Accomplished alums

No matter what careers Carroll grads choose, their liberal arts education is a foundation for success. Following are five examples.

Stories by John Walsh, Ron Rajecki, and Susan Curphey

He has a passion for education that was ignited at John Carroll. He’s using that passion to help mold the next generation of leaders. He’s quickly risen from high school theology teacher to president of a high school, junior high, and elementary school. He’s Brian Sinchak ’01, ’03G, and he’s highly thought of by influential people.

“When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was looking for a new chancellor of the New York City Schools several months ago, the first person I thought of was Brian Sinchak,” says Doris Donnelly, Ph.D., director of the Cardinal Suenens Center at John Carroll. “He could do the job.”

“He sees that education lifts people up,” says Patrick Rombalski, vice president of student affairs at Boston College and former dean of students and vice president of student affairs at John Carroll. “He’s extremely intelligent at the core. He has the skill to sit down with whatever audience he’s in front of and understand them.”

Sinchak in the halls of John F. Kennedy Catholic School

“Brian has unfailing good judgment and discretion,” Donnelly says. “He has a way of fitting in with all kinds of people, from little old ladies to cardinals. He has an extraordinary personality and a consummate respect for all people.”

As president of John F. Kennedy Catholic School (PK-12), including a lower campus (PK-6) and an upper campus (7-12) in Warren, Ohio, Sinchak focuses on fundraising and development and teaching classes, which range from freshman English to introduction to philosophy and ethics, and mentors 10 students. He’s a hands-on, involved, approachable president who doesn’t spend much time behind his desk. On any given day, one can see him interacting with students, checking up on them, and encouraging them to participate in various school activities. His enthusiasm is infectious.

There’s proof. The school, founded in 1964, already has surpassed its 2010-2011 fundraising goal by more than 250 percent.

“We’re doing remarkably well with our fundraising objectives,” he says. “We’re in great fiscal shape.”

Sinchak’s main challenge since arriving as principal of the high school a few years ago has been declining enrollment because of the economic shift in Warren, an old steel town that’s experiencing difficulties. Enrollment at the upper campus is 350; and there are 50 faculty and staff. At its peak in the ’80s, enrollment was 870.

“The school hadn’t right-sized and wasn’t looking at its next steps,” he says. “Instead of bemoaning the demographic shifts in population and student enrollment, I challenged our school community to embrace our new reality. Now we’re smaller and can provide a better educational experience and more personal mentorship. There was a need for reform financially and educationally. We changed every aspect of school management in two years, and it feels like a new school.”

One simple change implemented to improve school identity was uniforms. Students used to be allowed to wear any color polo shirt to school, but that’s been changed to wearing just the school colors: red, white, and blue.

Another more significant change happened in the classroom. Sinchak purchased Smart Boards with donor and state funds and installed them in every classroom. When he first arrived, the school had none.

Also, the campus is wireless, allowing for Internet access to various school resources including netbooks and iPads. School management (students and parent information, for example) can be accessed online, and students can take quizzes on their smartphones.

“The more we tell students how we respect the power and potential of technology, the more they’re likely to use it properly,” Sinchak says. “We can’t be afraid of technology. We have to bravely accept it and fearlessly promote it.”

Sinchak’s biggest challenge of leading school reform at Kennedy has been accomplished, and his next challenge is to create a vision for the school, which has never had a five-year strategic plan, which will be published early this summer.

“We’re in a position of strength,” he says. “We’re one of 12 Catholic schools nationally recognized for our innovation in curriculum and instruction. Among Ohio graduation test results, we’re 53rd in the state among all schools, which is the top 5 percent. We’re the only school in this region of the state that was recognized.”

Sinchak talks with students during their lunch.

Donnelly foresees Sinchak continuing to advance quickly.

“He’ll take over education in the Youngstown diocese,” she says.

Sinchak grew up without organized religion in Boardman, Ohio, and attended Boardman High School. (His dad’s side of the family was Catholic, and mom’s side was Presbyterian. They divorced when he and his sister were young.)

“I’ve always been in love with school,” says Sinchak, who was voted most likely to be president of the United States in high school.

