” Life is all about continuous growth and continuous education. You’re only going to be able to do what you allow and what you set yourself out to do. So, if you want a good life then reach for that good life, but also play an active part in making sure that life is good.”–Renee Marine
Delaware State University has a plethora of outstanding professors and administration personnel. None is more notable than Renee Marine. She came to DSU two years ago and has worked in the Mass Communications department. Renee Marine has more than 20 years in the business as a successful producer, director and reporter for many news outlets, but to her students, she’s Ms. Marine, the Director of Mass Communications.
Interview by Dominique Drewery & Ronald Knight
We sat down to talk to Ms. Marine to discuss past accomplishments, the future, and some issues facing the United States today.
Q: Can we get to meet the woman behind the title?
A: My name is Renee Marine and I am the Director of Mass Communications and Television lead here at Delaware State University.
Q: Where were you born and what was your upbringing like?
A: I was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which most people know as the city of the floods because we have had a ton of issues with flooding. We are an industrial town. Bethlehem still was huge back in the days. Unfortunately, once the still went overseas and to China it left my city in desperate need of a huge economic boost.
Q: Who has been the greatest influence in your life that has impacted the woman you are today?
A: The greatest impact in my life has been my mother. I was raised by a single parent. My mom raised four girls and she taught us how to be extremely strong, independent women, and to be able to find our voice at a very young age.
Q: Can you tell us about your education history and what your goals or life ambition were when you were a college student?
A: I went to West Virginia University for my undergrad. The experience there was wonderful. It was a Scripts Howard Journalism School. I had a lot of hands-on training and got chances to work with the equipment when a lot of colleges weren’t doing that. I then earned my Masters at New York University. While I was there, I was hired as their head- teaching assistant, which inspired me to be in front of the camera and behind the scene. Part of my behind the scenes was being invited to teach at Rustoff State University, in Rustoff, Russia where I set up a new studio and brought my experiences back to the U.S.
Q: Can you tell us about your job experience prior to this job as Director of Mass Communications at Delaware State University?
A: My job experience is very versatile in the world of television. I was a reporter, producer, EP; I shot all my own videos, I edited, and directed. I worked on one of the pilot programs for what newsrooms look like today with only two people being involved. I was an intern at 20/20; I was a productions assistant at 20/20 in New York. I received some great training from some of the best professionals.
I was also offered a job at 20/20 upon my graduation. However, I listened to a producer I worked with there and his advice was: “if you want to try to be on the air, you have to go and try it because it will be a regret for you. You will always feel like something is missing.” I left 20/20 to be a reporter. I moved quickly to Pittsburgh and realized with my time in Pittsburgh that I absolutely love producing. I like seeing the whole thing and being that person that crafts it and puts it all together. From Pittsburgh, I moved on to Baltimore where I worked for nine and a half years and earned an Emmy in Baltimore for a documentary I did. I then moved to WBOC in Salisbury, MD after the birth of my son. I launched their HD program and created new programming for them. I built a department from the ground up and ended up winning an Edward Monroe Award for a documentary I produced for them.
One of the things I missed was I realized a lot of the good students graduating were the ones we were hiring at WBOC. I got a chance to see what the students were learning, coming into their first job and how daunting it could be. I went and got my Masters with the idea of teaching, which I was already doing at WBOC. So, when the opportunity came up at Delaware State University I jumped at it and never looked back.
Q: What was your most memorable point at WBOC?
A: My most memorable point at WBOC was a very difficult time we had. We had a string of really bad news that happened. The first thing people don’t realize about this business is this business is not a 9-5. You work on holidays, you work long nights, and as long as the news is there, you’re there working on that news. It just so happened we had a blizzard and were snowed in the station to be able to inform the community of what was happening. After a long weekend, we came back to work after the snow storm and next thing I knew, we had two stories back to back.
One story was the Dr. Bradley scandal, who was a well – known pediatrician and accused of molesting 103 children and the same day that story broke, a little girl was kidnapped in Salisbury, MD. Having to deal with both stories in the same day was a lot.
My job as the executive producer was to pour over all the police reports. So, all the intricate parts of the story that we didn’t necessarily let the public know because of the graphic nature, I had to read line by line and word by word. That was something that was really hard to get out my mind, especially during Christmas, a time when we are supposed to be happy and here we had two awful stories. The outcome was that the Doctor was found guilty and sentenced to jail and, unfortunately, that young girl was murdered and found Christmas day. That is just something that stays with you always.
Q: Is this where you thought you’d be 5 or 10 years ago?
