Wednesday morning I woke up feeling a sense of pride, motivation, and a lack of accomplishment- not because I believe I did not do enough, but because I believe I can do so much more. Traveling to New York City for free, enjoying the Grand Hyatt New York at no costs, attending inspiring conference sessions, and speaking to some phenomenal professionals in the media and/or industry felt like the opportunity of a lifetime.
Never have I felt more connected to individuals who share similar visions for the media or those who aspire to do great things in their media careers all in one place. I finally had the opportunity to meet the co-scholars I have once only imagined introducing myself to. My peers are hard working, intelligent, and talented individuals who will one day lead extraordinary lives. I am grateful for Emma L. Bowen, her vision, the foundation, and Wisconsin Public Radio for allowing me this great opportunity.
Entering the Realm of the Emma L. Bowen Foundation
In January 2013, I mailed an application to 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City hoping to earn a scholarship for college before high school graduation. I knew nothing of the program besides what I had read on the church bulletin board, additional research on the Emma L. Bowen Foundation website, and links to news articles about their founder. Unfortunately, there were no opportunities for me in Wisconsin then, but little did I know in the midst of freshman year of college I would receive a call from a man named Jaime Valencia, the program manager. When he asked “are you still interested?” I replied “yes, of course.” How could I deny myself such a golden opportunity for a paid internship at a prestigious media company and a program that would match the income for school expenses? I knew this program would define what I did throughout college and post college.
After a series of interviews, I was offered a quality internship at Wisconsin Public Radio and completed my first summer here in 2014. Fast forward to the summer of 2015. On June 21, I landed in Newark, NJ. Then, after stepping into the Airlink Van paid for by the Program to drive me and two other scholars to the Grand Hyatt, the fun began. “Are you an EBF Scholar?” the young woman adjacent to me asked. “Yes,” I replied. We recognized each other from our Go Airlink NYC vouchers provided by the Foundation. We clicked immediately. Later, other scholars joined us on our journey to the hotel and we would ask questions like “Which corporation sponsors you?” or “What do you do there?” and “Are you interested in that particular area (whether sales, research, news, online, etc.)?
Eventually, that evening I met both Valencia and Sandra Rice, the Vice President of the Foundation in person for the first time. Networking and good conversation amongst students, graduates, staff, and board members of the Foundation continued throughout the conference. This is where I belonged; I finally met my EBF family.
Learning How to Work in the Media in “Multicultural America”
Scholars of the Emma L. Bowen Foundation have been accepted into the program in hopes of one day carrying on the vision, which entails diversifying the landscape of our media to include people of color while reflecting the world we live in. As a queer man of color, the conference challenged me to think about how I could bring my difference into the workplace, access it throughout my career, and help facilitate representation of the diverse nation we live in.
We listened to speakers such as Howard Horowitz, President of Horowitz Research, and Andrea Hoffman, founder of Culture Shift Labs, about the value of engaging with Multicultural America as consumers. Amy Lazarus from Inclusion Ventures also discussed how to bring your authentic self to the spaces we decide to station ourselves.
All of these sessions resonated with me both on a personal and professional level for what I desired for the landscape of American media. Stacie deArmas, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Consumer Engagement for Nielsen encourages fellows to thing about the demographic aspect of consumerism in relation to markets of color and millennials. I used these listening sessions as resources when collaborating with my team of scholars for the Case Study: Hackathon.
Each table of fellows made up a team working to propose a plan for a television network to capture a new market of customers without completely alienating the current viewers. Scholars worked tirelessly through lunch and we all received a measurable amount of feedback from case judges, many of whom were executives.
The Summer Conference experience did not end at the end of the business day. In fact, we were invited to a variety of receptions. I attended the Discovery Reception, themed after their annual “Shark Week.” During this time, I had the opportunity to converse with other fellows a bit more and one of the Discovery staff who worked in Development, repackaging shows produced by other companies to pitch to the network.
Of course, I visited Times Square, witnessing the “daylight effect” of the area oversaturated with advertising at night twice during the conference. One of the better attractions I would have to say would be The High Line, a popular park 30 feet above street level on an old rail line, with river and city views. In the end, the Foundation managed to add one more wonderful event to blow all fellows away, a cruise aboard Motor Yacht WY Princess consisting of a dinner and dance under the Brooklyn Bridge.
Returning to Madison, WI, I understand I have the privilege of being afforded the opportunity to learn. During the last summers I have at Wisconsin Public Radio, I have the dream of immersing myself fully into the work culture, experimenting, and maximizing my internship. In remaining weeks of this summer I look forward to meeting with Erika Janik, producer of “Wisconsin Life” and attempting new projects with the Web Content team.
As explained by Dr. Rahsaan Harris, President and CEO of the foundation, I have a golden opportunity to learn from my sponsoring corporation and make a difference in the spaces I will one day live or work in. I have an obligation to serve my community with the level of quality and media that shares a holistic picture of our society.