In honor of this year’s National Women’s History Month “Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories,” learn about a few of UMGC’s talented alumnae who are inspiring the world, one story at a time.
Caitlin Bassett ‘15
Actress, NBC TV's Quantum Leap
After graduating from UMGC, Caitlin Bassett moved to New York City to attend law school. While she was there, she just couldn’t shake the feeling that she wanted to do something more creative. Ultimately, she wanted to tell stories that affected how people feel and see the world.
You get to tell stories on your show Quantum Leap. How is your work making a difference?
I’m very lucky to be on a show that is centered around, quite literally, walking in someone else’s shoes. Every week, we get to “leap” into different people in different times and take a trip in their lives to deal with some of the hardest things they will ever face. On a show like that, you can’t help but think about what it is to live like someone else. And that, in my opinion, is one of the greatest considerations we can give to each other. Asking ourselves, “What does it feel like to be you?”
What are you most passionate about?
I’m incredibly passionate about encouraging people to live the life they want. Most people don’t start super far ahead in life, and everyone deals with their own stuff. But everyone also has their strengths – a loving family, unique opportunities, grit, intelligence, charm, etc. Use whatever you have, start where you are and go for what you want. All of life is hard at times, so we might as well make it what we want!
What advice do you have for others looking to enter your line of work?
Find what you’re good at and do that. A great hint we get is what comes easily to us or what we are very passionate about. That’s often a great place to start. And learn everything – story structure, dramaturgy, read great fiction, study the classics, study the modern storytellers – they are all practicing variations on what works.
And always, always, believe in yourself. This industry (and the world, in my experience) values you how you value yourself. If you want them to give you a shot, know deep down that you are capable (even if, and especially if, you’re scared. Being scared is just part of the job.)
Quentis Scott-Adams ‘05
Author, Rise and Shine: A GO-GO Legend
Quentis Scott-Adams is the author of Rise and Shine: A GO-GO Legend. She’s also the CEO of Rough Diamond Entertainment LLC in Washington, DC, where she provides artist management for local Hip-Hop, Rap and RnB artists.
What inspired you to write your book?
This is my first time writing a book. In high school, I thought that writing was hard to do, but then I was mentored by my Godmother, Dr. Frances Carter, who was a professor of English. She really instilled the tools and confidence I needed to write numerous papers throughout my college years. Soon, I realized I was good at it.
About 30 years later, I met up with world-renowned numerologist Lloyd Strayhorn. He provided me with a numerology reading, and one of his first comments was that my birth numbers indicated I had a hidden talent as a writer! I thought, "hum,” that's something I've always been interested in but never actually took it to a professional level.
How did you finally take the leap to become a published author?
Soon after the revelation, I met a friend, Reo Edwards, a pioneer and icon in the genre of Go-Go music in Washington, DC. He had a compelling story that started with his childhood in the dirty South and eventually led him to Washington, DC, where he became an entertainment manager, a hit music producer, composer, songwriter and sound engineer for some of the most popular Go-Go bands in music history.
That's when I decided that not only should his story be told to the world, but that I had the confidence and talent to write it!
How is your work making a difference?
I believe my work sheds light on the historical relevance of the contributions made by a man of many talents. Being able to tell his story that reveals some of the good, the bad and the magic within Go-Go culture is history that is not only significant, but knowledge that [should] be highlighted, preserved and expounded upon by generations to come.
What is the most satisfying part of your work?
I am truly passionate about making a positive and memorable impact on things that matter, such as helping my fellow UMGC alumni to recognize their strengths and pursue their dreams and ambitions.
What is your best advice for fellow UMGC alumni who want to try something different?
My advice to anyone who wants to pursue their interests is to just jump in and do it. Don't worry about not succeeding the first time. Just get back on the horse and ride. Find folks who may be willing to help you reach your goals, stay true to your talents and go for it.
If I can do it, believe me when I say you can, too. It's also about manifesting your destiny. Speak your success into the universe and believe in it. I'm a living example that dreams do come true. You control your destiny, your future. What you think about comes about. Being defeated is only a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.
