T. Howard Foundation “Squads Up” With 80 New Interns at Media Boot Camp

Nearly 80 minority college students from top institutions across the country joined together for the T. Howard Foundation’s Summer Intern Orientation last week in Silver Spring, Md. Billed as a Media Industry Boot Camp (#THFSQUAD), the students selected for THF’s highly competitive internship program participated in interactive sessions to fully prepare for their summer media industry internships and future careers.

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DAY ONE
Jamie Washington, M. Div., Ph.D., President and Founder, Washington Consulting Group, opened the annual 2 ½ day orientation by having the students leave their seats and their comfort zones to speak with at least five students they had never met. Each student then chose a partner—again, someone they didn’t know— to answer the question: What do you see in your day-to-day interactions on campus or at your internship that necessitates conversations about diversity and identity?

“You have to be ready to show up and engage in diversity in an authentic way.”—Jamie Washington, Washington Consulting Group

After taking their first professional headshots, the students participated in a human resources session. Suzie Araujo, Senior Manager, Talent Management at Discovery Communications and Tiffany Lan, Human Resources Generalist at AMC Networks advised the students in scenarios on how to appropriately turn down a job offer, handle inappropriate/offensive comments made by a colleague, ask for a potential endorsement for a position they’re interested in pursuing, how to best work on team projects and cross-generational collaboration.

The interns learned about employee resource groups—also known as diversity councils and affinity groups—where employees of marginalized identities can find communities and build connections. Led by Jamie Riley, Ph.D., Assistant Dean of Students & Director, LEAD Center, University of California, Berkeley and Alethea Spencer, Media Operations professional, Discovery Communications & Lead Co-Chair, Asian Cultural Alliance, the interns were urged to participate in such groups at their internship host companies that foster a culture of inclusion.

Day One closed with an engaging panel discussion on networking, led by Reynaldo Casas, Entertainment and Media Professional; Mercy Chikowore, Communications Manager, Washington Area Women’s Foundation; Howie Hodges, Vice President, External Affairs, Time Warner Cable; and Claritza Jiménez, Digital Video Editor, The Washington Post.
The panelists provided interns with realistic expectations of networking relationships by sharing their own real-world experiences. Highlights and advice from the panel included the importance of:

  • Developing long-term relationships with professionals. It is not enough to simply exchange business cards with someone in order to land a job. Build quality relationships through networking.
  • Networking with peers and supervisors rather than having the sole goal of meeting executives. Build networks across—not just up.
  • Defining the objective of their internships and approach the opportunities with a clear strategy. Take deliberate steps to make most of the summer experiences.

DAY TWO
Sabrina Garba, Founder & CEO of the Glass Ladder Group, kicked off Day Two of Summer Intern Orientation. Though the orientation serves as a media industry boot camp, the information she provided is critical for young professionals entering the workforce in any industry.

Garba kept it real with the students regarding business communication and personal presentation. She highlighted the generational shifts that workplaces in all industries are experiencing—that interns will work with up to four different generations and four different communications styles.

“Always be authentic, but always show up at your best for the company you’re working for.” —Sabrina Garba, Founder & CEO, Glass Ladder Group

The media industry is one that is constantly changing, and Michelle Rice, Executive Vice President, Content Distribution and Marketing at TV One, explained the current state of the media industry and how it is impacting employees and consumers at all levels. The traditional TV model has been disrupted, and 50 percent of consumers now binge watch their favorite programs. Networks are using content to create experiences and change the game.

Christine Creighton, an instructor with Speakeasy, conducted an interactive presentation on how to effectively speak in public settings and deliver powerful, authentic and clear presentations.

UC Berkeley’s Jamie Riley, Ph.D. returned for Day Two to facilitate a discussion with interns on workplace gender inequities. Luis Clemens, Senior Editor for Diversity, NPR, also shared lessons and insights he learned from a long career in journalism. The students engaged in conversations that explored our gender binary system (masculinity vs. femininity, male vs. female), increasing overall self-awareness.

