By Mara Schiavocampo MA ’03
An Emmy award-winning journalist, Mara is currently a New York-based correspondent for ABC News. In 2014 she published the book ‘Thinsired: How I Lost 90 Pounds – My Plan for Lasting Weight Loss and Self-Acceptance.” Mara returned to Merrill in the spring (2015) to speak to students and to promote her book. She reflects on her visit below.
In early 2015, 12 years after leaving as a student, I had the rare and joyful opportunity to return to The Phillip Merrill College of Journalism, for a visit with current students, and book selling event. I was immediately struck by how different the new building, Knight Hall looked. It was nothing like the building I’d left behind. The newly renovated facilities are a true sanctuary for teaching the craft of journalism: spacious, bright, and even featuring a café for the staples of a reporter’s diet, caffeine and sugar. In the basement of nearby Tawes Hall, the studio where I first learned the foundations of broadcast journalism showcased some of the most up-to-date technology for writing, shooting, editing, and show production. I marveled at how much had changed. After all, when I’d been there, we were still shooting on VHS-tapes (yes, actual tapes). I was so proud and thrilled to see today’s students learning and developing their skills.
But as much as things were different, a lot was very much the same. The newsroom was as bustling and full of enthusiasm as ever, packed with eager students reviewing their scripts and producers tinkering with their show rundown, all under the watchful and loving guidance of Sue Kopen, who I had the pleasure of working with as well. When I got a chance to speak at length with a group of students one-on-one, I was so impressed by their inquisitiveness and energy, and tremendously encouraged to know they would one day be the next group of UM alums. It seems that the college has managed to strike the delicate balance between improving upon an excellent program, while maintaining the core character that is so key to shaping future journalists.