Life Lessons at NPR

“How did I end up here? How did I get so lucky?”

The excitement that my sister shared when I told her where I would be spending my semester interning was eye-opening, “I LOVE NPR! WNYC HAS MY FAVORITE PROGRAMS, I LISTEN EVERY DAY! Have you listened to ‘Wait! Wait! Don’t Tell Me’? What

NPR Lianne
My view during Blind Pilot‘s Tiny Desk Concert!

about the Tiny Desk Concerts?” Prior to interning at NPR, I was not a close follower of the organization, and I felt ashamed that I wasn’t more aware of the extent of their programming and resources that my sister was so excited about. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be a part of such a highly-regarded organization. This sentiment was furthered as I found myself in the Fall Intern Orientation, surrounded by individuals with multiple Masters Degrees from prestigious universities, who radiated intelligence through their diverse perspectives, eloquent language, and their ability to challenge everyday thought.


During my first week, I attended the NPR Employee Recognition Awards. Jarl Mohn, NPR’s CEO, began the ceremony with an elaborate story that was surely building up to something spectacular. A sword, a champagne bottle, and an audience erupting in hysterics emerged. I was in a culture-shock daze, with a constant feeling of paranoia about getting back to campus for my afternoon class (a 10 minute ride that I had no reason to be concerned about). I found myself sitting among the best and the brightest of NPR- journalists with Peabody Awards, personalities who are welcomed into listener’s homes, cars, and electronics daily by filling them with worldwide with news and mind-bending programming, and strategists who work from all angles to uphold and encourage the organization’s mission statement. Snapping back to the extravagance at the front of the theater, I connected the dots after remembering a lesson that I had learned from my manager at my part-time position at a local wine shop – Jarl was about to elaborately and dramatically risk his appendages to open the champagne bottle with a large sword. I didn’t know if I should laugh, cringe, or embrace what was happening– so I chose to do all three, along with the rest of the organization. Following his success, and the rest of the ceremony, my fellow teammates and I shared our feelings of awe and elation from what we had just witnessed. In that moment, I knew that the culture of NPR was something that we were all fortunate enough to experience that day, and every day.

“How did I end up here? How did I get so lucky?”

There’s a reason I found myself surrounded by the brightest minds in media and journalism 25 hours-per-week, for four months. It took me almost the entire semester to come to this realization, after hearing an indirect piece of advice from a professor. “Nobody gets ‘lucky,’ luck doesn’t exist. You position yourself to succeed, and if you didn’t care about what you were pursuing, you wouldn’t be here.” This resonated deeply, and I have learned to stop myself from thinking self-deprecating thoughts every time I share my story about my semester interning at NPR. I found myself in this position because I attend The Catholic University of America.

Because of the priority for career development that the Busch School of Business and Economics values, I was fortunate enough to network with a former NPR intern and Busch School student a year above me who passed along my resume to the hiring manager. I had no expectations, and was even turned down for the position initially due to scheduling conflicts and budget concerns.

I may not be a journalist, nor a producer, a creative, or a technician. But, I am a student who strives to learn. I was able to challenge myself in my CUA classes, and I learned how to translate that skillset into a professional setting. I know media, I know advertising, and I know it well enough to prove that I have the capacity to learn quickly and implement efficiently. I joined the Sponsorship Operations team, where we worked directly with agencies and sponsors on hosting their advertisements and sharing brand messages on our platform. Because NPR is regarded as one of the most trusted news sources in the industry, my team also had a standard to uphold- a priority for truth that would be furthered by providing quality service and overwhelming results for our sponsors. NPR’s platform prioritizes honesty, ethics, and subsidiarity. Catholic Social Teaching that is instilled in the Busch School curriculum helped me understand their mission before I even entered the building, and I was able to apply business and ethics to the work that I was doing. By conducting ethical reporting and working with sponsors in an honest manner, we were respecting the dignity of our consumers and promoting the common good of our organization and our listeners. Without the member stations like WNQED of San Francisco, WAMU of Washington DC, WNYC of New York City, and many more nationwide, NPR would not have a loyal following or a powerful platform to create change. Thus, our decisions should be made in the mindset of subsidiarity, where the donors who support all of our local stations and umbrella organization remain at the forefront of our business decisions.

“How did I end up here? How did I get so lucky?”

I didn’t get lucky, nor will I ever. CUA was the support that I needed to put myself in a position where I’m qualified for the work that I want to do, where I’m committed to having a strong work ethic to stand out from other candidates, and where I will fondly reminisce on my personal and professional experiences after I graduate in May.

–Lianne D. is a senior from Middletown, New Jersey, and will be graduating from the Busch School of Business and Economics with a degree in Marketing. She will be greatly missed next year in the Office of Undergraduate Admission, where she served as the Membership Coordinator for the Cardinal Ambassador organization.


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