‘You are the author of your story’
Communication alumna finds success as TV producer
By Kayleigh Rahn, University of Ilinois Urbana-Champaign News I March 3, 2023
From the College of LAS to “Survivor” to college campuses across the country, Lisa Hennessy (BA, ’91, speech communication) believes she found her passion at the crossroads of storytelling and traveling.
As executive producer for “The College Tour,” streaming on Amazon Prime, Hennessey helps tell stories of campuses – including Illinois in Season 1 – through the experiences and stories of its students.
“I am a firm believer in working harder than anyone else and following your passions,” she said. “You are the author of your story – make it a great one!”
Occupation: TV executive producer
Describe a typical workday. Also, what is an example of the most interesting aspect of your job?
In 2020 I co-created and executive produced a TV series called “The College Tour.” We film 50-plus episodes a year, so my days greatly vary. Often, I am on a plane heading to a new campus in America. We work with each college and each student to help tell an authentic story. The story of the college is told through the students’ lens.
In hindsight, what about college best prepared you for your life and career?
I was the social chairman of my sorority and learned to love producing events, which lead to producing TV. I didn’t have that ah-ha moment until I moved out to LA. It happened when I heard about a new show that included all the things that I was passionate about – teamwork, sports, travel, and storying telling. I hustled my way to get an interview. Got the job. I was employee number four in a production company that became a global powerhouse – Mark Burnett Productions. We produced shows like Survivor, etc.
How did your major prepare you for your career?
It helped me learn to communicate, that is the key to any career.
What do you like best about your work?
I love telling stories and traveling the world! Whether it’s telling a story around the campfire to telling stories globally through TV – it’s the glue that holds us all together.
Describe your proudest achievement.
My first Emmy nomination in 2000 (for Eco-Challenge: Borneo).
Editor’s note: This LAS@Work profile is part of a series that features College of LAS alumni and their careers. Visit here to read more.