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Slippery Rock University student earns spot on ‘Big Game’ sideline

​When Katerina Fissore offered to guide Slippery Rock University President Cheryl Norton through the process of posting a selfie to her Twitter account, she never imagined the goodwill gesture would amount to anything more than a shared moment with SRU's top administrator.

Little did Fissore, a communication: integrated marketing major from Saxonburg, know what fate had in store because of that serendipitous moment - an all-expenses paid trip to Houston for Super Bowl LI.

"To sit back and look at how one thing has led to another, it's pretty unbelievable," said Fissore. "I was just looking to help the president get her photo posted since she was so new to Twitter in the fall. Not for one second did I think that interaction would be anything more."

The exchange between Fissore and Norton was facilitated by Rita Abent, executive director for University

Communication and Public Affairs, who asked Fissore if she was an avid social media user. Like most SRU students, the response was affirmative, which led Abent to share her office's need for assistance in monitoring, producing and administering much of the University's social media content. Abent extended her an invitation to learn more about a part-time position in Abent's office.

"I quickly agreed to the meeting," said Fissore, "but to be honest, I was completely uncomfortable and totally out of my comfort zone when the job offer was presented to me, but I sure wasn't going to let on. I've never been in any sort of social media manager role, but I figured they must have seen something in my nature that made them think I was worth taking a shot on."

In working with the CPA office, Fissore helps to monitor SRU's Facebook, LinkedIn and @SRUofPA Twitter pages for questions and comments; post news stories and photographs; and serves as a producer and on-camera talent for "SRU News" video segments.

"In my head, I was thinking, 'I'm not shy, I love talking and I'm a big ham ... this is a very cool opportunity, so you should grab it.'"

Fissore jumped into the role, making her debut on the World Wide Web in late September, introducing the "SRU Superfan" contest to students and alumni.

"The first time I got in front of the camera, I was terrified," she said. "All I could hear was this voice in my head telling me 'You don't want to do this ... They should have picked someone else.'

"But the more takes we did, the more I really started to enjoy what we were doing. I got into a groove and with Joey (Anzalone, a junior communication: digital media production major from New Castle who is also a student worker in CPA) behind the camera keeping things light, it all started to come together."

Indeed, it has. Since that initial video, Fissore and Anzalone have partnered on 10 other projects that have been viewed by thousands - including Mark Fissore, a 1989 SRU graduate and graphics technician for FOX Sports and, coincidentally, Katerina's uncle.

When the network rolled into Pittsburgh to televise the Nov. 13 Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys game, Mark Fissore, a five-time Emmy Award winner, contacted his niece to gauge her interest in working as an assistant to sideline reporter Erin Andrews during the broadcast.

"He told me that he'd seen the SRU News videos and thought that given my new found 'passion' for video production, maybe I'd like to see a game from a different perspective. Again, totally out of my element and with no clue what I'd be doing, I jumped in with both feet and gave it a shot."

Prior to the broadcast, Fissore assisted Andrews with pre-game player interviews and verifying the status of player injuries; while in-game, serving as another set of eyes for the reporter, tracking down statistics and acting as a liaison for Andrews with the production truck.

"Without the experience I was able to gather working in the CPA office, I don't think that I would have appreciated being with Erin as much, because I know the work that goes into producing a pre-planned, scripted video that's only two minutes long," said Fissore. "To see the preparation and planning for a three-hour, on the fly sporting event is crazy. My work at SRU gave me a good head start on what to expect, but seeing it in the 'real world' gave me an even greater appreciation for what we do here.

"It was great to have even that basic background from my short time doing video work to understand what they were talking about and wanting to do. I've learned a lot doing my job on campus and even more from the experience with FOX."

So impressed by Fissore's one-game experience, Andrews asked FOX producers to have the SRU student return for the network's Dec. 4 broadcast from Heinz Field. Following the game, producers spoke to Fissore about joining the production team in Houston, the site of the 2017 Super Bowl.

"It was such a casual ask," said Fissore. "It was like, 'Oh, yeah, if you're not busy the week of Jan. 30, do you want to come to Houston?'"

Presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, Fissore immediately - told producers she'd get back to them.
When she told her bosses at CPA about the offer their reaction was immediate, "of course you're going."

"I'm such a nerd," said Fissore with a laugh. "I was worried about having to miss class and work and be late with assignments. I didn't want to miss out on my responsibilities at school and to be honest, I didn't think the offer was real. It took me a few days to figure out that I could pull it off and take advantage of what is really a golden opportunity. How many people my age get this kind of shot? Now that it's here, I'm really excited and can't wait for the experience."

Fissore will spend Jan. 31-Feb. 6 traveling to and from Houston, logging more hours as an assistant to Andrews during the game and working with associate producers to view, log and cue tapes for various pre-game and in-game elements and the broadcast's digital presence.

Does all this mean that Fissore may one day be following her uncle into the family business or perhaps working her own sideline?

"I'm definitely using these opportunities - at the University and with FOX - to learn about the industry and see where it might lead me in the future," Fissore said. "Is video production the route I want to travel or might I want to consider being an on-air personality? Or, are both of these simply great experiences to have and I go in a completely different direction? I might get to the Super Bowl and realize, 'Oh, this is the coolest thing in the world ... but it's just not for me.'

"What I do know is that between (the CPA office) and (FOX), I've gained more confidence than I've ever had before, been exposed to things I never would dreamt possible and been afforded opportunities that a lot of people would kill to have a shot at.

"I've been very fortunate and very lucky. I was in the right spot at the right time."