Carolyn Rossi Copeland P'11, '14 continues to help Elon students and alumni find work, internships and opportunities in New York City.
Katy Wadsworth ’11 had a career crisis in the midst of her academic tenure at Elon University. Her initial plan as she entered Elon was to major in biology education. And things were progressing smoothly until the summer of 2010, when Wadsworth decided to participate in the Elon in New York City summer internship program.
During the course of her nine weeks in NYC, she completed a theatre-based internship with Carolyn Rossi Copeland Productions, and it became clear: Her passion was no longer teaching. So she returned to Elon and decided to take theatre classes instead of bio ed courses. She wound up majoring in biology (instead of bio education), but it’s not the field she entered once graduating.
“What it came down to was as much as I loved teaching, I couldn’t justify being a teacher and take that responsibility on in a student’s life knowing that my heart wasn’t in it,” Wadsworth says. “After Elon in New York, my mindset changed.”
Not only did Elon in NYC help her find her current calling, it also connected her with Carolyn Copeland, a parent of alumna Beatrice Copeland ’11 and junior Marion Copeland. That initial nine-week relationship with Carolyn helped Wadsworth land a job in New York just a few months after graduating. And all it took was the simple, quotidian push of her email’s send button.
“I totally lucked out,” Wadsworth says. “I emailed … Carolyn and I said I was going to come to New York, what do you think I should I do? She said, ‘We have something for you.’”
Since October, Wadsworth has worked as the executive assistant in Copeland’s production company, but it’s a job Copeland didn’t exactly push on Wadsworth. In fact, Copeland initially discouraged Wadsworth from moving to New York.
“We told her, ‘Don’t come back. Go be a teacher. You need to be a teacher. Don’t work in the theatre,’” Copeland says. “We had a great summer (in 2010), and we kept in touch. She came by to see (CRC Productions producer/general manager) Robert (Schneider) and said, ‘I’m moving to New York.’ Once she said she was moving here, I said, ‘OK, we have a job for you.’”
Copeland has been in the business of helping Elon students for a few years now, though. She has also connected alumnus Max Cantor ’10 with composer Charles Strouse, the writer behind Broadway and film hits “Annie” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” Cantor has been shooting a documentary about Strouse’s life for the last couple of years, and Copeland says the full version is scheduled to be finished by Strouse’s 85th birthday next June.
Copeland says she remains connected to Elon and committed to helping its students because of the experiences her daughters have had at the school and because of Director of the Elon in Los Angeles program J. McMerty’s active role in her daughter Bea’s (and other students’) professional pursuits.
Copeland says McMerty first approached her when he was looking for professional connections for the Elon in New York City program. But he also persuaded Copeland to send Bea to Los Angeles in the summer of 2010 for the Elon in LA experience.
“The reason I got so connected, truthfully, is because of J,” Copeland says. “He wanted Bea to go (to LA). J said she’s on fire right now. She’s in the editing room all the time, and I want to capture that. I said OK, and he delivered what he said he was going to deliver.”
But Copeland has been impressed with several other students who’ve graduated from Elon’s School of Communications, including Wadsworth, Cantor and Colin Havey ’10.
“My experience with everyone coming out of the School of Communications is they’re so technically qualified that all they need are connections,” she says.
And Copeland continues to be that connection to Wadsworth, who says she values the opportunity she’s been given to work professionally in the theatre industry.
“She’s never been afraid to give me her opinion,” Wadsworth says. “A lot of it is just knowing somebody else has faith in you. It’s a huge motivator.”
But what is Copeland’s advice about moving to and working in New York, arguably one of the most professionally competitive cities in the world? Simple: expect poverty, embrace excitement and relish intensity.
“You have to be prepared to be poor,” Copeland says. “You have to have a passion beyond the ridiculous to want to live in this city because it’s intense. There are plenty of jobs. If you want a job here, you can find a job here. My advice about coming to New York is you really have to want to be here. And give it two years, and then, if it’s not for you, there’s no shame in leaving. It’s great place to spend part of your young years.”
For Wadsworth, the potentially intimidating air of NYC is dampened because of her connections to Copeland and to the growing Elon community within the city—a community she actively embraces.
“I moved here alone,” Wadsworth says. “But there’s a huge contingency of Elon people here. I go to all the alumni events, and it’s been really great knowing that they’re all here. Having done Elon in New York definitely made me less scared to move to the city. Moving to New York was always a dream of mine in high school and college, and I don’t know if I would’ve done it had I not done Elon in New York.”
Elon Connections is a short series of stories about Elon alumni, parents and friends who are helping current students and recent graduates find success in New York and Los Angeles.