How Majoring in American Studies Led to Working Alongside Katie Couric

Author: Hailey Oppenlander

Adriana Fazio Katie CoruicAdriana Fazio Katie Coruic

Adriana Fazio ’19 went from watching her idol on TV every day to working alongside her.

Fazio has been fascinated by the media since she was a young child, waking up to The Today Show and even putting on fake broadcasts for her parents. When it came time to write her senior thesis, it was no surprise that the American studies and film, television, and theatre (FTT) major chose to explore the career of her inspiration, famed journalist Katie Couric. 

By studying Couric’s career, Fazio set her own in motion. 

The opportunity to interview Couric for her senior thesis ended up leading Fazio to a job with Katie Couric Media, where she’s been able to work across a variety of media projects and learn firsthand from her inspiration. 

“After three years of working with her, to me she’s just ‘Katie’ now, and I love her deeply and I feel so grateful to learn so much from her,” Fazio said. “I really believe she is the best journalist of at least my era, and I will never get over the fact that I get to work with her.” 

“(My majors) gave me the confidence and critical thinking skills to get where I am today. Suddenly, I was writing a New York Times bestselling memoir using the same techniques I had employed to write research papers.”  

Finding her subject

At Notre Dame, Fazio deepened her long-standing passion for media by diving into her American studies and FTT coursework and writing for the campus newspaper, The Observer

When she was assigned a paper about her most powerful media encounter for FTT faculty member Michael Kackman’s History of Television class, Fazio considered how The Today Show had impacted her own life and career aspirations. With the support of her professors, Fazio decided to expand upon that paper and explore Couric’s impact on broadcast media for her senior thesis, advised by Jason Ruiz, associate professor and chair of the Department of American Studies

Fazio with Katie Couric on the day they first met, for an interview for Fazio's senior thesis.

Fazio hoped to interview the subject of her thesis and worked diligently to get in contact with Couric. She looked for connections through the Meruelo Family Center for Career DevelopmentNotre Dame Alumni Association directory, and even mentioned it to the groups she led as an Office of Undergraduate Admissions student tour guide.

“I would start by saying, ‘If anyone here knows Katie Couric or has a direct line to Katie Couric, please come up to me after the tour,’” she said. “It would always get a big laugh, but you just never know where you’re going to meet people or how you’re going to make a connection.”

It was, ultimately, through the robust Notre Dame network that Fazio eventually got in touch with Couric. Fazio discovered that the mother of a fellow Notre Dame student knew a former 60 Minutes producer who had worked with Couric. 

After learning about Fazio’s thesis, Couric was interested in speaking with her, and the two sat down for a long conversation about Couric’s career during a thesis research trip to New York funded by the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts’ Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.

In a role reversal, famed journalist Couric was now the one being interviewed by Fazio. 

“We ended up talking for a couple of hours at her apartment, and she couldn’t have been more kind and welcoming and disarming,” Fazio said. 

Communication and curiosity

After the interview, Couric told Fazio to stay in touch, as she was looking for a researcher for her upcoming memoir. As Fazio finished her thesis and her senior year, she learned she was hired for the role — and jumped at the chance to start her career working for the person who inspired it.

Fazio served as a researcher for Couric's bestselling memoir, Going There.

Assisting with Couric’s memoir, Going There, turned out to be a lesson in historical research, as Fazio pieced together important moments from Couric’s personal and professional life.

“Her story and the arc of her career is obviously so intrinsically connected with the arc of history,” Fazio said. “I always say to her, she’s like Forrest Gump in the sense that anything that happened between 1991 and today, her fingerprints are on it somewhere.” 

Fazio conducted mixed-media research for the memoir, including rewatching past interview footage with guests ranging from David Duke to Hillary Clinton, fact-checking timelines for historical events, and reading through stacks of heartfelt notes from viewers that Couric still keeps in her Long Island home. 

An unexpected part of the research? Quarantining with Couric as they worked on the book during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, giving Fazio an even closer look at what makes Couric’s brand of storytelling so compelling. 

Fazio was prepared for this period of intensive research and writing thanks to the multimedia skill set built from her majors. 

“They gave me the confidence and critical thinking skills to get where I am today,” she said. “Suddenly, I was writing a New York Times bestselling memoir using the same techniques I had employed to write research papers.”  

After completing the memoir, Fazio accompanied Couric on the cross-country book tour, which gave her experience in media strategy and event production. Fazio was responsible for helping book guests in each city of the tour — including actress Jennifer Garner, fashion designer and media personality Tan France, and musician Chance the Rapper.

Today, in her role as producer for Katie Couric Media, Fazio balances multiple responsibilities — creating and overseeing content for its website, podcastnewsletter, and more. Working alongside Couric has taught Fazio a variety of communications skills, from how to pitch ideas, write stories, create video content, get in touch with sources, format an interview, and ask hard-hitting questions. 

Most importantly, it taught her that the best journalism is fueled by curiosity.

“Katie reads everything she can get her hands on,” Fazio said. “She is so naturally curious, and that is something that can’t be taught, and you have to be intrinsically curious to ask the right questions.”

Giving back

Fazio and Couric before taping an episode of CBS's daytime talk show The Talk.

Just as the Notre Dame network helped Fazio launch her career, Fazio is already giving back by building connections of her own. She’s brought three other recent Notre Dame graduates to Katie Couric Media and is working to mentor other College of Arts & Letters students, showing them what graduates can accomplish through a career in media.

“There’s a lot out there, and I think the best way to figure out what you want to be doing or how to get where you want to be is to pick up the phone and call people,” Fazio said. “Reach out to alumni, reach out to your friends’ parents, reach out to your professors, and just get coffee and get to know people.”

Though networking can open the door to many career opportunities, Fazio notes that it’s just as important to follow that up by working hard, soaking up each assignment as a learning moment. 

“In these early years, you can learn so much,” Fazio said. “If you’re in a position where they’re willing to give you more responsibility, and you think you can handle it, then you should dive in.”

“In these early years, you can learn so much. If you’re in a position where they’re willing to give you more responsibility, and you think you can handle it, then you should dive in.”