By Maiy Elbery
and Catarina Pereira —
For five fortunate J/MS alumni, one doctor has brought them all together. “The Dr. Oz Show,” filmed in Manhattan, has become a fulltime job to Tim Sullivan, Class of 1994, Jenna Bauer and Stephanie Makowski, both Class of 2012, and Steve Pappas and Melissa Mendonca, both Class of 2013.
The Emmy-award winning syndicated talk show, hosted by cardiothoracic surgeon and Columbia University professor Mehmet Oz, has been on air for five seasons.
Tim Sullivan has been Dr. Oz’s director of publicity since the show first premiered in September 2009.
While attending Rutgers, Sullivan became a journalism major thanks to Steve Miller, who became his subject and career mentor when he did not know where else to turn, Sullivan said.
Sullivan wrote for The Green Print while pursuing his degree at Cook College and got his start in public relations prior to graduating when he was offered a fellowship at the Johnson and Johnson national headquarters near campus. He became their first public relations fellow and was able to work while pursuing his masters’ degree at Rutgers.
After working for J&J, Sullivan’s career ran full speed when he took a position at Dan Klores Communications in New York, doing everything from publicity for major musicians’ charity work such as Paul McCartney, Heart and the Doobie Brothers to having more than dozens healthcare clients.
“When I was hired at Dan Klores Communications, they needed someone to run their health care division, and I wanted to work in music, so I said I could run your healthcare department if you could provide me with some music projects,” Sullivan recalled. “And that’s what we did, and I was there for 10 years. It was fantastic.”
When Oprah Winfrey was getting ready to launch Dr. Oz as a TV show, Sullivan seemed like the perfect match because of his level of experience in both television and healthcare. He assisted prepping the show for its launch and when the season kicked off, he managed the show’s PR while at Klores, he said.
By season two, Sullivan was brought into the Dr. Oz offices as fulltime head of the PR Department, where he continues to work today.
“The thing about Oz is, I got to launch the show, and I got to take him around for an entire year around the country to let everyone know there was a show coming,” said Sullivan. “I got the privilege to build the brand, and I do not see myself leaving anytime soon.”
Being in the offices of “The Dr. Oz Show” can be both rewarding and demanding at the same time for one of the young professionals who work for Sullivan, publicity assistant Jenna Bauer. She started with Dr. Oz in October 2012.
When asked to describe her role in the office Bauer said:
“My position includes a wide variety of tasks. I keep a to-do list for each day, but things are always changing. It’s an exciting and challenging environment to be a part of.”
While at Rutgers she double majored in Journalism and Media Studies and Dance. She interned at numerous places during her college career, including NBCUniversal, Imbue You, the popular wedding and party website, and Resound Marketing. When she got the job at “The Dr. Oz Show,” Bauer said she was able to put together all her radio, television, and PR experience to become Sullivan’s assistant.
If there is one piece of advice Bauer would give to graduating students it would be:
“Whatever path you take in life, take time to really get to know the people you meet along the way,” Bauer said. “Their stories will be inspiring, and their lessons – timeless. Also, in the wise words of Conan O’Brien, ‘Work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.’ Both will ring true in your personal and professional lives.”
Steve Pappas and Melissa Mendonca
Oz is new to recent graduates Steve Pappas, an assistant to the producers, and Melissa Mendonca, who works on the production side as a scripts and control room production assistant.
Pappas describes the environment as fast paced, keeping him sharp and alert.
“As an assistant to the supervising producers, you really have to know what you’re doing,” Pappas said. “It’s such a critical position for the planning stages. I manage all the organization of the core brainstorming for episodes.”
The Cleveland, Ohio native moved to New Brunswick to attend Rutgers and while completing his degree at J/MS was involved in multiple activities on campus as well as off campus. He obtained internships at ABC’s “The Chew,” “General Hospital,” “The View,” and then went into programming and development at ABC’s TV group.
He began working at the show in July. Although his job consists of logistics, planning and organizing, Pappas has grown a passion for production and directing. All his experience has exposed him to many career paths that taught him to take the best opportunities because they will be most rewarding.
To find the right career fit, he stressed that “the most important thing is to get involved and meet people. Added Pappas, “Whether it is an internship or an on-campus activity, you need to see how to work in an environment outside the classroom, which will help you build your career.”
Pappas is not the only one who believes that getting involved is crucial. So does Melissa Mendonca.
A dedicated assistant, Mendonca began working at Oz three months after graduating. Knowing how rare it is these days for a student to get a job right after graduation, Mendonca said she realizes that the industry is all about whom you know, how you put yourself out there and how you connect to other professionals.
While at J/MS, Mendonca took on three internships to further her connections: interning as a high quality production intern at VH1 her junior year, a promotion intern at Republic Records Universal Music Group, and as a web intern at “Elvis Duran and The Morning Show” on New York radio station Z-100 her senior year.
“Internships are an incredible opportunity, and I strongly encourage every college student to do at least one.” Mendonca said. “This is how you get your foot in the door and how you begin to network yourself.”
Today, Mendonca’s daily routine consists of making changes to scripts with producers and prompters on show days. Her job requires her to be extremely keen on detail and a quick thinker, she said. Beside scripts, Mendonca works closely with the show’s graphics supervisor, associate director and the director.
Being a member of the Oz team is far from a typical nine-to-five job.
“We work crazy hours, but working on a project and putting so much effort into it, only to see it come to fruition, make it all worth it.” Mendonca said. “This industry isn’t for everyone.”
Luckily, this industry is quite right for Stephanie Makowski.
Makowski has been at Oz since her J/MS days. The New York resident began as a publicity intern at the start of her senior year after hearing back from none other than Sullivan himself, she said. Makowski ended up working as a publicity intern for all of season three.
“I realized that The Dr. Oz Show was where I wanted to stay,” she said. “ When I graduated from Rutgers, I voiced my opinion that I’d love to have a job here.”
Makowski was offered a job as assistant to supervising producers, which she kept for a season. After helping out around the studio, she realized that her interest really lay in the middle of all the action, she said. At the end of season four, Makowski was offered another position, this time as studio production assistant.
“It’s fast-paced, changing constantly, and it keeps you on your toes,” Makowski reported. “My days are long, but worth it. Dr. Oz is a great host who truly cares about his staff and makes us strive for greatness.”
Both Makowski and Mendonca are forever grateful for all of Professor Steve Miller’s work and help throughout their college experience.
“I am so grateful to have known him [Steve Miller] as not only a professor, but now as an amazing mentor,” Makowski said. “He truly goes out of his way for his students. After all, look how many Rutgers alumni we have at Oz because of him!”
By Maiy Elbery
Interning in the publicity offices of “The Dr. Oz Show” in Manhattan is an unforgettable experience, and I get to share it with two other J/MS majors, Kristin Seigeldorf and Shanice O’Brien. We all are Class of 2014.
We have busy days and slow days, but each day we gain more knowledge than the previous. It is such an exciting and challenging environment to be a part of, especially because we get to work side by side with J/MS alums (see larger story).
As publicity interns we get a firsthand look at how to manage and focus on one client. We research and maintain press clips from top media outlets where Dr. Mehmet Oz’s name is mentioned as well as write show listings to distribute to stations, TV writers and media. Our duties change every day depending what needs to be done, which makes it fulfilling.
The internship is a six-credcourse in the J/MS Department, and although it is not mandatory, most majors find an internship quite useful in resume building.
Undergraduate Coordinator Steve Miller maintains a huge virtual Rolodex of media businesses where majors can learn the ropes – for pay or not — and perhaps catch the eye of a higher-up that can lead to a formal job offer at graduation.