By all appearances, Shannon Master had all the ingredients for a successful life. She had an established career as a writer and producer for countless television shows, a happy marriage, and a thriving young daughter.
However, she didn’t have a college degree, leading Master to return to Grossmont College two years ago after a 25-year career. On June 4, Master, 46, was one of 1,957 graduates who received their Grossmont College diploma in a virtual commencement ceremony.
“We may be the collective class of 2020 graduating without the hugs and handshakes from our friends and professors,” Master said in the draft of a speech she wrote for commencement. “But we have proven to ourselves that we had the tenacity to finish what we started against all odds, in no small part thanks to our resilient teachers who have worked tirelessly during this crisis.”
She was a freelance producer for numerous television series and documentaries on a variety of channels, including HBO, the Food Network, PBS, the Discovery Channel, A&E, and many more. As part of her job, she worked with celebrities, managed massive budgets, and traveled to 17 countries.
“By the time I hit my 30’s, I had stood on the Great Wall of China, picnicked at the Eiffel Tower, marveled at the Roman Colosseum, and rode rickshaws through the chaotic streets in India,” Master wrote.
The demands of the job and its stress-filled workdays began to wear on her. That’s when Master decided to return to Grossmont College, with the goal of getting a degree in physics.
“I was frozen in uncertainty,” she said of her return to college. “It’s that terrifying leap of faith without knowing the outcome. The older you get, the harder taking that leap becomes.”
Master said it was an unsettling experience to attend classes with students who were often half her age.
“As an older student, it was an adjustment,” she said. “Being inside a classroom was terrifying. My experience was like a roller coaster ride. There were times of great inspiration and times of despair. You were constantly questioning if you were doing the right thing.”
Although Master completed the requirements for an Associate of Science degree in Math and Natural Science, she realized she didn’t want a career in science. With the help of her instructors – in particular Communications Instructor Sheri Strothers and English Instructor Daniela Sow – Master said she realized that writing was her passion.
Master graduated from Grossmont College with honors, with degrees in English and University Studies, and will be transferring this fall to a writing program at the University of California at San Diego. She hopes to combine her science knowledge with her writing skills to be a science communicator, and she dreams of writing a book. She’s been blogging about her life experiences on her shannonmaster.com website.
Master credits her experience at Grossmont College with helping her achieve her goal, even if it took longer than expected.
“I realized I am absolutely on the right path,” she said.