Madeline Laskoski ’13 (Goshen, N.Y.) knows she wants to work in television. But it’s a big industry, with many distinct skill sets. Laskoski wondered, would production be a better fit for her? Or perhaps sales and marketing? Through a three-day externship in January with Chris McCumber ’89, co-president of USA Network, she got a better idea of where to focus her energy.
“Having worked in sales, marketing, television production, and digital media, I was interested to learn more about an executive career in the industry that oversees each of these sub-fields,” Laskoski, a double major in English and government & law. “My externship at USA helped me see the bigger picture of how a television network functions. I now have a better understanding of the relationship between each sub-field. It is clear that successful production is largely dependent upon strategic marketing. Through this externship, I realized that the business-oriented creativity that is rooted in sales/marketing is the skill that I need to develop.”
Also participating were Lara Maggin ’13 (Greenwich, Conn.), an English and art double major; Melanie Ruderman ’14 (Valley Stream, N.Y.), who has a self-designed major in media and business communication; and Lindsey Dier ’14 (New York, N.Y.), an English and film & media studies double major.
For McCumber, offering externships to Lafayette students is a way to give back to his alma mater.
“I am very grateful for the education and experience that Lafayette gave me,” he says. “I also know how tough it is to get into the media industry, so it’s important that Lafayette students who are interested in this field get as much knowledge as possible.”
“So many students have a desire to work in the media, but they don’t have enough exposure to how a media business actually operates,” he adds. “I hope that the students were able to see what a broad and dynamic operation we have here at USA and get a sense what the different teams do. Hopefully this will help focus their career search and give them a leg up on landing their first job in the entertainment industry.”
In the short time they were at USA, the students made many valuable contacts, meeting executives in sales, marketing, digital, public relations, and human resources.
“The opportunity was invaluable—meeting executives at one of the top-rated cable networks. They answered our questions and gave us advice. This is something you can’t find in a classroom,” Laskoski says. “Externships, such as the one at USA, make Lafayette students more competitive when they enter the work force.”
For Dier, the externship was a great opportunity to see the inner workings of an industry and company she greatly admires.
“I am passionately curious about television and the television industry,” she says. “I am a television dork—I watch it all, read reviews, follow Nielsen ratings, and know statistics of writers and producers like they’re Major League Baseball players. But I was interested in this opportunity not only because I was curious about how the industry worked, but also because I am a huge fan of USA’s original programming and specifically wanted to learn about the evolutionary process of the network’s basic cable ratings dominance.”
Dier dreams of creating and producing her own narrative television series, so the externship with USA gave her an inside look at the business she wants to enter.
“Show runners work closely with the network, so it is important to have a full understanding of what makes networks tick, which is exactly what this externship helped to do,” he says.