A highlight of each Summer Intern Orientation is for current THF interns to interact with THF alumni who leveraged their internships to gain full-time employment in the media industry, and how THF assisted them in doing so. This year’s alumni panel included Kelsey Howell (THF ’10), Marketing Strategy Manager, Discovery Communications; Soon Kwon (THF ’05), Writer/Producer, Showtime Networks; Brandon Putnam (THF ’12), Marketing Specialist, Monumental Sports & Entertainment; and Lamar Smith (THF ’11, ‘12), Associate Producer, Discovery Communications.

Day Two ended with a reception for students to continue practicing their newly acquired networking techniques with media industry professionals and THF alumni.

DAY THREE
On the final day of orientation, the students broke the ice with each other by highlighting one person in the group of 80 who they didn’t know prior to attending orientation. They introduced that person, sharing one thing they learned about him or her and something they admire and respect.

Following the icebreaker, the students participated in a discussion about their first steps toward to financial independence, led by Michael McGowen of Mylestone Plans.

The THF summer experience is not all work and no play. At the end of the final morning, the interns broke off into groups based on their internships city (NYC, Atlanta, DC, Philadelphia and Los Angeles). The individual groups elected social chairpersons from each city to plan activities in which the T. Howard Foundation interns could participate together over the summer.

Following Orientation, the students traveled to their internship cities to begin their career journeys in the media industry—well prepared and motivated.

T. Howard Foundation Diversity Partners (Nielsen, Grey, MSG Networks, NPR and Reuters) sponsored this year’s Summer Intern Orientation.

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Many THF Alumni Launch On-Air and Production Careers

T. Howard Foundation interns represent most business functions of the media and entertainment industry. Take a look at a few Internship Program alumni who have reached careers in media on-air and in production at major media companies.

This video first aired at the T. Howard Foundation 2016 Diversity Awards Dinner, in front of an audience of 800 media and entertainment industry executives.

THF Continues Investment in Alumni Career Pursuits with Scott Weiss Scholarship

The T. Howard Foundation (THF) is excited to announce the recipients of the 2015 Scott Weiss Scholarship, an annual merit-based award granted to eligible alumni of THF’s Internship Program.

Now in its 17th year, the alumni scholarship provides eligible former interns with financial assistance for their academic and career pursuits, including college tuition, textbooks and/or expenses related to professional development, such as conferences and workshops that help prepare recipients for a career in the media industry.

This year, THF awarded $15,000 in scholarships, and individual scholarships can range up to $3,000.

The scholarship is named in honor of Scott Weiss, THF founder and Chairman Emeritus. He is currently CEO and Owner of Speakeasy, a THF partner company.

2015 Scott Weiss Scholarship Award Recipients are (including current institution, expected undergraduate graduation year, THF internship program year and internship host company):

  • Eric Chavous (University of Pittsburgh, MBA and Law student), THF ’15, Paramount Pictures
  • Nicole Dei (University of Maryland, College Park, Broadcast Journalism, ’16), THF ’15, NBCUniversal
  • Paul DiNapoli (University of Pennsylvania, Economics/Political Science,’17), THF ’15, Comcast Corporation
  • Robyn Green (University of Michigan, Communications, ’16), THF ’15, AMC Networks
  • Ying Ting Hu (SUNY Binghamton University, Economics/Psychology, ’16), THF ’15, AMC Networks
  • Nazifa Nasim (Fordham University, Business Administration, ’17), THF ’15, Discovery Communications
  • Dorisa Rodney (Pennsylvania State University, Advertising, ’16), THF ’15, NBCUniversal
  • Isabelle Thenor-Louis (Brown University, Anthropology, ’16), THF ’15, Viacom (BET)
  • Lyn Tran (Brown University, Economics, ’17), THF ’15, Univision

 

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THF Internship Program Turns 20: Alumni Spotlight–Shandra McDonald

In 1995, when Shandra McDonald was accepted into the T. Howard Foundation Internship Program‘s inaugural class, she was a graduate student studying film at Howard University. One of just 14 THF interns that year, Shandra went on to have a successful production career, on her own terms.

