worth Botanic Garden was a special place to her where she can image she could go to college and one day lands a job that would make her parents proud. It was also a place where she could forget about her stress in life as a child. One day her imaginary world became real when Rattana had the opportunity to attend Arizona State University where she received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and then went to obtain her Master’s of Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. She is currently a branch manager for Comerica Bank and the President for the Fort Worth Botanic Garden the place she loved so much as a child.

Rattana has always been passionate in volunteering and giving back to her community. Her other involvements within the community include: BRIT ( Botanical Research Institute Texas) as a board member, Hope Center 4 Autism as an advisory board member, Plaid for Women Fort Worth Chapter Leader, Fort Worth Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, and many more that would take pages to write about.

Even though Cambodia was where Rattana was born, Fort Worth will always be her home and that is where she planted her roots and has been blessed with 2 wonderful boys, Gavin 6 and Conor 4 who are her little rays of sunshine. When Rattana is not working or doing volunteering she loves to run 5k runs but her favorite pastime is spending it with her boys who love being outdoors.

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“Making a decision without regrets or looking back…you must look to the future and make your mark…. Because you only live once…make it count.”

Quote to live by: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:4)
Sign: Leo/Horse
Passionate about:  My two little boys (Gavin & Conor)
Can’t live without:  Chocolate and my mom’s cooking


AMBASSADOR - Kate Nguyen

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
Sign: Taurus/Boar
Passionate about: Loved ones… my friends and family
Favorite food: Home cooked meals
Can’t live without: iPad and sriracha/tobasco Sauce
Color: True Blue/Curious Green


AMBASSADOR - Janet Liu

Janet Liu received a Bachelor of Science in Telecom Engineering and a Minor in English from Beijing Telecommunications University.  After a stint working for a provincial telecom agency during the Chinese telecom boom, she went to work as a sales woman and interpreter for Ericsson China in both Shanghai and Beijing.  She then took what was thought to be a few months working for Ericsson USA into eventually immigrating to the United States.  After living in New York and Atlanta working for Ericsson subsidiaries, she chose to move to its Dallas Headquarters where she resides today. After 10 years at Ericsson and subsidiaries, she transitioned to a Siemens subsidiary, which had acquired Efficient Networks.  At Siemens, she worked as a Product Manager and Project Manager for the next six years.  Since the financial market bust of 2010, she has been working as an Advisory Project Manager for several large financial institutions and private equity firms including Citibank, Bank of America and HSBC.

Prior to joining ATG, Janet was and continues to be involved in a number of community organizations over the years including the World Affairs Council, National Association of Asian American Professionals, Japan America Society, Internations, Chinese Institute of Engineers and Crow Collection of Asian Art.  It was through these organizations that she first came into contact with numerous members of ATG where she was greatly impressed, moved and inspired by their dedication to the community and use of creativity to tell their story.

In her free time, Janet enjoys supporting worthy community and philanthropic causes, traveling, mentoring international students and spending time with family, friends and husband.  Janet first met her husband Scott more than 10 years ago and through his story telling seemingly has learned his line of business and professional dialect too at a large global private equity firm.

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“Creatively, aggressively, passionately, and without delay working toward a noble goal.”

Quote to live by: “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice” – Deng Xiaoping
Sign: Scorpio/Dog
Passionate about: People
Favorite food: Spicy Chinese Dishes
Can’t live without: Spicy Chinese Dishes


ADVISOR/CO-FOUNDER (Orphanages – Vietnam) – Aileen Nguyen

Aileen Nguyen has more than 20 years of progressive and wide-ranging domestic and international tax experience. She has previously worked at STMicroelectronics as Director of Tax, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and KPMG. A Certified Public Accountant, she holds a Master’s degree in Taxation from the University of North Texas and is a cum laude graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas. She is currently a Senior Director of Tax at Borden.

As a refugee and first generation Vietnamese American, she faced the struggles first hand that many new families face in a new country. She has been an avid supporter and contributor to the Vietnamese and Asian American community at large, helping with immigrant groups and planning events. She has volunteered for The Greater Dallas Vietnamese American Community, Wilkinson Center, Miss Asian American Texas Pageant, and Miss Ao Dai Dallas Pageant and has been an enthusiastic fundraiser and volunteer for orphanages and philanthropic causes.

In addition to being a successful careerwoman, she is a dedicated mother of two. Aileen is a founding member of ATG and formerly served as the organization’s Treasurer. She now serves as their tax advisor and liaison/translator to orphanages in Vietnam.

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“For me, ‘going against the grain’ is just pulling effort to do something that you know is the right thing to do, whether you like doing it or not.”

Quote to live by: “Kindness is a language that the dumb can speak and the deaf can hear and understand.”- Christian Nevell Bovee
Sign: Aries/Rooster
Passionate about: Helping people, classical music Favorite food: Sushi and pho
Can’t live without: My socks
Color: Solid Gold/Curious Green


ADVISOR (Orphanages – Thailand) – Jared Rehberg

Jared Rehberg is a Vietnamese Adoptee born in Saigon in 1974. After nine months at An Lac Orphanage, he came to America on Operation Babylift. Jared is an Associate Producer on the documentary Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam. He currently lives in New York City.

