No Excuses

Photo by Duane Zehr

By Matt Hawkins
December 2, 2014

Life circumstances constantly threatened to detour communication major Stephanie Robbons ‘15 from her Hilltop dreams. However, a tenacious attitude and wisdom from television arts professor Dr. Bob Jacobs molded her into a strong leader equipped for a career in television.

Robbons, of Medinah, Illinois, almost didn’t make it to Bradley as a freshman. Despite several challenges, she excelled as a five-year veteran of the student-produced news show Midstate Magazine, gained valuable professional experience working for local TV and radio stations and volunteered more than 1,000 hours for Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.

“I’ve been told I can’t lots of times, but I’m stubborn and know ‘can’t’ isn’t a word in the dictionary,” Robbons said.

Jacobs became the “can” Robbons needed through tough times. He helped guide her through the college enrollment process. Then, Jacobs mentored her through the many duties of Midstate Magazine and helped her land vital professional experience at WEEK-WHOI TV and Cumulus Radio of Peoria.

“Dr. Jacobs has been like a father for me,” Robbons said. “He’s encouraged me and challenged me. He treats me like his daughter. He’s the reason I’m here and why I’ve kept coming back. I wouldn’t have the opportunities without him.”

Robbons and Jacobs first crossed paths at a Bradley-hosted Illinois Broadcasters Association summer camp for high school students, where she became hooked on Bradley’s television arts program. She gained recognition for technical expertise and worked with camp counselor Matt Harris ’09, who later hired her for part-time work at Cumulus.

Once on campus, Robbons embarked on a bumpy, life-changing journey. She began her TV career as the Midstate Magazine character generator and mastered all the operations to become producer as a fourth-year student.

She also worked full-time beginning her sophomore year to pay her way through school. Still up for more of a challenge, she became APO’s president as a senior.

“I came here the shy girl in the corner sitting by herself,” Robbons said. “I didn’t come here planning to be a fraternity president or producer, but I was given the right opportunities and training to have success so I was comfortable taking on roles as they came. I met people and was pushed into leadership roles, and now I’m able to give back to the studio that gave so much to me.”

Beyond education in the John C. Hench Production Arts Studio, Robbons learned grace under fire the spring and summer of 2013, when she briefly left Bradley to complete basic training. Shoulder injuries sustained in high school sports twice brought her to the brink of quitting, but she persevered and was rewarded with squad leadership duties and the Army Achievement Medal for exemplary physical fitness.

“That gave me an extra edge coming back to campus,” she said. “The military made me who I am. I’m confident, not as scared as a producer or fraternity president. If I didn’t go to the military, I wouldn’t be an effective leader today.”

That edge paid off. Robbons was awarded the Most Outstanding Student in Television Arts of 2014 after she returned. Time away from campus would delay graduation, but it afforded Robbons another year of Midstate Magazine experience. This time she served as Jacobs’ Producer Emeritus.

Jacobs also connected her with openings at local TV and radio stations, which met financial and career preparation needs. As summer turned to fall, the hard work meant she would have a full-time TV job waiting for her post-graduation and a new understanding of the radio industry.

Despite the challenges, the rewards continually reaffirmed her desire to call Peoria home for college and the beginning of her career.

“I can’t picture myself anywhere else,” she said. “I formed a life here and want to stay here. I feel at home and love being on campus where I can see everyone every day.”