JoDee Scissors ‘17
Founder, PaperPlanes ED
Podcast: The Great Teacher Resignation
JoDee Scissors is an experienced educator, writer, digital learning professional and founder of PaperPlanes ED consulting. She has a depth of experience in language immersion teaching, children's literature, curriculum writing, implementing multilingual initiatives, producing media content and providing professional development in the areas of educational technology and K-12 content. She also hosts The Great Teacher Resignation podcast.
What story are you trying to tell through your podcasts?
I knew I always wanted to do a podcast. I had the technical skills, but I had to find a compelling topic people would want to listen to.
One day during the pandemic, I was at the park with my daughter, and I met the parents of a friend of hers. We hit it off and talked about our transition from working in education. We dove into all the people who reached out to us for help.
We thought, what if we did a podcast on this? We started seeing teachers leaving in mass numbers, and they are in desperate need of support. In 2021, we hit the ground running [with The Great Teacher Resignation podcast].
How is your podcast telling the story of opportunities for educators?
We’re helping listeners unpack all the emotions attached to departing the classroom and going down another path with their careers. The number-one thing teachers want to learn about and understand is their feelings – the guilt and grief that comes with changing their careers.
Other things are money and benefits. When you have a teacher role, you have amazing benefits. It can be hard to walk away from those. For others, it’s easy to walk away, but they’re not sure what value they will bring to another career.
[Another area we cover] is practical skills for taking a teacher resume and translating it to another career. Everyone has a narrow lens of what it means to be a teacher. They don’t see them as data analysts, people providing professional development, people who budget.
There are a multitude of reasons teachers leave, and we should support them.
How has your podcast been received?
On a daily basis, we get a direct message, email or comment saying thank you, I feel seen and heard. I have been listening, and I needed this point of validation.
Those types of notes of encouragement and pats on the back always feel good. Messages like this really keep us going.
What’s the most satisfying part of your work?
I think it’s understanding other people’s perspectives and experience. I have been out of the classroom for almost four years, and I have my own personal experience. Hearing from others gives me a wider understanding of what teachers are going through, what their goals are and how they got there.
What’s next for you as you continue to tell the story of educators?
I have a lot of projects for work. My most passionate one is with the Preservation Hall Foundation in New Orleans with people from all walks of life coming together to make meaningful and beautiful work. One of the most treasured experiences I have had in my professional life is to work alongside them.
Karina R. Kabalan ‘15
Producer, KWTX News
When Karina Kabalan joined the U.S. Army Reserve out of high school, she learned to shoot a weapon—and a camera. She trained as a broadcast journalist in the Army, skills she used during her deployments to Iraq. During her second deployment in Italy, she decided to earn a bachelor’s degree in communications from UMGC with her husband, who was also stationed overseas. While in New York, she landed roles with The Daily Show and Late Night, which transitioned to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. After her husband retired from the U.S. Air Force, they settled in Waco, Texas, where she continues to work as a producer.
How are you making a difference through the stories you tell on your show at KWTX?
At KWTX, the half-hour show I produce breaks down difficult topics and presents key information that is important to the community. We feature interviews with community leaders about fundraising events, mental health and wellness, and volunteer opportunities.
We also aren't afraid to have a little fun and throw some levity into the mix. I think our show provides what most people need every once in a while, just a breath of fresh air for your day. I think our viewers walk away feeling informed, educated and entertained.
What are you most passionate about?
It may seem simple, but I'm extremely passionate about putting all the positivity I can into the world. Why be mad when you can be glad? I'm pretty sure that's the slogan for a trash bag company, but it's good advice. Positivity can be shared in many ways. I chose to share my positivity through mentorship and small acts of kindness.
What advice do you have for others looking to go into producing?
Producing involves work, persistence and an understanding of people. You need to know a little bit about everyone's job, because you are going to be asking them to accomplish goals on a daily basis.
It is your job to put a plan in place, but that plan needs to be feasible and attainable. That means you have to ask questions. Don't be afraid to not be the expert on every topic and aspect of production. Your job is not to know everything. It's to know enough to put a plan together and to ask questions of the subject matter experts around you when you are not sure. Don't let your ego get in the way of your success.
And lastly, if you think you are above a seemingly menial task, it will show. Give every task you are given your full attention. If I can't trust you to get the coffee order right, why would I give you anything else?
For more news about UMGC alumni, visit the UMGC Alumni Association website.