Student's passion led him to working alongside his heroes

October 25, 2021

Headshot of Bonssa Tufa

Early on, Bonssa Tufa, MS ‘21 got a taste of media and fell for it. It wasn’t only his role as the on-air talent for the middle school morning show that influenced him, his mother is a well-known Ethiopian national broadcaster for Voice of America (VOA). When Tufa was a child, he visited his mother at work in the VOA studio in Washington, DC where he saw both the broadcasting and the production side of the business. He was enamored by the entirety of the industry.

Although broadcasting was his true calling, when Tufa entered college, it wasn’t communications he pursued but accounting - a sure route to success or so he thought. He and his parents felt this profession would give him a job out of college and a stable career. He was doing well, but Tufa didn’t have that same desire he felt when he was surrounded by media. He needed to reset. He visited his mother in the VOA studio and felt the same excitement he did when he was a child. He knew this was where he needed to be.

Tufa’s parents were reluctant at first, but after some convincing, they saw the fire in their son and said, “Do what you love.”

Tufa graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications, and as he made his way into the field, his dream began to turn to reality. One of his first jobs, was a producer for a baseball podcast hosted by members of the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals media organizations. Then he became a broadcasting assistant at Washington and Lee University and a producer for VOA. Tufa gained valuable experience working in radio production and knew he wanted more.

“My number one goal is to work at the top level of NASCAR whether it's as a broadcaster or in production.”

He looked for a graduate school that met his requirements, including being situated near a NASCAR racetrack. Tufa found, applied and accepted admission to Quinnipiac’s MS in Sports Journalism program as it checked his boxes including Stafford Motor Speedway, an historic racetrack located an hour from Quinnipiac’s campus.

Throughout the two-year sports journalism program, Tufa leaned on prior knowledge, professors, co-workers, classmates and hard work to reach his goals. Together with Tufa’s immense devotion to the sport of racing and producing, the combination of Quinnipiac’s School of Communication and his internship is the exact place he needed to hone his craft, learn from the experts and gain a valuable education in and out of the classroom.  

Part of the student experience at Quinnipiac is to learn by doing. Tufa worked at Quinnipiac’s Q30-TV where he recorded sporting events and created highlight packages for the broadcast. He and his classmates immersed themselves in the production of 30-minute news and sports shows including stand-ups, anchoring and producing. Tufa said, “Graduates and undergraduates all learned from one another. It was a true community. The work is top notch at the collegiate level. I can’t imagine what they’ll do at the professional level.”

This experience helped lay the groundwork for his internship at Stafford Motor Speedway. There, he directed a four-camera production. “It's a lot of work. It's a lot of thinking. It's a lot of reactionary decision-making. At the same time, you try to anticipate and be proactive. It’s also a lot of fun,” Tufa adds.

“Racing is my favorite sport, by far, and you know the passion goes a long way, not just in doing the work but knowing how to do the work,” said Tufa. “The people at Stafford are kind, supportive and want to help.”

One of the perks of his internship was that he worked alongside industry legends who he admired from afar until this opportunity. Some even became his mentors. Passion is one of his driving forces and when it came time for the master’s capstone project, it seemed fitting for Tufa to write, produce and edit a full-length documentary, 13: The Life & Career of Ted Christopher, on his hero, Ted Christopher.

The first thing he did was find those who knew Christopher the best. Tufa sought out Christopher’s family, friends, teammates and anyone else that would talk to him about the legend. He spent countless hours interviewing, combing through forty years of footage and spending every minute he could in the editing room to make this documentary.

“Under tight deadlines and during a quarantine was a bit stressful,” said Tufa, “It was a labor of love that was released on Christopher’s birthday. I wanted this to be a gift to his family and friends.” Right after the release he began to receive many positive messages from people he knew and those he’d never met before. “That was the highest point in my life,” said Tufa of the positive reception. “I don’t know if I can ever top that!”

“Bonssa is living proof of what a master’s degree in sports communication from Quinnipiac can do for someone. I love how he has taken his love of sports and turned it into a thriving career,” said Christopher Roush, Dean of the School of Communications.

After graduating with his MS in Sports Journalism degree, Tufa was hired as a full-time content creator, broadcast director and on-camera talent at Stafford Motor Speedway. To say that he is glad he followed his passion is an understatement.

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