During the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a lot of individuals discovered new paths that allowed them to improve their personal development. Jack Rico became an entertainment professor at Montclair State University after a successful career in the media industry to create the course he always dreamed of.
Born in Queens, New York to Colombian parents, Rico found his inspiration and passion in the media when his two uncles, who were soccer announcers, took him to a game.
“I saw that [inspiration] when I was a little boy, with my two uncles in Colombia, Roger Araujo and Cesar Araujo,” Rico said. “They would take me to the games and I would watch and then I would see the audience, screaming ‘Goooal’ and I was like ‘[Oh my God], that sounds so exciting, I want to be a part of that energy.’”
Since the beginning of his career, Rico has been on a brilliant trajectory as a journalist, host, film critic and podcaster. In 1998, he became a weather anchor for Univision, for the first morning newscast, “Al Despertar,” in New York City. After that, he became part of People en Español Magazine, The Luis Jimenez Show, ShowBizCafe, VH1, NBC and Telemundo. He is currently hosting two podcasts.
During the pandemic, Rico got offered a teaching position at Montclair State and although he had self-doubts of becoming a professor, he decided to take a risk.
“It has been the most [self-growing] experience for me,” Rico said. “Being a professor for me has been one of the most interesting chapters in my life. I never thought I could be a professor, I had my insecurities. What if I failed in front of students, what if I embarrass myself and what if I don’t teach them?”
Rico explained that eventually he broke that barrier of insecurities and understood the knowledge and experience he had in the entertainment industry was valuable. Now, he has created the class he always desired as a student.
“I became a professor, maybe initially to kind of create the class that I never had,” Rico said. “Now I’ve created the dream class that I always wanted to take when I was a student. For me to be teaching that class is one of the most exciting things of my life.”
Rico teaches the entertainment beat course, where students get to explore and obtain knowledge about the drastic changes that occurred during the pandemic in the media industry, in addition to developing professional skills. During the semester, Rico brings iconic guests to discuss and provide an understanding of the impact of the pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the evolvement of streaming apps.
Rico expresses it can be exhausting to create these types of courses. The amount of hours it takes to prepare a course can be challenging and time-consuming, but the fulfillment he gets from seeing students learn and succeed surpasses any obstacles he runs into.
“I take one week to prepare for a class,” Rico said. “I have to build a PowerPoint and story for it. That’s the part that I might not like as much. It’s just a lot of work that goes into teaching that by the time I finish with the class, I’m exhausted. I’m very tired and it takes me a couple of days to recharge to have the same energy to get back to you guys.”
His goal as a professor is to impact students’ lives positively and make them confident about the entertainment industry.
“The biggest joy for me would be to know that I change one person, one student’s life for the better,” Rico said. “And that they could say ‘Wow, I did not know that the thing that I thought was a joke, like entertainment, could actually be a career.’”
Making his students a priority from February to May has compromised his professional and personal life, but the journey as a professor has been worth it. As soon as the semester is over, Rico plans to continue developing his established projects, such as script, documentary and podcasts.