2018 SOC Woman of the Year: Savannah McCann '19

This past week has been all about celebrating our HCAU Women of the Year: outstanding undergraduate women at the University that are not only trailblazers in their careers, but also work to uplift other women and overall embody the values that Her Campus upholds daily. One of these women, is Savannah McCann. She's bubbly, bright, inspirational and hilarious and we just so happened to have the opportunity to talk with her and find out all about all the things that make her life here in DC. From starting a Foundation for cancer research to her job at C-SPAN and everything in between, Savannah has done incredible things to uplift the community around her and we wanted to honor that in the best way possible, through an interview with the woman herself.

Her Campus American University: Where did you grow up and what brought you to AU?

Savannah McCann: I grew up in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, it’s called Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. We used to hang out in the Walmart Parking because there is just nothing to do in my hometown. So from a young age, I knew I needed to get out of Canonsburg. My Grandfather, my dad, myself and my sister all went to the same high school. It’s one of those towns where you’re there and you never leave. I knew I didn’t want that for a long time so I didn't apply to any school in-state, even though Philadelphia is just as far as DC is to me. Pennsylvania just seemed too close to home. So I applied only out-of-state and funny enough, I decided on AU after my dad asked me “what do you want to do when you grow up?” I told him I wanted to be an entertainment journalist and he responded with “Okay so whose job do you want?” and I said “Giuliana Rancic, that is ultimate goals.” He said “Well, where did she go to college?” and it turns out she went to graduate school at AU. And that was it. I was destined to go here.

HCAU: Did you ever change that dream or have any doubts?

SM: My major is still Broadcast Journalism, I really stuck with it. In high school I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon and I was really about it, but I was not good at math or science. But I did have a public speaking professor in high-school who made us do impromptu speeches. He gave us a topic and made us talk as long as we could. I started talking about, I think “pet peeves,” for like ten minutes in front of the class and he told me if I did not go into journalism I would be wasting a talent. He was the greatest teacher ever I had to date and from that moment on, I decided I was going to be a journalist. And I came to AU and I stuck with it. I ended up picking up Business and Entertainment as a minor along the way, just because it was interesting.

HCAU: What are things you’re involved with outside of academics?

SM: I rushed a sorority the second semester of my freshman year so I’ve been in Alpha Chi Omega since then. I have done so many different positions, I used to be social chair and then I was the assistant VP of Recruitment and then after, I went abroad to Madrid for a whole semester and that was incredible. But while abroad I decided to run for the Panhellenic Recruitment chair because I didn’t want to come back from abroad and be the distant person. So, I am now the Panhellenic recruitment chair and that is taking up all of my time in the best way possible. In a way they kind of forced me to do it- but it’s something really cool that I probably would not have done if someone hadn’t convinced me to try it. Besides that, I am also the main anchor for the ATV news after previously working in entertainment.

HCAU: Are there any other cool internships you’ve done and what was that experience like?

SM: So I am currently an intern for the National Journalism Center which is a hands on 10 week program that places you at a fulltime job during a semester and I am currently placed at C-SPAN in the marketing department where I go on twitter a lot and check what the C-SPAN bus is doing and looking out for different cities that the bus is going to. Basically, anything the bus is doing I know of and I’m on top of. Honestly I love the C-SPAN bus, it is my heart and soul.

I was recently in Memphis Tennessee for the 50th commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, the C-SPAN marketing team went to pass out magnets and promote C-SPAN because we were covering all weekend, it was such an incredible experience. But to add on to that, on Fridays the NJC brings us all together and we go to educational workshops and we explore the city and get to do a lot of classroom learning as opposed to just on the job experience which is amazing. It has been such an experience because I’ve met so many people in DC, but I’ve also grown to learn about other aspects to journalism that I haven’t explored before like communications! It sounds pretty interesting and I never would have thought about that if it weren’t for this internship.

HCAU: Since we’re talking about networking,who’s the coolest person you’ve met in DC?

SM: I actually met Bernie Sanders in Memphis (I guess that counts) and I gave him one of our C-SPAN magnets and I said “C-SPAN!” and he looked at me and he said “C-SPAN!” and I was just so shocked because, well, Bernie Sanders just said ‘C-SPAN’ to me. I also met the Founder of the Gray TV work which is this huge network that spans across the midwest but she just decided one day to start a TV network and she started it and that is just so awesome and empowering.

HCAU: So besides her, who is another empowered woman you look up to?