Reviewing colleges, he applied to Georgetown, Notre Dame, and John Carroll because of their academic reputations, but financial aid was the determining factor in his college choice.

“Merit-based scholarships were critical in my decision making,” he says.

While at Carroll, Sinchak started majoring in political science. He took theology courses, which he was fascinated with, as part of the core curriculum and changed his major to religious studies. His interest in Catholicism became so deep, he went through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process in 2000. (Donnelly was his sponsor and Patrick, after Rombalski, is his confirmation name.)

Sinchak also was active in service projects while at Carroll. He participated in Rostro de Cristo, a volunteer and retreat program of the Catholic Church based in Durán, Ecuador, and traveled to that country to work with the poor and those afflicted with leprosy.

“Brian was part of one of the first trips to Ecuador,” says Rombalski, who was the executive director of Rostro de Cristo. “The trip was life changing for the 10 students who went.”

Rombalski first met Sinchak in the student activities office, which Sinchak was in and out of often. Rombalski recognized Sinchak’s maturity and organizational skills and gave him some responsibility.

“Back then, there was no programming board [for student entertainment] on campus,” he says. “Brian was the perfect person to kick off the programming board. He took the ball and ran with it.”

“I didn’t have a perfectly clear plan of what I was going to do when I graduated from Carroll,” Sinchak says. “I just knew I had a passion for theological study and Catholic education.”

Sinchak worked in the Cardinal Suenens Center for Donnelly while earning his master’s degree in education. His three years there were extremely influential.

“I was working late one Sunday night, and Brian saw the light on in my office, knocked on the door, and asked if he could help, and I said, ‘Well, yes you can,’” she says. “He took over the office for me. He was that good. He answered the phone for me and helped cardinals all over the world. I relied on him 100 percent. The Grace family [who funds the Suenens Center] loved him.”

As a result, Sinchak traveled throughout the world interacting with the world’s best, most thoughtful theologians.

“As Dr. Donnelly’s only assistant, I was involved in all aspects of the work of the center,” he says.

That included setting up and running conferences, which allowed him incredible opportunities to meet authors of books he studied while an undergraduate: Sr. Elizabeth Johnson, Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, Fr. Richard Rohr, Sr. Helen Prejean, and Cardinal Walter Kasper, to name a few.

“Part of the success of all our international and national conferences was because of the enthusiasm Brian brought to the Suenens Center,” Donnelly says.

After working in the Cardinal Suenens Center, Sinchak took a position at St. Peter Chanel High School in Bedford, Ohio, teaching theology to sophomores and juniors.

“I had many offers, but I felt Chanel needed me the most and I could make the biggest difference there,” he says.

But, in typical Sinchak fashion, he did much more than teach theology. He started a speech and debate team, which, in its third year, ranked ninth in the state. He coached two state champions and multiple national competitors. One of the students he coached is now touring as an actor in the off-Broadway musical comedy “Altar Boyz.” He also directed the theatre program, which produced four shows a year.

After three years at Chanel, Sinchak became the youngest vice principal in the diocese (he was 26 years old) when he moved on to Benedictine High School in Cleveland and was in charge of academics and discipline. After two years at Benedictine, he – along with his wife, Mandy Carbon ’01, ’03G and son, Nathan – moved to Poland, Ohio, for the job at Kennedy and to be closer to family.

“Influential people, such as Sal Miroglotta ’80, ’85G, the former principal of Benedictine and current president of Lake Catholic High School, have recommended these jobs,” he says. “I’ve been so blessed and lucky. I have wonderful mentors in my life.”

Sinchak is proud of his profession but feels it lacks some respect with the American public because they don’t associate it with high pay.

“When I ask the brightest students in my class why they don’t want to be teachers, they say it’s because of the pay,” he says. “Furthermore, a teacher’s pay isn’t based on the quality of work, and that needs to change. In this country, we equate success with wealth, and teaching doesn’t get you wealth. There are too many bright people who choose not to go into secondary education and especially Catholic secondary education.”

