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Students, professor to represent Texas State at Winter Olympics

Students, professor to represent Texas State at Winter Olympics
Photo courtesy of Michael Burns at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

A professor will lead two students to the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea as they embark on the internship of a lifetime.

John Lee, marketing sophomore and The University Star engagement editor, and Eun Jeong Lee, master’s student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, will serve as runners for NBC’s Today Show at the Olympics. Michael Burns, senior lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, will work alongside the two students as the lead runner of the internship program, which runs Jan. 27 through Feb. 28.

Burns said the runner position with NBC News at the Olympics is the coveted position with the network due to the sheer amount of opportunity and experience runners are exposed to. Runners help with a variety of tasks including arriving before the games begin to help set up a functioning news bureau and studio, exploring the city, timing the distance between locations, transporting guests to the studio, translating and working with the creative team on preparing content for the show.

In 2006 while working on his master’s degree, Burns attended his first Olympic games in Torino, Italy as a runner for NBCs’ Today Show. This will be Burns’ fifth Olympic games. In addition to his freelance work with NBC’s Today Show on their Olympic coverage, Burns also oversees the internship program and serves as the lead runner.

“I’ve been literally in their shoes before and now I am kind of leading the pack in it,” Burns said. “What I like about it is that because I am a professor I have a unique skill set that allows me to really make sure the students get the most out of their experiences.”

This year marks the first in 12 years that Texas State has had students intern with NBC at the Olympics.

“I think Texas State students are uniquely prepared just because of the type of culture we have here at Texas State,” Burns said. “Students here are pretty hard working and they are pretty motivated. I always say Texas State students are kind of scrappy, like we’re willing to do anything and we’ll try really hard, it’s just a different culture.”

This year’s runner program sought students fluent in Korean, a language not offered on campus. Burns said he was only able to find a handful of students at Texas State who met this requirement, but was pleased to offer them the opportunity to use their unique skill set as a way to be a part of an invaluable experience.

John Lee said he thinks this experience is especially unique because it is in the country where his family is from and where he culturally identifies.

“I grew up watching the Olympics, so just to say that I was there physically but also to say I was a part of the Olympics in some aspect is exciting,” John Lee said. “If it was in a different country it would still be really special, but because it is in Korea it is even more special.”

Eun Jeong Lee is an international student from Korea and said she is very excited to be representing Texas State at one of the biggest global events.

“As a South Korean, I am very happy that South Korea and North Korea will march together under one flag at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony,” Eun Jeong Lee said.

The trio will be sending back pictures to Texas State as well as periodically taking over the university’s Snapchat so students can live through their experience working at the Olympics.