If you've heard anything about the Siena community, you know we have a reputation of being closeknit. What does that mean for you as a prospective student? It means that when it's time to choose your path, thousands of Siena alumni will be the ones holding doors open for you. Tom Mazzarelli ’93 is no exception. Find out how his broadcasting career began with a little help from a fellow Saint.
For Tom Mazzarelli '93, it all started with Siena alumna and CNN producer, Susan Bennett ’82. Today, Tom works with Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker as the co-executive producer of NBC’s “TODAY,” and is a three-time Emmy Award winner. Recently, he returned to our campus to open a door for current students, just as Susan Bennett once did for him.
You graduated from Siena with a degree in history. How did you enter the world of broadcasting?
The things that I liked about history were research, writing and the sense of current events and the world around us. I knew those were the boxes I wanted to check off in terms of a career. As an intern at a local television station in Schenectady, I got a sense of what actual television production was like. That, along with my liberal arts background and history degree, blended together to form the perfect fit. I got a sense that all the boxes I was looking for were checked off.
But, I bounced around a bit like most college students do. I thought I wanted to teach, I thought I wanted to be a writer and I thought about law school. I’m a big believer in that you learn what you don’t like before you learn what you do like. As I realized the things I didn’t want to do, it became clear what I did want to do.
You’ve covered many breaking news events that are now landmarks of American history. How important was having a background in history for your career?
The vast majority of people I work with studied broadcast or communications. They learned the micro-skills; videotaping, cameras and editing. I had to learn all of those things on the fly, but I felt like my history degree helped me in other ways.
If you know that you can’t possibly have a sense of what’s happening today without knowing what happened yesterday, that helps you cover, write and tell the stories. It’s really hard to do that if you don’t have that bit of history.
Do you have any advice for prospective students interested in broadcasting?
If you want to be on-air, my advice is to get on air somewhere. If that happens to be Topeka, Kansas, go to Kansas. That’s how you get better. No one ever started at NBC News—it doesn’t happen that way.
As for off-air, that’s a little bit of a trickier question because you have to really figure out what you want to do. Do you want to be a director? Do you want to be a producer? Figure out what it is you like about television and follow that direction.
What's the first word that comes to mind when you think of Siena?
Friends. I work with a lot of people that have gone to major universities around the country and I feel that I’m closer to my friends from Siena than a lot of them are with their friends from college. I think that is a testament to Siena. A big group of us have stayed in touch and I can’t say that for most universities.
Does what you learned at Siena—values, skills, etc.—still impact you today?
There is something about this place that lends itself to you being part of a larger community. You feel like you’re not by yourself, that you’re part of a team. At least in my industry, we work as a team. We’re not sitting in front of a computer with a headset on, typing away all day long. Every bit of television that is produced is touched by many hands. You have to be someone that everybody wants to work with. I think that at Siena you learn to be one of those people.
To find out which doors a Siena education can open for you, begin your application. The deadline for regular admissions is February 15!