Looking ahead, Sinchak would like to work on a Ph.D. in educational leadership and develop a consulting firm for school reform and Catholic school management.

“That might be the next phase for me, but I made a commitment to the bishop [Most Reverend George Murry, S.J.] to be here for the next three years,” he says. “We need more people to promote a new vision of Catholic education in this day and age. Ultimately, my dream is to found a new, innovative Catholic school that reimages what education ought to be about.”

Looking back, Sinchak is grateful for Carroll’s tight-knit atmosphere and the opportunities it gives students.

“If you want something, you can get it,” he says. “Carroll offered me a world of opportunity – literally. I wouldn’t be who I am if it weren’t for Carroll. It’s not just that I wouldn’t have this job, it’s that I wouldn’t be who I am. I wouldn’t have the heart.”

-JW

She can be heard loud and clear. She’s a voice of those with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (IDD), serving as their advocate.

“I’m the voice for someone who isn’t heard or for those who are often ignored,” says Jessica (Fonow) Dawso ’04, the director of advocacy for The Arc of Greater Cleveland, a nonprofit support and self-advocacy group that advances the personal and professional lives of people with IDD. “Advocacy is essential to improve the quality of life for all people with IDD.”

Dawso’s advocacy for individuals with disabilities stems from her childhood in Steubenville, Ohio. Her father, James Fonow, was close to his aunt Rita, who had Down syndrome.

Dawso

“That shaped my dad and how he was going to raise us.” she says “Growing up, we were exposed to people with disabilities and were taught to treat everyone equally. For five summers, I worked with adults with disabilities in Jefferson County. It was life changing for me.”

When it came time to attend college, Dawso fell in love with John Carroll because it was the perfect size and had a beautiful campus. She also knew several upper classmen who attended the same high school she did – Steubenville Catholic Central.

Although she had a passion for working with adults with disabilities, Dawso knew she didn’t want to work in special education. She was a passionate writer and speaker who was interested in public policy and social justice. So, she decided to major in communications with a concentration in public relations. Margaret Finucane ’80, Ph.D., the director of the Center of Service and Social Action, was her advisor. When Dawso was looking for an internship, Finucane suggested The Arc of Greater Cleveland, an organization with which she was familiar.

“Jessie was unsure about the internship at first because she didn’t want to go into special education,” Finucane says. “But I told her the purpose of the internship was to learn skill sets needed in the areas where she wanted to work. She developed her writing skills and the advocacy piece at The Arc.”

“I wanted to work with an organization that could benefit from positive public relations efforts and the fact their focus is on serving individuals with disabilities made The Arc a perfect match,” Dawso says.

The communications major, who was on the varsity swim team and a member of the Chi Omega sorority, also met her husband, Jim Dawso ’04, at Carroll. Jim graduated from the Boler School of Business (logistics) and now works for Swagelok in Solon, Ohio, as a forecast analyst.

“It was wonderful academic experience but so much more – it was a life experience,” Jessica says. “It shaped me. I feel blessed I found my way to Carroll. It has such a great support network among coaches and professors, many of whom are my colleagues today.”

Jessica always thought about law school because she saw huge need for justice in the public policies that pertain to individuals with disabilities.

“Jessie was a strong student who knew she wanted to go to law school after her internship at The Arc,” Finucane says. “She began to see what her options were and was making important decisions. She’s very focused.”

After graduating from Duquesne University School of Law in 2007, Jessica followed Jim from Pittsburgh back to Ohio. She then took and passed the Ohio bar.

“While in law school, I was looking for ways to find justice for people who couldn’t speak for themselves,” she says. “I focused on constitutional law because it was foundational to my long-term goals.”

Jessica began her law career working in family law and immigration and dealt with many divorce and child custody cases.

“That wasn’t where I ultimately wanted to be, but I needed to gain practical, legal experience,” she says.

Three years later, she connected with Cynthia Norwood, executive director of The Arc of Greater Cleveland, who Jessica learned from while she was an intern there. Jessica’s personal and professional relationship with Norwood paid off in 2010 when Norwood hired Jessica as the director of advocacy.

