Academy Award winner Matthew A. Cherry addresses the virtual SEM Conference this Friday

October 27, 2020
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Matthew Cherry

The AACRAO SEM Conference, which kicks off tomorrow, is excited to welcome Academy Award-winning filmmaker Matthew A. Cherry as our closing keynote speaker at the virtual AACRAO SEM Conference.

Cherry personally raised over $280K on Kickstarter to make the award-winning short film “Hair Love.” The film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2020. (Watch the tender and heart-warming short — all 6:47 minutes of it — here.)

The short was adapted into a picture book for Penguin Random House. When it was released in May 2019, the book immediately became a New York Times Bestseller and was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Picture Book. 

Who is Matthew A. Cherry?

Cherry is a Chicago native and a former NFL wide receiver who played for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cincinnati Bengals, Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens.

In 2007, Cherry retired and moved to LA to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. After learning behind the scenes, Cherry started directing music videos. He now has over 20 to his credit, including videos for Michelle Williams featuring Beyoncé & Kelly Rowland, Tweet, Jazmine Sullivan, Chloe X Halle, Lalah Hathaway, and Kindred The Family Soul.

In addition to “Hair Love,” Cherry directed the live action short films “This Time” and “Forward,” and created the award winning web series "Almost 30."

What is his message for AACRAO SEM attendees?

During his keynote, Cherry will discuss what inspired him to become a filmmaker, how art can change the world, and what leaders can do to address social injustice. According to Cherry, although dark and dramatic movies grab a lot of attention, he’s more interested in films that inspire joy and leave us “wanting to be a better person.”

During times of crisis, artists in particular can find themselves questioning the value and meaning of their work. Cherry strives to create art that creates a “real world impact” on social justice movements. For example, in his keynote, he’ll talk about the opportunity he has earned as a member of the Academy to lift up talented but marginalized creators that until now have struggled for recognition.

This is a reminder to all AACRAO members and higher education professionals about how to use your own power to empower others.

Who are the other featured speakers at SEM?

The Opening Keynote on Wednesday addresses the topic of “The World Upside Down,” with panelists Ted Mitchell (American Council on Education), Amelia Parnell (NASPA), Tony Allen (Delaware State University), and Doug Shapiro (National Student Clearinghouse) discussing lessons learned from the pandemic and the national movements for racial justice and equity. 

In Thursday’s Keynote, Dr. Laura Wankel (Northeastern University) offers insight on the Future of Higher Education. Her recent book Higher Education’s Road to Relevance:  Navigating Complexity explores the current and future state of post-secondary education in the U.S. Learn more about this presentation. 

It’s not too late for you to join colleagues exploring themes around Crises as Catalyst for Transformation at this week’s AACRAO SEM Conference. Register now.