#UofSCSpeaks is an interview series focused on the unique experiences of current Gamecocks.

When I got that letter, my first thought was to embrace it. I wanted to take on the opportunity that I was handed. This [Gamecock Gateway] has still given me so many opportunities- I could talk about them forever. Everything I have experienced is no different than any other UofSC student and I consider myself a UofSC student. I knew I was still able to go to football games and participate in SGTV. In the long run, we are all Gamecocks.”

Last year, broadcast journalism major McKenna Cieslak participated in Gamecock Gateway. The program is a collaborative residential bridge program between the University of South Carolina and Midlands Technical College.

“I had every intention of coming to UofSC- just like anyone who applies to a school. However, my SAT scores were not up to par and I understood that. This was something I understood from the beginning. I had heard of the Gamecock Gateway opportunity through some of my friends from my home town.”

Broadcast Journalism Major McKenna Cieslak

Tell me what your initial thoughts were when you were invited to the Gamecock Gateway program?

Honestly, I had heard nothing but great things about it. I did have some second guesses when I got the packet with the huge gate on it and not the packet that said “Yes!” on it. However, I was completely thankful, because if you put it into perspective, I was still a Gamecock.

For me, it is all about embracing an opportunity. I knew exactly what I was getting myself into and I knew exactly where I wanted to be.

Did you have any doubts as you were thinking about the Gamecock Gateway invitation?

Of course there were some doubts. I wasn’t able to rush. I thought I wasn’t going to make as many friends, because I wouldn’t get a chance to participate in a lot of those rush activities. It has been the exact opposite for me. Even tough I doubted my ability to make friends, I have made lifelong friends who I will live with next year. We are all rushing together.

Living in Bates has really helped, too. Living in such a communal space gives you the opportunity to build relationships with more people on your hall. There are people I never would have thought I would become friends with, who I absolutely love. Living in Bates is an adventure. You never know who you will run into in the elevator, or who might randomly knock on your door. It is those experiences that really create your freshman experience. Looking back, I know the Quads are really nice, but I still would have picked Bates. It is one of those things that turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Where did your interest in news come from?

It started in high school. I started taking television classes. I had already completed some television courses and I found myself veering away from lacrosse, because news was what I was passionate about. I liked working in front of the camera. I felt comfortable in front of the camera and I enjoyed talking with people. It was one of those things where I really found my niche. I loved going out into my community, finding stories and bringing it all together. I am not a math person, so it was cool to find something that I really enjoyed and could make a career out of.

As you begin classes as a broadcast major, what are looking forward to the most?

I am looking forward to having a chance to learn. There is so much to learn and a lot of different aspects to the broadcast journalism major. You can help with designing a web page, you can be a producer, an editor, a reporter or an anchor. So, I am really excited to learn more about who I am and what exactly I want to do in the field.

Tell us about working at SGTV?

SGTV has helped me get a lot of practice in producing. I have had to learn how to set up a green screen and how to get scripts written. There is a lot that goes into a production. It is also about teamwork. It is about building something together. SGTV has helped me become a better person, because I have had to develop an understanding of what others are going through and learn that it’s not just about you. I am thankful, because I have grown so much and gotten a lot of practice- behind the camera and in front of the camera.

One of my favorite things has been working on Monday Night Mashup. I get to learn about all of the things that go on in our community - and on the flip side - I get to report on it. One of the key things with SGTV is that you are always learning.

McKenna anchoring SGTV’s Monday Night Mashup

What is one thing that you have learned while at SGTV?

I have definitely learned that it takes a lot to put a show together. I have learned to pace myself when I am speaking [on camera]. I have also learned that social media is a very important aspect of the field. You have to learn how to get your work out and to different people. It can also be a powerful tool for networking.

Who do you get inspiration from?

I have visited all of the shows in New York City- all of the live broadcasts. By far, my favorite is Kelly Ripa, because her personality reminds me a lot of mine. She is very outgoing and willing to talk to anybody…. but, at the same time, very dedicated and hardworking. She has this aura that makes you want to talk to her and I want to be that same type of person. I want to be that person who people are comfortable to talk to.

What are you most looking forward to?

I am looking forward to continuing to make new friends. I am looking forward to the School of Journalism. I am not exactly sure what is to come, but I have a lot of aspirations. I plan to get more involved and dedicate myself to the things I enjoy the most. I want to surround myself with people who will help me in life. For me, it’s the little things that count. I want to put my foot in as many doors as possible.

The Kennedy Greenhouse Studio, School of Journalism and Mass Communication

What are three things you cannot live without?

My cell phone, a camera and my family.

When are you your happiest?

I am the happiest when I am in front of a screen and the lights are shining directly at me. They are so bright that I cannot focus on anything but me and the camera.

What has been one moment at UofSC you wish you could go back to?

The last day at Bates- when we were moving out. I know it may sound weird, but I was leaving all of my friends behind, the ones who I spent all those nights goofing off with. It is a moment I wish could have back. It’s not even two or three weeks into the summer and I am already missing them.

Want to read more UofSC Speaks? Music performance major Danielle Wood described what life is like as a freshman in the School of Music.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.