40 Under 40 honorees visit Grady College

five 40 U 40 honorees and Darby Taylor in PAF for 40 U 40 panel
Darby Taylor moderated “A Message to my Younger Self” panel. (Photo:Jackson Schroeder)

Five Grady College graduates named to the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 Under 40 class attended the “A Message to my Younger Self” panel on Friday, Sept. 9, offering insight to current students about their paths to success.

Emily Curl (ABJ ’14), Lauren Culbertson Grieco (ABJ ’09), Chad Mumm (ABJ ’08), Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16) and Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10) attended. Christie Johnson (ABJ ’07) was not able to attend the panel.

Dean Davis welcomed the alumni and students, saying the honorees exhibit “the leadership of this college and the careers that people launch from this college.”

Darby Taylor, a fourth year entertainment and media studies student and Grady Ambassador, moderated. The following are highlights of questions from Taylor and attending students, along with select responses from honorees.

What is one piece of advice you would tell your younger self about breaking into various areas of the industry?

Mumm: “Don’t be afraid to just go out and do it. Pick up a camera or write a screenplay. Use your early part of your career to make those mistakes. I think my biggest mistake probably was I felt like I had to do it all myself. When I moved to New York, I wanted to do it all on my own and I didn’t ask for help, but I wish I would have.”

Emily Curl smiles at Kevin Schatell
Emily Curl and Kevin Schatell have remained best friends after working together at the UGA Visitors Center as undergraduates. (Photo:Jackson Schroeder)

Grieco: “I completely agree with asking for help. If you want to work in the field of politics, the beginnings can be pretty brutal, but they’re totally fun and worth it. I worked on a campaign, but another option would be to get an internship or entry-level role on Capitol Hill.”

Curl: “I think what I would tell myself looking back is just take your time and don’t worry so much. I think it takes a long time to find your voice and to find out what you want to say and what you want to put out into the world.”

Schatell: “One of the best pieces of advice I got working in my first job was ‘You have nothing to prove, only to share.’ This has stuck with me, and it reminds me that your worth is not in what other people think of you, you just have skills and experiences to share. Something else I wish I would have developed early on is the art of asking good questions. As a producer, it’s all about asking the right questions and being genuinely curious.”

Waldron: “When working on projects, it’s easy to have a creative idea. But, to actually start something and to see it all the way through is where the brilliance in any creative work comes from. I think the earlier in your careers, if you can learn the value of just finishing things, that’s hugely important. The other thing is to know what you want to do and tell people that. Even when I was changing toilet seats, I made sure that everybody at ‘Rick and Morty’ knew I wanted to be a writer. Don’t be afraid to call your shots.”

All of you made a big geographic move after graduation. What tips do you have for students who want to move to big cities such as New York or L.A. after graduating?

Waldron: “Spending time here in Athens is amazing, but by moving away, you will grow as a person in ways you simply can’t imagine. Just getting out to another part of the country and other parts of the world is the best thing you can do.”

Grieco: “You will grow so much by getting different experiences. Travel has been one of those things I’ve done in my personal life that has made such an impact on my professional life. It really not only changes your perspective, but it also helps you reflect on who you are as a person and what you value. It gives you a completely a new new lens on life and the work that you do.”

What is the best way to reach out to alumni and build a connection with them?

Mumm: “With Dean Davis and all that the college has done, they’ve created so many opportunities here such as the mentorship program and Grady LA. When it comes to making connections, just ask for that intro. I get a lot of emails and introductions, and sometimes I miss it the first time around. Don’t hesitate to follow up. If someone is nice enough to connect you to someone else and they don’t respond right away, don’t be afraid to send a follow up note checking back in.”

Grieco: “Ask your professors. I’ve met so many people through Karen Russell and the dean.”

Waldron: “Never feel bad about following up again…I think anyone who went to Georgia, and especially those who are working in similar industries as us would be more than happy to talk to students.”

When you first started, what was your first major setback and how did you overcome it?

Schatell: “Moving to New York, although was the fulfillment of a dream of mine, was also pretty difficult. There was a season, especially toward the beginning, when I was slammed with anxiety. I’m not talking about the butterflies in your stomach because you’re excited kind of anxiety, but actual anxiety. I had to navigate learning to understand what was happening to my body when I had a panic attack, what was triggering it, and getting the help to fix that.”

Curl: “To quote my queen Kacey Musgraves, ‘You can’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but why would you want to be?’ I like that quote because when you’re in a public facing job, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t get it – but there’s going to be someone who does, and there’s an audience for everyone. Keep perfecting your craft. People are going to tell you no, but you have to believe in yourself.”

Chad Mumm speaks at a Grady College panel
Mumm explains how he overcame the setbacks he experienced when moving to New York after graduation (Photo:Ashley Balsavias)

Waldron: “I wrote a spec episode for the show ‘Workaholics’, which I thought was super funny. It turns out that someone I knew happened to know the editor for the show, and I asked them to pass along my script to them. I then anxiously awaited the life-changing call saying ‘This the best script we’ve ever read, we’d like to bring you on, etc.’ But, I got an email back about two weeks later that was so scathing. I think the first sentence was ‘I don’t even know what to say,’ and it just got more punishing from there. The truth is, in any creative work, you fail 99 times a day, but you just got to get it right once. One good idea makes for a successful day. That was my first brush with serious rejection, and then I realized that it doesn’t kill you, it doesn’t really have any reflection on who you are as a person. Then you get up and you write a better script that isn’t a spec of ‘Workaholics’ and keep going.”

