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Intern Insider: Three Numbers Lead to One ESPN Dream

8-6-0. Eryn Gradwell had mixed feelings about that area code. She yearned to see those numbers show up on her phone. But she also knew they weren’t necessarily the harbinger of good news. A phone call from Bristol, Conn., could mean one of two things: acceptance to the ESPN internship program or rejection. And her chances seemed to be tilted toward the latter.

Gradwell, standing on the SportsCenter set, is an intern with the event production team at ESPN.
ESPN typically only accepts seniors as interns. Gradwell is just a junior. She knew her odds were slim.

But one day last spring, as she labored in the mundane—ironing in the middle of her living room—she was interrupted. It was an 8-6-0 number. She picked up, and while the conversation didn’t start positively, she says, it ended sublimely for her.

Gradwell was accepted as an intern in ESPN’s event production department. The broadcast and journalism double major was ecstatic. She had finally gained an in at the one place she says she hopes will employ her after she graduates in May 2010.

“I was extremely excited and had tears in my eyes,” Gradwell says. “I tried so hard to be professional over the phone, but I couldn’t contain my excitement.”

The event production team travels to games and events for ESPN, where it is responsible for filming, conducting onsite interviews and creating packages at the event rather than in the labs. As an intern, Gradwell has been responsible for finding footage in the tape library and clipping it for packages to be shown on ESPN.

She’s been assigned to the Summer X Games, which will take her to Los Angeles later this summer. But she says working the 140th Belmont Stakes earlier this month is her fondest memory to date.

“It was my first time attending a major event,” she says. “It gave me real insight to what event production is really about. Being able to see these events firsthand is incredible, and it makes all of the time spent in the office planning for these events worthwhile.”

Gradwell says her time spent as anchor of Elon Phoenix Weekly, a student-produced sports show that films out of the School of Communications and airs weekly on ESPN2, prepared her for the behind-the-scenes work of a television program. Now at ESPN, she says her goal is to find her niche and gain an understanding of how the network operates.

“After this internship, I will have a new perspective of what goes on behind the scenes of a television network,” Gradwell says. “This internship will hopefully be the deciding factor in what I do after I graduate. If all goes well this summer, I would love to come back for full-time employment.”

To secure the internship, Gradwell had to do an intense phone interview in April. She knew that the program generally accepted only seniors, so she says she tried to prove that she was just as qualified as any other candidate.

She says she thinks the point of emphasis paid off because now she’s walking the hallways with ESPN personalities and professional athletes such as NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith, SportsCenter anchor Rece Davis, women’s soccer player Julie Foudy and Phoenix Suns center Shaquille O’Neal.

Sounds more exciting than ironing in the middle of a living room.

“This is where I want to be after graduation,” she says, “so I hope to make ESPN a home for me to hopefully come back to. Seeing as I’m only a junior, I really need to prove myself over these next few months to show ESPN that I am capable of working alongside the best.”

Intern Insider will run one to two times a week during the summer and will feature brief stories about some of the interns from the School of Communications.

Colin Donohue,
7/14/2008 11:31 AM