During the COVID-19 pandemic, everything has seemed to go virtual, including college visits for students applying to universities. Alex Boylan, host and producer of “The College Tour,” decided to provide a series for prospective college students to understand “what life is truly like on college campuses across the country and around the world” according to the series description on Amazon Prime Video.
The third season of the show covers fifteen universities, one of which being NJIT. “While our campus has been featured as a location in several television series and movies, it has never been the highlight of a show,” said Matthew Golden, NJIT’s chief communications and marketing officer. “Because of the changing landscape in media and the reach that streaming platforms provide, this project was a unique opportunity to reach prospective students, their influencers, alumni and others in a new way.”
The production team of “The College Tour” reached out to NJIT with this opportunity. “We had immediate interest because of the high production value and ability to show the episode on multiple platforms,” Golden mentioned, “but we thoroughly analyzed the proposal for several weeks to determine if it was a good fit for NJIT.”
As part of “The College Tour”’s outreach, its teams frequently update high school guidance counselors with new episodes. Having the NJIT episode shared with high school students across the country is a constructive way to increase NJIT’s profile beyond our region.
While planning out the episode, the producers of the series provided NJIT with a basic framework of timing, but NJIT was able to make sure that all of the colleges were represented. It was also ensured that some of NJIT’s unique features, such as the Makerspace and VentureLink, were included either as part of the student experience or as a location at which a scene was filmed.
“Campus features were selected based on feedback from students, staff and the production team to determine what would look appealing in this format,” Golden added. “‘The College Tour’ provided guidance on best practices along the way, so when it came to the week of shooting, we were well prepared.”
Similar to how many in-person tours are given by students, the episode only has students talking about different parts of the college campus. There were several casting calls put out throughout the summer to generate interest in participating. Students sent in audition videos of under two minutes sharing their unique NJIT experience. The team of “The College Tour” then reviewed the audition clips and made recommendations, and the NJIT team made sure that a wide variety of university programs and experiences were included.
To begin the tour, third-year mechanical engineering major Jason Morlock spoke about the Makerspace. “I was assigned to represent engineering and a big part of that was talking about the Makerspace,” he said. “I love the Makerspace, so I was happy to go into detail.”
He added that “I spent a day writing my script. [The production team] gave me a detailed outline of topics to hit for the script as well as key details it wanted me to hit. It also wanted me to film myself reciting the script from memory, which was really hard to get done, but I was so happy when I finally got it.”
Morlock noted that the crew was supportive and complimented a lot of his takes. Additionally, the Makerspace team helped with demonstrating machinery and setting up great shots of the building.
The episode then featured Suzanne Hlinka, who described her experiences with game design as a student in both Ying Wu College of Computing and Hillier College of Architecture and Design. Diego Sanchez went into detail about NJIT’s research opportunities and its R1 classification.
Regsan Watkins, a graduate student, focused on the Division 1 athletics on campus, as he is an international student who plays soccer for NJIT. He emphasized in his segment of the episode that NJIT provides students the opportunity to excel in both academics and athletics.
As a marketing major, “it felt amazing to impart my experiences to prospective students and use some of my marketing skills, which I know will benefit me later in life,” Watkins said.
Being a part of this show made him feel like a “movie star” during the filming. “The most challenging part was actually bringing what I memorized [from the script] and delivering it in as personable a manner as I could,” he added. “My favorite parts were talking about my experiences and talking with the production crew to learn about what they do.”
In “The College Tour” episode, Carla Blandura spoke about the diversity at NJIT, and Samir Peshori covered VentureLink as well as the university’s entrepreneurship initiatives. Showing some of his favorite parts on campus, Matt Kotowski emphasized the importance of making connections throughout college, and many NJIT organizations hold many activities and events of which students can take advantage.
Fifth-year architecture major Casey Crown focused her segment on her time in studio and the feedback she gets from peers and professors. She was excited to be asked to be part of this episode because “I’m not always the most vocal or the most obvious choice.”
Crown explained her process of contributing to the show. “I was assigned a topic, but I strayed a little bit when writing my script. I wanted my segment to be as personal and truthful as possible,” she said. “I wanted to stress how interesting my own experience has been and how NJIT’s architecture program has shaped me.”
It took her a little while to get used to the lighting and the camera in her face, but the camera crew was very patient. She added, “the biggest challenge was figuring out how to get the right message across while being as concise as possible. I loved writing about the experience I’ve had with my studio friends; that is definitely my favorite part of my story at NJIT.”
Vincent Jackson graduated in 2021 as a business major, and he talked about the bridge between business and technology at NJIT. As he was going through the filming process, he mentioned that “the [production] team I worked with was really organized so they really helped to make it smooth!”
Fourth-year industrial engineering major Will Andrews stated, “The most rewarding part was getting to talk about NJIT in such a positive light because of the impact the school has had in my time here.”
He spoke about the diverse set of opportunities that are always offered on campus and how NJIT sets the standard for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education.
“I have done some other pieces for the university, so this felt like a scaled-up version of those experiences,” Andrews said. “The Amazon crew was fun, and the whole thing was very laid-back.”
“The College Tour” episode about NJIT is part of a larger effort to show a full picture of what the university has to offer – a vibrant and diverse campus life, innovative academic programs, unique undergraduate research opportunities, competitive Division 1 athletics and pathways to a fulfilling career.
“We couldn’t have done this without the hard work of the students involved and all who participated. Without their enthusiastic support and dedication to the project, it would not have been a success,” Golden said. “They did a fantastic job representing NJIT in positive and compelling ways.”