By: Andrea Illan

Andrea Illan is a senior in the Media Management program at the School of Communication. This summer, Illan participated in the International Radio & Television Society Foundation’s Future Media Leader Accelerator Series.

The International Radio & Television Society Foundation, better known as the IRTS Foundation, is a nonprofit organization that is centered on the media industry. With a board of directors comprised of successful media professionals and executives, the foundation plays an important role in the industry. Membership of the IRTS Foundation ranges from senior vice presidents at top media companies to students like myself who are just starting their careers. As the foundation’s tagline describes, the organization focuses on building future media leaders. But beyond that, it excels at building connections between media professionals and supporting members in their careers.

Every year, the IRTS Foundation holds a highly selective fellowship program in New York City (NYC) for college juniors and seniors. This professional opportunity, often referred to as a “media boot camp,” covers such activities as living in the city for the summer, placement into a top NYC media internship, company visits, panel discussions, speaker events, and career counseling.

While this was the experience that I had hoped for summer 2020, the fellowship is one of the many things that COVID-19 tampered with this year. In the face of the pandemic, the IRTS Foundation saw no option but to cancel the fellowship. Instead, the foundation created a substitute–an entirely new virtual program for participants titled Future Media Leader Accelerator Series (FMLAS).

As an FMLAS conferee, I was able to meet media professionals and executives through weekly panels and virtual sessions. These guest speakers consisted of young professionals fresh out of college, senior vice presidents and presidents of legacy companies, producers, journalists, and advertising salespersons. The range of companies was equally diverse and included NBCUniversal, The Walt Disney Company, HBO, Google, The Trade Desk, Horizon Media, Unilever, and Nielsen. The wide array of speakers gave us a unique perspective about all the fields and jobs in the media industry.

A major component of this program is professional development. As a participant, I had the opportunity to meet regularly with IRTS Foundation leaders who became my mentors. These conversations revolved around my career aspirations, an introduction to different media companies, and an overview of new media connections. During the program, I was connected to over 50 professionals, with many of whom I conducted informational interviews and formed lasting relationships.

My involvement with the IRTS Foundation this summer allowed me to learn about the media industry beyond the classroom and to make supportive connections with professionals. In addition, I was able to befriend my incredible cohort of FMLAS conferees, many of whom will be my peers when I enter the workforce. While this online summer program differed from my pre-pandemic expectations, it taught me about professional adaptability, empowered me with different ways to grow in my career, provided me with connections that will last a lifetime, and left me extremely excited about my future career in the media business.

To learn more about the IRTS Foundation and its programs, please visit