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: 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.