Each spring semester brings a new wave of seniors preparing for that glorious, hard-earned walk across the graduation stage. And every year, many of them dread that daunting question: “So, what are your plans after graduation?”
More seniors than it may seem don’t have an answer to that question. Alumna Tara Wellman (’10) faced the same anxiety as she approached graduation.
“I’m such a people-pleaser, and it was really hard not to go the traditional route,” Wellman said. “I remember thinking, ‘I’m not sure if I can do this.’”
Wellman had made the decision to turn down any graduate’s dream—a full-time job right after graduation. As a journalism and radio-TV production double major, the position at Augustana’s WVIK radio would have been right up her alley. But she didn’t feel like radio would take her in the direction she wanted to go.
She never saw herself as a TV personality, either. That sounds odd coming from someone who currently hosts a half-hour special on Mediacom’s Channel 22 called “Behind the Scenes,” which spotlights local people and businesses.
After two years at Scott Community College, and changing her mind “probably five times,” Wellman settled on majoring in journalism at St. Ambrose University. All she knew was her love for writing, and that it might lead her toward the magazine industry someday.
Even picking up a double major in radio-TV production came to Wellman by a fluke, when she was asked to fill in as an anchor for an SAUtv sports newscast and loved it.
“They threw it at me and said, ‘Want to do it?’” Wellman said. “And then I just got involved in everything.”
Getting so involved landed Wellman some freelance work with Mediacom as part of the TV production crew covering local high school and college sports.
“It wasn’t necessarily the most traditional of internships,” Wellman said. “But I got a lot of hands-on experience.”
She has been with Mediacom ever since. While “Behind the Scenes” was her first major job with the company, she has continued helping with sports productions as well. She is excited to be producing a new half-hour sports program airing soon, on opposite weeks from her “Behind the Scenes” program.
Wellman knows her success has stemmed from more than good fortune. It has come from non-stop dedication to her work.
“I was content to wait for the right opportunity to come along instead of the first opportunity that came along,” Wellman said. “But it has taken a lot of patience to stick with it.”
An avid St. Louis Cardinals fan, she created a blog about the Quad City River Bandits, who were owned by the Cardinals until being traded to the Houston Astros last year. She started writing it simply to “hone her writing skills” on a subject she enjoyed.
But the excess of already prominent writers with baseball expertise lessened the chance for her writing to be noticed. So Wellman pursued a second passion with a smaller niche—professional figure skating.
The Utah native watched Olympic figure skaters train in her hometown as a child and has followed the sport ever since. Wellman absorbed herself in figure skating, taking lessons and learning everything she possibly could about the subject.
She used social media to her advantage once again, tweeting updates on championship competitions. Wellman’s figure skating blog peaked the interest of Ice Network LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of U.S. Figure Skating and a premier online source for the latest information.
The company promptly hired her to write an online column. Wellman’s consistently impressive work on the column scored her a spot as a researcher for coverage of the 2013 National Figure Skating Championships. That cold January trip to Omaha, Neb., was undoubtedly a highlight in her very busy career.
“I have a lot of irons in the fire, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Wellman said.
Wellman’s career has been less than traditional. She started with community college, vascillated on a major and an institution to attend, had no official internships, and worked several odd jobs to pave her way to the opportunities she has today. What is her best piece of advice for upcoming graduates?
“Don’t be afraid to do it different than how other people do it,” Wellman said. “It’s your life, not theirs.”