November 6, 2009

An Event Planner for Television

Kara Boodakian ’07 works to improve shows at CNBC

By Jess Wason ’11

As an intern at CNBC, Kara Boodakian ’07 never expected to be running through Times Square in a dress and heels with a football in her arms.

“We were working on a show called Fast Money that had guest stars appear to do some sort of trade,” explains Kara, now a CNBC productions manager. “We filmed the show in the NASDAQ building, which is all glass, in the heart of Times Square so people could see us filming from the street. The first week I was there, the guest for the show was a pro football player. Right before we aired, my executive producer turned to me and asked if we had a football prop for him. Of course we didn’t. My boss handed me her credit card and I went sprinting out of the building into a Toys R Us, which in the middle of Times Square is extremely stressful. Of course when I finally arrived at the football section, there were two footballs, a Jets football and a Giants football. I had completely forgotten which team he played for. I took my chances, grabbed the football, and sprinted like a wide receiver back to where they were filming.

“As I get in the building I’m unwrapping the football and I hear them yell ‘We’re on in 10!’ so I pass the football to my boss, who throws it to the football player just in time for the shoot. Afterwards she asked if I ever thought about playing in the NFL — that was the greatest pass she had seen.”

Before joining CNBC, Kara was a page at NBC Studios. Laughing, she says, “We call it the glorified intern,” where Kara would get coffee, give tours of the studio at Rockefeller Center, and then apply for 12-week specific assignments. One was with CNBNC. After 12 weeks of interning there, she went back to the page program, and two weeks later she received a call asking if she would like to be a productions manager at CNBC.

“Essentially I am an event planner for television,” she explains. “I specifically work within the primetime development department for CNBC. Every show has its own team, and most people at CNBC work for a specific show. I work for a development team with five other people that oversee a bunch of shows. We work on three shows and try to make them better. For example, if they are going on the road I put on something special, from travel catering, finding a venue, gifts, auditioning for talent, making sure guests are comfortable on set, renting chairs, etc.”

Kara learned about career possibilities in New York City and made several key connections there through Lafayette’s annual Arts, Entertainment, and Media Networking Night, a New York event featuring interaction with 30 alumni in those fields. She has returned the favor as an alumna at the event and hosted student interns, involving them in her duties as event production coordinator for CNBC’s Executive Leadership Awards (ELAs) program. She also has volunteered to host student externs at her workplace and as an alumni admissions representative.

At Lafayette, the minute Kara stepped into her First-Year Seminar, she knew she had found the beat. Her instructor, Skip Wilkins, associate professor of  music, was one of the main reasons Kara became a music minor. “He took us to concerts in the city, he was my music theory professor, and he was a jazz nerd just like me,” she explains.

Kara credits his teaching as the reason she joined the Quintessence student a cappella group . “He helped me learn so much, I even joined the jazz band!” she adds.

Although her passion was music, Kara was very interested in teaching at Lafayette. An anthropology and sociology major, she took advantage of opportunities inside and outside the classroom. “I took education classes with John Squarcia ['69], who taught me so much and helped me lead my own teaching program,” she says. She and AJ Ernst ’09 taught music classes together at an alternative school in Easton called Shawnee Success Academy. In one classroom they taught sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.

“The kids were smart, but had behavior problems,” she recalls. “They had the basic classes but they didn’t have any art. We went in two days a week to teach the kids. It was one of the greatest experiences.”

Kara believes her Qualitative Methods of Research class, which was required for her major, has helped her succeed at her job today. “It was challenging because we had to choose a group, survey them, and present [a video documentary] to the class,” she says. “There were a lot of components to the project and it was hard learning how to interview people who are not at Lafayette, not part of the student body, not professors, so that they were not confused at what we were asking. Interviews were terrible in the beginning, but our finished project was really good. It was also a major experience learning how to interview on camera and then edit. I actually do a lot of what I did for that project in my job today.”

Outside the classroom at Lafayette, Kara was a swimmer, a First-Year Orientation leader, a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and Student Government, and performed in Cadence and the Jazz Ensemble.

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