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.

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. (Photo: Sarah E. Freeman)

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