Mumm: “When I first moved to New York, it was at the height of the financial crisis. I was frustrated that I couldn’t get a job immediately. I was thinking that I would just walk into the city and immediately be on the 51st floor at NBCU. I remember walking around with resumes that I printed out bought very expensive paper for (because I thought that was going to matter), and I was going to HBO offices and NBCU, handing the security guards my resume. That didn’t work out of course, so I ended up taking a job for a commercial director who needed someone to change the toilets and clean the place…I get asked a lot by students what my goals are, and I honestly don’t have goals, I just have a direction. I just think, ‘Am I going north still?’ To me, that means pick your direction and stay at it. I think that kind of perseverance will take you super far. You just have to keep grinding and sticking with the things you believe in, and great things will happen.”

What was a moment in your career where you felt that you had “made it’?
Lauren Culbertson Greico speaks at the panel
One of Lauren Culbertson Greico’s defining moments in her career was arranging an interview between former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and former president Trump. (Photo:Ashley Balsavias)

Schatell: “For me, it was Dec. 8 of  2017. It was the day I arrived at work and Ed Sheeran was there, but so was Zac Efron. That was truly a milestone for me. I emcee the experience on our plaza every day, and every single one of the hundreds of people in that crowd knew how excited I was to meet that guy. It was one of those major ‘pinch me’ moments in my career. Whatever the ultimate dream is, it will happen, and your Dec. 8 of 2017 will come too.”

Grieco: “My ‘We’re not in Kansas anymore’ moment was when I staffed a meeting at the White House between our former CEO Jack Dorsey and former president Trump. I just sat there and I was like, ‘This is the most surreal moment of my life. How did Lauren from Marietta, Georgia, get here?'”

Mumm: “I don’t honestly have a moment that I could pinpoint as ‘the thing’. I like to use a stair analogy a lot. Sometimes you’re on the stairs, sometimes you’re on a landing, and you’ve just got to find more stairs. I like to think about it as one foot after the other.”

Curl: My ultimate dream was to work for E! News. I ended up auditioning for them and made it to the final rounds until I got a call from them saying they were going to go in a different direction. That was crushing, but looking back, I’m so glad I am where I am now and it all worked out. When I got the call from iHeartRadio, I got full body chills and started screaming. Something about that moment solidified it for me, where it was like, ‘Okay, I’m officially a host. I don’t have to pretend that this is a dream anymore. I’m actually doing it.’ All that is to say keep your options open – obviously have those goals and those dreams – but it’s okay to allow yourself the space that if those goals and dreams change, that’s going to be for the best for you too.

Thank you to our alumni for taking the time to offer students advice.

Editor’s Note: Please visit the Grady College YouTube page to view a video of the entire 40 under 40 panel discussion. Please visit the UGAGrady Flickr page to view pictures of the 40 under 40 panel.

 

  • Kevin Schatell and Emily Curl take a photo with Dean Davis. (Photo:Jackson Schroeder)

 

40 Under 40 honoree profile: Kevin Schatell

schatell sits at a table inside studio 1a of the TODAY show with CEO Jeff Shell
Schatell interviews Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal, inside studio 1A where TODAY  is anchored. (Photo:submitted)

We are proud to recognize Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16) as an honoree of the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 under 40 class.

Schatell is an Emmy-winning producer for NBC’s TODAY show. He began his career by participating in the NBCUniversal Page program, working with assignments for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live, WNBC’s Creative Services and NBCU’s Talent Development. Following this program, Schatell joined TODAY as an associate producer, and was promoted to a producer in 2021.

Schatell won his first Emmy in 2020, and has received multiple Going the Extra Mile (GEM) Awards at NBC for going and above and beyond on company projects.

We are pleased to highlight Schatell in his own words.

four people stand in front of Macy's in downtown New York City
Schatell with TODAY hosts Hoda Kotb and Savannah Guthrie at Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 2021. (Photo:submitted)
What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Serving as a Grady Ambassador changed my college experience. Once I joined that team, Grady transformed from an academic institution into a home. Dean Davis and his family welcomed the Grady Ambassadors over to their home for dinners each semester, which made me feel seen and valued as a student. That experience also connected me to Ben Mayer, a fellow Grady grad who became a mentor. Now, we’re both at NBC News – I’m a producer at TODAY, and Ben is a senior broadcast producer at NBC Nightly News. How wild that we both work together at 30 Rock? Relationships like that were made possible thanks to the Grady Ambassador program.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

I wish I could tell my 20-year-old self these words of wisdom that a friend shared when I moved to New York City: “You have nothing to prove, only to share.” I think about that phrase whenever I get overwhelmed or anxious – in an interview, a stressful assignment, etc. “You have nothing to prove…” (Your worth is not determined by what other people think of you.) “…only to share.” (You simply have gifts, talents, experiences to share with the world.) So take the pressure off of yourself! It would’ve been encouraging to hear that earlier in my journey, and I hope that helps anyone reading this now.

What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?
Schatell, in a star sweater, moves his hands as he speaks at Grady College
Schatell is always willing to share advice to current students, whether over a Zoom conversation with a club, or stopping by campus for a short chat as he did in February 2022. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

I recently had the privilege of sitting down with our NBCUniversal CEO, Jeff Shell, to launch a new series for NBCU employees called “Ask Jeff.” I hosted an interview with Jeff inside Studio 1A, in the seats where Savannah and Hoda anchor TODAY every morning. The whole experience was surreal, and it was an opportunity I’ll never forget!

What does success mean to you?

I currently define success with this question: “Would the younger version of myself be proud?” I like to imagine “young Kevin” getting a glimpse into my current world. To be honest, it makes me emotional! I’ve been fortunate enough to see and experience things that were once a far-off dream. So if I ever want to measure success, I just think about that younger version of myself, and how proud he’d be of the person I’ve become.

Are you currently working in your “dream job”? If not, what is your dream role?

My role is the definition of my “dream job.” I feel fulfilled, challenged, and motivated… all thanks to my team at TODAY, and the culture at NBCUniversal. Serving as the Plaza Producer, I oversee the audience for TODAY, while also producing interviews, segments, and concerts on the show. When that alarm goes off every morning, I wake up with a pep in my step. I don’t take for granted this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I’ve been given. I grew up watching TODAY with my family – and the fact that TODAY has become my family is beyond my wildest dreams.

