When Bradley University launched its sports communication program three years ago, an immediate goal was to make international connections for students to gain work experience.
That global stage doesn't get any bigger than the Summer Olympics. Through the efforts of several university officials, primarily communications chair Paul Gullifor, 10 Bradley students have landed internships with NBC.
They will do behind-the-scenes work during the scheduled 5,535 hours of televised coverage from the London Games.
Seven of the students are working at the network's New York City headquarters, while three have been dispatched to London.
"Working at the Olympics is the experience of a lifetime," said Normal native Justine Harris, who graduated from BU in public relations last year and will work as a jack-of-all-trades "runner" in London. "It's very exciting I get to do this so early in my career."
Mathew DeFreitas, a senior from Metamora, will serve as a logger in New York, a video-marking role he performed as an intern at WMBD-TV.
"This is such an exciting thing to put on my r̩sum̩," said DeFreitas, who wants to go into sports broadcasting. "It's quite an honor to be selected."
Some 73 Bradley students applied for the positions and 43 were interviewed by NBC vice presidents.
Just to reach that point was a major accomplishment and wouldn't have happened without Gullifor's persistence.
The network already had established internship relationships with four schools " Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Ithaca College and Syracuse " and was at first resistant to Gullifor's overtures to include Bradley.
"I just kept bugging them," Gullifor said. "But the real breakthrough came in November 2010, when President (Joanne) Glasser and I met with two NBC vice presidents at (30 Rockefeller Center in New York City). President Glasser pretty much took over the meeting and talked about the university and our sports com program.
"At the end, they looked at us and said, 'As you know, we have loyalty to four schools.'
"I said, 'How do we get on that list?' They both looked at me and said, 'You're on the list.' So we basically crashed the party."
That was just the start. Applications and r̩sum̩s were due soon.
"They needed to be flawless," Gullifor said.
So he enlisted the help of Bradley's Smith Career Center, which also was instrumental in preparing the students for the upcoming interviews.
The NBC executives arrived on campus the following month to conduct the 43 interviews and left impressed.
"One of them told me they'd found some real diamonds," Gullifor said.
When they called later to say they'd chosen 10 from BU, Gullifor was "thrilled beyond words."
"One of our real concerns was they wouldn't select any of them," he said. "For 10 to be selected is a really big deal, one of the more rewarding things I've ever been a part of at Bradley. It's great for the program. It's great for Bradley. I think we've contributed to President Glasser's mission of being a university of national distinction."
And it's just the beginning. NBC has already used BU students to help in its Super Bowl coverage last February in Indianapolis.
"My vision is to be a part of everything under the NBC umbrella," Gullifor said. "That includes NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Universal Studios. They do all the things we teach.
"I told our students this is great for you, but it's bigger than you. It's about the students that come behind you and the partnership with Bradley. There's a lot riding on this. I think they get it."
The students also get that, while they're working the grandest show on earth, they're decidedly behind the scenes.
"My mom told me, 'I hope to see you on TV,' " Harris said. "I said, 'If I'm doing my job right, you won't.'"
Dave Reynolds can be reachedat 686-3210 or email@example.com.Follow him on Twitter @davereynolds2.
Posted with permission by Peoria Journal Star