NEW YORK CITY — Two recent Penn State alumni are working behind the scenes of popular television shows at major networks, and their immersive experiences are providing a foundation for careers in entertainment at the center of the industry.
Natalia Paternina and Alex Hyneman are working as pages for NBC and CBS, respectively. As pages, they rotate through different areas every few months, witnessing nearly every aspect of operations. Pages give tours, welcome guests, assist in public relations and marketing, and experience the day-to-day routines — or lack thereof — of the most popular television shows in the world.
Natalia Paternina, Penn State class of 2019, NBC Page Program
Paternina, who earned bachelor’s degrees in advertising/public relations and international relations, said taking courses in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications helped her figure out how to merge her interests in writing and media relations with television shows and movies.
“I really like the idea of helping a company get their product out there,” Paternina said. “There’s a lot of power in doing that and understanding it. How does the public view our campaign or our TV show? Figuring that out is very interesting.”
As a page for NBCUniversal, Paternina is spending a year in several roles for the network. She started in May and spent her first three months as an ambassador working with guests on NBC shows. She also gave tours of the studios for some of those programs, like “Saturday Night Live,” “Late Night with Seth Meyers” and “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.”
In September, Paternina rotated into her second role, which is working with the brand marketing team. She is helping the team promote TV shows on USA Network, which is owned by NBCUniversal.
“I am getting exposed to so many different areas of the business,” she said. “Ad sales, public relations, corporate communications production, marketing … the list goes on.”
An unusual moment while giving tours aligned a few of her skills and made for a particularly memorable moment.
“I am getting ready to start a tour and the page before me comes to me and says, ‘We need your help,’” Paternina said. “They had a group of guests that only spoke Spanish, and asked if I could help them out.”
Luckily, Paternina speaks Spanish fluently. She saved the day.
“I had to translate the entire script in real-time, which is not as easy as it sounds,” she said. “But I did the entire tour and I was able to help out the group of guests.”
She added with a laugh, “That’s the kind of thing that could happen as a page. You truly never know what’s going to happen.”
Paternina was born in Colombia where she attended American school. In high school, her family moved to Michigan. She said she always had an eye on Penn State as an option for college.
She was majoring in international studies and wanted to add another major to strengthen her writing skills. After doing some research, public relations was the right fit. Now as an alumna, she said the Bellisario College gave her the opportunities that put her in the places she needed to be to succeed.
“I made lots of connections at the career fairs in New York and the one in D.C.,” Paternina said. “I reached out to a past alum who was in the Page Program and she was very helpful. I love Penn State’s large network. No matter where you go, alumni are always willing to help and give advice. It’s what makes Penn State such a great school.”
Alex Hyneman, Penn State class of 2019, CBS Page Program
The creative world has always been a place for Hyneman. Growing up, he gravitated to drawing and art, but most of all, television. One of his favorite shows, “30 Rock,” is about working for a major television network and one of its characters is a page. Hyneman said it’s “full circle” that a character who inspired his interest in television shares the same position he enjoys today.
The Page Program at CBS is 18 months long with members rotating roles every six months. Hyneman started the position in August and has been greeting audiences and assisting with shows like “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on CBS, “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” on TBS, and “Last Week Tonight” on HBO.
“Working with different shows and networks gives me a new outlook on how many television opportunities there are in New York,” he said. “They provide these different insights and ways to meet new people. I am learning ways to handle different situations. I am helping people answer questions and learning from them too.”
Hyneman, who earned his bachelor’s degree in film-video from the Bellisario College, said working with audiences is a balance and a mix of “being assertive but keeping a pleasant attitude.”
One month into the grogram, a unique challenge arrived. “The Late Show” was airing a rare live episode after the Democratic debates on Sept. 12. So, Hyneman experienced the rush of live television.
While the lights and commotion of television has wowed him, the social and networking aspects of the job has piqued Hyneman’s interests. He said it’s been rewarding to work with the other pages who represent many different colleges, degrees and backgrounds.
As a natural “people person,” Hyneman is tailor-made to be a page. He likes meeting people and listening to what they need. His fascination with others worked itself into a lot of his academic work. As a Schreyer Honors College student, he wrote a thesis on reality television and how that genre handled the mental health of contestants. He was also heavily involved with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Penn State.
Hyneman also said he enjoys connecting concepts from the Bellisario College classrooms to his experience with CBS.
“Being able to take what I learned from Penn State and bring it into this new environment, I think it helps me stand out,” he said. “When people ask where I got my degree, I proudly say, ‘Penn State.’”
When his 18 months are complete, Hyneman said he wants to find new challenges and continue to work with others to solve problems.