As I prepare for graduation in a few weeks from Vanderbilt University, I find more and more underclassmen and mentees of mine asking about opportunities for minorities to succeed in the entertainment industry and the business of marketing and publicity. While I've lent advice to a few people in person, I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to share with any readers who may be interested in diversity programs as well.
T. Howard Foundation
The T. Howard Foundation is an organization that focuses on pairing students with mentors working as executives in entertainment, matching those students with host companies for paid semester-long or summer internships, and engaging them with a network of other "fellows" who have been hired that same year. It requires an application, resume, essay questions, interview and official hire to be included in that year's "class" as a T. Howard fellow.
I was accepted into the T. Howard Foundation's Final Talent Pool in the summer of 2012, but was not accepted as a fellow until the summer of 2013 when I was hired by Viacom's Nickelodeon as an intern in Advertising Sales. Let me just say, this was a GREAT experience. The best I've ever had. Orientation with the rest of the class of 2013 was in Washington, D.C., all expenses paid, and included workshops on personal and professional advancement as millennial generation minorities. Then I flew off to New York City and spent the summer learning the ropes of research, planning and negotiation for ad campaigns.
It's a good system to experience trial and error as well. Though one may be accepted into the FTP, there are a series of interviews with different companies through the matching process that may not lead to a hire. I interviewed with CBS's Smithsonian Channel in 2012 but was informed that I wasn't chosen. I also interviewed with Viacom's Paramount Pictures in 2013, but was called back for a second interview weeks after being hired by Nickelodeon. Whatever happens is for the best.
There is also an "alumni" Talent Development Program, in which students graduating from college but not matriculating immediately to graduate school are represented in the hunt for entry-level jobs. In addition to this, graduate school students are welcome to apply, especially if pursuing a law school degree or MBA.
Emma L. Bowen Foundation
The Emma L. Bowen Foundation was also founded to promote minority students' career advancement in media. The application process is much simpler than the aforementioned programs, only requiring the submission of a resume and an interview with the program staff before matching with host companies. Like T. Howard, the internships are paid and there are additional programs such as Orientation and the Annual Dinner to bring the hired students together in learning and fellowship.
I applied to this program during the summer of 2012 and was called for an interview, but had already been hired for a year-long internship with Levenson & Hill, an advertising company under Paramount Pictures, so I had to decline. The organization is about five years older than T. Howard, and boasts similar success stories to date.
INROADS is a diversity program that matches minority students with internships in a wide variety of fields in the corporate world. Internships encompass many aspects under the business umbrella, including marketing, finance, consulting, etc. Companies are extremely diverse, ranging from retail corporations such as Target and Johnson and Johnson, to health and insurance such as MetLife and Allstate, to technology companies like Google. Compensation varies from company to company.
I went to the orientation for the INROADS program as a sophomore after I was informed about it through Vanderbilt's collegiate chapter of National Black MBA Association (back when I was pursuing business). The program didn't work out for me, but there are a lot of amazing success stories.
The Emmys Foundation Summer Internship Program is actually not solely for minority students pursuing entertainment, but it is one that I actively pursued throughout my college career. Aiming to get the best and the brightest to the heart of Los Angeles, CA, the Emmys Foundation matches applicants to companies on the West Coast and provides a $4,000 stipend to those hired. The process requires an application, essay, resume, two recommendation letters, and an interview before even being matched. The catch is, you are only allowed to select one field to work in.
I selected publicity in the summer of 2012 and was rejected, but selected marketing for the summer of 2013 and was selected as a finalist. However, by the time they called I could no longer interview because I had been hired. However, I suggest that if anyone does receive the call to continue, to definitely accept the offer.
Another great thing about this program is that seniors are still able to apply, though only in select categories. Graduate school students are offered the same opportunity.
All of these programs offer great opportunities for diverse college students to succeed in media, and have fostered meaningful learning experiences for young professionals for years now. I encourage all students interested in working in entertainment to apply, and if not, to tell a friend, because it takes the combined support of all of us in order to make a powerful difference in the industries we love.