Dr. Mitchell to take over JMU in LA when it resumes

Media Arts and Design

By Jessica Kronzer, staff writer

While the 2021 JMU in LA program has been cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it resumes, it will have a new leader: Dr. Talé Mitchell, an assistant professor who teaches in the Creative Advertising concentration.

Mitchell will take over the JMU in LA program from Sarah and Thomas O’Connor, who are emeriti professors in SMAD and founded the program a decade ago.

The program sends 20 students to Los Angeles to intern and take classes. Students interned for a minimum of 180 hours in the entertainment agency. Even though the students participating in the program live in temporary housing that sits across from major production studios, including Disney and Warner Bros. Studios, they can intern in any field like marketing, public relations, producing and even at talent agencies.

The coronavirus pandemic has stopped or significantly altered many TV and film productions — and because students often intern with those productions — the 2021 trip was canceled. But Mitchell looks forward to directing the program in 2022.

It’s a homecoming of sorts for Mitchell, who lived in LA most of her adult life. She said she was interested in directing the program because she missed the city and wanted to get involved with JMU study abroad and study away programs.

mitchell-172px.jpgMitchell said she envisions a program that is “inclusive to all four concentrations in SMAD,” she said, referring to Creative Advertising, Digital Video and Cinema, Journalism and Interactive Design.

“That branches off to a lot of different changes,” she said.

Students from all majors can apply for the program. Mitchell said many students who have taken part in the program in the past have been from the Digital Video and Cinema. 

In summer 2022, she hopes to encourage students in other concentrations to attend by finding connections for them in fields outside of entertainment — for example broadcast news agencies. Mitchell also said she plans to seek out guest speakers that apply to all four concentrations.

Thomas and Sarah O’Connor, the program’s current directors, said they will train Mitchell during her first summer running the program. Mitchell will shadow the couple through the first month of the trip to help her to secure connections to people in LA and to help facilitate the transition.  

In 2010, Thomas O’Connor started the JMU in LA program to help get students experience in the entertainment industry and to expose them to the culture of LA, a media center. He and his wife, Sarah, have directed the program every summer from 2011 through 2019. 

“It gives them an introduction to the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, which is the heart of the entertainment industry,” Sarah O’Connor said. “It introduces them to the culture out there, which is a very different culture from other places.”

Tenney Rosenblum, a ‘19 graduate who double-majored in political science and SMAD with a concentration in Digital Video and Cinema, said the JMU in LA program was an important part of his JMU experience.

Rosenblum went on the JMU in LA trip in 2018 and interned for Route One Entertainment as a script coverage intern. He reviewed scripts and wrote reports on whether or not the company should consider them.

After coming to JMU seeking a political science degree, Rosenblum found a passion for film and decided he wanted to become a TV writer. He even returned to LA after graduation to work in sales and distribution for MultiVisionnaire Pictures.

“Long term, I think it kind of cemented my commitment to a new vision for myself going forward,” Rosenblum said. “Before, I was always viewing myself as a political science person, but then slowly but surely, I started viewing myself more as a film person or television person.”

Many students who attend the program, like Rosenblum, end up working in LA after graduation.

Each summer, the O’Connors host a reunion with current and past program attendees and other JMU alumni in the area. Thomas described the “sense of community” of alumni who are “willing to help other people getting started [in the entertainment business].”

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Published: Sunday, November 15, 2020

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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