Favorite Podcast? Making Space with Hoda Kotb (shameless TODAY plug, but nothing calms the soul & inspires quite like listening to a Hoda interview!)
One job-related tool you can’t live without: The app CapCut (great for editing videos on your phone)
Favorite restaurant in Athens: The Last Resort
Favorite place you’ve traveled: Maui, Hawaii
Item on your bucket list: Visit Australia (maybe the Brisbane Olympics in 2032?)

 

Schatell encourages students to connect with him on social media:

Instagram: @kevinschatell


Six Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. GA graphic advertising Grady's 40 Under 40 alumni panel. rady College alumni honored in 2022 include:

  • Emily Curl (ABJ ’14)
  • Lauren Culbertson Greico (ABJ ’09)
  • Christie Johnson (ABJ ’07)
  • Chad Mumm (ABJ ’08)
  • Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16)
  • Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10)

We will welcome five of the honorees back to Grady College on Friday, Sept. 9 for a “Message to My Younger Self” panel. Please join us in the Peyton Anderson Forum (room 238) at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be offered.

40 under 40 honoree profile: Chad Mumm

We are proud to recognize Chad Mumm (ABJ ’08) as an honoree of the UGA Alumni Association’s 40 under 40 class. Mumm is co-founder and currently chief creative officer of Vox Media Services, Vox Media’s Los Angeles-based development, production and distribution division. He oversees Vox Media Studios’ work in developing, producing, and marketing modern television, film and digital programming.

Mumm was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in Media in 2016 and one of Variety’s 30 Execs to Watch in Digital Entertainment in 2016. He won an Emmy Award in 2021 as one of the creators for a YouTube Originals documentary called “Creators for Change on Girls’ Education with Michelle Obama.”

Mumm graduated from UGA majoring in telecommunications (currently Entertainment and Media Studies) and religion. He was involved as a video shooter for NewSource, competed in Movie Fest and participated in the Oxford study abroad program (what he said was a “fundamental life-changing summer.”)

Before Vox, Mumm was a video production freelancer in New York and a producer at AOL.

Chad Mumm speaks into a microphone as Alex Wallace and Heather Adams watch on.
Chad Mumm (center) gives advice to students during a Membership Mixer in October 2019. The mixer was sponsored by the Grady Alumni Board in which Mumm, Alex Wallace (left) and Heather Adams (right), were serving in 2019. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Mumm has been an active participant in the Grady College Alumni Board for the past several years.

The following are excerpts from an interview with Mumm. They have been abbreviated for space and clarity.

Looking back at your time at Grady, is there anything you wish you had done (classes you had taken, skills you would have liked to have learned, clubs to be involved with) that would help you with what you are doing today?

I wish that I would have taken an internship in LA when I was in school. I got an internship, but decided to stay in Athens and instead work on a short film with a professor because I wanted to do more hands-on production at the time. I was like really focused on being a director, and I just wanted to be around physical production and not be in the office reading scripts. I wish I would have done the LA internship because it would have given me a lot more exposure to what I do now at an earlier stage.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
Taylor Potter and Chad Mumm stand next to one another at a Mentor Mixer
Chad Mumm said he wish he had reached out more to professors and alumni when he was a new graduate, and that is one reason he is active with the UGA Mentor program. He is pictured here meeting with his mentee, Taylor Potter (AB ’21), at a Membership Mixer in October 2019. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

It’s okay to be patient and it’s okay to take some time for yourself. My whole life I had assumed that I would get out of college and immediately get a good job, start a career and then get married and have a family. Instead, I moved to New York and couldn’t find a job right away.

Also, it’s okay to ask for help. I didn’t really ask for any help. I kind of felt like it was on me to do it. I’m sure that there were professors who would have made introductions and at least would have helped out a little bit. Don’t be afraid to ask to ask for help, especially in the entry level for introductions.

What was the most memorable class you took while at Grady College?

The most impactful class that I took was a media theory class that was taught by Paul Hillier, who now teaches at the University of Tampa. It was the first class that I ever took that really taught popular entertainment, but from like an academic perspective. So much of my experience with college to that point was very academic, which meant you have to be serious. It was the first time I realized that you can learn from popular entertainment, and it was a class that included topics ranging from blockbuster movies to hit TV shows, but analyzed them from a craft perspective.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

I am most proud of proving how I could translate digital creativity and a sort of scrappy creator-driven mindset. That you can go from that to winning Emmys and making shows for HBO and Netflix and be part of that world by not having to go through the same channel to get there like many of my peers who started in the mail room or worked as an assistant. I always wanted to be doing stuff and making things.  I just like went where people would let me make stuff. It’s neat to sort of be able to be in an industry where I always saw myself and meaningfully make work that audiences and creative communities are very excited about.

Personally, the project I am probably most proud of is this golf show that I’m doing for Netflix right now just because it was just sort of a six-year long development project that I never gave up on. It doesn’t have a name yet, but it’s an all- access documentary series following professional golfers…like the “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” series, but for golf. I started working on it about six years ago and somehow was able to make it happen. It died 500 times in that six years and I just refused to let it go.

Favorite Podcast: 

No Laying Up (a podcast about golf)

One job-related tool you can’t live without?

Slack

Favorite restaurant in Athens?

Walker’s Pub

Favorite place you have been?

Bergen, Norway

Item on your bucket list?

Keep going North

Best way to connect?