Jessica’s work entails assisting adults with IDD with legal issues, such as those that would arise after someone was taken advantage of financially.

“They need to know their legal rights if a crime was committed against them,” she says. “I’m their advocate and can recommend legal remedies. Many would be surprised to find how many people are taken advantage of in our own communities.

Oftentimes referrals come from concerned family members, friends, neighbors, and co-workers who witness an injustice and help people get connected with The Arc.”

Jessica also is involved in Partners in Policymaking, a statewide leadership training program facilitated by The Arc that’s designated for parents with young children with disabilities and for adults with disabilities. The program includes a five-month training program held in Columbus, Ohio, to teach leadership skills and positive relationships with those who shape public policy. Additionally, The Arc champions inclusive communities, which help every person to recognize their value as a contributing member of society.

“My role is to fight for equal rights and access to services for people with IDD on a daily basis,” she says.

Where Jessica is at in her life is directly related to her Carroll experience.

“I’m so grateful to Dr. Finucane because she directly linked me to The Arc,” she says. “She helped me infuse the skills I learned in the JCU classroom with my passion to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

“I’m living the Jesuit education every day,” she adds. “Carroll prepared me to obtain a law degree, which, in turn, prepared me to work here. It’s come full circle.”

-JW

Some may say Ernie Petti is living a fairy tale life in sunny Southern California with his wife and newborn son. But it’s no exaggeration to say the 1997 John Carroll University graduate helps fairy tales come to life.

Petti parlayed his degree in engineering physics and computer science into an important role at the Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif. As lighting supervisor, Petti ensures the digitally generated world of films such as “Chicken Little,” “Bolt,” and “Tangled” look right, whether the scene is played out on the sunniest of days or darkest of nights.

Petti

“There’s no lighting in a computer-generated world,” Petti says. “You don’t have daylight or nighttime to work with, and you don’t have physical lights you can place on a stage. So we use computer-based lights that are like stage lighting. You have to know where to place the lights and what colors they bring to the scene. The goal, just as it is in live action cinematography, is to set the sense of time of day and mood. Lighting is essential to telling a story and conveying the story’s emotions.”

The path that took Petti from the West Side of Cleveland to the West Coast was a bit convoluted. After graduating from Carroll, he moved to Iowa and worked as a software engineer for the aerospace company Rockwell Collins. Then he returned to school and earned a master’s degree in computer science with a concentration in computer graphics from the University of Iowa.

“I wanted to do something related to computer graphics, although I was envisioning going into live action visual effects,” Petti says.

Entering the visual effects field meant moving to where those jobs are. Petti began sending resumes to companies in the nation’s entertainment capital, Southern California. Only a handful of companies called him for an interview, but one of those was Disney; and in 2000, he headed to Hollywood.

Petti joined Disney as a software engineer in its technology group, working on the lighting and fur tool (a necessity in a studio with many animated animals). Eventually, he worked his way over to the artistic side of the business. Now he’s happy to be playing an important role making entertaining movies.

When he arrived alone in Southern California as a 24-year-old, Petti made an effort to meet people. He joined hiking and volunteer groups and developed a circle of friends. In one volunteer group, he met Aidess Domagas, who became his wife in 2006. The couple welcomed their first child, son Imre Petti, into the world in December 2009.

Petti admits he misses the friendly, Midwestern feel of Cleveland sometimes, but the Los Angeles area has much to offer.

“There’s a lot of great hiking, and the ocean beaches are fantastic,” he says. “There are many different cultures and a lot of good food. Although the traffic is bad, the weather is good: It’s 78 degrees and sunny every day. In fact, the weather can get a little boring, although people in Cleveland might think I’m crazy for saying that.”

Not one to be corrupted by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Petti always learns after the fact when he has just walked past a famous person.

“I’m just not that much into the Hollywood scene, but it’s pretty cool to be on the way to the cafeteria to eat lunch and walk right past a ship they’re building for a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ movie or one of the airplanes from the film ‘Pearl Harbor,’” he says.

Looking back through the twists and turns his life has taken, Petti wouldn’t change a thing – least of all his Carroll experience.

