Almost two dozen students have received scholarships through a partnership program between Montclair State University and NBCUniversal’s NBCU Academy.
Launched in 2021 by NBCU, the initiative provides students from colleges and universities with accredited journalism programs with scholarships, education, on-campus training and online programming. Schools are invited to participate and students are able to work and learn from NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo professionals. Montclair was invited to partner in 2022 and is seeing the benefits of that alliance.
“This partnership has been transformative to our School and our students,” says School of Communication and Media Director Keith Strudler. “It has provided incredible access to NBC, their expertise and their talent. It has also helped our students to be more on the radar of NBCU recruiters for career opportunities. And of course, it has provided scholarship opportunities for our students.”
Seniors Terry Dickerson, Lynise Olivacce, Ashleigh Corby and Charlie Falotico are among the 10 Montclair students to receive scholarships this semester. The competition for funds, which are used to help offset tuition costs, called for submissions from journalism or “journalism adjacent” majors who “have shown a commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in media,” according to Skyler Malchiodi, coordinator of Special Projects and Events for the School of Communication and Media.
“I’m really appreciative that NBC was doing this and focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion because it’s important to have those stories told,” says Olivacce, editor-in-chief of The Montclarion and a two-time scholarship winner.
Dickerson echoes those sentiments: “It helps me showcase something that I’m passionate about, giving voice to underserved communities.” Her submissions included a WMSC radio piece on Sammy Rae, a singer who identifies as queer, and a Montclarion story about a neurodivergent teen in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a production of Montclair’s Department of Theatre and Dance.
A Journalism and Digital Media major and Criminal Justice and Justice and Families double minor, Olivacce submitted a couple of Montclarion articles on the Native African Student Organization’s Sankofa celebration and the visit by Afro-Italian poet and singer Amir Issaa, for which she also took all of the photographs. Prior to being named Montclarion editor-in-chief, she served as director of photography for the student newspaper.
Corby served as a senior producer for #FOCUS, a collaboration among all campus media outlets, submitted a 30-minute news magazine show that featured stories on Rocky’s Closet and the lack of inclusion in the fashion industry. She says she’s grateful for the financial support: “Any money will help get me through the next semester, so I know my parents were also very excited and proud of me. It was great to see that all of the time that I put into it had a big pay off.”
A Film and Television major, Falotico, whose video submissions featured Ajamu Kojo’s Black Wall Street: A Case for Reparations art exhibition at University Galleries and “Montclair Students Support Ukraine,” says: “DEI is important to me as a future journalist as it allows for a more inclusive environment where more stories can be told.”
Already, he is looking ahead to doing production and post-production work after graduation. “The major benefit of winning this scholarship for me is the opportunities to further network with industry professionals,” he says.
While not formally a part of NBCU Academy, three of these four students are currently interning for NBC networks: Olivacce and Falotico both intern at NBC flagship WNBC at the iconic 30 Rock in Manhattan, while Corby serves as a talent development intern for CNBC in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Dickerson interns for the media outlet TAPinto Westfield, where she recently covered a Westfield Town Council meeting.
“Our students continue to have success in earning and thriving in internships at NBC across a broad range of our majors, including, of course, journalism and digital media,” says Strudler. “I believe NBC recognizes that Montclair’s School of Communication and Media prepares students who are hardworking, talented and who come to their internships with first-rate skills and experiences. And our inclusion in the NBCU Academy has only strengthened the pipeline between Montclair and 30 Rock.”
The passion and commitment of these future journalists is evident.
“I’m a storyteller who has experience in all types of media,” Dickerson says. “I started off in print, I did radio, and now I’m in broadcasting. For me, it’s not about the platform on which I get to tell the story, it’s the fact that I get to do it, period.”
Dickerson knows firsthand the importance of DEI. “I’m a woman of color who, like many others, didn’t grow up seeing myself reflected on the screen,” she says, “My goal as a journalist is to be a part of the change and to make sure that we reflect everybody that’s a part of this country.”
Olivacce, who works 20 hours a week in addition to being a full-time student, says her work is fun and educational. “I’m able to basically experience what it’s like to be in the newsroom,” she says. “My first day, there was a special report, and I was able to see how that goes down behind the scenes and people thinking on their feet. I’m learning a lot about the industry, so it’s really helpful.”
Olivacce writes stories for the station’s website, and she hopes to have some of her photos soon featured on nbcnewyork.com.
Corby started as a summer intern at CNBC and was invited to stay on through the academic school year. She provides research to an editorial team, pulls excerpts from books for author interviews and does camera testing for potential new hires. She’ll be interning through April and is considering applying to be a page post-graduation. “It’s been a really good experience so far,” she says.
NBCU Academy is currently partnered with 45 academic universities, community colleges and institutions, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and colleges with significant Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Indigenous and tribal populations – reaching students from underrepresented backgrounds.
When announcing the partnership with Montclair, Yvette Miley, senior vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for NBCU News Group said: “The way we gather and consume news is consistently evolving. Through NBCU Academy, we’re forging a generation of diverse journalists that are ahead of the curve on media technologies and have a deep understanding of a range of industries.”
To that effort, NBCU professionals have conducted “many mock interviews with students that help them prepare for what an internship interview would look like,” says Special Projects and Events coordinator Malchiodi. “It also gives students the opportunities to network, prepare and learn about what the career force is going to be like after they leave college.”
In addition, Strudler says the partnership has been beneficial to Montclair and other students. “We were able to host part of NBCU Academy’s Next Level Summit at Montclair in 2022, giving them a firsthand perspective on news media production,” he says. “Because of our partnership, three of our students were guests of NBC Sports for the 2023 Sunday Night Football opening game at MetLife Stadium as the Giants played the Cowboys. Our students shadowed NBC talent and staff all evening and had the opportunity to share their experiences with the entire NBCU Academy.
“One of the things we’re most proud of is creating an online course in Spanish Language Journalism in partnership with NBCU Academy,” Studler says. “Our faculty and staff worked with NBC Academy leadership and NBC talent to create an online course that is available on the Academy web portal and is available for universities across the country, including all those in the Academy. This is the first course created as a partnership between NBC and a university for the Academy, and we know it benefits both our students and those across the country.”