SM: I already said Giuliana Rancic so I won’t go on about her any more... another person is, well, I really look up to is really any women reporting in the sports world. There are not many women that do that or if they do, they’re kind of just there to be pretty on TV and I also really do like sports. So seeing a woman in sports and someone respects her for it- that’s something I look up to and something I hope to be to someone someday.

HCAU: Is that sort of what inspires you to keep going?

SM: Yes! I’m really interested in reporting entertainment and sports because it’s never the same thing ever. I mean one day, in entertainment, you’re talking about a celebrity couple that broke up and the next day, someone is having a baby or in sports someone may be hurt, or this team won or that team lost. it’s always changing and always interesting.

HCAU: What do you do to relax or rewind/stay sane in this hectic city?

SM: Stay sane. Hmm. I live with my best friend Kaela and she is pretty much the source of my sanity as well as my insanity and I’ll just come lay out on her floor (not her bed, her floor) and she lays in her bed and we discuss how my day was every night. It doesn’t matter how late I come home, I can just lay there and tell her what happened. She also nominated me for this so she’s also my biggest fan so…. I can brag about Kaela for hours.

Besides that we like to brunch. I just make sure I find time to do the things I enjoy, like going out and exploring the city or hanging out with my friends. I always make sure no matter how busy, I am no matter how stressed out I am, I always find the time to do that.

HCAU: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your time at AU thus far?

SM: I think the most important thing I learned is that it’s okay to not have all the answers. My freshman year I would always look up to these women that were juniors and seniors and had three internships, or one internship and a job or a job offer after graduation, and friends, and a boyfriend and straight A’s…. they had everything and I was so stressed out all the time because I just kept thinking how do you do that? How could I do that? I’ll never be as good as this person. Now that I am Woman of the Year! (which still shocks me!), people tell me know that younger girls in my organization or younger girls that are freshman look up to me and they ask “how do you do it all?” I don’t do it all, what are they talking about? I think every person doesn’t think they’re the person that someone looks up to. It’s really cool because my freshman year I never thought I would be that person….  But yes, it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers or you’re not that person because you will be someday. You got this.

HCAU: So more specifically in your field of interest, what is one piece of advice you have for younger girls that might be trying to follow along a similar path?

SM: DO EVERYTHING. Go to every event, talk to every person, get every business card, and then email them until they are tired of talking to you. I made friends, actually that’s a lie, I swiped right on bumble on a boy that worked at NBC because I wanted to work at NBC too. That is the sole purpose I swiped right.

You have to annoy the s*** out of them until they give you the time of day. Because even if they don’t show it, everyone wants to help you out, especially in journalism because everyone was there at one point and they all want to get you to where you want to be. Older people really want to help young people out.

HCAU: Okay second to last question, where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?

SM: I’ll be four years out of college. Wowza. Four years after graduation, I guess I hope to be working as a reporter in sports or entertainment. I hope to still be in DC or at least another major city, maybe settle down with someone... but, I want to still be young and traveling and doing things and still be enjoying what I’m doing. With a dog too; let’s throw a dog in there. I have a bull terrier named Marley and she is the cutest, funniest looking dog you’ll ever meet…. She’s deaf in one ear and wacky. I love her a lot.

HCAU: Tell us about the charity you decided to donate to as a part of your Her Campus award?

SM: During my sophomore year of highschool my boyfriend got diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, which is a really rare form of bone cancer and we didn’t really know what to do in that situation. It always happens to someone else; it happens to your grandma or your distant uncle or your friends old aunt, but in never affects someone you’re really close with. Especially not someone so young. We’d only been dating for a year, but I knew I wanted to do something for him so we organized fundraisers. We made T-Shirts, we raised money and we worked with different organizations to raise over 100,000 dollars and we called it the Luke Strong Foundation. #Lukestrong went viral and everyone in our area new about it and new about him. He was an athlete and just, the nicest boy ever. But that’s kind of where my passion for helping families that have kids who are affected by cancer or affected by illness really took off because I saw how much of a toll it took on my family.

Luke ended up passing away my sophomore year of college after the cancer had come back and spread but the Luke Strong Foundation still grows. We donate money, we hand out scholarships, and everything else we can to keep his memory alive. After that I was a finalist for the Miss DC scholarship pageant and organization and I chose my philanthropy to be the Ronald McDonald house because it provides homes and food and entertainment for families when they have to move far away, even across the country, to go to hospitals for better care for their children. It is such a great organization because everyone thinks of the child, for a good reason, they are the one going through treatment... but it’s just as hard on the families who are always thinking about their sick child and taking care of them as well.

 

Interview has been edited for clarity and concision.