It was Siena College’s distinct honor to welcome back Tom and Caryn Mazzarelli to Siena’s Campus on Monday, November 2nd for the School of Liberal Arts Lecture Series event. Now a husband and father of two daughters, Tom graduated from Siena College in 1993 with a major in History. However, he did not let this specific major dictate his occupational path. Instead, Tom drew from his extensive liberal arts knowledge that he acquired at Siena College to move forward in his career. Tom is currently a three-time Emmy Award winner as the Co-Executive Producer of NBC News’ “Today” Show. As the Co-Executive Producer, he oversees the first two hours (7-9am) of the show by coordinating with the anchors and workers from a control room each morning. Tom has had the privilege of covering hundreds of breaking news events over the duration of his career, some more uplifting than others. A number of these stories include five presidential elections, ten Olympic Games, the Oklahoma City Bombing, 9/11, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the capture of Osama Bin Laden. This fast pace, demanding job is not for everyone but Tom Mazzarelli is a man who clearly knows what he is doing.
However, Tom, much like a majority of college students, was not exactly sure what career he wanted to embrace at the time. At first, he tried his hand at teaching but quickly realized this job was not exactly to his liking, so he was on the hunt once again for a new profession. Then, one day, Siena College invited back Susan Bennett, who at the time was a producer at CNN, to give a presentation pertaining to her job. Tom, already being somewhat interested in broadcasting, was instantly drawn into this presentation and ended up connecting with Susan Bennett following her visit. After staying in touch with Susan for a while, Tom was able to secure his own internship at CNN. It was then that Tom knew this was the career he would embrace for the rest of his life. Tom went on to work for a number of different broadcasting stations including an internship at CNN’s “Larry King Live”, a producer role at MSNBC working alongside Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann, a segment producer role at “Today”, he helped launch “CBS This Morning” with Charlie Rose, Gayle King, and Norah O’Donnel on CBS, and finally returned to the “Today” Show in 2013 where he continues to work extensively with Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and Carson Daly.
Throughout his speech, entitled “A Career in Television with a Liberal Arts Degree”, Tom put a large amount of emphasis on opportunity and how his Liberal Arts background was the perfect stepping stone when it came to finding a fulfilling career. He went on to explain how experiences, internships and an individuals’ passion for a subject are the driving forces of employment, not so much the degree in which one acquires at the end of their schooling. However, one of the most valuable ideas that Tom pushed in his presentation, which seemed to strongly resonate with all those in attendance, was the notion of “getting to yes”. As an intern, Tom explains, there will be tasks that no one particularly wants to do or even tasks that are challenging or outside the norm. If someone has the ability to get to yes and do whatever he or she is asked of without hesitation, they will easily stand out above the rest. That is not to say that getting to yes is easy, quite the opposite in some cases actually, but the ability to push through and meet expectations is a skill set of tremendous value. Tom gives his personal examples of trekking through blinding snowstorms to do the school reports or squeezing Larry King’s cashew chicken until it was dry. While these tasks may seem ridiculous and extreme for an internship position, it is those who accomplish these exact tasks that move upward in their careers.
Tom Mazzarelli’s hilarious anecdotes, encouraging triumphs and relatable experiences easily put him at the top of Siena’s most valuable and informative visitors. The advice that students were able to take away from this lecture was priceless and the VIP NBC Tour tickets raffled off were not too shabby either. Students who attended were able to make an amazing new connection as he graciously provided his email address and offered a helping hand to those in need much like Susan Bennett did before him. It is in high hopes that Siena College has the privilege of welcoming Tom back to campus at some point in the future.