“It was outstanding,” he says. “Although I majored in physics and computer science, my education helped me gain experience and confidence with problem-solving abilities that are applicable anywhere. That’s the main thing Carroll gave me: a broad skill set of problem- solving skills that allow me to tackle just about anything.”

Petti has taken those skills with him, but he also has given – and continues to give – back to the University. Dan Palmer, a professor in the mathematics and computer science department, says Petti’s input was invaluable when helping him develop and introduce a software engineering course, in which students take on a software development project for a client.

During his final semester at Carroll and immediately following graduation, Petti helped Palmer select materials to include in the course, providing his input into what was most relevant and how students would react to it.

“We planned to start the course the year after Ernie graduated, and he was disappointed he wouldn’t be here to take it,” Palmer says. “I offered him the opportunity to participate in its creation, and it turned out to be a great experience for both of us.”

Petti also participated in a recent Meet Your Major night at the University. Via video conferencing, Petti was able to sit as his desk at Disney while showing a group of computer science majors in Cleveland what he does and how he does it.

“The students thought it was very cool,” Palmer says. “Ernie explained to them how the foundations he learned here apply to what he’s doing at Disney. He left a legacy to other students through the software engineering class and paid it forward to current students by showing them what he’s done with his education and giving them an example of the type of work that might be available to them.”

In addition to computer-generated lights on the big screen, Petti is shining literal lights to help illuminate the way for future generations of John Carroll students.

-RR

Like her days on the John Carroll track and cross country teams, Molly Lynch ’01, has been on the fast track. While working for some of the most prestigious agencies in the world, the young public relations professional was promoted at every turn. Then she ventured out and launched her own company – all before the age of 30.

The communications major says she got a head start in her accomplished career because of the varied experiences she gained during her four internships in media and public relations while at Carroll.

“During one semester, I was pitching media trying to get stories placed from the basement of my college home,” Lynch says. “I remember thinking, ‘If these media people only knew where I was calling from!’”

Lynch

Lynch worked on the popular “Got Milk” campaign as an intern and freelancer for Weber Shandwick, an international public relations firm. She landed internships through her own initiative and spent time with the American Cancer Society, Cleveland’s WMJI-FM radio, and WEWS-TV.

After graduation, the energetic Lynch returned to her hometown of Chicago to work for the large public relations firm, Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L) where she was promoted within her first month on the job. During her five-plus years with the firm, she was assigned greater supervisory and account responsibilities, overseeing strategic planning, media relations, event planning, and project management.

“I was fortunate with my first job at MS&L, even though the hours were incredibly long,” says Lynch, who was honored with the company’s “People’s Choice Award” for her commitment to teamwork and leadership. “I had great clients, a great boss, and great colleagues.”

Much of her time at MS&L was spent on public relations and public affairs for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention account, in particular, the VERB campaign, which was created to decrease child obesity and increase physical activity among youths. Lynch and her team received several industry awards for their work on the campaign.

From MS&L, Lynch joined Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and later Weber Shandwick as an account director, serving high-profile clients such as Johnson & Johnson, Sam’s Club, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Tropicana.

In 2007, at age 28, with almost nine years of experience at top agencies handling large accounts, Lynch launched her own company, Lynch Communications Group.

“It was a great decision for me personally and professionally,” she says. “By going out on my own, I could find clients who I enjoy working with and truly believe in their product.

“Working for myself also allows me to have more control of my schedule,” adds Lynch, who continues to run three to five miles several times a week. “I probably work the same long hours, but I can say no to a project, which is a wonderful position to be in. On the flip side, if you don’t have the personality to work hard and be dedicated, you’re not going to be a good small business owner.”

“It didn’t surprise me when Molly started her own business,” says her former colleague at MS&L, John Branham, who manages consumer public relations for TransUnion. “She’s always been the leader, so it only makes sense that she would do that for herself.”