Twitter @ChadMumm


Six Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. GA graphic advertising Grady's 40 Under 40 alumni panel. rady College alumni honored in 2022 include:

  • Emily Curl (ABJ ’14)
  • Lauren Culbertson Greico (ABJ ’09)
  • Christie Johnson (ABJ ’07)
  • Chad Mumm (ABJ ’08)
  • Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16)
  • Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10)

We will welcome the honorees back to Grady College on Friday, Sept. 9 for a “Message to My Younger Self” panel. Please join us in the Peyton Anderson Forum (room 238) at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be offered.

40 under 40 honoree profile: Emily Curl

Congratulations to Emily Curl (ABJ ’14) on being named to this year’s class of 40 under 40 honorees by the UGA Alumni Association. Curl is the national and digital social host for iHeartRadio. She started her career working at Refinery29 as a production assistant, working her way up to an associate producer, and eventually a producer on the branded content team, working with brands including Ulta and the NFL. She worked as the red carpet correspondent for the show “Carpet Diem”. Curl became a full-time host for iHeart Radio in January of 2020. We are pleased to highlight Curl in her own words.

Curl smiles while interviewing singer Normani Kordei Hamilton
Curl interviewing singer and dancer Normani Kordei Hamilton. (Photo:submitted)
Looking back at your time at Grady, is there anything you wish you had done (classes you had taken, skills you would have liked to have learned, clubs to be involved with) that would help you with what you are doing today?

Yes! Grady had such incredible opportunities to advance your skills outside of the classroom. Looking back on my experience, I wish I would have taken more advantage of the Grady Lab, the workroom that allowed you to practice your skills within the Adobe Creative Suite. For example, I still use Adobe Premiere and Photoshop in my job today, and I wish I would have perfected those skills while still in school. On the other hand, there are a few organizations I was involved in that still tremendously help me today and that’s working with UGA Orientation (where I was an orientation leader the summer of 2012), and working as a tour guide at the UGA Visitor’s Center all four years of UGA – those gave me some invaluable skills and were also some of my favorite memories of UGA! I can’t recommend it enough for other Grady College majors.

Emily poses in a silver dress, with cameras flashing on the red carpet at the 2022 Met Gala
Curl poses at the 2022 Met Gala. (Photo:submitted)
What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

One of the most challenging and most rewarding experiences I had at Grady College was being a part of Grady Newsource. We spent the semester running a live newscast, writing scripts, shooting our own footage, pitching ideas and problem solving in the control room. Not only did it give me real life journalism experience, it also gave me lifelong friendships. My peers have gone on to do incredible things – we’re talking sports sideline reporters, ABC correspondents, news anchors in huge markets like Miami – and it’s so nice to have those people who truly understand the industry that you can call at any time. Even though we all went different paths in media, we all started in the same Grady newsroom and it’s inspiring to get to see where we are all now. Make it a priority to stay connected with fellow Grady grads – in the wild world of entertainment, seeing a familiar face makes all the difference.

Curl pictured with parents in front of UGA's honor college during her graduation
While at UGA, Curl worked as a tour guide for four years and was an orientation leader during the summer of 2012. (Photo:submitted)
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

Chill. (Ha!) But honestly, the #1 piece of advice I tell students is that you are not running out of time. In fact, it’s the opposite. It takes a while to truly find your voice, to hone your skills and create things you’re really proud of. I spent over five years in production before I even got my first shot at being an on-camera talent. Those five years gave me the foundation to build off of — I understood production, I was a better co-worker and teammate, and being a better producer made for being a better host. Stay curious, ask questions, and take the time to absorb the knowledge of those who have done it before you. Don’t get discouraged just because someone on Instagram got there faster than you. Your time is coming. Make it worth it.

What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?

This past May, I attended the 2022 Met Gala and covered the buzziest moments from fashion’s biggest night. I’ve loved fashion for as long as I can remember, so to have that combined with my love of entertainment? (and let’s be real, Jack Harlow too) was unmatched. It was pure magic meeting with the biggest names in the industry and walking up the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art staircase in New York City. Getting to cover that event was a dream come true and I hope I’ll be back again this year!

four individuals pose in a lighted up hallway, emily curl pictured with rock band members from Maneskin
Curl with members of the rock band “Måneskin”. (Photo:submitted)
How do you get inspired?

With anything you do, there is always, always, always room for improvement. I remember watching an interview with Ed Sheeran, and someone asked him if growing up he was naturally this talented. Immediately he let out a laugh and a “no” and went on to say he practiced every single day. I like to do the same. I also get really inspired watching other people who are in my line of work doing their thing. Today Show’s Hoda Kotb is so effortlessly comforting and inclusive, Apple TV’s Zane Lowe’s listening and interviewing skills are unmatched, and I think Nikki Glaser is one of the funniest hosts of all time (if you’re not watching FBoy Island –you should!). I love working in an industry that constantly challenges me to get better and improve my skills, and I can’t wait to be on their level one day.

Curl holds up an iHeart radio card next to singer Sam Hunt in front of a spinning wheel for part of a game show event
Curl pictured with country music singer Sam Hunt at an event in Las Vegas. (Photo:submitted)
Favorite Podcast? Seek Treatment with Cat & Pat
One job-related tool you can’t live without: VSCO (not only can you edit photos, you can also create cool montage video/photo moments. It’s great to use when marketing yourself on social!)
Favorite restaurant in Athens: Trapeze (I always ask for an extra side of the raspberry ketchup).
Favorite place you’ve traveled: I just returned from Mykonos, Greece! It was absolutely unreal.
Item on your bucket list: Interview Taylor Swift (fingers crossed!)

 

 

Students are encouraged to connect with Emily Curl on social media:

Instagram: @emcurl

TikTok: @emdcurl

Twitter: @EmilyCurl


Six Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. GA graphic advertising Grady's 40 Under 40 alumni panel. rady College alumni honored in 2022 include:

  • Emily Curl (ABJ ’14)
  • Lauren Culbertson Greico (ABJ ’09)
  • Christie Johnson (ABJ ’07)
  • Chad Mumm (ABJ ’08)
  • Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16)
  • Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10)

We will welcome five of the honorees back to Grady College on Friday, Sept. 9 for a “Message to My Younger Self” panel. Please join us in the Peyton Anderson Forum (room 238) at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be offered.

