Grace Hollars is a ’19 Photojournalism graduate. While at Ball State, Hollars learned to live outside of her comfort zone and because of that, she was able to travel to two Olympic Games as a student photojournalist. Today, she works at IndyStar and USA Today as a visual journalist and sports photographer. We sat down to learn more about her time at Ball State, and what happened after CCIM.
Writer: Caitlen Ramey, Department of Journalism Student • Interviewer: Any Ung, ’19 Telecommunications grad • Video: Ball State UMS
What kind of student were you at Ball State?
I don’t want to lie but I wasn’t an amazing student and my professors would probably agree. I was more focused on doing jobs and taking pictures than my school work. I went to class and gave 110% but I was more focused on developing myself professionally. I loved what I was learning so I wanted to challenge myself in any way possible.
Did you have a favorite place on campus?
Hands down it was the third floor of the Arts and Journalism building. There is a long bench with stools that overlook the staircase all the way down to the Atrium. As a photographer, I just loved seeing the layers of the building and how the light hit the staircase at various parts of the day. But a definite second favorite spot was the Ginkgo tree outside of the Arts and Journalism building. Both of these places were just places I could go to recollect or just hang out.
Were there any professors that made a significant impact on you?
I always hated disappointing my professors when I made mistakes because I really looked up to them. I was a difficult student and a little all over the place so I really liked the professors that were patient and understanding when it came to me as a student. A couple of my favorite professors were Ryan Sparrow and Dr. Martin Smith-Rodden. They were both amazing individuals who really helped and guided me through this process. They didn’t go easy on me which I thought was unfair at first but I’m glad that they challenged me so that I could produce the best work possible.
How did the photojournalism program equip you with the skills for the real world?
That’s a tough question to answer because my job is changing so much. Photojournalism isn’t dying but it isn’t traditional anymore either so it is in this weird limbo. I think Ball State really taught me how to be in the limbo. I was taught to be flexible enough to be a sports photographer, do video and interviews so I now have the ability to do a little bit of everything. Today in my job I have the ability to go with the flow while remaining constantly creative and inspired.
Looking back, do you have any favorite memories?
One of my best memories was when I went to South Korea for the Olympics with BSU at the Games. This was my second olympics that I did while in college. I took a photo of Shaun White and asked if it could be hung up and they said they would consider it. So I left to go shoot some other events and came back to the Media Center around 1 a.m. with Ryan Sparrow. We went downstairs to see if it was hung up with the others and it was. I just sat down on the floor and started to cry. Ryan came up behind me and said “You did good on this one, kid” and that moment was something I would never forget. Ryan saw me grow and was so tough on me through the four years so when he said that it was really special.
If you were to meet your freshman self, what would you tell her?
I would tell my freshman self to chill out for a second and start listening to the people around me. Since I am from Muncie, I was still caught up in the hometown life and focusing on what others wanted me to do. I needed to step outside of my comfort zone in order to grow and experience what Ball State had to offer.
One of my first uncomfortable moments was going to SuperParty by myself. I went to because Dr. Lori Byers forced me since she knew that there were so many amazing things I could get out of it. She walked with me to the BSU at the Games table and made me talk to Ryan. I was so uncomfortable and she just left me there. But if I had not done this, I would not have taken part in BSU at the Games in Brazil or South Korea and I would not have gained those amazing experiences. Looking back, going outside of my comfort zone was when I was really able to blossom.