Red Fox Spotlight: Madeline Garcia ’17
October 19, 2018 — As a production assistant at CNN headquarters in New York City, Maddie Garcia ’17 is used to bumping into famous journalists on the elevator – Anderson Cooper, Christiane Amanpour, Chris Cuomo are a few examples – but nothing compares to the experience of being in the White House press briefing room and witnessing the famously testy exchange between CNN’s Jim Acosta and presidential advisor Stephen Miller over immigration. Garcia recalls, “You could feel the intensity in the room and could hear a pin drop.” For an aspiring journalist, though, it was also a teachable moment. “I learned that you have to ask the hard questions and that you should brace yourself because you never know what you’re going to get.”
Growing up on Staten Island, Garcia wanted to go away to college, but not too far, and she knew she didn’t want a city campus. Marist was the first college she toured, and she was “blown away” by the beauty of the campus and the friendliness of the tour guide. She says, “It just felt like home when I got there.” Garcia always had an interest in politics, but she was initially undecided about a major until she took a class with Associate Professor of Political Science JoAnne Myers. “The class really challenged me. I liked writing the papers, and I enjoyed the debates,” she recalls. So Garcia declared a political science major with a minor in communication. Adds Garcia, “The political science major isn’t that big, so I really appreciated the small class size. I didn’t feel intimidated in discussions, and this gave me increased confidence later on in interviews and in the workplace.”
Says Garcia, “Marist doesn’t leave you to your own devices. If you put in the work, and reach out to faculty members, they’re happy to help you.” For example, Assistant Professor of Communication/Journalism Kevin Lerner, a former journalist, helped her with advice on internships. Another professor, Associate Professor of Political Science Jessica Boscarino, knew Garcia was interested in policy and advocacy work, so she helped her obtain work as a public policy intern at Scenic Hudson in Poughkeepsie. Garcia also completed internships with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign (she worked in the briefing and correspondence unit) and at U.S. Senator Charles Schumer’s Hudson Valley office answering constituent calls and doing policy research.
A key step for Garcia was starting work at the Marist Poll, and she gives her mother all the credit. As she tells it, “She literally forced me! I didn’t really know much about the Marist Poll, but my mom did, and I needed a work-study job. It turned out to be one of my best decisions.” She worked as a polling coach and media assistant and developed a keen sense of the issues important to the public. According to Garcia, the relationships she built with Director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion (MIPO) Lee Miringoff, Director of the Marist Poll Barbara Carvalho, and MIPO Director of Media Initiatives and Polling News Mary Griffith were instrumental in her growth. In fact, during her senior year, Miringoff’s connections resulted in Garcia’s summer internship with National Public Radio (NPR). The day after Marist graduation, she moved to Washington, DC. “I’ll be forever grateful to the MIPO team,” she says.
As an intern at NPR’s Washington Desk, Garcia was right in the thick of things. Working with the Politics Podcast, she was there when US Representative Steve Scalise was shot at a baseball practice and when protests turned violent in Charlottesville, Virginia, and she helped to cover these stories. She wasn’t intimidated. Says Garcia, “At Marist, you learn to appreciate competition, and I knew I could really step up.” She is also grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from NPR’s high-caliber brand of journalism. “The journalism there is not superficial. People really take the time to examine issues in depth, and that was an extraordinary learning experience.”
After Garcia’s NPR internship ended, she landed back in New York working for CNN in the documentary unit. In her current role, she assists in the production of the documentary series How It Really Happened and Something’s Killing Me, which air on HLN. Garcia works closely with producers to script shows, do research, and source footage and photos. She says, “Working on a small team of four producers, I’ve been fortunate to do a lot of hands-on learning. I’ve built strong relationships with my team members and consider them great mentors.” Down the road, Garcia would love to return to political reporting, or perhaps a combination of producing and reporting. She’s also interested in writing for digital platforms; right now, she’s working on a story about the Staten Island Congressional election. She notes, “In political reporting, you have to be both hungry and patient. Eventually, I have no doubt the right opportunity will arise.” And when it does, Garcia will be prepared.