A: 5 or 10 years ago I did not think I would be here. I thought I would still be in that daily grind of television and still trying to figure out how to balance home life and work life, you can’t have them both, you have to pick. This is a very exciting time for me and this is where I want to be the next 5 or 10 years in the future.
Q: What informed your decision on doing what you are doing now?
A: In high school, I did persuasive speaking and it brought me a voice. I like being able to affect people and to teach people and to see them grow and to see them overcome frustration and smile and to get something out of this career is rewarding for me.
Q: As the Director of Mass Communications for DSU, what are your plans for the future?
A: My plans as Director of Mass Communication includes listening to the students and trying to make this a program that our students are proud to graduate from. Everybody knows that as far as Mass Communications is concerned, it’s constantly evolving. And we need to evolve and we need to evolve with our students. And just making sure that their voices are being heard and to make sure that they are learning everything that they can learn. And to see how we can better and to make sure that upon graduation, 90% or more have a job and they are doing exactly what they want to do.
Q: What kind of advice would you offer a student, who is undecided on his or her career path?
A: When I went to West Virginia University I went in as undecided. Now, I had an idea of something that I wanted to do. You get an opportunity to do your general courses, but you can also take electives and you take those beginner courses. So, I said you know what? Journalism, beginner’s journalism, I’m jumping in it and I loved the course. And once I took that class, there was no looking back. I always thought I wanted to grow up and be a nurse or a teacher. But guess what, biology was not necessarily something that I was good at or wanted to do. So try it, it’s not too late. These are the times where you get to dabble and to possibly make your mistakes before you get three and four years into college and have to decide then. I also go back and say if you’re about to graduate and this wasn’t right for you, don’t look at this as a waste for time. You grew as an individual. And while you might not be getting that job with the degree you had, it lets you know who you are and where you want to be and you just grow from there.
Q: How would you describe the state of higher education in America today?
A: The state of higher of education in America is a lot different when I went through it. I think it’s a lot more open as far as opportunity for people to be able to get educated. I think that’s a good thing, but I also want students to realize that although they have better and more access to the education, not to waste the opportunity, not to overlook it, but to take advantage of it. You’re only going to get out of an education as to what you put in it. So many times, I hear students around the hall and they might complain. This teacher is so and so, I didn’t learn anything here, or I didn’t get this, or I didn’t get that. What did you do? What did you try to get out of it? How much did you put yourself into it? And I think that’s the thing that’s missing, that key element that’s missing today. And I think that’s a message we have to get out to students.
Q: What does the future hold for America?
A: The future of America is very uncertain. It’s ironic, in the 90’s when I taught in Russia, I was over there at a time when the government was crumbling. The infrastructure is much of what we’re going through today. As far as our bridges collapsing, deteriorating and things like that. I just remember thinking to myself that it will never happen in America. We think that we are mightier and higher than we really are. But that was realism to me. There were people standing on the street holding single pieces of meat to be able to sell to take things home for dinner. You went to an open market in Russia and the fish, (we’re used to everything being pasteurized and on ice and all those kind of things) was out baking in the sun and that’s what people were buying and doing. Now look at us, here we are nearly twenty years later and we have a lot of the same issues that are happening here in America. I think until we decide not to say it’s not my problem, then I think we need to figure out how we’re going to get involved to make it better. Collectively we all have to care and we all have to decide to make it better, or we might just be like what I experienced in Russia eighteen years ago.
Q: What are your thoughts on DACA?
A: DACA is a program that was put in place to not take jobs from us, not to take education away from the other students that can get in here, but to give opportunity to those who would not have the same opportunity. These children have been here for at least 10 years, they are no longer children, but their desire to learn and be productive citizens, I think should be rewarded and not looked at as a negative.
Q: What are your hobbies or extracurricular activities?
A: My extracurricular activities include my family. If I’m not here on campus, I’m with my family. I have five children, four step-children, one son and my son is ten and he keeps me very busy. So, I love to immerse in where we are as a family. He is what I like to call differently abled, so being a chance to see the world through his eyes is an exciting thing for me.
Q: Let us end this interview with your philosophy of life. How do you see this life and what principles get you grounded and moving forward?
A: My philosophy on life is life is going to be what you make of it. I see so many people who collect themselves in everything that’s bad that’s happened to them and it’s very easy to fall into that hole where it’s hard to get out of. I’m just as guilty of it at least one point in my life, but I think it’s also very important to look at these things, if something bad happens look at it as an opportunity to grow and not wallow. Life is all about continuous growth and continuous education. You’re only going to be able to do what you allow and what you set yourself out to do. So, if you want a good life then reach for that good life, but also play an active part in making sure that life is good.