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Spotlight on Nayna Agrawal: MFA Graduate in Writing for the Screen and Stage

Created: January 7, 2019

Nayna Agrawal graduated in May 2015 from the School of Communication with a master of fine arts in writing for the screen and stage. Featured in Variety's "110 Students to Watch" (2015), she is a former analyst, policy writer, international aid director, and touring dancer. In January 2018, Nayna was selected for the Sesame Street Writers’ Room fellowship, an intensive eight-week program designed to highlight and grow underrepresented talent in children’s media. She was recently awarded a creative development deal by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit, educational arm of Sesame Street.

How would you describe your research and/or work to a non-academic audience?
I started off as a production assistant on Grey's Anatomy and benefited from Zoanne Clack, Liz Kruger, Janae Bakken, Shonda Rhimes and Bill Harper taking the time to advocate for me.

What have been some of the most memorable twists and turns of your career?
Showing up to a job on my first day only to be told they had hired someone else, landing my first Netflix series episode, landing a development deal with Sesame Street after completing their fellowship program, having my plays staged in 12 cities.

Tell us what inspired your research and/or work.
Working at The Sundance Institute was incredible. I learned so much from reading, receiving feedback, and supporting and meeting others.

What do you find both rewarding and challenging about your research and/or work?
I have worked in five industries, including as an investment analyst - this is the hardest of them all. I have to believe in myself, practice my craft, and get by on meager finances sometimes. It is a joy to do what I love, but it is far from easy! 

What is the biggest potential impact or implication of your work?
I think I’m telling stories that are overlooked, stigmatized, or considered too niche. These are mainstream stories with the potential to unite and empower people to build bridges and take care of themselves.

What inspires you?
I am most inspired by positive and brave people, like Dr. Blasey Ford, Malala Yousafzai, Mark Driscoll, and Erin Essenmacher.

What advice would you give your younger self or someone considering a similar path?
Be kind to yourself. Tune out all the voices around you. Life is short if you love it, but it is long if you're not true to yourself. Dare to be true. 

Tell us about a current achievement or something you're working on that excites you.
I am working on my first episode for a Netflix series! Shout out to Josh Fisher, Jen Klein and Noelle Wright who gave me this chance!

Tell us about a time when things did not go as you planned, what did you learn?
Nothing is certain in this world and it scares the heck out of me. I practice Buddhism, which says, “Abnegation of the self and divorcing yourself from the fruit of your actions leads to enlightenment.” While I believe that, I don't know if I'll ever master it!

What are you most proud of in your career to date?
Writing an award-winning CNN Heroes nomination for my father's nonprofit organization, which was selected from 13,000 submissions.