This is Shandra’s first person account of her journey from intern to production company CEO.

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I learned about the T. Howard Foundation through Howard University. Howard was always aggressive in encouraging its students to gain real world experience through internships. I had several internships throughout college, and Howard professors and career counselors knew me as someone who was always looking for opportunities to learn, so I always had my eyes on the career and internship board.

During my second semester of my three-year MFA degree program, I was hired as an intern at the Discovery Channel in nearby Silver Spring, Maryland through the T. Howard Foundation. I worked in the CD-ROM division, and at that time, Discovery was beginning to expand, so they were doing a lot of cataloging.

As a film student and a filmmaker, I wasn’t initially thrilled with the idea of working in the CD-ROM department, but I ended up loving it. I worked hard and met many individuals, and my manager was impressed with the work I completed.

Elevator Pitch Helps Land Freelance Job
I’m an ambitious person, and I pay attention to everything that is happening around me. While I was a CD-ROM intern, I learned that the Discovery Channel had a stock footage library, and I knew that there were different opportunities for work in that division. I met the division head in the elevator, and introduced myself and asked if I could set up a meeting with him.

As a film student at Howard University, I was learning about traditional narrative-based film editing and directing. But during my internship and freelance work at Discovery, I had learned and experienced first-hand about offline, non-linear editing, which made me more versatile. As a direct result of that internship, I was offered and accepted a freelance editing position in Discovery’s newly launched international division. This work offered me an additional education that I was being paid to receive—although I had to balance activities and my graduate school thesis. At the time, I was also producing projects at Howard, and I was gaining valuable experience that I could translate into a full-time job.

Timing is Everything
As a freelancer in the international division, my manager knew I was preparing to graduate with an MFA. He was seeking a full-time producer, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Because I had worked for Discovery as an intern through the T. Howard Foundation, I was hired as a freelancer, which ultimately led me to a full-time producer position, a job for which I didn’t even need to apply because I was already vetted and in the Discovery system.

I produced programming with the Discovery Channel Foundation for underdeveloped areas in Africa. I directed full segments overseas and edited existing programs to be later aired on the Discovery Channel.

Prestigious Award is Catalyst for Move to L.A.
In 1998, after learning that my Howard University short film thesis won the Directors Guild of America Student Film Award, I was invited to move to Los Angeles to work in post-production for several BET movies that were based on romantic novels. I worked on that project for close to a year before I freelance wrote and produced for reality television production companies.

I moved to Atlanta in 2002 and worked for Paramount Pictures on The Fighting Temptations. As Atlanta was growing as a production city, I began field producing and story editing for Turner and a number of Atlanta-based production companies.

Reach High—But Don’t Go Overboard
In 2005, I formed Kiss the Limit Productions, where we tell stories that transform peoples’ lives. I realized early on in my career that I wanted to present empowering stories, and those that are compelling and artistically based. Kiss the Limit is a reflection of my motto that you have to reach for the greatest heights in this industry, but not go too far. My company produces short and long form content for a variety of clients in television and film.

Through Kiss the Limit, I’ve produced such feature films as The Last Adam, which is now in Redbox, and A Cross to Bear, which aired on ASPiRE, formerly the Gospel Movie Channel. I’ve also directed and produced award-winning documentary projects that have screened in festivals around the world, including the FESPACO Film Festival in Burkina Faso and the Cannes Film Festival in France. My company is currently producing a documentary on an early intervention model for girls who are at risk for prostitution called Voices. Kiss the Limit secured money from investors and a local bank for this project.

Starting this fall, I’m going to be a professor in Clayton State University’s film production department. I’m excited to share my experience in the field with future filmmakers.

This media business requires a great deal hard work, dedication, innovation and strategy. I knew where I wanted to be in a year. I knew which department I wanted to move to. You have to be able to think ahead and to strategize for evolution through a company and career.