Jared is a member of the International Adoptee Congress and the Vietnamese Adoptee Network (VAN). A passionate singer/songwriter, he released a CD in 2002 titled “Waking Up American,” sharing the stage with Kevin So at Club Passim in Boston and Angela Ai at The Cutting Room in New York City. His music has touched the hearts of those who have attended Asian culture camps (Catalyst Foundation, Colorado Heritage, FCVN of Boston and Holt International) and benefit concerts (Adopt-A-Minefield). He speaks on adoptee panels at adoption conferences and adoption agencies (Spence-Chapin) and has performed for VAN (Luke Wing Asian Museum), Also-Known-As, Children Homes Society and Family Services, New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington Center of Adoption and Families with Children from China in New York. He is a Co-Founder of the international adoptee e-magazine In Third Space. Jared has been interviewed on NPR (Crossing East) and appeared on PBS (Asian American) and ImaginAsian TV (Finding My America). He was also interviewed in Adoptive Families, MAVIN, Tieng Magazine and BN Magazine. 

Jared is a founding ATG Board Member and has previously served as Director of Marketing/Public Relations and Direct of Community Outreach. He has served as Camp Director for Colorado Vietnamese Heritage Camp in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He is currently a Sales Operations & Marketing Research Manager for SpinMedia, Inc.  www.jaredrehberg.com

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“Believing that I can make a difference in this world. Breaking the mold, knocking down walls, bringing my own imagination and possibility within me to life.”

Quote to live by: “Seize the day.”
Sign: Leo/Tiger
Passionate about: International adoption and music
Favorite food: Macaroni and cheese
Can’t live without: Family and friends
Color: True Blue


ADVISOR(Orphanages – Cambodia)- Thear Suzuki

Thear Suzuki is Managing Partner of Ernst & Young’s Advisory Services business for the Southwest Region.  She provides advisory services to Fortune 500 companies across a wide range of industries, including Energy, Healthcare, Retail/Consumer Products, and Telecommunications/Media/High Tech. Prior to joining Ernst & Young, Thear led Accenture’s US Advanced Systems Delivery Practice, an organization of over 500 technologists focused on technology delivery. Within EY, Thear serves on the Americas Advisory Women’s Leadership Steering Committee, a task force focused on the retention and advancement of women to the Executive Director and Partner level.  She also serves on the Americas Inclusiveness Advisory Council, a collective think tank and action tank that drives action and progress within the business. Thear is an Executive Sponsor for the Dallas Pan-Asian Professional Network.

In the community, Thear serves on the Board of Directors of the Dallas Women’s Foundation, a non-profit organization that believes that when you invest in a woman, there is a ripple effect that benefits her family, her community and her world.  She also serves on the Advisory Board of the Dallas Chapter of Back On My Feet, a national for-purpose 501(c)3 organization that uses running to help those experiencing homelessness change the way they see themselves so they can make real change in their lives that results in employment and independent living. Thear is a Senior Advisor for the Dallas Chapter of the National Association of Asian-American Professionals, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing the next generation of leaders.

A Biomedical Engineering graduate of SMU, Thear gives back to her alma mater through the SMU James E. Caswell Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program Steering Committee. Thear has been recognized in Forbeswomen.com, Working Mother’s Magazine, The Little PINK Book, Diversity Inc., and featured in a book by Anne Doyle called Powering Up! How America’s Women Achievers Become Leaders.  Thear is a NAAAP 100 award recipient, a prestigious award that recognizes leaders who exemplify NAAAP’s vision and mission. She is also a winner of Consulting Magazine’s “Women Leaders in Consulting Future Leader” award. Thear lives in Plano, Texas with her husband Eric and their four sons Zachary, Ryden, Mason and Alex.

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“Having the courage to go for it, even when you feel like you’re not quite ready.”

Quote to live by: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa
Sign: Aquarius
Passionate about: Leading with purpose
Favorite food: Anaconda roll at Edoko
Can’t live without: My family


ADVISOR – Justin Hung

Justin Hung is currently the Senior Sourcing Manager of the Business Intelligence Team for Indirect Procurement at JCPenney.   For over 11 years, Justin has worked in Indirect Procurement supporting areas of marketing, IT, store fixtures, building construction/equipment, logistics and services.  Justin’s work experience includes project management, strategic sourcing, process improvement, system implementation, organization development, industry analysis and spend analytics.  He is a certified Lean Six Sigma instructor and helped develop a LSS Center of Excellence that contributed over $50M in cost savings for JCPenney.

Since college, Justin has been actively involved as a leader in many Asian American causes and organizations.  He is the past president of the Asian Business Students Association (ABSA) at UT Austin, National Association of Asian American Professionals (NAAAP) of Houston Chapter, and the Asian Professional Exchange (APEX) of Dallas.  He previously served on the founding Board of Birectors for ATG as Diretor of Community Outreach. He President/Founder of the JCPenney Asian American Group (JAAG), one of the first Employee Resource Groups in the company.  In 2008, he graduated with the Epsilon Class of the Greater Dallas Asian American Chamber of Commerce (GDAACC) Leadership Tomorrow program. Justin has a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Management Information Systems from the University of Texas at Austin and a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Green Belt.

Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Justin is married to his beautiful wife Anna and has two adorable young girls, Sienna and Audrey.

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“I believe those that achieve success are those that are not satisfied with the status quo and are always trying to improve themselves. Going against the grain means to me that you are willing to discover and try new opportunities.”

Quote to live by:  “Eliminate distractions, create energy, fear nothing, and attack everything.”
Sign: Taurus/Rabbit
Passionate about: Good movies
Favorite food: Sushi
Can’t live without: iTunes Music Library


ADVISOR  - Shirley Yu
Shirley Yu graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Professional Accounting. In college, she was actively involved with several student organizations, including the Asian Culture Committee, a student union committee sponsored by the University to promote multi-culturalism and diversity on campus. As an officer of ACC, Shirley chaired various programs and served as a liaison to other campus organizations. In 1997, she co-founded PA2 – Asian American Professionals of Dallas, a non-profit group for young Asian Americans in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area to network and develop leadership skills. In 2003, PA2 merged with another young professionals group to form Asian Professional Exchange (APEX) Dallas, where she served as Treasurer, Membership Chair, and as an advisor on the Steering Committee. Shirley is a licensed CPA in the state of Texas.  In her career, she has worked as an auditor for Ernst & Young LLP and held various positions in audit and finance at both Verizon and Nortel.  She is currently employed by McKesson as a Senior Manager – Controls and Compliance.  She is also a founding ATG Board Member and formerly served as the organization’s Secretary & Vice President.

What does going Against The Grain mean to you? “To me, going “against the grain” means to do something that is unexpected and out of the ordinary.”

Quote to live by: “The most important things in life aren’t things.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo
Sign: Capricorn
Passionate about: Family and Texas Longhorns football
Favorite food: Dumplings
Can’t live without: Television…I’m a TV junkie!
Color: True Blue/Solid Gold


WEB ADVISOR – Darren Leong

Darren Leong is a sixth generation Chinese-American born and in raised in Los Angeles, California. He has spent time designing in entertainment and technology for clients including Access Hollywood, Washington Mutual, Univision, Deutche Bank and Nippon Oil. In 2005, he joined Automotive.com, now part of Source Interlink Media, and has overseen the creative direction for a network of 200+ internet properties including Intellichoice, Automobile, Motor Trend, and Hot Rod. Darren’s design choices were recognized with the 2008 Gold Folio award for best consumer site design on Motortrend.com, beating out Time Magazine. Today, as Creative Director for Source Interlink Media on the Mediaworks team, Darren has transitioned to mobile and emerging media product development.  Recent projects include Motor Trend on Google TV, Truck Trend, Surfing, Sail, and SLAM.

Darren is a graduate of UC Irvine. He majored in sociology and studio art with a minor in digital art earning consecutive ArtsBridge Scholarships. He has volunteered time with the Asians for Miracle Marrow Matches, which seeks to register and match potential donors with patients in need of marrow transplants and early grass roots promotions for AsianAvenue.com which focused on connecting the Asian American community.

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“It’s about supporting a positive representation of the Asian American voice and community in the media.”

Quote to live by: “It’s all about perspective.”
Sign: Horse
Passionate about: The details
Favorite food: Paseo’s Midnight Press
Can’t live without: Sleep
Color: Curious Green


Co-FOUNDER – George Lee

George Lee is a graduate of The United States Military Academy at West Point. He served in the Army as a Ranger qualified Captain for several years. While in the Army, George held several leadership positions, including leading a platoon as part of OPERATION INTRINSIC ACTION in Kuwait in 1996, as well as working in Planning and Operations coordinating Missions for Battalion size units. Upon completion of his military service, he became a Manufacturing Engineer responsible for both current product lines and new product development for BancTec Technologies. While at BancTec, he participated in their “Reading to Kids” program, being a mentor to a local elementary school. George spent nearly ten years as an executive at OraPharma, (formerly a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson and Valeant Pharmaceuticals) and is currently the Director of Client Services at AmerisourceBergen.

Having grown up in a small southern town in South Carolina, George participated in several community service projects to include working with the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind as a youth. He experienced the challenges of being from the only Korean American family in his community. From the parallels in his own life, he took an interest in the experiences of the Babylift adoptees and in promoting Asian American identities and became an executive producer and camera operator on Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam. He is a founding member of ATG and formerly served as the organization’s Vice President, combining his operations, logistics and even entertainment experience to execute events such as Fashion for a Passion and Cocktails for a Cause. He is married to ATG President/Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee, and they have two daughters, Gabriella and Austen.

What does going Against The Grain mean to you?
“It means fighting your way through the strong currents of a lifeless existence.” Quote to live by: “Hoo-ah!” – Army battle cry

Sign: Pisces/Rat
Passionate about: Gadgets, fashion
Favorite food: Korean
Can’t live without: My iPhone
Color: Curious Green

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