Did Madonna help Nick Barbati win a Telly Award? Well, not exactly, but the Material Girl did inspire a brainstorm that ultimately earned Barbati, Rider’s coordinator of campus activities, the gleaming hardware this spring.
Barbati, in addition to his full-time duties in the Office of Campus Life, is the host of Rider Reel Time with Nick Barbati on the Rider University Network (R.U.N.). Now in its second year, the program is a weekly talk and variety show that features interviews with Rider administrators and students, a recap of campus events, as well as musical guests and other features. Weekly episodes open with a monologue from the host.
“It’s really just a fun way for me to do my job and promote a lot of our events and programs,” Barbati said. “It started off as an ‘a.m.’ talk show, kind of like The Wendy Williams Show on Fox, but we focus on Rider.”
The fun, light-hearted Rider Reel Time often pokes fun at itself for being a low-budget, seat-of-its-pants production, but this self-deprecating front did not allow the show to escape the notice of the New York-based Telly Awards organization, which honors the very best local, regional and cable television commercials and programs, as well as the finest video and film productions and work created for the Web. Barbati and Rider Reel Time were fêted at the 31st Annual Telly Awards with a Silver Telly Award in March. The Silver Telly is the Telly’s highest honor, and the show was recognized for its excellence in the category of student/college-style shows, in its particular budget range.
“So our small budget paid off for us after all,” Barbati said of the award, for which the show was chosen from among 13,000 applications. “Seriously, it’s such an honor, and I could hardly believe it when I received the letter from them.”
Barbati, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Rider in 2007, said the idea for the show was born during his senior year when a fellow student who was working as a production assistant for ABC’s Live! With Regis and Kelly, offered him a pass to the show.
“Madonna was going to appear on the show, which was really the reason I wanted to go,” he explained. “I had never been to anything like that, and I thought it was great. I said that it would be really fun to have a show like this on R.U.N., and I just held on to the idea.”
After graduating, Barbati accepted a temporary post at Rider, and afterward, was offered a full-time position by Campus Life, the one he still maintains. “I had never done much event programming; my jobs had always been more of governance,” said Barbati, who was a student government official as a student at Steinert High School in Hamilton, N.J., and as undergraduate at Rider, serving as vice president in his junior year. “But right away, I fell into a comfort zone with these activities and enjoyed it.”
Planning such high-profile annual events as Cranberry Fest, Family Weekend, University Day and the University Ball, Barbati draws energy from the unique school spirit generated by each program.
“All of these events create such spirit and enthusiasm that you can’t help but get caught up in it,” he said. “I think the public, beyond the immediate Rider community, sees our school spirit though things like basketball, but we have no lack of student pride, and that’s clear at any of these events. Our students are proud of their education – the smaller classes, our sense of community – in ways that include, but go way beyond, sports.”
Barbati’s own infectious enthusiasm for promoting campus events makes his decision to host Rider Reel Time a natural fit. The Telly Award, he says, only makes it easier. “It’s funny, I had such a hard time getting people to appear on the show before this all happened,” he explained. Now, everyone is asking to be on.”
The element of Rider Reel Time that Barbati perhaps enjoys most is spotlighting particular students who he feels have distinguished themselves on campus or even quietly blossomed since entering as freshmen. “I think the most fun was a feature we did on John Strauss, the Student Entertainment Council president, who was so quiet when he got here as freshman,” he explained. “He’s seen so much success and developed so much, and I think there are a lot of stories like his at Rider.”
To Barbati, this student development is something near to his heart. When he first enrolled as an undergraduate, Barbati didn’t figure to remain in Lawrenceville for four years. “I really had my heart set on another school, but the application was lost by someone, so I enrolled at Rider,” he recalled. “I liked it here, but wasn’t sure of my future.”
Urged by his brother, Donald, a former Rider student, Barbati began to involve himself in more and more campus activities before running for the Student Government Association. By the time he graduated, he felt as if he had been transformed, and says that the Rider community had everything to do with it.
“I never realized my confidence could be as high as it became,” he revealed. “And I think it was the care and encouragement of our administrators who brought it out in me.”