Kevin Schatell: Big City, Big Job, Bigger Heart

The following is a profile written this semester by Lauren Minnick as a class assignment for JOUR 3190, Reporting and Writing Across Platforms. Minnick is a third year journalism student from Marietta, Georgia. She is also pursuing a minor in history and law, jurisprudence, and the state, and a Certificate in Sports Media. Minnick is involved with Grady Newsource, UGA Women in Media Club, and UGA Student Mentorship Program, among other activities. Minnick aspires to work at NBC News as a news anchor on TODAY.

Kevin Schatell (ABJ ’16) has always had a gift for forming meaningful connections. A native of Grayson, Georgia, Schatell has been drawn to roles in his career since he was a little kid, and now uses his innate capacity for connection to transform his position under his own light, gifting to others the joys he possesses within himself.  

“I [always] loved entertaining people, I loved asking questions”- Kevin Schatell   

A persona built around truthfulness, compassion and sincerity, the qualities Schatell carries within his heart shine through in each of his interactions. Embraced by life, Schatell works to lay the strong foundations behind the success in his career and drive deep roots in the connections he forms.  

Schatell graduated from Grady College in 2016, immediately accepting a position at NBC through the company’s Page Program upon graduation.

After the program’s end in 2017, Schatell started his role working at NBC TODAY as associate plaza producer, and after his most recent Summer 2021 promotion, started what is now his current role, TODAY show producer.  

Students at the TODAY Show Plaza
Kevin Schatell met with DiGamma Kappa students when they visited the TODAY Show Plaza in New York City in January 2019.

A job where he combines his internal drive together with his compassion, Schatell propels the show to new levels of relatability and human connection. At NBC, Kevin’s transparency mirrors a company built on the same principles. A perfect match, the relationship between the company and the individual shines through Schatell’s work. At NBC, Schatell feels part of a community where he is truly celebrated, and is proud to be an element of an organization “which is colorful, which is diverse, which is accepting.” 

A place where differences are celebrated, Schatell carries his full self into his position each day, with this joyful embodiment of authenticity acting as a foundational element behind his life and career success.  

Schatell’s true joy and unapologetically genuine spirit are often highlighted in the praising voices of those who know him. For someone who touches so many, embodying a role of Schatell’s greatest mentor in life is not a title that can be taken lightly. It only is right then that the two most influential role models in Schatell’s life would also possess the same inherent virtues that he does, and also share the same power to encourage these virtues to grow fiercely in those who share the same spark. 

While a student at UGA, Schatell connected with the director of the UGA Visitor’s Center, Eric Johnson (ABJ ’86), in his time spent as a student ambassador. 

Johnson, who Schatell affectionately calls EJ, preaches to his ambassadors of the power in defining the why behind all actions. It was this shift in mindset that Schatell states was the greatest defining lesson for him in his life, after which everything he has done or accomplished had a new and deeper meaning. 

Johnson forever “changed the approach of everything I do”… Life for me now “is thinking about the why.”- Kevin Schatell.    

An ambassador who understood the short sightedness of selling a school to a bus of prospective students, many of whom would find their futures elsewhere, Schatell chose instead to instill a deeper joy in each guest. Making human connections with each prospective student, Schatell encouraged excitement for the years ahead and gave these tour members a reason to celebrate their futures at whatever home they found themselves in. Through this approach, Schatell gave a greater gift to others than he could have ever given without re-centering his mindset under Johnson’s mantra for a higher calling. 

When asked about Schatell, Johnson says best that “you feel like you’re best friends with Kevin after an hour” because he is that gifted in making connections and making people feel seen for all they are. 

Johnson praises many of the same sentiments that all who know Schatell know to be true: that “he genuinely cares about people, he sees people, he hears them.” Schatell leads a life surrounding the ceaseless questions of “why am I here?” and “what can I give to others?” His understanding of his higher-calling constantly drives him forward.  

Ambassadors dance with Hairy Dog
Kevin Schatell leads a dance with other Grady Ambassadors and Hairy Dog at a fall 2015 Dawgs with the Dean event. (Photo: Stephanie Moreno)

Working now on the TODAY plaza, Schatell appreciates that not everyone will be a super-fan, but the crowd he sees each morning are all there on a stop in their greater life path and have been brought to the plaza for a deeper purpose. Under this switch in approach, he connects to the audience as fellow people all sharing a collective moment together, and instills a different kind of joy in those he touches, both within the Plaza’s guests and within TODAY as a whole.  

Kevin Schatell with his Emmy
Schatell won an Emmy in 2020 for his work on TODAY. (Photo: Kevin Schatell Instagram)

Welcoming and embracing life, the gifts Schatell carry for acceptance, is a center point for every relationship he forms, including the one with himself. 

In his personal identity, Schatell is a member of the LGBTQ+ community. A dimension of his truth which he once felt pressured to hide, Schatell chose to transform his attitude under Johnson’s calling of why. Now choosing to live each day in his full sincerity, Schatell stands as a model to others of the joy found in the freedom of embracing who you are, and the power found in loving your genuine heart and whole self. 

