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Board of Visitors Spotlight: Mike Costa (B.S./JEM ’85)

Mike CostaMike Costa is Vice President and General Manager of WTVC NewsChannel9 in Chattanooga, TN.  Costa is a member of the Chattanooga area Chamber of Commerce where he has served on the Board of Directors and on the Executive Committee in various roles over the past ten years.  He is a board member of the United Way of Greater Chattanooga.  He is a past chair of the Chancellor’s Round Table, a community advisory group for the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.  Costa also serves as a new member of the board for Catholic Charities of East Tennessee.  He is a member of the Rotary Club of Chattanooga.  He, his wife and two daughters reside in North Chattanooga. 

CCI: How and when did you first get involved (on a volunteer basis) with CCI?

I was asked to join the Board of Visitors in 2009. I was recommended to Dean Wirth by board member Ron Harr.

CCI: In your view, what is the most important or impactful role you’ve played as a volunteer? 

I believe I bring a real world perspective to the College of Communication and Information in terms of what broadcast companies/news stations are looking for in the next generation of great journalists. It is a different world in regard to technology – iPhones, social media, blogging, and the elimination of the gatekeeper makes everyone a citizen journalist. Our graduates have to have a strong grasp of the new technologies and the role of ethics and morals in being a journalist.

While I believe the faculty needs to hear what skills graduates need, I also believe graduates need to hear what the real world will be like. It is important for students to understand that they are going to work in a business. Management decisions involve examining financial ramifications for the company and sometimes that is a surprise to learn and a difficult adjustment for someone new to the workforce.

CCI: Why have you chosen to support the college (financially and/or with your time)? Why do you see this as important?

I love the University of Tennessee. My time on the Hill and in Circle Park was such an important part of who I am today. I believe we have one of the best communication programs in the country. I want to do what I can to make it better. It is important for us to prepare each successive class for the challenges they will face in the work world. Technology is rapidly changing how we do things. The economy continues to evolve as part of those technological changes. Who thought 15 years ago newspapers would be on the downward trend they are on as a business model because of the internet? If our input on the board helps to better prepare UT grads, we will have contributed mightily.

CCI: What do you hope to accomplish during your term on the BOV? 

I only hope to be there when needed. Whatever it is the College of Communication and Information needs from me is what I hope to provide.

CCI: Is there anything exciting or interesting going on behind the scenes in CCI that the average alum might not be aware of? 

Anyone who has not returned to campus and toured the Scripps Convergence Lab needs to do so the next time they are in Knoxville. It is a tremendous asset for the school.

CCI: If someone is considering volunteerism as a way to give back to the University, what advice would you have for them? Why should they do it? 

I’d simply say get involved. Volunteering is time, talent, and treasure. The time we give to the students and the sharing of talents and life experiences far outweigh the treasure we can offer (although money comes in pretty handy). Just talking to students about their aspirations and the industry is rewarding. I’ve found them to be highly motivated, intelligent, and thirsting for input on their chosen field.

CCI: What from your UT and CCI experience has stuck with you during life since graduating? 

I was a public relations major and the single thing that has helped me more than anything else in my career is the ability to write.  Clear, concise communication in the business world is underrated.  So many college graduates lack the ability to express themselves verbally or with the written word.  Those who can communicate have an advantage over their peers and will advance in their careers faster and further.

CCI: What is your favorite memory from your time as a student at UT? 

Besides being there when the Vols beat Alabama and Bear Bryant in 1982 and rushing the field? Simple—the time I spent as a student DJ at WUTK 90.3 FM. It gave me the broadcasting bug. Once it got in my system . . . well, the rest is history.

CCI: Any other parting words of wisdom?

College does not teach you the secret to life. College allows you four years to mature in a protected environment so you can make discoveries and mistakes that will put you on a path to a productive life. Enjoy your time. Experience what the school has to offer. Learn from your mistakes. Be involved.