Since graduating, media producer and international relations alumnus Matt Reccow '95 has embraced opportunities to travel the world and has continued to keep in touch with his mentor Professor Del Dickson. So, when he came back to campus for a visit, we could not miss the chance to hear about his journeys firsthand. It is safe to say that Reccow has found a career that blends his sense of adventure with his desire to experience the world. He has produced seasons of "The Amazing Race," "Eco Challenge," and "Expedition Impossible." In each location, Reccow must learn the ins and outs of local cultures to ensure smooth productions. Working with local volunteers, Reccow is an expert at settling into foreign locations, captivating audiences, and bringing a little adventure to American TV viewers.
As an international relations grad, how did you get into the media industry?
While I was teaching for UC Irvine, I realized I wanted to do something with more of an international scope. Coincidentally not soon afterwards, a friend heard about a new TV show. I ended up working on a show called "Eco Challenge" that filmed in Morocco. I started as low on the totem pole as you can, working for the soon-to-be executive producer of "Survivor." It was great. I could use my language skills that I learned while studying abroad through USD. I also liked the environment where nothing was organized. I was the source of organization on most locations.
After working on "Eco Challenge" what was your next show?
After Morocco, I worked on another production of "Eco Challenge" in Patagonia. I could speak Spanish after studying abroad in San Sebastian, so I was sent down to manage a volunteer crew of 120 people. That snowballed into another season of "Eco Challenge" in the jungles of Borneo.
What do you find the most captivating about your job?
Before I answer that, let me just say that everyone thinks they want a job that involves travel. But in reality, it means that you don't get to sleep in your own bed, bathrooms don't exist, hot water is rare and the jet lag is terrible. That said, my dad was a professor, so growing up traveling is what I thought everyone was supposed to do. He taught overseas, and he went to parts of the world that I cannot even dream of going now. It is great, though, to open National Geographic and be able to say, "I've been there. I've done that."
"If I am just traveling by myself, I try to ignore what I know of the US and try not to compare new countries to somewhere else."
When you go into a foreign culture, it has to be a bit disconcerting. What do you do to find your bearings?
If I am just traveling by myself, I try to ignore what I know of the US and try not to compare new countries to somewhere else. If work sends me to a country, I am always working with a local company that helps. All I need to know how to do is communicate with everyone, and make sure we know what the plan is. The hardest part is explaining what our production's needs are. I am only as good as the information I get across.
How has Del Dickson's mentorship affected your career?
I actually don't even remember any specific class I took with Del, but I remember his character and the environment he created in class. His classes were not easy; there was never an "easy A." You had to put in your time, but what I got out of it, was how much he invested into his classes. He was his class. He engaged us and forced us to answer questions. I still remember this passion, and I find that I use his way of asking questions when I am out on location.
What would you say to current USD students who are hoping for an international career?
No matter what, at USD you're going to get a great education. You should not be worried about that. What is going to set you apart is what you do outside of the classroom. For me, that's what really made the difference. USD gave me the academic foundation that I still use, but it also gave me the platform to try so many different things. I also had the chance to realize what direction I didn't want to go, which is good to learn sooner than later.
- Leslie Hammann