Lynch and her four associates – including fellow JCU alumna Elizabeth Spirk ’07 – serve several Chicago clients including Young Rembrandts, Rainbows for All Children, Home- Made Pizza Co., Hotel Felix Chicago, and The Abbey Resort and Spa in Wisconsin. Lynch also frequently consults for Ogilvy and MS&L. Her firm – which has grown 70 percent since its inception – specializes in public relations and social media marketing.

“I’m proud of the work we do in social media,” she says. “Many people have learned about our clients on Twitter. Social media is an ever-changing, new channel of reaching consumers. Communications professionals need to be involved in some way, and surprisingly, not everybody is.”

Branham attributes much of Lynch’s success to her understanding of social media marketing and her experience with the media.

“I’d call Molly an innovator,” he says. “I’ve never seen anyone in this industry as on top of trends. She’s one step ahead of the game. Plus, she knows what the media is looking for.”

Lynch, who teaches as a guest lecturer for an advertising/communications course at DePaul University, says the bread and butter of public relations is writing and pitching media, and anyone considering the field should enjoy both.

“I can’t hire someone who’s not a strong writer,” she says.

Lynch’s clients, such as Allen Anderson, marketing director for the Abbey Resort, recognize and rely on her writing skills.

“She has great command of the English language,” Anderson says. “Her style isn’t trite, nor does she use meaningless hyperbole, and she refuses to send out irrelevant information. Molly has earned the respect of media people. She understands their editorial schedule, what they’re looking for and when. A PR agency needs a strong relationship with people on the media side to get placements.

“I’m drawing on more than 35 years in marketing and public relations, representing major firms and resorts,” he adds. “I can tell you Molly’s as good as anyone out there.”

-CS

One Saturday afternoon about 20 years ago, Renita Griskel ’90 had an epiphany that changed her life.

At the time, Griskel was majoring in computer science because she liked math. She was working on a homework assignment in the computer lab.

“I started about 8:30 a.m., then I looked up after a while, and it was 4 p.m.,” she says. “The assignment was involved and complex. I enjoyed it, but I didn’t enjoy not interacting with people. I thought this was a snapshot of that field.”

Griskel

That’s when Griskel switched her major to communications.

“I hated speech class and knew I was going to have to get past public speaking, so I took a public speaking class to get over it,” she says. “I enjoyed the production aspect of communications because the spotlight wasn’t on me.”

That enjoyment led to an internship at WEWS NewsChannel 5 in Cleveland followed by several producer roles at the station and now director of emerging media content for Scripps Networks in Knoxville, Tenn.

Griskel grew up in East Cleveland and attended Catholic school because her parents felt she would get a better education than if she continued in the public schools. (She attended St. Joseph’s Collinwood School and matriculated to Villa Angela, which since has merged with the former St. Joseph High School to form Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School.)

“My parents wanted the best education for me,” she says. “All my friends were going to the public school, but I just got past that. I saw them after school and on weekends. It was one of the best decisions my parents could make for me. I enjoyed Catholic school but didn’t think I would. I made lifelong friends.”

When planning to attend college, Griskel knew she didn’t want to apply to many schools. John Carroll, local and personal, appealed to her.

“Something was very inviting when I went there,” she says. “It felt right.”

Griskel’s parents let her figure out her college choice by herself, but she had to explain her decision to them.

“I needed to show them I was going to a school for the right reasons, not just because buildings were big or cool. I wasn’t interested in traveling far from home. Life was fine, and I had no urge to break free.”

The summer before Griskel’s last semester at Carroll she interned at WEWS on the floor crew. By the end of the internship, she learned how to operate cameras and set up the studio. Then she interviewed for a full-time position that was going to be vacated in several months. She was hired.

“I ended up staying at Channel 5 until four years ago,” Griskel says. “The internship was a life-changing experience. It stuck out as something I wanted because I wanted to see what I was learning in school in action.”

While on the floor crew, Griskel operated teleprompters, queued talent, and set up and tore down TV show sets. After a year on the floor crew, she wanted to learn more about the newsroom operation. So during her downtime, she helped answer phones at the assignment desk and developed relationships with coworkers. Another job opened up, she applied and got it.

