WHAT I’M KNOWN FOR: Program Manager for Vanderbilt’s Seacrest Studios, Mamie Shepherd
In our regular column, “What I’m Known For,” we highlight public relations, lifestyle, entertainment and media industry authorities, leaders and influencers. We are excited to share their stories, well-won life experiences and advice.
We are delighted and honored to speak with the Program Manager for Seacrest Studios at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, Mamie Shepherd, for one of our favorite series on the blog – “What I’m Known For.” Seacrest Studios gives children and teens the opportunity to express their creative side through radio, television and new media. Children can sing along with special musical guests, get behind the mic for radio interviews and try their hand at producing a television program. Every child in the hospital can laugh, learn and share in the fun through the hospital’s broadcast network. Seacrest Studios is a partnership between Vanderbilt and the Ryan Seacrest Foundation (RSF), which has been building broadcast media centers in pediatric hospitals across the country since 2010. As the Program Manager, Mamie oversees activities including game shows, celebrity interviews, dance parties, lip-sync battles, Bingo, educational series and live music performances.
Mamie is a graduate of the prestigious Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. Her talents transcend many mediums, including print, radio and TV and she has received numerous awards including “Top 30 Under 30 Future Leaders of Charlotte” by Elevate Lifestyle Magazine. Edison Research and RAIN News named Mamie one of “Audio’s 30 Under 30.” In 2015, Mamie was named to the University of Georgia’s elite “40 Under 40” list of graduates by the Alumni Association. As you read about one of her life mantras, you’ll understand the kindness and graciousness she brings to her job each day.
MR: Immediately after you graduated college, you were hired to open Seacrest Studios (a part of the Ryan Seacrest Foundation) in Charlotte, NC. Was that a daunting experience as a new grad?
MS: It was an exciting experience as a new grad! I was ready to take what I had learned in college, and in my internships, and apply it in the workplace. This was just a dream job – to be able to go right from college to opening a studio – such a thrilling experience! It allowed me to really see the Foundation from the ground up since I was one of the very first interns for RSF. Charlotte was the fifth studio. Now, to see the Foundation go from five studios to the tenth studio in Nashville has been a great experience.
MR: You’re a fellow University of Georgia (UGA) graduate like Choice Founder Heather Adams. What’s the biggest piece of advice for those in undergrad who want to make it in the broadcast world?
MS: There is a standard of excellence that UGA holds its students to, and that standard has stayed with me in my professional career, so I would tell new undergrads to keep high standards – professionally and personally. Additionally, it is important to always come to the table with ideas. You constantly have to be prepared, and sometimes it will be at the drop of a hat. Come with new ideas – that will help you stand out. A huge component of being a good intern or being a good employee is being a self-starter – the type of person who does not wait to be told what to do – they observe what needs to be done and they do it. Don’t be afraid to work hard. You can do hard work – that’s what I learned at UGA as I was working and learning under veteran news people.
MR: You’ve received numerous awards and recognitions for the work you’ve done. When do you feel most fulfilled in your work?
MS: I feel most fulfilled in my work when a child comes up to me in Seacrest Studios and there is no fear there – they feel at home and like they can be themselves. To be surrounded by these children, and see the impact that you are having, I just can’t describe it. I get to instantly see on a child’s face the impact that the programming in the studio is having on them. To help ease the day of a child who is sick or injured – that’s everything! I had a patient tell me once, “I was really feeling terrible – an eight out of ten – when I came down here. Once I got down here, I forgot I felt bad.” Those are the moments in which you feel most fulfilled.
MR: You’ve worked for print, radio and TV. What’s the one quality or skill that transcends all of those mediums?
MS: You need to be a good writer. Be a good storyteller and a good listener. In this business, you have to be able to adapt quickly. A lot of people will say that some of those mediums are dying. They’re not dying, they’re just evolving, and you have to be able to change with the pace of them.
MR: The mission of Seacrest Studios is to help patients explore the creative realms of radio, TV and new media. How have you seen these incredible experiences and interactions with artists, athletes and influencers help the kids at the hospital?
MS: Every day I see it, which is such a neat thing! I know a healing side of broadcasting – the power of our words, music and programming can contribute to the recovery process here. For so many of the children, they can’t find that voice deep down inside of them because of what they’re battling, or because of an injury they’re trying to overcome. Seacrest Studios allows children to find their voice again. That’s something indescribable. These celebrities – they are an outside encouragement. Sometimes it takes someone besides family or friends, especially if it’s someone they admire, to tell them they can make it, or that they’re being thought of. Visits by our special guests can be incredibly healing and magical to these kids. It’s hard to explain it until you’ve experienced it but, once you see it, you can’t get enough of it! We’ve observed many sweet moments. There are so many songs the patients hear over and over again that become anthems for them while they are here. For patients to actually get to meet the artists who perform those songs, and have those artists love on, and encourage, them is amazing!
MR: You’re the Program Manager for Seacrest Studios at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, an incredible organization that helps brighten the lives of kids who are facing difficult battles. I know you’ve seen artists and visitors give back to the kids at the hospital, but what kind of impact have the kids had in your own life?
MS: There are so many little faces that immediately come to my mind. Very often, a child will move not just me, but the whole room! A tiny little hug of gratitude for providing a good time really stays with me! Often my guests and I break out into great fits of laughter, smiles or even tears. This line of work completely changes the way you think about everything in your own life. I work alongside people who are so selfless and who constantly put the needs of others above themselves. That service to others is something I’m always thinking about. To love these tiny heroes is such a privilege! I’m constantly in awe of them. Even when these young patients are at their lowest point medically, their thoughts always seem to be focused on others. No filters, no edited posts – just real life. That’s been a huge lesson for me – to put the concerns of others before my own. It is a tremendously fulfilling experience.
There are also friendships and long-term relationships that can form based on similar circumstances at the hospital. It’s sweet to see these friendships develop in the studio and hospital, and believe that, somehow, you might have helped play a role in making that happen.
MR: How have you seen the landscape of media change since you started your career?
MS: Social media changed everything! Before, with journalism especially, you had to wait to get your news by turning on the TV. Now, you can get the news as soon as you turn on your phone or look at your computer. We have to be able to turn news around quickly and accurately. You have to always double check sources because they come from everywhere – we have a lot of info coming at us that we have to process. It’s good and it’s bad. In radio, the podcast movement has changed things. People who didn’t collegiately study journalism are now journalists.
MR: Who is someone you would love to interview and why?
MS: A living president. I’ve always been fascinated by history. My dream job is to be first lady! My life has presidential touches, don’t you think? I grew up in Dallas, where JFK was assassinated, and I have been to the 6th Floor Museum countless times. I was also born on Jacqueline Kennedy’s birthday, and my brother once lost his retainer in the White House, on a tour! I would say those things hint at a presidential future!
The other person I always wanted to interview is Dolly Parton, and I actually got that chance in the fall of last year. She is just as sweet, and sparkly, as I imagined!
MR: What’s your life mantra?
MS: One that I think about most often is one that I heard from Mr. Rogers – “How can we make goodness attractive?” How can we make it contagious? I think about that professionally and personally. The workplace can be brutal, but we don’t have to react to it, or others, brutally. I see goodness in the smallest among us in a children’s hospital. Those sweet patients have every reason to be sullen, but they radiate beauty and goodness, and that is inspirational and attractive!