How freelancing led to jobs for three KU EM professors

“You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going.”


By Kimberly Winters

Many of KU’s electronic media professors began their careers by freelancing, which led to further job opportunities.

“Teaching was not what I wanted to do,” said professor Cara Cotellese, chair of the EM department. As a KU undergrad, she hoped to someday work as an editor in sports production. “You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going,” she said.

After college, Cotellese started her own freelancing business, which specialized in instructional videos for corporations.

She then took a job at KU as a producer/director who created public relations videos for the university and contracted out to local businesses in exchange for donations.

Cotellese, newly interested in teaching, took a short-term contract at Bucks County Community College, which eventually turned into 19 years and a tenured position. Eight years ago, she returned to KU to teach.

Cotellese now regularly directs the students who broadcast KU football games. They also feature special events such as Dr. Kenneth Hawkinson’s presidential inauguration last spring.

“Every year, we cover graduation live so that relatives from far away can watch it,” said Cotellese.

Professor Jennifer Suwak also launched her career as a freelancer, networking with classmates and colleagues to find jobs. “Freelancing is tough. You make a lot of money, then no money.”

Suwak hoped for more stability, so she took a job as a technician at DeSales University. She fixed equipment that was used for the university’s media studies program, such as cameras and lights.

She went on to teach in that program, serving as a DeSales professor for ten years. She moved to KU in August 2015.

In academia, Suwak has been able to indulge her passion for documentaries.

Just as most professors are expected to publish papers, Suwak is expected to create films. She’s currently working on “Stage 7,” a documentary about the struggles of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Another project chronicles a road trip to California with her aging dog.

According to Suwak, “The more films I make, the better I teach.”

Professor Clifford Neill’s teaching style is influenced by his 15 years working in news. He started as a freelancer for News 12 Long Island and later worked at FOX News channel in New York City. Neill trained the station’s entry-level workers, teaching them how to deal with “the craziness that is news.”

Exhausted by a two-hour commute that took him away from his family, Neill decided to become a professor.

While Neill got his Masters at KU, he worked as a graduate assistant. He also joined student organizations such as Newsbreak and the Society of National Broadcasting.

Neill urges his students to learn as much as possible through KU clubs and classes. As many of today’s jobs disappear with changing technology, varied skills may save a student’s career.

It also allows students to create professional-looking work and share it with a wider audience.

“You have so much more available to you now,” said Neill, being that technology is much more accomodating.



Categories: Opinions, Uncategorized

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