Brad Thompson offered a big brag about Texas Christian University, where he was the school’s student body president in 2001.
“TCU has the best student experience in the country,” Thompson said to an auditorium of about 60 students, alum and professors.
Thompson, TCU Chancellor Victor Boschini and Fort Worth filmmaker Red Sanders unveiled a documentary Oct. 11 that, they said, proves that claim.
At the beginning of the 2019 fall semester, the TCU chancellor’s office commissioned Sanders’ Red Productions to create a documentary focused on freshmen, knowing they would graduate as TCU’s 150th graduating class in 2023.
No one knew then what those four years would bring. A global pandemic and a surprise trip to the college football national championship were shocks to the TCU community.
Still, the class of 2023 graduated, making lasting memories during the most formative time of those young adults’ lives, Boschini said.
TCU wanted to find a way to archive those experiences, Thompson said.
“We wanted to document that as a snapshot of TCU during this time for all Horned Frogs to enjoy now and document for future generations,” said Thompson, TCU’s director of student activities. “It’s really about the students, and what they’re walking away from.”
Red Productions followed TCU students Thien An Nguyen, Olivia Fannon and John Freeny through their challenges and successes for all four years of their undergraduate experience.
“These students have really showcased the TCU experience well but also showed the challenges our students face as they grow and develop,” Thompson said.
Before coming to TCU, Nguyen was family-focused. In her first interview, she said she didn’t know how she would spend days without seeing them. But, as her time at TCU progressed, she missed them less and less.
“I was much more timid and unsure of myself then,” she said. “I became more confident. Being constantly surrounded by people who uplift me, I’ve become more comfortable being myself at TCU.”
She graduated summa cum laude with a biology degree and is now a first-year student at TCU’s Burnett School of Medicine.
Fannon was a quirky, energetic and self-proclaimed nerd when she first stepped foot on campus. As the years went on, the community and her education refined her, she said, turning her into the more reserved woman she is today.
COVID-19 and the stresses of school weren’t the only challenges Fannon faced throughout her four years. Her dad died after her sophomore year. She’s still dealing with grief.
“When I considered how honest I should be, I would always choose completely honest and vulnerable because what if someone who sees the documentary is going through the same thing?” Fannon said.
For Freeny, being involved helped him more fully appreciate his college experience at TCU.
“It made me analyze my life and reflect on it as I lived it, and that’s something I’ll cherish for forever,” Freeny said.
He’s now working at DaVita, a health care company, in Denver.
While the project was eye-opening and life-changing for the students, Fannon said, TCU administrators and Red Productions hoped it was eye-opening for alumni too.
As Boschini said, it all comes full circle during the school’s 150th anniversary celebration. Tyler Germaine, the film’s director, agrees.
“We wanted alumni to see this and remember those kinds of feelings of changing in the most vulnerable part of your lives,” Germaine, a TCU alum, said. “TCU really is such a special place.”
Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.