Ciara Rolle-Harris thought she had landed the gig of her dreams when she was hired as an intern at HBO. Turns out, it was only the beginning.
Since her freshman year at Montclair State University, Rolle-Harris has shown gumption in pursuing a series of prestigious placements. This year, as a junior, she has interned at MTV/VH1 and the Wellmont Theater in Montclair.
She also caught the attention of Forbes, which recognized her accomplishments with an invitation to the Forbes Under 30 Summit that connects A-list speakers with young leaders who show the entrepreneurial spirit of its 30 Under 30 list. “I’m 20, so in 10 years, I think I can do it,” she says, only half-joking.
On May 6, she was one of 14 students receiving the New York Women in Communications scholarship as part of the industry’s Matrix Awards. “A lot of things that I’ve done in the past year have felt surreal,” Rolle-Harris says.
Each year, Montclair State students participate in a wide variety of hands-on learning experiences that jumpstart careers, including co-ops, internships, fieldwork, practicums, externships, student teaching and faulty-led research. Rolle-Harris has taken part in mock interviews and credits the advice she has received in helping her stand out among other applicants.
Career counseling, resume advice, workshops and employer networking are all part of the mix, says Victoria Nauta, director of Career Services for the College of the Arts. “Hire a Red Hawk,” the University’s career services platform, helps students manage and track their professional development, and connects students with employers looking to fill their full-time, part-time and internship positions.
“I’m just so grateful,” Rolle-Harris says, “that I’m able to work as a student but then follow people and shadow people who I one day want to be.”
With a major in public relations and a minor in entrepreneurship, Rolle-Harris started applying for internships as a freshman, starting with small PR agencies. Hard work, consistency and preparation helped her find success and notice from the T. Howard Foundation, which has a mission to provide students of color the opportunity to succeed in the entertainment and media industry. At the Forbes Under 30 Summit, she spent three days in Boston immersed in learning more about the entertainment field and hearing from top professionals.
This year, Rolle-Harris interned in the MTV communications department and most recently at the Wellmont Theater in downtown Montclair promoting live music and learning the administrative side of the entertainment business.
At HBO, she worked in media relations, building media lists, pitching to outlets, capturing tweets from prominent celebrities and coordinating premiere events. “I found out that they only choose the top 1% for internships. I was shocked I ranked that high because I remember being in high school and stressing about what college I wanted to go to,” she says.
“I’ve finally realized, if you apply yourself, everything else will work out.”