40 under 40 honoree profile: Lauren Culbertson Grieco

Lauren Culbertson Grieco with the late Sen. Johnny Isakson
Grieco served several communications roles for the late Sen. Johnny Isakson, starting with his re-election campaign. (Photo: courtesy of Lauren Culbertson Grieco)

Congratulations to Lauren Culbertson Grieco (ABJ ’09) on being named to this year’s class of 40 under 40 honorees by the UGA Alumni Association. Culbertson graduated from Grady College with a degree in advertising and is the head of U.S. public policy for Twitter, a role she has held since Fall 2020. She has worked at Twitter since 2017, following roles as a public affairs consultant and serving multiple communication roles for the late Sen. Johnny Isakson. While a student at UGA, Grieco was involved with a variety of activities including UGA HEROs, Blue Key Honor Society, Kappa Delta Sorority and serving as a Richard B. Russell Leadership Fellow.

Grieco took a few minutes from her schedule to answer some questions for us.

What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

Dr. Karen Russell insisted (and graded as such!) that I learn how to Tweet; I secured my first job on a political campaign because I knew how to Tweet, and I now work at Twitter. It’s a powerful tool that can help your career if harnessed strategically.

What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

You will always do your best work in the areas that interest you; don’t force things. If you find yourself misaligned, take it seriously and adjust accordingly.

What skills or advice should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers?

Surround yourself with good people. The leaders you work for influence your experience and development just as the organization in which you work. Prioritize working for people who you respect, want to emulate, and will invest in your growth. I have been fortunate to work for excellent leaders, and this has made all the difference.

Also, do the small tasks well so you will be entrusted with more significant responsibilities. You can’t skip to the good part right away.

What do you believe is your biggest strength and how has it helped you in your current role?
Lauren Culbertson Grieco talks with Jack Dorsey between meetings on Capitol Hill.
Lauren Culbertson Grieco talks with Jack Dorsey, co-founder and former CEO of Twitter, between Senate meetings. (Photo: courtesy of Lauren Culbertson Grieco)

I’m a problem-solver and will work collaboratively with anyone willing to work toward a solution. It has served me well working in politics.

What does success mean to you?

Success is being clear about your purpose and working towards it every day.

Favorite Podcast? Tech’ed Up
One job-related tool you can’t live without: Twitter (duh)
Favorite restaurant in Athens: Last Resort. Always.
Favorite place you’ve traveled: Hong Kong, Lapland, the Dolomites
Item on your bucket list: African safari
Lauren Culbertson Grieco speaks to a group.
Grieco served as a Kennedy Symposium speaker at Grady College in October 2019. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

Six Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. GA graphic advertising Grady's 40 Under 40 alumni panel. rady College alumni honored in 2022 include:

  • Emily Curl (ABJ ’14)
  • Lauren Culbertson Greico (ABJ ’09)
  • Christie Johnson (ABJ ’07)
  • Chad Mumm (ABJ ’08)
  • Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16)
  • Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10)

We will welcome five of the honorees back to Grady College on Friday, Sept. 9 for a “Message to My Younger Self” panel. Please join us in the Peyton Anderson Forum (room 238) at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be offered.

40 Under 40 honoree profile: Michael Waldron

Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10), a screenwriter and producer, is one of six Grady alumni in the UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class this year. Waldron began his career as an intern on the first season of “Rick and Morty” and has since created “Loki” for Disney+, wrote “Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness” and created “Heels” on STARZ, among other accomplishments. Waldron has received numerous awards and accolades for his work, including a People’s Choice Award award for Loki Season 1 and a share of an EMMY for the fourth season of “Rick and Morty.” We are pleased to highlight Waldron in his own words.

Waldron (left) stands next to Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino, the two stars of the Loki series.
Waldron (right) stands next to Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino, the two stars of the Loki series. (Photo:Submitted)
What experience during your time at Grady College had the biggest influence on where you are today?

This one’s easy: I met my wife in our Intro To Production class and later proposed to her in that same classroom. I’m only here today because of her. And generally I am where I am on any day because of her. She does most of our scheduling.

What skill(s) or advice do you have for young alumni to help them have success early in their careers?

Hollywood is literally in your back yard – go to work on a set, in any capacity you can. You’ll gain firsthand experience and knowledge others would kill for, and make connections that will lay the foundation for your career.

Is there a piece of advice from one of your Grady College professors that still guides you today?

Professor James Biddle taught me how to make movies in his Advanced Production class. More than any single piece of advice, I remember learning from him that what seemed impossible was always, in fact, achievable. He demystified the technical filmmaking process, and vanquished my assumption that this wasn’t a viable career path. Like I said, he made the impossible achievable.

What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?

In April, the Georgia Football Instagram dropped a Loki-themed countdown hype video. That’s the top of the mountain for sure.

Graphic with a Michael Waldron quote that reads: More than any single piece of advice, I remember learning from him that what seemed impossible was always, in fact, achievable.How do you get inspired?

I play golf. Poorly.

Favorite podcast?

Pardon My Take.

One job-related tool you can’t live without?

My dog. (Most writing is done on our walks.)

Favorite restaurant in Athens?

Pauley’s or Amici.

Favorite place you’ve traveled to?

Mallorca, Spain.

Favorite book?

Recently I really enjoyed the Mike Nichols biography by Mark Harris, and “Sea of Tranquility” by Emily St. John Mandel.

