Students explore media industry through weeklong Winternship Program

The weeklong media industry boot camp offers opportunities to gain hands-on experience in a variety of media-related industries. Screenshot via FMS Internship Digest 10/3/19

Many Jumbos have found the Tufts Film and Media Studies (FMS) Winternship Program to be a productive way to spend their winter break. Open to all majors from first-years to seniors, students applying to the program can spend a week in January interning at companies such as The Boston Globe, United Talent Agency, BBK Worldwide and many more. The weeklong media industry boot camp offers opportunities to gain hands-on experience in a variety of fields including journalism, film production, advertising and talent management. 

The program was created in the late 1990s when the FMS major was still called Communication and Media Studies (CMS). Julie Dobrow, director of CMS at the time, said she started the program with former Associate Director Susan Eisanhauer to expand students’ internship opportunities through Tufts’ alumni network.

Leslie Goldberg, the director of the Winternship Program, said it is an excellent way for students who are interested in the industry to see if it is the right fit for them. 

“It’s a great opportunity for students who aren’t sure [about their interests] to get a taste, or maybe [for] a student who’s never done a media internship and [thinks] that this might be something they want to do,” Goldberg said.

Emily Lazorchak, a junior majoring in Biology, did exactly that by working at W2O, a healthcare-focused marketing communications firm, over her winter break. 

“I had not considered a career in media before doing the winternship, but I realized that I do have a creative side and I really enjoy the analytic and more hard science side of things. Looking into W2O made me realize that it does combine both of those things,” Lazorchak said.

Goldberg said that one potential advantage of the winternship is its immersive nature.

“During the school year, you go to [your] internship and you go to class, and the next day you’re in class, and the next day you go to your internship. You’ve got a lot of things pulling at you,” she said.

The short length of the program is also advantageous to those who aren’t sure about their career goals or can only commit a limited amount of time.

“What I always say to the students is that you can do anything for a week; if you decide you don’t like it, so what?” Goldberg said.

Lazorchak said that she saw one week as just the right amount of time.

“Having just one week to do that let me go into the week with open eyes and an open mind, knowing that no matter what happened it was going to be a really valuable experience,” she said.

Students do not need to major in FMS to gain the necessary skills for the internship, Goldberg said.

“One of the cool things about media, just in general, is that it pulls from so many of the different skills that you learn at a liberal arts school like Tufts; … it’s a very flexible industry,” she said. 

Reflecting on her experience, Lazorchak said she applied classroom skills in her work.

“In my molecular biology class, we had just learned about a new scientific technique called CRISPR, and I was working on a project that was referencing that technique, so having that background was really key,” she said.

Similarly, Nicole Cohen (LA’19), a Tufts alumna and current executive assistant to the CEO at SpectreVision, said that her experiences in English and film classes helped her write script coverage during her winternship at Bona Fide Productions. In fact, script coverage comprises almost half of her job now.

On top of that, she said that a connection she made at her winternship helped her get her current job in Los Angeles.

“It’s actually crazy to think that I was there for one week, and it’s what has really given me the safety net I needed to come out here [and get] a solid job at a good company,” she said.

Cohen encouraged any student who’s interested in companies based in Los Angeles to reach out to her. She said that living in LA and getting inside knowledge about the film production industry was one of the most valuable experiences from her winternship.

“It was really valuable, just to see the city, get a little bit of an insider’s perspective. I was only there for a week, and it was amazing what I was able to glean,” she said.

The companies affiliated with the program strive to personalize the student’s activities and give them real work experience, according to Lazorchak.

“Before I even came to the office, I was welcomed by a team of people that [was] put together to work with me throughout the week,” Lazorchak said, “W2O did a fantastic job of giving me responsibility. I got to work on client-facing projects; they let me take initiative as much as I wanted to, and they were really dedicated to helping me make the most out of my week.”

Cohen said it felt as though the staff were excited to work around her for a week.

“They fit the week long program for me, it wasn’t … the other way around. It wasn’t like I was trying to work around them,” Cohen said.

The Winternship Program does not provide housing or transportation, but students have been creative in the past to pay the bills. Financial aid is available to cover some living expenses. 

“Basically [the students] provide us with a budget; then we try to meet some of that expense,” Goldberg said. 

While the program is competitive — typically between 60 to 100 applicants apply and 25 to 30 are selected — it is still a good way for students to strengthen their resumes and apply to more competitive internships in the real world. 

Cohen relayed the encouragement she got from her professors in regard to applying for internships.

“Listen, you don’t know, just put your name in the hat. It’s not about knowing that you want to go to LA; maybe they’re going to pick you because you don’t know, and you want to try it out, and you just need that opportunity.”