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IUPUI Graduate Student Making Mark at BET


July 6, 2009

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IUPUI graduate student Virginia Richardson is making her mark on the music and entertainment industry via the sounds and images promoting Black Entertainment Television.

As on-air promotions coordinator for BET, Richardson has worked on productions such as the radio and TV ads of Jamie Foxx “acting crazy” in advance of the 2009 BET Awards show.

The annual BET Awards show – which turned into a tribute to Michael Jackson – was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles on June 28, 2009, just days after the King of Pop’s untimely death.

Richardson managed the flow of talent in and out of BET’s radio remote room at the Shrine as 30 radio stations representing 37 major African American markets recorded celebrity promotional spots for the awards show and other upcoming BET productions.

With Jackson’s death, “we had to reproduce everything in a matter of two and a half days,” Richardson said. “It was crazy. We had to come up with new scripts for the show, new leads for the radio remotes because we had to have the different DJs ask the celebrities how did Michael Jackson impact their careers and how they felt about his death.”

Richardson is just two classes away from earning a master’s degree in music technology from the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI. She earned bachelor’s degrees in media arts and sciences and applied computer science at IUPUI in 2007.

The Fort Wayne, Ind., native has worked full time at BET’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., since completing an internship there in 2006.

“They offered me a job right after my internship,” Richardson says. She finished her senior year of undergraduate work at IUPUI by commuting between campus and her job in D.C.; and communicating with professors via phone and e-mail.

In addition to working this year’s BET awards show, Richardson also worked on the 2006 Hip Hop Awards and the 2007 and 2008 BET awards.

This year’s awards show was different in that Michael Jackson’s death also brought a broader viewing audience creating the need for some production adjustments.

“Although we are always working minute to minute, it was very intense,” Richardson says. “We had different media companies coming to observe the BET awards, CNN, Associated Press, so we had to be very sensitive to all our viewers because this show was being watched by people of different ethnic backgrounds and ages.”

Her new media training in the School of Informatics at IUPUI has paid off as she works with BET marketing and creative services personnel developing promotional campaigns for upcoming shows and events.

Technically, “I can understand how things are created or produced . . . editing, graphics, producing audio and video. I learned that with my new media skills,” Richardson says, adding she also learned how to build Web sites and how to produce radio spots.

While she didn’t realize that she would be using marketing skills, she had learned them in her economics classes at IUPUI.

Richardson’s long term goal is to run her own multimedia firm that provides services for various television, radio and print media firms.

As for the near future, “I would like to stay within the Viacom (BET’s parent company) family. I would love to join Paramount Pictures and get into sound scoring and sound design for a lot of the movies,” Richardson says.

“I can definitely say that the different degrees that I got from IUPUI make me very marketable here. I am always asked to participate in different campaigns because I’m marketable . . . I studied. I took my the classes, I kept myself up to date with technology and worked on projects outside of schools just to keep my skills up to par.”

She also values her internship experience and now mentors new interns at BET.

“I love talking to students, encouraging them to get involved in internships, and finish up their degrees,” she said. “If I had never done my internship, I would have never been here. (Potential employees) want to see what you can do before they sign you on the dotted line.