Alumnus strikes gold at the 49th annual Daytime Emmy Awards and advises students to ‘chase your purpose’

Alumnus strikes gold at the 49th annual Daytime Emmy Awards and advises students to ‘chase your purpose’

Home » #Faces of UDC » Alumnus strikes gold at the 49th annual Daytime Emmy Awards and advises students to ‘chase your purpose’

Alumnus strikes gold at the 49th annual Daytime Emmy Awards and advises students to ‘chase your purpose’

Shawn Michael Matthews (’15)Shawn Michael Matthews (’15) won a Daytime Emmy Award on June 24 in the category of “Outstanding Entertainment News Series” for his work on Entertainment Tonight (ET). A mass media graduate (now digital media), he interned with NBC Washington and worked at CBS News before becoming an associate producer at ET. Matthews, who is originally from Silver Spring, Maryland, is also a dedicated Firebird who has stayed connected to the University. We spoke to him about his tremendous success.

Let’s start at the beginning of your journey: Why did you choose UDC?

I knew I wanted to work in the arts from a young age. I thrived when I could create and tell stories, and it is something my parents strongly encouraged. I could draw by the age of three. In high school, I decided to go to college for fine arts and become a comic artist. Even then, I used comics with my original characters and storylines and sold them for a dollar. I only sold a few, but I loved every moment of it.

I was accepted to The University of The Arts in Philadelphia during my senior year of high school. I was excited but soon realized art school was not the right fit for me. I took a year off. I eventually went to Montgomery Community College while waiting to attend Howard University. But after a few weeks, I realized Howard wasn’t a great fit either.

Then, I got a job as a banker, yet I still had that burning desire to follow my dreams, get that degree and pursue a career in the creative world. A colleague heard me talking about returning to school and recommended UDC. I enrolled and finally found a place that felt like home. The rest is history.

What did you appreciate most about your UDC experience?

I was never treated like a number, as you often are at other prominent universities. At UDC, I felt like a member of a small blended family. All my professors were from different places with different styles and experiences that seamlessly and profoundly complemented each other. But the primary thing I appreciated most was being surrounded by so many hard-working students who weren’t letting their circumstances, whatever they were, stand in the way of their education. I sat next to people who were just like me. They had the drive, determination, and will to strive for something better because they knew they wanted and deserved it. It wasn’t always easy, but I credit my professors, Olive Vassell, William Hanff and Raki Jones, for motivating me.

How has UDC shaped your professional career?

Simple: pivoting. UDC is not a traditional school. It’s a commuter school. Things happen, and sometimes you can’t make class, Metro is a mess, the sitter gets sick, etc. That’s life. You must learn how to pivot and roll with the punches. That has helped me stand out in my professional career. I am the ‘King of Pivot.’ As a producer, you must be. Your job is to control the chaos, even though it isn’t meant to be held. I’ve made a career out of it, and I think I’m doing well.

What does a typical day at work look like for you in Los Angeles?

Two days are never alike, which can be frightening and exhilarating. About a few months ago, I was disappointed that I had to work on a Saturday with short notice. I had plans to see friends. But that’s the job. So, I sucked it up, put my game face on, and showed up to produce the shoot. That assignment led to me getting a tour of Debbie Allen’s new dance studio, meeting and exchanging jokes with Jennifer Hudson, and having a one-on-one conversation with Shonda Rhimes about writing. I love my friends, but not that much (laughs). That was an epic night, all because I showed up to work.

What does winning this Emmy mean to you; were you surprised?

It’s hard to put into words. In September 2021, I lost my mother due to cancer. She was incredibly proud of my career and excited when I moved to LA. Winning an Emmy was one of the last things we spoke about. She told me I would someday win, and you know what they say, ‘Mom is always right.’  So, was I surprised? Yes, because I didn’t think ‘someday’ would be seven months after she transitioned. No, because Momma told me I would win. Life is interesting.

What advice do you have for current UDC students, especially those in mass communications/media?

‘One more day’ is my advice. I adopted it when caring for my mother, and it helped me get through everything. Life can be challenging, especially during these times. Regardless of what you’re trying to accomplish, when you feel like you might have hit a wall or it’s just not working out, just give it one more day. One more day of going to class because it puts you one more day closer to your goal. One more day of studying because it will get you that grade you want. Whatever it is, give it one more day of effort because one day will eventually turn into two. Two turns into four, and the next thing you know, you’ve done it.

Also, be kind to people because everyone has a story. Kindness is a currency accepted everywhere in life, and it never bounces—that’s a shout-out to my banking life.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Chase your purpose, and everything else will fall right into place. Trust me.