ESPN mentorship program unlocks countless opportunities for students, alumni

November 14, 2023

Lo Yarnall holding a softball and smiling in front of an ESPN W sign

Professor Nick Pietruszkiewicz has extensive journalism experience – including 14 years at ESPN. Still, one of his proudest accomplishments is the mentorship program that he established throughout his professional time there.

Now, three Quinnipiac students are part of the opportunity of a lifetime — a mentorship with ESPN.

The idea for the program kicked off due to a conversation that Pietruszkiewicz had with his father.

“The idea grew from a conversation I had with my father before he died. He met some of the people in Chicago who helped me along the way. My father said: ‘If you ever get the chance to help people the way these people helped you, you better do it.’ So, in a way, I am doing what my father told me,” said Pietruszkiewicz, assistant professor of journalism.

ESPN Digital Content’s mission is to develop relationships with both students and schools to educate and mentor a diverse talent pool of aspiring journalists, concentrating on those interested in behind-the-scenes roles.

ESPN associate editor for the app and alerts team Lo Yarnall ‘21, MS ‘22, received an email about the mentorship program restarting up after a pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. When she received the email, she swiftly jumped on the opportunity to have a mentee.

“Our goal with the mentorship program is to educate college students about all the different behind-the-scenes jobs at ESPN on the digital side beyond reporting. Some of those roles include digital video, streaming and services, copy desk, content creation and more,” said Yarnall.

The program not only allows mentors and mentees to discuss ESPN, but anything relating to their professional careers including drafting strategies for their resume, learning about other areas of study, and making a game plan for post-grad life.

When the details were finalized, Pietruszkiewicz reached out to students he felt would most benefit from the mentorship program. He approached Connor Coar ‘24, MS ‘25, who was incredibly grateful for the opportunity.

“I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to have a mentor at ESPN,” said Coar.

Each of the ESPN mentors work in different areas – all of which are vital to the company’s overall success. The insight that these individuals bring to the table is beyond beneficial for students.

“It’s knowledge. It’s understanding. It’s perspective. The mentors allow our students to ask questions and to really, truly get what this business is about before they really go out and work in this business,” said Pietruszkiewicz.

Coar, one of this semester’s mentees, is already feeling the positive impact of the program. Before starting, he didn’t realize all that truly goes on behind-the-scenes at the sports powerhouse.

“The biggest takeaway from the program so far is that the jobs that not everyone sees on ESPN’s TV shows matter just as much as the ones that are in front of the camera. Something we take for granted sometime, like a push notification that we get about our favorite team in a moment’s notice. That is a real person in Bristol that is sending out those notifications to millions of fans across the country and the world,” said Coar.

Fostering life-long connections are heavily emphasized throughout the mentorship program. Students are encouraged to keep in contact with their mentors even past the completion of the program itself.

“Quinnipiac is amazing for its ability to find internships and the opportunities for students to talk with professionals, but this program is unique because it’s a one-on-one setting where your mentor has time to get to know you and invest in your success,” said Yarnall.

Yarnall brings a plethora of knowledge to the mentorship program.

Throughout her time at Quinnipiac, she was sent to cover Super Bowl LVI, as well as a beat reporter for women’s basketball and an associate producer for the campus television station, Q30 Television.

Yarnall landed a part-time opportunity with ESPN her first semester of grad school and was hired full-time after graduation. She brings all of this knowledge and experience to the table when speaking with mentees.

“It’s an invaluable opportunity to pick the brains of people who have been through what you’re about to go through post-grad and found success,” said Yarnall.

The success of the program is already making an impact in the early innings of its existence. Coar expressed the importance of this partnership and how vital this experience is for him as he begins to apply to full-time jobs.

“This experience gives me an upper hand when it comes to interviewing for the jobs because I know exactly what hiring teams are looking for in a candidate. I can work on those skills, characteristics and other qualities in school that can only help me as I look to begin my professional career,” said Coar.

Students who are interested in the mentorship program can reach out to Pietruszkiewicz to learn more about it and see how they may be a good fit.

“For our students to have access to some of those people is invaluable,” said Pietruszkiewicz.

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