“It’s important for students to know how valuable internships can be,” she says. “For me, it was a life-changing opportunity and a blessing that I was hired at the end of my internship. Getting hired isn’t always the outcome, but there are other invaluable benefits to being an intern. The process allows you to get real-life work experience and helps you understand what working in your field of choice might be like. The impression an intern makes during that eight-week span can help his or her career years down the road.”

Working at the assignment desk at WEWS, Griskel helped reporters and photographers by calling police departments, gathering news, and making sure nothing was missed. Then she started writing for producers so they could critique her. Griskel learned how to create a news story and write for a newscast.

“I did that on my own time,” she says. “When an associate producer position opened, I applied and was hired.”

Griskel worked as a producer with a consumer reporter to help solve consumer issues and bring scams to light.

“We helped many people get refunds who wouldn’t have otherwise,” she says.

Then Griskel went back to the newsroom as a producer for the morning show. That job was followed by producing the noon newscast, the weekend news, and then back to the morning show as executive producer. After that, she was promoted to executive producer of the 11 p.m. news and then executive producer for the consumer unit.

“Expectations were higher this time around,” she says. “The companies we took on were a lot bigger.”

Never one to continue doing the same thing, Griskel expanded her experience to live weather specials and field producing for a one-hour auto show preview.

“I enjoyed being on location and putting clips together,” she says. “That was inspiration for wanting to get out of news, which can be draining. It can desensitize you. I reached a point where I needed to make a change. I left news when I felt good about it as opposed to staying because it was all I knew how to do. I could write in other forms – long form, creative.”

Griskel knew she wanted to stay in TV, but when she applied for non-news jobs, she received the same response: “Yeah, but you’ve been in news for so long.”

“There were a lot of magazine shows at the time, but they weren’t interested in someone with a news background,” she says. “They thought I couldn’t write long form. Sometimes people are in their own world and need to open up to what others bring to the table.”

Griskel received another TV station offer (in Philadelphia) but didn’t want to take another news job solely for more money. So she waited for the right job, which was at Scripps Networks.

Griskel is part of a team of people in charge of repurposing TV show content for the Web. Her group – which works with content from the Food Network, Cooking Channel, HGTV, and DIY Network – will receive a request, say, for a black bean soup recipe from the Paula Dean show. The group condenses the TV segment into a 3.5-minute clip so it can be posted online.

Leaving Cleveland for a new job wasn’t difficult for Griskel because she knew her family and friends would be supportive. The Channel 5 people were supportive, too.

“I had no second thoughts or worries,” she says. “It felt right. It was like coming to Carroll. It was time. I started on my birthday, July 17, 2006. It was a great birthday present for me.”

Looking back on her time at WEWS, Griskel acknowledges the crazy hours she worked, including holidays and overnight.

“There are times when you want to go home but can’t because there’s breaking news,” she says. “News of the day dictates your day and life.”

Another aspect of working in the news business is the exposure to the ills of society.

“You have to turn your sensitivity way down because you’re exposed to the worst of the worst every day,” she says. “You need to put that aside to write the news.”

Griskel loved being able to write a story and get it out to the public, working with talented people, and having access to people to ask them questions.

But changes in the news business have been significant during the past 20 years.

“When I started out, people had fun doing their jobs,” she says. “Nothing suffered when people had fun doing what they loved. But competition, with the Internet and cable channels, changed that. People aren’t enjoying it as much. Competition for local news has increased tremendously. And the economic impact is huge. There are one or two people on a project now. They’re just doing it to get it done. In the past, we had more people on a project, which allowed for more creativity.”

Griskel is happy she’s not in the news business anymore.

“I’m glad I left at the right time,” she says. “I like learning new things, and my job now is different from news; but what I learned doing news is critical to what I’m doing now. Yet it’s lighter and more creative than news.”

Griskel believes she’s at this point in her life because of God’s blessings.

“He set things in motion for me with my acceptance into John Carroll (the only school I applied to): having professors who encouraged and supported me, the internship at Channel 5, being hired there during my last semester at JCU, my career at WEWS and now at Scripps Networks. “It’s all because of God’s blessings. I’m truly grateful.” JCU

-JW


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