Though he shared a professional relationship with the dean as a Grady ambassador, Schatell also felt personally close to the dean, as though he was a part of his family. Dean Davis, who extended his home for dinners hosted by him, his wife and his children, lived as an exemplary model of the values of kindness and giving to his students. When reflecting on his time in college, Schatell reflects that this gesture “made my time at Georgia feel like home.” 

As the dean goes on to say best, with Schatell, “if he knows you, he knows you.” 

That is the power of Kevin Schatell — the proud owner of the biggest heart in the big city. A man who started as a profile subject, and a lofty one at that, is now a dear friend and a forever ally in life.

A message from Schatell directed toward 2020 graduates, but important to all graduates.

Alumni Advice: Noelle Lashley and Kevin Schatell

Other alumni advice features:

Graduation is the end goal of attending college, but getting there can be stressful. Hear from recent Grady grads about their life after graduation and what they wish they had known before entering into the “real world.”

What do you wish you had known before graduating?

Noelle Lashley, Missoula morning reporter for Wake Up Montana: “I wish I’d known that nothing could truly prepare me for the experience of my first job. I actually made myself sick during my last semester of college because I was so focused on becoming perfectly ready to dive into my first reporting gig, but life doesn’t work that way.”

Kevin Schatell, associate producer at NBC News: “My advice to current journalism students? Seek out what scares you and learn all that you can. As a student, I think I was too wrapped up in the idea of wanting to be creative and produce content, and I wish I’d taken more time to be curious and learn about the areas of the media industry that intimidated me.”

What did you learn outside the classroom that could have been helpful inside the classroom?

Come prepared with pitches

“Don’t be afraid to talk about your ideas. Sometimes when I was in college, I’d shut down because I was afraid of looking or sounding silly. I’d miss out on an opportunity to do a great story because I was afraid of what someone would think of me and my pitch. Nope. Throw that way of thinking out the window. Come to class or a pitch meeting with tons of ideas in your back pocket. The majority of them might not work, and that’s OK. Talk them out. Come at them from a few different angles. Try something completely outside the norm. You’re only going to find the great ones if you’re willing to dig and kiss a few frogs in the process.” Noelle Lashley

Communication across all platforms

“A crucial skill in my job — and the industry as a whole — is communication in all directions. On a daily basis, I manage interns and NBC Pages, pitch to executive producers and provide customer service for the audience that visits the Today Show. Equally as important as communication in all directions is communication on all platforms. Each day consists of public speaking in front of large crowds, one-on-one conversations, emails, phone calls and social media posts. Each of those has to be delivered in a unique way but with a consistent voice. The people I’ve seen who are thriving in the media industry are self-aware and able to tailor their communication style depending on their audience. The more you can intentionally craft your written and verbal communication skills, the better.” –Kevin Schatell

What advice do you have for current students now that you have seen the other side of graduating?

Get out of your comfort zone

Don’t let your life be governed by fear of the unknown.

I have a necklace that says, “life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” It’s true. I originally thought I was going to stay in Georgia for my first job. I had it all planned out…then I realized that I needed to step outside of my own comfort zone. There was a little nudge inside me that kept telling me to look at Montana. I made an excel spreadsheet of every local news station in the state, and I would cycle through the stations every few days to look for openings. No one in my family had ever lived in Montana. I had one friend who lived there, and he was hours away from any of the stations I was considering. My entire existing support system was on the east coast. People’s reaction to my goal ranged from disbelief to disgust to full conversations about how my choice was going to wreck my career. I was scared, but I knew I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t try. I tried. Now I’m the sole morning reporter for my station in Missoula, Montana. It’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’ve only been on air for six weeks, and I’ve already had incredible opportunities that I never would have been given in a larger market. I’ve made wonderful friends, and I don’t feel alone or isolated anymore. I get to look outside and see snow-capped mountains when I’m driving around for work, and I’m trying things I never would have done in Georgia. I’m sure I’ll look back on my life and have regrets at the end, but I’m not going to wish that I had taken a chance on myself in my 20s. I did.

Your greatest victories and your greatest challenges are waiting for you. Don’t miss out on them because you let fear decide your destiny. Noelle Lashley

Act like an owner

One of our core values at NBCUniversal is ownership. That’s not something I spent a lot of time thinking about in college, but I wish I had. The idea is to act like an owner, not a renter. For example: if you’re renting an apartment and you discover a hole in the wall, what do you do? If you’re like me, your instinct is likely to cover it with a picture frame and think “Eh, not my problem — someone else will fix that.” The difference is, as an owner, you have a bigger investment. You’d fix the hole rather than cover it up. That’s how we’re encouraged to treat our work. There’s no room for a “that’s not my problem” mentality in the news and entertainment industries. Focus on having an owner’s mentality in all the work you do, whether it’s classes, organizations on campus, internships or a full-time job. Kevin Schatell