 


Six Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. GA graphic advertising Grady's 40 Under 40 alumni panel. rady College alumni honored in 2022 include:

  • Emily Curl (ABJ ’14)
  • Lauren Culbertson Greico (ABJ ’09)
  • Christie Johnson (ABJ ’07)
  • Chad Mumm (ABJ ’08)
  • Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16)
  • Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10)

We will welcome five of the honorees back to Grady College on Friday, Sept. 9 for a “Message to My Younger Self” panel. Please join us in the Peyton Anderson Forum (room 238) at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be offered.

40 Under 40 Honoree Profile: Christie Johnson

Christie Johnson (ABJ 07), director of White House bookings for CNN, has been named one of six Grady alumni in the UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class this year. She has worked for CNN since 2014, where she has broken countless stories and arranged exclusive interviews. Prior to that, Johnson worked as an on-air talent, reporter and producer for TMZ, Anderson Cooper Live and Bethany Cooper Live. Johnson won an Emmy award in 2020 for an interview she coordinated with the U.S. Secretary of Defense at the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. We are pleased to highlight Johnson in her own words.

What skill or advice should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers?
Johnson kissing her Emmy award
Johnson won an Emmy award in 2020 for an interview she coordinated with the U.S. defense secretary. (Photo:submitted)

I would encourage anyone who gets a job right out of college to go shake hands and meet with as many people in the company as possible. Get to know everyone from the janitor to the CEO. It is shocking to me how many people don’t do this. In the news world, it is all about who you know. Down the line, the relationships you form are going to be extremely important in helping you stay connected in the industry and move up the food chain. Every so often, shoot an email to check in with someone to suggest a creative idea you think could help the company, take someone out to coffee to connect, etc. Early on in your career ask people if you can help them by taking on extra assignments (even if you’re not getting paid for it). Connect, connect, connect!

Is there a piece of advice from one of your Grady College professors that still guides you today?

I learned to never take “no” for an answer from Professor Hazinski. Every reporter is after the same story you are. If you make a call and someone tells you they don’t have any information or that they don’t want to talk, try another route. Who else can you call? Whose door can you leave a note on to call you back? Just keep going. Keep digging deeper.  Think of unconventional angles that other reporters aren’t thinking of because there is somebody out there that knows the answer to what you’re trying find out – it just may not be the first official or person that you speak with.

photo of CNN wolf blitzner, donald trump and Johnson
Johnson with President Trump and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. (Photo:submitted)
Are you currently working in your “dream job”? If not, what is your dream role?

I am so happy to say that yes, I am working in my dream job. I actually don’t know of a lot of people who can say that. I absolutely love what I do. I’m able to work with the most powerful leaders in the world and manage interviews that provide critical information to the public at large…which is why I’m in this industry in the first place. If you’re not passionate about the media industry, and you’re working in it, you’re not going to survive. Also, the company I work for is amazing. After working hard and moving up the ranks within CNN, my boss agreed to let me work remotely out of South Carolina where I can raise my children close to family. I love that I can work out of my home office but I’m also able to fly to DC and NY monthly for in-person meetings or interviews that I don’t want to miss. I probably work even harder now that I’m down in South Carolina to prove that I can do my job successfully from anywhere. I love the people I work with and the work I do. It’s a win-win.

Johnson shaking hands with president biden
Johnson shakes hands with President Biden at a CNN Town Hall. (Photo: submitted)
What would you tell your 20-year-old self?

“He’s not the one, pray more and don’t care so much about what other people think!” Kidding…kind of. In all seriousness, I would have told myself “Buckle up. Life is a lot bigger and more fantastic than you know. You’re going to be thrown a lot of curve balls and a lot of blessings. Jump into opportunities with both feet, stay true to yourself and the worries that are all encompassing right now won’t mean a thing in a couple years.”

Looking back at your time at Grady, is there anything you wish you had done (classes you had taken, skills you would have liked to have learned, clubs to be involved with) that would help you with what you are doing today?

I wish I would have taken more classes on politics. I left UGA pursuing a career as an entertainment reporter in Los Angeles. Years later, I ended up managing political interviews for CNN Worldwide. Talk about a 180! Thankfully, I worked hard and learned the ins-and-outs of the political world very quickly, but I still wish I would have studied politics more in college. Learning about how politics have shaped, and continue to shape, our country is fascinating. It is also extremely important to be an informed citizen politically so you can vote and make a difference in what is happening in our nation.

headshot of Johnson in front of white house
Johnson coordinates exclusive White House interviews for CNN (Photo:submitted)
Favorite Podcast?

CNN’s 5 Things

One job-related tool you can’t live without?

My cellphone

Favorite restaurant in Athens?

Last Resort Grill

Favorite place you’ve traveled to?

Hotel Monteverdi in Tuscany, Italy. It’s a slice of heaven on Earth.

Item on your bucket list?

Traveling to Greece with my husband

 


 

40 under 40 alumni panel; join grady college at the 2022 uga 40 under 40 list for our annual "Message to my younger self panel" at 10am friday september 9th in the PAFSix Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. Grady College alumni honored in 2022 include:

  • Emily Curl (ABJ ’14)
  • Lauren Culbertson Greico (ABJ ’09)
  • Christie Johnson (ABJ ’07)
  • Chad Mumm (ABJ ’08)
  • Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16)
  • Michael Waldron (ABJ ’10)

We will welcome five of the honorees back to Grady College on Friday, Sept. 9 for a “Message to My Younger Self” panel. Please join us in the Peyton Anderson Forum (room 238) at 10 a.m. A light breakfast will be offered.

40 under 40 Honoree Profile: Angela Alfano

Seven Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. Profiles of several can be found after this feature. Grady College alumni honored in 2021 include:

  • Angela Alfano (ABJ ’10, AB ’10)
  • Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08)
  • Greg Bluestein (ABJ ’04, AB ’04)
  • Marie Greene Broder (ABJ ’06, AB ’06, JD ’10)
  • Bowen Reichert Shoemaker (ABJ ’06)
  • Brittany Thoms (ABJ ’04)
  • Raquel D. Willis (ABJ ’13)

We are proud of their successes and are pleased to highlight them in their own words.

