Rutgers alumna’s video portfolio ranges from producing content for network TV to working with national brands.
By Shelby Vittek GSC’16.
Growing up in Monmouth Beach, a small Jersey Shore town with a population of 3,200, Mary McGowan always dreamed of reaching big audiences. Now an associate producer at Condé Nast Entertainment—a studio and distribution network with dual headquarters in New York and London that drives an average of one billion monthly views—she is living that dream.
McGowan SAS’16 credits her time at Rutgers–New Brunswick for helping to build the foundation that catapulted her into her dream career. “It was eye-opening to meet so many people of all different backgrounds,” she says about her undergraduate experience. “At Rutgers, you can meet somebody from any part of the world.”
One of those people was Professor Steven Miller, director of undergraduate studies at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information, who encourages students like McGowan to get out into the world to report and network, getting real-world experience before graduation comes around. “He made it very clear that if we wanted to succeed in media, we had to get outside experience,” says McGowan, who first learned about video editing and copy editing during a brief stint at The Daily Targum.
After that, she landed an internship working under the head casting producer for the Food Network cooking competition show Chopped, one of the highest-rated shows on network TV that has aired for more than 45 seasons. McGowan says it was a “life-changing” experience that led to a job after she graduated in 2016.
During the show’s filming breaks, McGowan picked up freelance gigs in production for other shows. She’s worked on all kinds of shoots, including the Total Request Live reboot for MTV and another Food Network show called The Kitchen, where she honed her skills in script writing and talent management. For a complete change of scenery, McGowan delved into the supernatural world for a History Channel show about inventions and modern technology, researching topics and sourcing archival graphics and footage that could be featured on the episodes. “I’ve certainly used so many skills that I learned, both hard and soft, at Rutgers,” says McGowan, who double-majored in journalism and English with a minor in entrepreneurship.
In November 2021, she stepped into her new role as an associate producer for branded content at Condé Nast Entertainment, the film and television production and distribution studio which oversees projects across all platforms. (It is a division of the media giant Condé Nast, which is also home to home to magazines such as The New Yorker, Vogue, and Vanity Fair.) The projects that McGowan has worked on run the gamut, everything from pitching ideas and shaping narratives for clients that include medical databases, technology and cars, musicians, and charitable organizations.
She worked on a branded video featuring the Japanese American musician Sen Morimoto and White Claw, a top-selling national hard seltzer brand. “I’m learning to work with these huge companies to produce content alongside them,” says McGowan, who revels in the fact that no two days are the same. “There’s a lot of cool projects coming out of Condé Nast Entertainment, and I’m really, really grateful that I work there.”
While some may dismiss the usefulness of an English or journalism degree in an increasingly STEM-focused world, McGowan’s journey proves their merits. “Everyone is going to need a good writer,” she says. “Everyone’s going to need a good researcher. Everyone’s going to need somebody to produce a video for them, to edit a video for them. Those skills are so important in our society.”
A version of this story appeared in Rutgers Magazine.