A group of Georgetown students pose in a TV studio with hosts
News Story

GEMA Externship Provides Valuable Networking Opportunity

March 27, 2019 — While some students went home, others went to find warm weather and still others took advantage of the CSJ Alternative Breaks Program, four seniors in Georgetown College took spring break as an opportunity to network with alumni in Los Angeles and New York through the Georgetown Entertainment and Media Alliance (GEMA) Externship Program.

GEMA, run through Georgetown’s Cawley Career Education Center, was founded in 2002 by alumnus Rich Battista (B’86). Its annual Externship program offers six undergraduates and six graduate students a valuable learning opportunity.

“Each year, GEMA offers Georgetown undergraduate seniors, MBA and graduate students an opportunity to travel to New York City and Los Angeles to meet with experienced professionals in entertainment and media,” said Jacki Banks, the coordinator of the program. During the externship, students attend a number of individual or group meetings with industry professionals and get a firsthand look at day-to-day operations.”

Julia Heckelman (C’19) heard about the program from a friend who had participated the previous year, and this spring break, she went to New York City. She is currently double majoring in American Studies and Performing Arts in the College.

Heckelman had been looking for opportunities to meet with people in the creative industry. The program came through: Heckleman met with employees of Spotify, Pandora and Sirius XM.

“I didn’t know what to expect, other than that I would be meeting a lot of cool alumni in the entertainment industry. It ended up being better than I could have ever imagined,” said Heckelman. “I had five days that were jam packed with interviews, basically from seven o’clock in the morning to seven o’clock at night. I got to hear about what it’s like to work there and different ways of breaking into the entertainment industry.”

Heckelman valued the opportunity to bond with alumni over similar experiences, finding that many were interested in how arts had changed on campus.

“[Georgetown] gave us a lot of common ground and a lot of them were really interested in what GEMA was,” said Heckelman. “Some of the alumni went to school here 15 or 20 years ago, so they had a lot of questions about how the creative space has changed on campus.”

Julia Usiak (C’19), who is majoring in Government and English, had a similar experience in Los Angeles. She visited Shondaland — the production company of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal  creator Shonda Rhimes — and met an alum who had learned from the same script-writing professor.

The Los Angeles wing of the Externship Program focuses specifically on movies and television, while New York offers more opportunities in acting and journalism. Usiak met with employees of Disney and the United Talent Agency, one of the biggest talent companies in the world. The programs were uniquely designed for each student, so Usiak — a comedy enthusiast — also visited Garry Sanchez Production, Will Ferrell’s production company.

In these conversations, most people shared advice with the students about the job hunt process.

“They said to enjoy these last three months at Georgetown,” said Usiak. “For a lot of jobs, it’s a little bit hard to apply for things in March, because nobody hires that far in advance for September. So don’t worry too much in advance — everything will be fine.”

While the Cawley Career Center does not pay for transportation or housing during the process, Usiak says that the school was able to provide her with a scholarship that covered almost all costs.

Most of the undergraduates who participated in in the program came from Georgetown College. Heckleman believes it is because the school gives students unique skills that allow them to succeed in these creative fields.

“I think being in the College gives us the opportunity to take a really wide array of classes and get exposure to a lot of different electives,” Heckelman said. “The music industry seminar and a lot of classes for my performing arts minor that have exposed me to different areas of the industry that I may not have known as much about.”

The Externship Program ends after spring break, but it leaves students with a wider network of contacts they can reach out to in the future.

“Whether it was someone I had a meeting with or just somebody who has involved in facilitating the program, everyone has said that they want to be a resource going forward,” said Heckelman. “The Externship really sets you up well with connections that are not necessarily going to lead to a job, but provide tools to move forward in your job search process.”

— Darcy Palder