Angela Alfano is the senior director of corporate communications at Major League Soccer. She used her Grady College public relations education and experience with UGA Athletics sports communications to embark on a trailblazing career. Alfano has also worked in corporate communications for the National Football League, Washington Football Team and Tough Mudder. She regularly shares her time and expertise with current UGA students. Alfano was our 2019 John E. Drewry Young Alumni Award winner.

Grady College: What lessons learned from your time as a Grady College student have most helped you succeed in your professional life?
Alfano is one of the communications leaders behind Major League Soccer, one of the fast growing leagues in American sports. (photo submitted)

Alfano: “Grady College and professors set the standard of excellence in journalism and mass communications. The lessons learned are endless and the network Grady has developed is priceless. Grady taught me to be a ferocious consumer of media, to focus on developing exceptional written communication skills, to be passionate about your profession, and to positively impact your community. Grady taught me that details matter; and first impressions in any form of communication sets the tone for how that information is received by your intended audience. Make the effort and do it right the first time.”

GC: What advice would you give to your 20-year old self? 

Alfano: “Be confident in your abilities, yet coachable, and do not be intimidated by your new surroundings or workplace. If you have something of value to add, don’t be afraid to speak up; but don’t talk just to be heard. Above all, maintain and follow your personal moral compass; and don’t let others lead you to compromise it. When colleagues realize you have high standards, they will respect you more. And one of my favorite pieces of advice … keep lacing up those cleats, popping on those high heels, and keep shattering glass ceilings.”

GC: What motivates you? 

Alfano: “Reimagining ways to communicate important narratives and strategically place stories motivates me daily. Finding innovative ways to cut through the clutter, garner positive publicity, and highlight the business behind my organization’s brand inspires me. I’m also extremely committed to positively impacting the next generation of sports PR executives, championing the new wave of leadership in the industry, and serving as an accessible mentor to many colleagues across all areas of sports business. On a very personal note, this September my husband, Mike, and I are expecting our first child (can you say baby Bulldawg!). I hope to inspire our baby, and others, to give back, dream big and work hard to achieve your goals – even during life’s new chapters such as becoming a ‘working mom.’”

GC: What skill(s) or advice should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers? 

Alfano:: “Below are my four core pieces of advice to free agents – young alumni or graduates – for success early in their careers:

  • Experience is your currency in any industry, especially sports. Internships are synonymous with interviews and can be the pipeline into full-time jobs.
  • Personal branding. You are unique. Find and define your “it” factor.
  • Executive presence. Pair incredible work ethic and professionalism with developing leadership skills to be positioned as a young executive.
  • Informational interviews. The opportunity to connect with influential leaders in any industry is a game changer. Build your network while you parallel crafting your skillset.

“Now, get out there, cultivate your real-world experience, develop those industry relationships, and jumpstart your career!”

Alfano credits the foundation of her communications career to lessons learned in UGA sports communications. This is her and her co-workers in 2009. (Photo submitted)
GC: What is your favorite place on UGA’s campus? 

Alfano: “Between the Hedges. Sanford Stadium holds such a special place in my heart. Not only is it home to our beloved Georgia Bulldawgs, but it is also the football field and press box where my sports PR career began. As an undergrad student media assistant, the foundation of my career began while working for Claude Felton, Loran Smith Senior Associate Athletic Director, and Mike Mobley, Associate Sports Communications Director, in UGA’s Sports Information Department. Claude and Mike generously mentored me throughout my time at UGA and both had a profound impact on my career. From setting up press boxes and interfacing with media, to writing game notes and working on media guides, they taught me valuable lessons that I utilize to this day. Most importantly, they taught me what it is like to be a great leader, to give back to the next generation of students, and to treat your co-workers like family.”

40 under 40 Honoree Profile: Brittany Thoms

Seven Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. Profiles of several can be found after this feature. Grady College alumni honored in 2021 include:

  • Angela Alfano (ABJ ’10, AB ’10)
  • Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08)
  • Greg Bluestein (ABJ ’04, AB ’04)
  • Marie Greene Broder (ABJ ’06, AB ’06, JD ’10)
  • Bowen Reichert Shoemaker (ABJ ’06)
  • Brittany Thoms (ABJ ’04)
  • Raquel D. Willis (ABJ ’13)

We are proud of their successes and are pleased to highlight them in their own words.

Brittany Thoms is the co-founder and president of See.Spark.Go, an Athens-based public relations agency. She and her husband, Andy Thoms (BSFCS ’02), founded See.Spark.Go in 2007 with the goal of telling the best stories in the world. They specialize in publicity, social media and digital marketing. Their team has worked with some of the nation’s largest brands on many successful campaigns and events.

Brittany Thoms and her husband, Andy, combined their passions of storytelling and entrepreneurship in Athens, the city that brought them together in the first place. (photo submitted).
Grady College: What advice would you give to your 20-year old self?

Brittany Thoms: “Every step has a domino effect. Do the very best with what’s right in front of you, and you’ll be surprised what doors will open. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand, ask for opportunity and look for it at every turn. The greatest way to “do your own PR” is to show up, be enthusiastic and work hard. Results come from doing the work, so find your motivation and get after it!”

GC: What motivates you?

Thoms: “One of our early employees would wear cheetah print and put on pink lipstick every Thursday. She called it ‘sassy Thursday’ and it motivated her to make the most of every minute pitching PR stories for clients. I kinda love that… What motivates me is seeing everyone around me succeed. We love celebrating “wins and wows” at SSG, and I literally get giddy when we get client feedback that says, “Perfect!” “That was awesome!” or “Thank you!” When you make a difference in someone else’s life, it’s motivating. Seeing your client in the news? Or grow in new ways because of a strategy you recommended? That’s highly motivating to do it again. I call it a natural high, and it’s so real!”

