A spring break trip sets the stage for semester-long immersive experiences to come

Faculty from Rider University’s Department of Communication and Journalism led a group of 28 students on a trip to Los Angeles during spring break. The trip was part of a course designed to expose students to the realities of living and working in the most important media production town in the world.

Dr. Barry Janes, a professor of communication, organized the trip as a prelude to a semester-long program in L.A. the department is launching in the spring of 2018 for its majors.

The spring break trip was developed primarily for communication and journalism majors who have an interest in pursuing careers in L.A. It focused on exposing them to the industry they want to work in and making connections with Rider alumni who have already established careers in related fields.

"The alumni who are out there now went out sort of cold, not knowing what their opportunities were, and we thought we could make it a lot easier for current students by going out and introducing them to a variety of Rider alumni who live and work in L.A.,” Janes says.

Alumni of the filmmaking, television and radio major at Rider work in various roles in L.A. for network programming at Fox Sports and shows like Botched, The Profit and Man With a Plan. Other alumni work for large advertising firms and the entertainment news empire TMZ.

A valuable part of the week-long trip were two alumni “meet and greet” events that allowed students to make connections with successful alumni and ask them questions. Meghan Korb, a senior public relations major with a minor in digital media, found the alumni “meet and greets” to be one of the most beneficial parts of the trip.

It was so useful,” Korb says. “The alumni offered great advice, not only career-wise but in regards to taking a leap of faith and moving from the East Coast to the West Coast. Because of that event, I now have contacts in L.A.”

Rider’s location gives students the option to access job opportunities in New York City and Philadelphia, but students on the L.A. trip learned of the many opportunities available to them in the City of Angels.

Isabella Azar, a filmmaking, television, and radio major, has struggled with the idea of moving California and the trip was able to provide her with some clarity.

“This trip helped me confirm that L.A. is going to be my end goal after Rider,” says Azar. “The alumni made the point that L.A. has a wider selection of job opportunities in our industry than New York City. I think in order to have a successful career I should put myself in a market that doesn’t limit my employment opportunities.”

Beyond networking with successful alumni, students toured major Hollywood studios including Sony, Universal and Warner Brothers. At Warner Brothers Studios, students were able to see a live taping of the primetime network show 2 Broke Girls.

“The live taping was my favorite part of the trip,” says Korb. “It was so cool to see how the show was taped. Also, the taping we saw was the season finale, so I know how the season ends, but I can’t tell anyone!”

Students got to experience the layout of the city, which is vastly different from New York.

Through group tours and individual site seeing I was able to see Santa Monica Pier, The Grove, Olvera Street and Union Station,” says Azar. “We also toured apartments that students will be living in next year in the semester-long program.”

Dr. Shawn Kildea, the chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism, made sure the students were able to grasp what a move to L.A. would require. “This trip wasn’t just about seeing the studios and tourist sites,” Kildea explains. “We made sure students understood the practical realities of how they can move to L.A. and thrive professionally.”

Originally expecting 15 to 20 students, the trip's organizer experienced an overwhelming response, receiving 40 applications. The interest has spread to the idea of a full semester program in L.A.

Four students have talked to me who originally didn’t plan on spending the full semester in L.A. next year and now they are seriously considering adjusting their schedule so they can spend their final semester there,” says Kildea.

A full semester in L.A. would involve students participating in internships or co-ops, which not only offer students valuable experience in the field but also allows them to network and make connections with other professionals in the industry. In addition to this work, a Rider faculty member will be in L.A. to teach the students two courses.

As department chair, we are really excited about the full semester in L.A. program because it provides great opportunities for our students, and it directly addresses engaged learning, which our department and University take very seriously,” says Kildea. “It also shows the quality of our Department of Communications and Journalism here at Rider because no other school in New Jersey is doing this type of program right now.”