When Nicole Jaques graduated from in 2007, she was like many incoming freshmen at Stonehill College – “completely unsure” of what she wanted to study or want in a career – until she stumbled upon a course entitled “Mediated Communications” taught by Stonehill College communication professor Angela Paradise.
“On a whim I decided to take a class [with] professor Paradise, in her first year teaching at Stonehill College,” said Jaques. “During introductions on day one, professor Paradise informed our class of her passion for children’s television, which stemmed from her experience with a program called IRTS (International Radio and Television Society), which gave her an all-expense paid summer in New York City working for Sesame Workshop. At that moment it became clear to me what I wanted to do – become a children’s television producer. Not only that, but I wanted to become an IRTS Fellow myself to spend a summer in New York City, all expenses paid, and jumpstart my career in children’s television.”
Four years after taking that entry-level communications course, Jaques is spending her summer in New York City, interning with Nickelodeon Jr. and MTV News as an IRTS Fellow, but the road to NYC was anything but easy.
Jaques, who graduated from Stonehill College in May, applied for the prestigious IRTS Summer Fellowship this past fall and was notified this spring that she was one of only 16 students out of thousands of applicants to be accepted into the program. She had accomplished a feat she set out to reach four years ago as a result of hard work and dedication, but it was her determination that stood out most in the process.
“I applied [for the fellowship] as soon as I was eligible [junior year] and didn’t even make it past the first round,” Jaques said. “I was extremely discouraged when I didn’t make the cut. I thought my application was extremely strong. I had already interned twice at WGBH in PBS children’s programming, first at Between the Lions and Arthur and the following summer with the show FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman. Despite these two great summers, the applicants for 2010 must have still been stronger.”
Discouraged but motivated, Jaques scrambled to find her third internship in three years, landing a position with Powderhouse Productions, working on a NOVA mini-series special called “Making Stuff,” which aired this past January.
“With the rejection I had to rush to find a replacement internship and luckily found one with Powderhouse Productions,” Jaques said. “I obtained this internship from a connection I made while working at WGBH in Boston the summer before for FETCH!”
Another year of experience in TV production paid off for Jaques as her application this past fall stood out from thousands of fellow students, something she made certain of entering her senior year.
“ In the fall, I made it my goal to try for IRTS again and put everything into my application,” she said. “I met with professor Paradise several times to look at the various drafts of my application and when I made the interview round, spoke with her on the phone to discuss possible interview questions and phone-interview strategies. This was a particularly nice gesture by professor Paradise because at that point she was on maternity leave and was days away from having her baby. I feel that the intense preparation I did for each stage of the application process was really what helped me obtain one of the 16 original spots.”
The application process, according to Jaques, was “very in-depth” as the first round application was roughly eight pages, asking for past experiences in the media field both in and outside of school.
“My resume was full of outside internships but unfortunately, not many in-school positions as Stonehill College, a liberal arts school, does not offer as many production activities and classes as other TV/film schools might,” Jaques said.
Other questions during the application process included: “Why this fellowship would benefit me” and “Who in the industry would you like to meet and why?”
“These questions in particular were challenging because I wanted my answers to stick out and still be genuine,” Jaques said. “The second round application was another eight-page form filled with even more questions, asking me to detail my past internship experiences and further in-depth questions about my knowledge and interest of the media industry.”
The final round of the process, according to Jaques, was a phone interview with the IRTS coordinator.
“This was probably the most stressful stage for me because it is often hard to demonstrate your true personality just over the phone without having the face-to-face,” said Jaques. “However, I felt very confident in my performance and it obviously was successful because I was picked. Overall, the process went from September to March.”
After learning of her acceptance, Jaques spent the next month interviewing for internships and was chosen by Nick Jr. to work in production on the children’s TV show, Dora the Explorer.
“Working on Dora is such an incredible opportunity,” Jaques said. “Dora has been so successful since its launch and children love the show’s interactive component. What I’ve learned in my first three days here is how much research and preparation goes into each episode that comes on air. I also have the unique chance to see the full range of production in a show through a major network like Nickelodeon, whereas my past experience was with PBS. I will help with scripts, storyboard, editing and recording meetings, tape dubs, and many of the other tasks associated with a production office. Because the animation is done in Burbank, Calif., I also witness how information goes back and forth from our office here to the L.A. based office. Overall it is shaping up to be an exciting summer.”
Staying with the determination that guided her to the IRTS Fellowship, Jaques has already added to her internship at Nickelodeon, working at MTV News two days a week.
“I’m loving the fellowship so far,” she said. “[June 17th] marks the end of my second week and my first week at my internship. I actually added to my Dora internship and am also interning two days a week at MTV News and Docs. Both are great, but Dora so far has been amazing. I feel right at home in their office. New York City itself is still an adjustment, especially from growing up in Medfield, but I’m beginning to understand the subway system more and know my confidence will only grow as the program continues.”
Jaques credited her passion for children’s television to Paradise and the production teams she worked with at her first two internships: WGBH with Between the Lions and Arthur after her freshman year and FETCH! following her sophomore year and hopes to find a career in children’s television programming, with aspirations of “creating a successful media empire.”
“I would be in heaven,” she said of running a successful TV show or shows.
In the meantime, Jaques will spend the next seven weeks (June 13 to Aug. 5) in New York City, working with Nickelodeon and MTV and making many connections along the way as the IRTS Fellowship is only the beginning for the Medfield native.
“I am very lucky and fortunate to have been given this rare opportunity,” she said. “To be one out of 23, the number also includes the sales interns who were added later from the original 16 that I’m a part of, is truly an honor and a privilege. I have vowed and promised myself to take full advantage of everything this summer lends me. I will network as much as possible and make the best impression I can at MTV and Nick Jr. so that my colleagues will want to keep me around, or lend me to their friends at other major companies. Hopefully this summer is the start to a long and successful career for me in children’s television and I can’t wait for kids to see the shows that I create on air one day.”