Madeline Smanik, a senior at John Carroll University double majoring in Communication and Political Science, has been named the next “Meet the Press” fellow. The Carroll News sat down with her to discuss this opportunity.
Can you talk about the journey that led you to this point?
Since I chose [Communication and Political Science] as my two majors, [the “Meet the Press” Fellowship] was my goal from when I declared my majors and realized that’s what I wanted to study and the field I wanted to work in. That’s when I started working toward the fellowship as my ultimate goal. Obviously, being apart of the Carroll News and even the leadership position I had in the Kappa Delta Sorority also helped me in terms of establishing my work ethic to do well.
What’s something that really helped you get here?
I think just being active outside of the classroom is something I suggested to the potential freshmen at Celebration Day; I also talked to potential Communication majors. I was encouraging them to get involved in whatever capacity they can. I got involved at the end of my freshman year, and I’m glad I did, but the sooner the better. Academics are really important to me, but committing yourself to an organization that’s volunteer based is important too. Those experiences are rewarding on their own.
Did any professors or classes provide you with notable guidance?
I’ve taken multiple classes with Carrie Buchanan. Even the first journalism class was influential for me, just to establish the baseline of what I wanted to study. I’ve taken a variety of classes [in the Political Science department], from International Relations, to American Presidency, to Political Thought. I liked that there’s a variety of topics. That’s why I did the general track of communication, so that I could take a variety of communication courses to get a taste of them.
Can you discuss what this process was like for you?
I first saw this advertised when I was a freshman. I was undeclared; I thought I was going to be a business major and I clearly changed my mind. I thought it was an incredible opportunity. Once I declared my majors, I realized I qualified to pursue [the “Meet the Press” Fellowship] and fell into the fields of study that are the prerequisites for the fellowship. I applied in the beginning of February, and at the end of the month, finalists were notified. It was half exciting and half terrifying, because I had been thinking about it for so long. Going to D.C. was a whirlwind because it was only two days, but it was a wonderful experience. Even just interviewing, I was grateful. Just having the ability to test myself, to push myself to that point to interview at a position at such an influential and well-known show as “Meet the Press”, so that was incredible.
Coming home and waiting to hear from the producers was a little nerve-wracking. I finally heard from them on Friday; it still feels surreal. It sounds so cliché to say that, but it really feels unreal for me right now, but in the best way. Once you find out, you’re like, “I’ve imagined this for so long.” After you apply, you keep imagining what’s going to happen next, and so I thought about what it would be to get it, how I’d want to response if I didn’t get it, so once it actually happened, I still feel like I’m imagining it; it doesn’t feel real yet.
What’s funny is I found out on April 1, which was a little scary; I knew they were nice people so I was confident it wasn’t an April Fool’s joke, but I did think for a second, “Wait, it’s April Fools Day.” And then, April 1 was the deadline for a fellowship and a paid internship I applied for as well, so I found out about this within 24 hours of applying to those, so that’s just kind of ironic.
What happened during the two days spent in Washington, D.C.?
On Saturday night, we got dinner with some of the former fellows and John Carroll alum who work in the area. It was very relaxed, not like a networking event, but just to be able to hear from people who went to your school who work in D.C. On Sunday, we got to the studio, we got to watch the show from the studio, we saw it taped live, which was a really cool experience we had not had before, so that was fun. After that, each of us did our interviews, and Ashley Bastock, the current fellow, took us on a tour of the studio, and that was really fun.
Did the former fellows give you any notable advice?
When we had dinner with some of the former recipients, Dan Cooney was there, and at the end of the dinner he said to all of us, “You’ve made it, just soak it in. Being here and having this opportunity is what you’ve worked for. No matter what happens after this point, just appreciate the experience that you’re having right now and make the most of it.” That really resonated with me the next day when we went to the set; everyone was nervous and jittery and watching the show and getting their interviews right after. It helped me sit back and breathe and think, “I’m grateful to have gotten this far.”
What’s next for you?
I don’t know if I can think that far ahead. I’m extremely thankful to have a position after graduation and to have something that’s not just a job, but that’s related to my area of study. I’m really thankful to NBC and John Carroll for being able to go to D.C. to pursue this dream of mine. To think that far ahead, I’d say I want to stay in the realm of political journalism, whatever capacity that might be.
Any final comments?
I’m incredibly excited and looking forward to this. I just want to reiterate how thankful I am to the John Carroll community. Kate Malone, who works in government relations for John Carroll, went down with the finalists to D.C., and I’m really thankful to her for taking the time out to do that. Cole Hassay and Kate Finneran are really talented individuals and I know they’re going to go really far in whatever they pursue.