Alumni Spotlight: Christian Ortega–On the Path to Success

Christian_Ortega“I had just graduated college when I started my T. Howard internship. I was a day late for orientation in Silver Spring because I was participating in my graduation ceremony.”

As Christian Ortega reflects on the start of his T. Howard Foundation internship, the Brooklyn, N.Y. native would have never imagined that after he crossed the stage in 2011 and received his bachelor’s degree from Baruch College that his next step would be working at Viacom. “I wanted to get into accounting but I lost interest in it and opted to earn a marketing degree,” he stated.

His interest in pursuing a career in the media industry was sparked by another internship during the Fall 2010 semester at MTV Networks. Although he had gained some experience, Christian still felt uncertain on how to leverage his degree in marketing in the media industry.

He learned about the T. Howard Foundation’s Internship Program from the career services department at Baruch, applied, and landed the internship with Viacom. Christian says that his THF experience gave him the opportunity to explore one of the largest media companies and find his niche. “I knew I wanted to be in the entertainment industry in some capacity and T. Howard helped steer me into ad sales.”

Most college students aspire to land a job by graduation and many view postgraduate internships negatively. Christian also had some reservations about being an intern with a degree. “It was scary because it was an internship. It wasn’t a full time job, so I knew what I had to do. I knew that I had to market and position myself to be offered a full-time entry-level job.”

While working on projects for Nickelodeon (a Viacom network), he managed to schedule several informational interviews with executives throughout the company. Christian says that his supervisors encouraged and sometimes assisted him in scheduling meetings that allowed him to gain exposure to several of Viacom’s networks and truly maximize his internship experience.

One of his most important takeaways from his time at Viacom was the knowledge he gained about sales. Christian says, “I learned a lot about the affiliate and national ad sales, subscription fees and the negotiations that can carry on for months.”

His initiative during the summer internship had a direct link to his first full-time job in the industry. In March 2012, he was hired as a Sales Assistant at Discovery Communications, resulting from his relationship with THF. Christian became aware of the opportunity through the Foundation’s alumni listserv. He touts the Foundation to students for helping him to launch his career. “If you are eager and you really want to be in the media and entertainment industry, T. Howard is a great way to get your foot in the door; they have fantastic contacts. It’s just an outstanding resource for any young minority who wants to get into the industry.”

Christian worked on national accounts for Investigation Discovery and TLC for 18 months before accepting the position of Sales Planner at 20th Century Fox in 2013.

He values THF’s mission of diversifying the media industry, and feels the responsibility to mentor students in the same way he was supported as a college student.

Alumni Spotlight: Alicia Biggs–Intern to Award-Winning Producer

Alicia BiggsAlicia Biggs arrived at Morgan State University with a passion for television and an internship already under her belt, having worked with Howard County Government Television in Columbia, Md. while in high school. She chose to major in communications with a concentration in television production at Morgan State, and continued to intern throughout her college career (Maryland Public Television and TLC), including an internship through the T. Howard Foundation.

Alicia she learned about T. Howard through her professors and postings on campus. She believed that it was an opportunity to take seriously because it was a paid internship and the application required a written statement, as well as recommendations. The diligence in which she prepared her application paid off and she was awarded an internship with the Independent Film Channel (IFC) for the summer of 2003.

In New York, Alicia gained experience throughout various departments at IFC. “I spent two weeks in each department, including affiliate marketing, public relations, finance and development,” recalls Alicia. The rotating schedule exposed her to the various functions within the company and allowed her to become immersed in different areas. Her range of responsilibilties were varied from “monitoring budgets for finance to writing press releases for PR, to screening pitch videos in development and putting together PowerPoint presentations for affiliate marketing.”

After the T. Howard/IFC internship, Alicia returned to Morgan State to complete her senior year and secured another internship on her own with FitTV, a Discovery Communications channel. The internship turned into a full time job, as Alicia was hired as a Production Assistant with the channel after college graduation in 2004.

