Alumna accepted into competitive NBCUniversal Page Program

Katie DeFiore
August 20, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Deborah Coker entered the advertising/public relations major thinking she wanted to work with musicians as a publicist. That all changed her sophomore year when she saw Linda Yaccarino, a Penn State alumna who is now chairman of advertising and client partnerships at NBCUniversal, speak during an on-campus panel. She knew then that she wanted to work for NBCUniversal.

Coker, a native of Bowie, Maryland, who graduated in May, was accepted into the NBCUniversal Page Program, an extremely competitive opportunity with thousands of recent graduates applying every year.

“It was the company that made me want to work in television,” Coker said. “It was the company that made me like, ‘OK, this is something that I could do.’ The fact that I get to work there right after I graduate in one of the most prestigious programs there is in media, it’s everything. It’s amazing.”

The program only accepts between 20 and 25 applicants for each of the four cohorts per year at the New York City location. The rotational program provides these individuals the opportunity to learn about every aspect of the media industry, including an ambassador experience, business assignments, consumer assignments and content assignments.

The program is perfect for Coker, who knows she wants to work in television, but hasn’t quite decided in which part of the industry.

“I think what really intrigued me about the program was it’s not just rotating within one division,” Coker said. “I think for me it’s sort of about putting my hand in everything so I can figure out which one is the best fit for me and which one I enjoy the most and which I excel at.”

This summer, Coker interned with Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta. She worked on the brand distribution side communicating with affiliates to get networks and programming featured. She did similar work with Discovery communications in the summer of 2017.

“For me, I know I want to work in media in terms of television,” Coker said. “I think every time I get to work in a different arena, I’m always really surprised by how much I enjoy doing different things that relate to television. I really loved it.”

While she has learned a lot from her different internships, Coker stressed the importance of networking. She said assistant teaching professor Tara Wyckoff, who taught her capstone public relations course, asked her to be a part of the National Millennial Community. The National Millennial Community, which brings millennials and brands together to generate dialogue and facilitate professional development, is headed by Bill Imada, chairman and CEO of the IW Group.

Coker reached out to Imada when applying to the Page Program in May to see if he had any contacts who were a part of the program that she could talk to for advice. After networking, Coker applied for the program in late May.

The vetting process for the program was extensive — Coker had to complete a video interview, a panel interview with a handful of other applicants, a two-minute unaided presentation, a solo interview and then finally a group project, after which she got an email saying she had been accepted.

“I think the fact that I got it, I think it’s sort of a culmination of the last 21 years of just working really hard and planning for a future,” Coker said. “I think seeing that when you work hard and you do the work, and with just a little bit of luck also, you can get those things that you really want to get and you can get those things that you strive for.”

While there are some nerves heading into the experience, Coker feels prepared, in large part to Wyckoff’s class, which ran like a PR agency, and her other internship experiences in the industry.

"Deborah has a bright future, and it didn't surprise me that she was selected as an NBCUniversal intern,” Wyckoff said. “In class, Deborah was a solid contributor to our discussions and the type of peer others gravitated towards. She just has a great attitude and curiosity about her that makes others want to work with her. I can't wait to see what's next for her."

Coker said she is most looking forward to meeting the other pages whose passion about media will match hers. In the future, Coker said she’d love to be the new Linda Yaccarino and eventually hold an executive position.

“Especially as a woman of color, I think it’s really important to me that I aspire to really big positions,” Coker said. “I don’t want to be someone who just kind of gets there and just stays there.”

Last Updated August 21, 2018