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Olympics offer golden opportunities for USC Annenberg interns

Top row, from left, James Santelli, Joy Samuels and Akura Anderson; second row from left: Sarah Politis, Emily Heckelman and Paige Graham; third row: Carly Santiago and Krista Jackson; bottom left: Jessica Benson (Photo/Jackson DeMos)

Twenty-one students at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism will work as NBC Sports interns in London and New York during the Summer Olympics.

USC Annenberg is one of five schools across the country that the network targeted for its Summer Olympics Internship Program. In 2008, NBC hired 10 USC Annenberg students as interns for the Olympics in Beijing.

“Just thinking about the fact that I will be interning at the Olympics this summer seems surreal,” Emilie Mateu said. “I feel so lucky to have been given such an incredible opportunity that so few people will ever get!”

Suzanne Alcantara, associate director of USC Annenberg’s Office of Career Development and International Programs, said the partnership between NBC Sports and USC Annenberg started because of David Neal ’78, former executive vice president of NBC Olympics, who suggested that NBC look to USC Annenberg for outstanding students.

“This summer internship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our students,” Alcantara said. “It will give them a chance to experience journalism firsthand, covering sporting events that are watched at a global level by millions of people.”

Sixteen of the 22 USC students — one, Gideon Welles, is not at USC Annenberg — will intern in London. The other six will be stationed at NBC’s 30 Rock headquarters in New York City.

Carly Santiago said there are many things that excite her about the opportunity.

“I will be in London, a city I have never experienced before with people from all over the world,” Santiago said. “I will be watching an event live that, in some respect, holds the eyes of the entire world. And I will be in the presence of the greatest athletes in the world — people who are the epitome of dedication in both mental and physical strength and people who may go down in history. I will also be working for a successful network I love while learning extremely valuable skills for my future career.”

Layne Kaplan said the internship will be a great foundation for her career goals.

“I want to be in the sports journalism industry, so going to London with such an incredible news corporation will be a great start,” Kaplan said. “It is crazy to think that I am going to be part of a team that will help the country watch the most coveted sporting competition in the world.”

Alcantara said the students will have the opportunity to work with well-respected journalists and learn invaluable skills that will help them as they progess in their careers.

Professional broadcast journalists at the Olympics will include USC Annenberg alumni such as four-time gold-medal-winning basketball player Lisa Leslie ’97, Ari Wolfe MA ’98 and Andres Cantor ’85, who is credited with coining the “Gooooooaaaaalllll” call in soccer.

Undergraduate student Sarah Politis, whose dream is to host her own talk show featuring people who have had a positive impact on the world, will be working among accomplished broadcasters in London.

“I’m absolutely thrilled, stoked, excited!” Politis said. “None of these words seem to do the experience justice. I’m incredibly honored and humbled to be a part of such an important and prestigious event. I’m excited to explore everything — the games, the people, the culture. I’m also excited to represent NBC at a worldwide event.”

Cassondra Bussing, who has a minor in news media and society at USC Annenberg, hopes to one day create television documentaries that highlight the positive aspects of international culture.

“Interning at the Olympic Games provides the perfect opportunity to prepare for my future career, as it will provide me with excellent exposure to international media outlets, techniques in promoting international understanding through television broadcast, as well as general television production experience,” Bussing said.

Paige Graham, who hopes to go into sports broadcasting, also said that th internship ties in perfectly with her future plans.

“I’m so unbelievably excited to be involved in the Olympics,” Graham said. “I feel honored to be a part of it. I’ve always enjoyed the Olympics and felt such patriotism watching the games at home. Now I have an opportunity to actually attend and become involved with this incredible event, and I am beyond thrilled.”

The students, however, said they realize the internship will also be hard work.

“The other interns and I, in whatever job we have, are directly influencing what millions of American viewers are watching on television,” Kristina Stavros said. “It will be a high-intensity and high-stress environment, with long, full weeks. I know that the experiences that await me in this internship will provide me with experiences for any job interviews or challenges I may face in future endeavors.”

Tim Burgess, former director of USC Annenberg’s Office of Career Development and International Programs, said the large number of USC Annenberg students serving as interns is further proof of their impressive skills.

“They’re talented, hard working and have great attitudes — they really do make us proud,” Burgess said.

Most students said they found out about the internship opportunity from the “Jobs and Internships of the Day” email sent out by USC Annenberg’s Office of Career Development.

“The one thing this opportunity has made me realize is what kind of amazing opportunities present themselves at USC,” Mateu said. “I am so excited to represent the Trojan Family abroad and wouldn’t have been able to get there without the help and resources offered to me as a USC Annenberg student. This will definitely be one of the highlights of my college years and something I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Seth Rubinroit, who is minoring in sports media studies, talked about the significance of hearing journalism professor Alan Abrahamson interview athlete Oscar Pistorius at the Global Sports Forum while Rubinroit studied in Barcelona last semester.

“Pistorius overcame a double amputation of his legs to dominate the competition in the Paralympic Games, and he will compete in the Olympic Games as well,” Rubinroit said. “I look forward to being part of the NBC team as we tell the incredible and inspirational stories of Olympic athletes such as Pistorius.”

Abrahamson, who made the Sports Illustrated list of 50 Twitter feeds to follow during the Olympics, is certain to cover some of the USC Annenberg student-athletes competing in London. Among the 39 Trojans attending the event are alumni Tumua Anae ’10, Tina Kefalas ’00, Sofia Konoukh ’04, Rebecca Soni ’09 and Donald Suxho ’00. USC Annenberg student Haley Anderson will also compete.

“I simply cannot wait to see USC athletes take home another gold medal,” Bussing said. USC athletes have won at least one gold medal in every Summer Olympics since 1912, and Trojans have won 262 overall medals (123 gold).

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