On the Record: Gigi Edwards Bryant

Story by Shaina Kambo, reporter

Photo Courtesy of Deborah Cannon, Austin American-Statesman

ACC District Trustee and businesswoman Gigi Edwards Bryant, who grew up in the Texas foster care system, began her post-secondary education at ACC in 1977. Bryant recently discussed her journey to success with Accent.

ACCENT: What was your childhood like?

BRYANT: My childhood before I was six was very good, but when I was six, I entered the foster care system. There was abuse and mistreatment. It was an old system, and the checks and balances that they have today were not there for children. I aged out at age eighteen with my daughter. My experiences taught me to be more caring about people, that it’s the little things that make a difference, and that one individual can change the world.

ACCENT: Who encouraged you on your journey to achievement?

BRYANT: My Big Mama (great-grandmother) told me that I could do anything and that God would protect me.

ACCENT: Has your definition of success changed throughout your life?

BRYANT: Success has to be defined by the individual, and everyone has to realize their own potential. Some days in my life, success was just getting out of bed. Some days, success was helping somebody to do the things that they wanted to do. Some days, success was knowing that I had done a good job and that I could take a nap.

ACCENT: What was it like being a student at ACC in 1977?

BRYANT: It was fabulous: small classrooms, professors and individuals who looked for you when you weren’t there. When I was going to ACC there were so many [moments when] I thought I was going to drop out. I just didn’t think that I could do it all: take care of my kids, pay my bills, go to work. It started out tough, but I stuck to it until it improved; I didn’t want to opt out.

ACCENT: How did your ACC education help you to achieve your goals?

BRYANT: It gave me an opportunity to realize that I could achieve an education at a pace that was successful to me.

ACCENT: What improvements at ACC would help students reach their full potential?

BRYANT: I want to see our graduation rate go up. I want to see our involvement in high schools be more concerted. I want us to put ACC in the minds of those students and [help them to realize] that we are a very good option. On the other side, I want to hear our students talk about the experiences they’ve had at ACC — the positives and the negatives — and then come back and help us do a better job.

ACCENT: What are some of the goals that you have for the future?

BRYANT: I want to leave a legacy behind about education and I want it to be empowering for the next generation. I want to make sure that I do something every day that leads the next generation to know that they can do it.

ACCENT: Is there any advice that you can give regarding perseverance?

BRYANT: Perseverance is a step-by-step journey. [Within] anybody that you encounter, there is a story. I want to encourage people to tell their own story. Tell [it] the way it happened to you. If it’s validation that you need, you may not get it, but keep telling your story because that’s where your strength is going to come from.

 

On the Record: Ben Mathey

Interview and photo done by Shaina Kambo

Eastview Campus Manager Ben Mathey, has worked for ACC since 1999. He started in student services and gained experience as a center supervisor and adjunct professor. Mathey received a bachelor’s degree in history from Southwestern University and a master’s degree in history from Texas State University.

ACCENT: Can you describe a typical day on the job?

MATHEY: My job on a typical day is to help people on the campus who are experiencing any issues in regards to the facilities at the Eastview Campus. Even more simply, my job is to try and make things better. Fortunately for me, I have a team of great individuals that make everything run so smoothly.

ACCENT: What challenges did you have to overcome in life in order to achieve your current success?

MATHEY: I have dyslexia, but I would not consider that a challenge. When I was 12 years old, I had a doctor tell me that in two-weeks time there was a 50% chance I would be completely healed and a 50% chance I would be dead. Fortunately, I went for the first option.

ACCENT: Was there anyone who motivated you to take the career path that you did?

MATHEY: There is no one individual but a multitude who [have] inspired me to have a career in education. I believe higher education is one of the greatest gifts of civilization, and I relish that idea everyday. Education is a gift that is continually giving and the ability to be a part of that on a professional level is a privilege.

ACCENT: As a former student, what advice can you provide for the ACC student who may feel a little overwhelmed with college life?

MATHEY: You the student, are the most important factor in your education. Everyone you see, everyone you encounter, has the same fears and trepidations. What you need to know is that everyone is here to help. All you have to do is ask. Learn to ask for help. Learn to ask for guidance. Learn to ask, no matter what your problem is.

ACCENT: What makes Eastview Campus stand out from other campuses at ACC?

MATHEY: I know every campus says this, but it really is the people. Eastview is home to some of the most passionate faculty and staff I have encountered. People attend ACC as part of a transformational experience: they come here to change their lives. East Austin is also in a moment of transition. I believe that more than any other campus, Eastview has the potential to play an incredible role in connecting the economic opportunities occurring in Austin to the residents of the surrounding community.

ACCENT: What’s the most interesting experience you have had on campus?

MATHEY: Technically this was not on a campus but at the San Marcos Goodnight Center. At one point we were sharing a building with the high school agriculture program. One day I heard a commotion in the hallway and when I investigated, I found that two goats had escaped from the agriculture program into the halls. I can now say that working at ACC has helped me develop my goat-wrangling skills.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been condensed and edited

On the Record: Mike Scannell

Story by Jessica Youssefi, Reporter
Joseph Lee, Photo Editor

Mike Scannell, editor and co producer of the award-winning documentary “Six Man, Texas,” has been with Austin Community College for more than 20 years. Scannell started with ACC as a student and is now a professor in the Radio, Television, Film department. Recently, one of his scripts was purchased by Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc. Scannell spoke to Accent about his experience as a filmmaker.

ACCENT: Is Texas a good place to make films?

SCANNELL: It’s great, especially for independent filmmakers because you can make films here for practically nothing. You have access to permits, people and a low-budget crew. A lot of bigger-budget Hollywood films don’t shoot here because the tax incentives are not there. They go to Louisiana, Canada or New Mexico. That’s part of why I transitioned to screenwriting, so I could tell a bigger story, but didn’t have to come up with a bunch of money.

ACCENT: “Six Man, Texas,” which you edited and co produced, won at the 2008 Santa Fe Film Festival. Tell us about the film.

SCANNELL: A guy gave me a box of tapes with these small-town football games and said, “Hey can we make a movie out of this?” I took it on because I thought it might help me with my screenwriting — trying to find a structure for a story out of all these pieces. I loved doing it, but I don’t think I will ever do it again. At least as far as editing. It took three years of time and was frustrating. (laughing)

ACCENT: What advice do you have for students trying to make a name for themselves in the film industry?

SCANNELL: Figure out where your talent lies and what you like. Whether it’s directing, writing, camera or sound, focus on honing that craft. Do as much work as possible.

ACCENT: Tell us about your project which was picked up by Sony.

SCANNELL: It’s a horror film called “Scarecrow.” We took a very high concept idea that’s very clean and straightforward — being terrorized out in the middle of nowhere and you can’t get away — but then twisted it and made it fresh.

ACCENT: What is the next step with the film?

SCANNELL: Sony hired me to do a polish on the script and now they are talking about shooting at the end of summer.

ACCENT: When did you realize film was a passion of yours?

SCANNELL: Film has always been a passion of mine, even as a little kid. My friends would come over and we would watch all kinds of movies. I never really knew it was an option as a career until I got to ACC.

ACCENT:What movies have influenced your filmmaking?

SCANNELL: My main influence would probably be films of the 60s and 70s and some from the 80s. My favorite movie is “Taxi Driver.” Martin Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, those types of directors were a big influence on me. But I get inspired by going to film festivals, short films and student projects.