Since securing her first full-time position in the media industry, Alicia’s career has continually progressed. “I worked at FitTV for a year, and then I moved on to TV One and spent three years there, was promoted to Associate Producer and from there I jumped over to the National Geographic Channel as a Writer/Producer and spent four and half years there, was promoted, and then moved to Discovery again as a Senior Producer/Senior Writer.”

Alicia BiggsAlicia’s second stint at Discovery ended when she was hired as a Senior Producer at Wee Beastie, a New York creative agency, in January of this year. In this role she writes, shoots video and produces branded entertainment for television networks. One of the agency’s clients is her former employer, National Geographic, and Alicia’s work has garnered multiple Telly and Promax Awards. Last month, she received the 2014 Promax Award for the Discovery Channel/Miller 64 “Shark Week” integration. The Promax is the most coveted award for promo producers.

Of her THF experience and its impact, Alicia says, “The T. Howard experience had a huge impact on my career. The Foundation really gave me a unique experience of working in four different departments in our industry; not a lot of people have the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view into these different departments. From that experience, I learned that I actually really loved public relations and development, which surprised me.” She points out that it is important for students to learn about the range of opportunities in order to gain a better understanding of the media industry, and of which aspect they want to pursue for a career.

Alicia maintains ties with the Foundation by having served as an internship orientation panelist several times and mentoring THF interns over the years. She is also personally committed to the Foundation’s mission of increasing diversity within the media industry. “Having worked in this industry for 10 years, there are actually a lot of women in marketing, but there are very few people of color who are at the executive levels. I feel passionate about getting as many people of color and as many women into this industry as possible. Therefore, I am a huge supporter of the T. Howard Foundation.”

The First Class: Torrae Lawrence-Mitchell

“You were not just an intern who got the coffee, but you were that intern with a specific job. The expectations were a lot higher. (Management) looked at (THF interns) as individuals who were there to learn and they wanted to help educate us about the industry.”

Torrae Lawrence-MitchellTorrae Lawrence-Mitchell’s interest in the media industry developed while she was growing up in New York watching the classic NBC sitcoms “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World.”

“The shows were fascinating, but I was more fascinated about the production of the programs.”

Convinced that she wanted to be a director similar to her idol Debbie Allen, Torrae followed in her footsteps and attended Howard University in Washington, DC and minored in theatre, Allen’s major. However, a summer spent as a T. Howard Foundation intern would change the course of her career.

Approaching her senior year at Howard, Torrae became aware of the opportunity to apply for a THF internship from Carol Dudley, Director of the Office of Career Development in the School of Communications. Torrae completed the THF application and interview process and was invited to intern in the Showtime Event Television division of Showtime Networks, now known as Showtime PPV.

During the summer of 1995, the division’s major project was Mike Tyson’s return to boxing after a stint in prison. Torrae described her duties as being responsible for “making sure that all the cable operators across the country were signing up to air the fight as well as tracking the sales.” Her efforts produced $250,000 in incremental revenue. “It was a huge success for that division of Showtime and it was the most that they had ever sold during that time for any event,” she explained.

This experience proved to Torrae that her niche was in not production after all, as she learned something new about corporate America and the field of marketing that she assumed she would not enjoy. “It was the exposure to that side of the business that really helped transition my thought process.”

After the internship, Torrae returned to Howard to complete her degree in communications and prepared to launch her career. She utilized the relationships and great reputation that she built at Showtime to land a job after graduation. Torrae’s career has taken her to positions at Discovery Communications and American Life TV Network. For the past six years she has held positions at Turner Broadcasting System, and currently serves as Director, Brand Revenue and Account Management for Turner Network Sales.

As Torrae continues to rise through the ranks of the cable industry, her ties to the T. Howard Foundation remain strong, by serving on the scholarship committee and as a frequent panelist at the orientation sessions.

Torrae was among that first small group of THF interns who blazed the trail making it possible for the internship program to continue to flourish today. Torrae says of the Foundation’s brand, “I believe that the T. Howard Foundation’s motto is well known throughout the industry as being a platform to help students start their careers versus just an internship that you have over the summer. THF is really there to help individuals get in the door and show what they have to offer to the company.”