Popcorn and Beans? Nope.

“Creativity and communication.” That’s how Marketing and Communications Manager Veronica Matthews fits together the many and varied pieces of her career puzzle.

“When I look back, I see that every experience has informed where I am now,” says Matthews. She started in homeschool, which allowed her to pursue an early career in professional theater and dual-enroll in St. Petersburg College. She graduated with a diploma and an associate’s degree at the same time.

Next stop? University of South Florida in St. Petersburg. Matthews was “absolutely certain” that she would become a news anchor, but just one semester into her studies, she realized her folly. “Be prepared to move where it’s cold and survive on popcorn and canned beans,” her journalism professors told her. Born and raised in South Florida, she had only one response: “Nope.”

Matthews pivoted to English and earned her BA and MLA. During that time, she also worked at a hotel, taught Pilates, acted as creative director for a music studio, and co-founded a nonprofit Shakespeare theater company. At USF, Matthews held a series of administrative roles in six different departments and taught occasional courses in humanities and theater.

Her final gig at USF was in the Innovative Education group, where Matthews learned that, as an employee, she could complete a doctorate at no cost. She graduated with her Ed.D. in 2021.

But before graduation, the pandemic hit Florida. Feeling claustrophobic in crowded downtown St. Pete, Matthews and her husband escaped to the mountains of North Carolina. “It was too glorious to leave,” she admits, so they permanently relocated. Matthews landed a spot at a local college, where she was quickly promoted to assistant director of public information. “I was finally using my English degrees,” she says. “It only took me 20 years!”

Soon, a former colleague reached out about an opening at a national association that supports nurses and social workers. “They primarily needed someone who could write and edit an academic journal,” Matthews says. “It seemed like a good fit. I finally feel like I’ve found my place.”

Nearly every opportunity that Matthews has taken has come to her from word of mouth. “Build a positive reputation,” she advises. “Get out in your community. Volunteer and network. People will think of you.”

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