Young Alumni Share Successes at Entertainment Group Panel


Annie McDonough

The Colgate Entertainment Group (CEG) hosted a Young Alumni Weekend on Saturday, November 8, featuring a panel of three young Colgate alumni who have pursued careers in the entertainment industry after graduating.

Jessica Blank ’11, Alan He ’12 and Christina Liu ’13 spoke to a crowd of 15 students on their journeys from Colgate to their respective jobs in the entertainment industry and offered advice to students interested in similar careers.

Senior Chelsea Wei, who organized the event with CEG, said her hope in hosting the panel was to emphasize the successes of younger alumni.

“I really wanted students to get a sense of where they could start out, because these are very successful alumni who have accomplished a lot in just two or three years out of Colgate,” Wei said.

The panelists shared insights on the trajectory of their careers in entertainment and their experiences in the industry.

Blank, who currently works as a producer/editor at Fusion, an ABC-Univision network geared towards millennials, talked about her experience moving from traditional nightly broadcast news shows to a TV/internet startup. Her recent work includes interviews with actresses Lisa Kudrow and Sofia Vergara, but her first job out of Colgate was on NBC’s “Nightly News with Brian Williams.”

“The industry is changing a lot,” Blank said. “No one’s going to turn on the TV at 6:30 p.m. because everyone’s been on Twitter all day and they already know what’s going on.”

He, a Political Science major, currently works as an assistant producer at “CBS This Morning.” The day after graduating from Colgate, He was offered a job as a news associate at CBS, a position that allowed him to rotate through all the shows at the network.

“I think I just kind of fell into TV,” He said. “I thought I’d be working on Capitol Hill or would be a consultant or something.”

He said he never thought about a career in journalism when he first started at Colgate, but making connections on Colgate’s Washington D.C. Study Group led him to his internship at CBS.

The entertainment industry is widespread, however, and Liu chose a wildly different career path than Blank and He.

While at Colgate, Liu wrote, directed and produced “This Is Not Play About Sex,” to which the university bought the rights and produced again this fall. She currently holds a few jobs in New York City, one of which is performing off-Broadway in “Drunk Shakespeare,” a show that is exactly what it sounds like.

“I never thought I’d be contractually obligated to drink before performing Shakespeare,” Liu said. Liu’s career falls into the artistic side of entertainment, giving her life less certainty than Blank’s and He’s. She said she still lives paycheck to paycheck but is willing to sacrifice the stability of a salary for the freedom to work on projects she loves.

“If you know what things you love, that’s the only thing that matters,” Liu said. “Find ways to make ends meet to pursue that.”

Senior Francesca Surraco said she came to the panel interested in pursuing a career in marketing and advertising, but the panelists’ stories reaffirmed the fact that career paths often end up somewhere unexpected.

“It helps me keep an open mind about my future,” Surraco said.

Blank and He spoke on the competition between graduates with journalism degrees and those from liberal arts schools like Colgate. Both credited their liberal arts education for their current success.

“Being able to write, being able to articulate things is huge,” He said. “You can teach people how to edit, but you can’t teach people how to think.”

The three panelists also stressed the importance of networking and taking advantage of Colgate connections in the industry.

“Share your passions,” Liu said. “E-mail alums, talk about the things you love and are passionate about. They can sniff out when you’re just looking for a job.”

Senior Suzanne Brewster, one of the CEG officers, said she found value in the panel despite not seeing herself entering the entertainment industry after graduation.

“As a senior, getting as many perspectives and advice as possible from different alums is really valuable, regardless of what industries they are in,” Brewster said.

First-year Zakaria Imessaoudene said he came to the panel eager to meet former Colgate students with experience in the real world.

“You don’t get these special interactions everyday, nor do you meet individuals who are interested in you and want to help you achieve your dreams,” Imessaoudene said.