Today Show comes to campus
Published: Monday, September 24, 2012
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2012 19:09
Amid blue foam balls, handmade posters and proud students, stood a camera crew getting it all on tape. Last Thursday, the TODAY Show crew was on the Great Lawn recording a clip of what viewers could expect if Brandeis won the competition to get Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford to broadcast their morning show from campus.
Although Brandeis lost to the University of Tennessee, Rachel Nelson ’13 and Reed Zukerman ’13 headlined the effort that brought the TODAY Show to campus and made the University one of six finalists in the competition. They began by creating a video and tweeting it to the cohosts to enter the contest. In the video, Nelson and Zukerman interviewed students all over campus, as well as University President Fredrick Lawrence, Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel and Provost Steve Goldstein, about why Kotb and Gifford should choose the University.
Common responses in the video included the enthusiastic people, the sense of community and having a castle on campus.
Lawrence’s enthusiasm to be featured in the video was evident to Nelson and Zukerman, who realized that he only needed one take. “He knew exactly what he was going to say,” said Nelson. “[The administration] also did so much to make [Thursday] happen, which you wouldn’t be able to tell if you weren’t behind the scenes. … We had to figure out logistics with the food, with the balloons, with everything. And they really helped us out with that,” she said.
On the Great Lawn on Thursday, students held signs with messages including “This is our ParaDeis” and “Small in Size, Big in Spirit;” a disc jockey played music and students wore Brandeis attire and blue war paint.
Shelby Magid ’15, a transfer student from the George Washington University who attended the event on Thursday and showed her Brandeis pride by holding up a poster, said, “I think this is a good opportunity to show that even though we’re smaller and don’t have the same sports, that we still have a caring and close community. It’s an awesome opportunity to show the school off.”
Amanda Dryer ’13 wanted the cohosts to choose Brandeis so that more people would know about the University: “I know that if Brandeis is on NBC, more people will hear about Brandeis and how great Brandeis is.” She hopes the spirit will last throughout the year, especially during sporting events. “We definitely need to bring more of this kind of spirit to basketball games and athletic events as well. I think [this event] is a really good kick-off to start the spirit at Brandeis,” she said.
Nelson was also happy with the way the filming turned out. “It was so nice seeing everybody in blue, everybody with the signs. First it started off where we really just wanted to meet Kathy Lee and Hoda, let’s be honest, but then it turned into so much more; Brandeis is actually an awesome place and people don’t know about it, so why don’t they know about it?” she said.
The contest consisted of several steps. Students from all over the country could submit tweets using the hashtag #KLGandHodaU until Sept. 16 to catch the eye of the cohosts.
The hosts then chose six schools as finalists based on the criteria of 30 percent creativity, 30 percent originality and 40 percent school spirit, according to Zukerman.
Tweets urging the hosts to choose Brandeis included remarks about extracurricular activities, as well as key features of the campus. One tweet from @jasonmdick claimed, “Brandeis is going to need to see your resumes. We don’t let just anybody film the 4th hour here.”
The five other schools in the contest were Syracuse University, the Ohio State University, University of Tennessee, University of South Florida and Creighton University.
While Nelson and Zukerman originally considered simply taking a few pictures of the campus to tweet to the show, they decided to make a video, as most schools had not used this method to get the show’s attention. The students were determined to make the top six. “We love the TODAY Show, we love Kathy Lee and Hoda. We just hadn’t been watching because we had class, but we watch it like every day when we don’t have class. All the time,” Nelson said.
“We just said, ‘If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it big,’” Zukerman said.
He wants more people outside the community to know about Brandeis and what the University gives its students. “This is the opportunity for Brandeis to be seen on a national stage. I think it’s been decades since Jimmy Carter; we learned, that when he came to Brandeis [was the last time] that Brandeis has been seen on national television, so this is an opportunity for Brandeis to have free publicity, to get their name out there, to show what type of university we are: that we are spirited individuals and we’re so excited to rally behind a cause,” he said.
After the finalists were chosen, camera crews filmed at the six schools throughout last week as online voting continued from Sept. 17 through Sept. 21. The winner, the University of Tennessee, will have Kotb and Gifford broadcast live from its campus during the week of Oct. 1.
Of course, the size of the University may have posed a problem in terms of voting. “We have 45,000 living alumni. That’s less than the entire population of Ohio State,” according to Nelson.
“In one sense, it’s nice that we can communicate with everyone on our level because we’re on a small scale, so we can kind of pinpoint who we want to talk to, [whereas for bigger schools] it might be hard to send out that information to the entire population,” Zukerman added.
Regardless of the winning school, Zukerman agreed that the filming on the Great Lawn was already a great result of being involved in the contest. “It was amazing. I just felt this great Brandeis pride, which sometime is lacking. This spirit where we just come together. We’re never all together wearing Brandeis gear and just cheering. It was just amazing to see everyone come together and just be happy with each other and for Brandeis.”
—Marissa Ditkowsky contributed reporting.