From student to professional

Oakland alumna Lauren Podell landed her job at WDIV-TV Channel 4 before she even had a college degree.

The 2008 College of Arts and Sciences graduate was one of two people selected out of over 300 to be a traffic reporter at the station after it held an open tryout for the position in November of 2007.

She was just a 22-year-old junior in college, but she had to go from student to professional rather quickly.

“It was a surreal way to get into the business and from that moment, when I got in that way, I knew I had to work really hard to stay there,” Podell said.

“I wanted to prove myself. I was 22, I was still in college, I didn’t have a degree and I wanted to show people that I was worthy.”

Prove herself is exactly what she did. Since she began at Channel 4 eight years ago, she has worked her way from a traffic reporter to a general assignment reporter and anchor for the station. 

This journey is what she discussed in her speech on Oct. 10 at Oakland’s sixth annual Student to Professional Conference. She also offered career advice and professional guidance for students in attendace on the sunny weekend afternoon.

Becoming a Golden Grizzly

When Podell took her first tour of Oakland, she and her father Doug, who has been involved in radio for over three decades in Detroit, decided to visit the campus radio station in the basement of the Oakland Center.

She introduced herself and after asking how to get involved, she was handed an application on the spot — a move that essentially decided her future.

“Before I was even enrolled as a student, Oakland University was willing to take me on and have me be a part of their radio station where at a lot of other universities, that experience was untouchable until later years,” Podell said.

“Right then, I knew this was the place for me. There was nothing holding me back, they just wanted people who wanted to be there and I wanted to be there.”

Radio is where Podell gives most of her credit since she didn’t get into television and journalism until the end of her college career.

“The fact that WXOU and Oakland University allowed me an opportunity is definitely what helped shape what I’m doing now,” she explained.

“If they wouldn’t have let me do that, I don’t know where I would be. My extra time that I spent at OU has made me a little less fearful of the real world. I think that’s what college is all about.”

She hosted her own show about local music and according to Christine Stover, who was the adviser for WXOU and is currently full-time adjunct faculty at OU, Podell was a “force.”

“At her time, she was one of the only women that we had on the radio. Radio is typically really male-dominated, and she was one of the only female DJs that we had that did it by herself,” Stover said. “She was just on top of her game the entire time.”

Podell was also one of the only freshman to host their own show and Stover said it was her confidence that allowed her to do this — something Stover believes is the reason why she’s still successful today.

“She exudes confidence and she seems genuine and trustworthy when you interact with her,” Stover explained. “She didn’t need ‘the degree’ because she got the job before she had the degree, but what is entailed in that degree helped her tremendously.”


Guidance for OU students

Podell’s advice for Oakland students specifically is to embrace campus and get involved in as much as possible, and this isn’t limited to just career-oriented activities. 

She encourages students to join clubs and attend events to meet people — something she wishes she would’ve done more. 

She said that if she could redo one thing during her undergraduate years here, she would’ve attended more Oakland basketball games.

“While I did spend a lot of time with WXOU and OUTV, I didn’t embrace some of the fun other activities that OU had to offer,” Podell said. “Don’t be afraid, that’s why you’re there at Oakland. If there’s something you love, go for it. If you don’t know what you love, try and try again.”


A visible success story

Although Podell admits that her job is stressful, she said she loves what she does and feels it’s important for everyone to love what they do.

Stover added that just because Oakland is a commuter school, that doesn’t mean there aren’t successful people. She said Podell is a good representation of this.  

“If you look at the alumni listings of some of the most amazing people that have come from Oakland, an Oakland education can lead you just about anywhere,” Stover explained. “Lauren is great because she’s a representation of that at such a young age. She’s visible, she’s really involved in community and she’s just everywhere so it’s this constant reminder that it can be done.”