Norwich students, alumni connect at ESPN
Trip fuels students' passion for communications field
Ten Norwich students recently paid a visit to ESPN's (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network's) broadcast center in Bristol, Connecticut. The trip was part of an ongoing effort by the "Worldwide Leader in Sports" to pursue a recruiting program with the Norwich University Communications Department; last October, four members of ESPN's management team visited the Norwich campus to meet with Communications students and get a sense of life at Norwich. The reciprocal trip on February 15 constitutes the first ever by any college or university to the sports network's Connecticut complex. Communications Professor Bill Estill explained why.
"ESPN has identified Norwich as the best program they have seen to prepare students to enter the workplace as non-linear editors," Estill said. "When they came here, they saw our lab and saw the dynamics of what we're doing with groups of people working on projects -- the team approach. No other school is doing this."
The ten students, all Communications majors, were accompanied by Professor Estill, Norwich President Richard W. Schneider, and Senior Gift Officer Paul Bova '88. While at the center, the group received a private tour of the studio where ESPN's "SportsCenter" program is produced. ESPN's flagship program, "SportsCenter" recently converted to a fully tapeless integrated digital HD production system. With the exception of Estill, it was the first time any of the group had set foot in a television broadcasting studio, much less a digital one. Adrian Lindsey, a senior from Clinton, Md., came away awestruck.
"It was like walking onto a college campus," Lindsey said. "It was huge!" Lindsey was equally wowed by the technology. "I felt like I was at NASA--the machinery that they had could do what we do but much more efficiently."
"I was very impressed," said Amanda Benson, a sophomore from Oxford, Ma. "They had all the most up-to-date technology and even higher AVID editing programs than we have."
Following the tour, the group was treated to lunch and a roundtable discussion with technical directors, production supervisors and staff about what it takes to work at ESPN. Included in the roundtable discussion were Norwich alumni Josh Creighton '04, Matt Jason '98, Ronnel Daniels '03, Dale Mauldin '04, and Mario Carpanzano '05, all current ESPN employees. Benson talked about the high level of congeniality between the Norwich alumni and current students.
"The alumni were very helpful and all very excited to talk to us," Benson said. "It was good to hear their perspective. They told us what we should work on before applying for a job and what skills we need to have. It was great to make that connection."
Connections notwithstanding, Norwich grads often find they are so well-prepared that they bypass entry level positions altogether.
"Our students are being trained on the same cutting edge equipment and software programs that ESPN uses," said Estill, "and with the Norwich network already in place, they're being mentored right there on the job."
Technical Recruitment Manager Tony Valentino, who has been at ESPN for 20 years, praised the thoroughness with which Norwich grooms its students for jobs in the real world.
"One can easily assume that every school takes the kind of interest in the development of its students that Norwich does. Unfortunately this is not the case," said Valentino.
Following lunch, four seniors had an opportunity to be interviewed by ESPN personnel. Both the interviewers and interviewees came away with a better understanding of the quality of a Norwich education.
"One of the questions they asked me was about our work environment here at school," said Lindsey. "Before the visit, I didn't realize we knew as much as we did. The caliber of the work we do here is ranked among that of professionals."
At his interview, Lindsey learned about the diversity of career options available to ESPN employees.
"There is something for everybody," Lindsey said "...IT work, journalism, electrical engineering, you name it. You don't have to be just one thing. Every skill you learn is marketable."
"It's something I could definitely see myself doing," agreed Joe Burleigh, a freshman from Kingston, N.H. "They are there to create a lifelong career for people, not just a two-year job. They are behind their employees and really want them to succeed."
"I'm more excited about my field now than I ever was," summed up Lindsey.
Evidently, the students weren't the only ones who came away excited by what they saw and heard. In a follow-up email, Rich Goode, Production Operations Supervisor for ESPN, spoke of the benefits to ESPN of maintaining a strong Norwich connection.
"Consistently staying in contact with schools like Norwich, with such a mature and professional group of students, is what will help keep ESPN on top," Goode said.
In addition to Lindsey, Benson, and Burleigh, communications students who made the trip included Kevin Michael '06, Carson Miller '06, Sarah Davis '06, Andreas Craig '06, Eric Murphy '06, Chase Decker '07, and Craig McGrath '07.
ESPN's corporate headquarters sits on 100 acres with 12 buildings, 27 satellite dishes, 2,000 television monitors and a state-of-the-art fitness gym. ESPN production operations function 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The ESPN complex constitutes a virtual multimedia powerhouse, with seven domestic television networks, thirty international networks, ESPN radio, ESPN.com, ESPN Magazine, SportsTicker and other ESPN companies. ESPN is eighty percent owned by ABC, Inc., a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company. The Hearst Corporation holds a twenty percent interest in ESPN. Next year, they plan to open a brand new center in LA.