GC What skill(s) should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers?

Thoms: “I’ve realized over the past couple of decades that everything is public relations, and even more-so, everything is communications. Learn to communicate, how others like to receive information, how to write a client email, build a pitch deck, sell an idea, present at a board meeting, etc. My friend and HR mentor, Courtney Rhodes, calls it, “Executive Presence.” As a young alum, build skills that impress decision-makers–confidence, poise, grace, handshakes, look people in the eye and do a darn good job. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s. Be impressive because you care. Using good grammar means you care about your reader. Those things get noticed.”

One of Thoms’ mantras is “enthusiasm wins.” (photo submitted)
GC: How has your field evolved since your graduation to now?

Thoms: “Drastically! When I graduated in 2004, the New Media Certificate program was just getting off the ground. I didn’t even have a Twitter account. My phone was a Motorola Razor (flip phone) and my first desk donned a Gateway desktop computer. I will never forget running out to get a Starbucks and somewhat sweating over whether or not that important email had come through or not. The 15 minute hiatus from email was too much to bear! Nowadays, I wish I could simply “turn it all off.” One thing to note, however, is that the 24-hour news cycle, the endless scrolling of social media, the ability to engage an audience through relevant influencers and the evolving “citizen journalism,” has only made our industry more impactful, more ever-present, and a given line item on any marketing budget. Navigating the media landscape may be a little crazier, but the opportunities are endless, and I love that. Be creative!”

GC: How has the network of Grady College alumni helped you professionally?

Thoms: “I love staying in touch with former professors and even speaking at a few classes now and then, but I treasure the network of Grady in many more ways. Some of our biggest decisions in business have come at the counsel of fellow alumni. From understanding the “product” of public relations to successfully communicating ROI, to best practices in hiring and creating an engaged culture, Grady really does produce the best of the best of the best.”

40 under 40 Honoree Profile: Bowen Reichert Shoemaker


Join us for a panel discussion
“A Message to My Younger Self”
featuring five of our 40 under 40 nominees.
Friday, Sept. 10
10 a.m. • Studio 100
Due to limited capacity, reservations are required by Sept. 7 to ugagrady@gmail.com
Guests are encouraged to wear masks.

Seven Grady College graduates are represented in this year’s UGA Alumni Association 40 under 40 class. Profiles of several can be found after this feature. Grady College alumni honored in 2021 include:

  • Angela Alfano (ABJ ’10, AB ’10)
  • Jennifer Bellamy (ABJ ’08)
  • Greg Bluestein (ABJ ’04, AB ’04)
  • Marie Greene Broder (ABJ ’06, AB ’06, JD ’10)
  • Bowen Reichert Shoemaker (ABJ ’06)
  • Brittany Thoms (ABJ ’04)
  • Raquel D. Willis (ABJ ’13)

We are proud of their successes and are pleased to highlight them in their own words.

Elizabeth “Bowen” Reichert Shoemaker (ABJ ’06) is an assistant United States attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a position she has held since 2018. Previously, she was a senior associate at Alston & Bird, LLP and a law clerk to the Honorable Hugh Lawson. While at UGA, she majored in public relations and was active with the Honors Program and The Arch Society. Shoemaker earned her J.D. at Mercer Law School where she served as editor-in-chief of the Law Review. In her hometown of Macon, Shoemaker serves on the executive board of the Macon Rotary Club, as an adjunct professor at Mercer Law School and on the executive committee of the Macon Arts Alliance.

Grady College: What lessons learned from your time as a Grady College student have most helped you succeed in your professional life?

Bowen Shoemaker: My time at Grady taught me the true value of teamwork. As a public relations major, many of our projects were group-based, and through those projects, I learned about team dynamics and working with all different personality types. I’ve carried those lessons with me throughout my professional career and I’m grateful that I learned how to work effectively with other people towards a common goal.

GC: What advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?

Shoemaker: My advice to myself (at any age, really) would be this: Be where your feet are. I think we often get so caught up in where we think we want to go that we forget to enjoy where we are. I would tell myself to enjoy each step of the journey. When you let go of expectations, you start enjoying the present and you are naturally preparing yourself for the next step – even when you don’t know exactly what that step will be. If you consistently work hard and treat people with kindness and sincerity, your journey will take you exactly where you need to go.

GC: What motivates you?
Bowen Shoemaker and her family at a ball game.
Bowen, pictured with her husband, Matt, and children, Elizabeth Allan and Phillips, says she tries to cheer at every tee-ball game and bake every birthday cake for her children. “Maintaining that balance is a proud accomplishment.”

Shoemaker: My biggest motivator is my family, especially my two young children (Phillips, 5; and Elizabeth Allan, 3). I work hard to try to ensure that the world is a little bit better for them and their generation. My work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney is motivated by wanting to work towards higher principles like gender equality, service above self, and dedication to community and country—all of which have the potential to make a lasting impact for future generations.

GC: What skill(s) should graduates and young alumni have for success early in their careers?

Shoemaker: I think the key to success is relationships. I have long said that I don’t always know the right answer, but I know the person who does know the answer! By investing in other people – getting to know them, working with them, and genuinely investing in relationships – you can develop meaningful connections that will help you throughout your career. So, be kind to your classmates and colleagues – you never know when your paths will cross later.

GC: What is your favorite place on UGA’s campus?

Shoemaker: Sanford Stadium, of course!

GC: What do you miss most about being at UGA?

Shoemaker: I miss being in a university setting with so many other students who are there just to learn, explore, and develop their unique skill sets and interests. As a UGA student you have access to so many incredible things – music, sports, art, food, culture – and you can learn about anything you want. The pleasure and privilege of that freedom to learn and control your schedule based on your interests is something I miss. Of course I also miss the best friends I met in college. And I miss Last Resort too!