For Mitch Rissmiller, his life boils down to four words.
Don’t peak; never settle.
He keeps the words on his iPhone as a reminder. His friends have told him that his phrase is, in Rissmiller’s own words, “corny.” But Rissmiller doesn’t see it that way.
Since his high school days in Reading, Pennsylvania, his hometown, these four words describe his inner determination that helped him snag jobs, internships, opportunities, contacts and a TV talk show at High Point University.
That determination has brought accomplishments, and those accomplishments have helped him earn a respected campus award: HPU’s Extraordinary Leader for September.
Rissmiller is a junior, a strategic communication major, a Presidential Scholar and a University Ambassador. He also is a member of the Beta Theta Pi Fraternity, two honor societies and the only strategic communication junior selected for HPU’s Honors Scholar program.
Meanwhile, on Saturday during the weekend’s wealth of alumni activities, Rissmiller was named HPU’s Homecoming King.
But as his four-word phrase indicates, he’s far from done.
After graduation, he wants to work in New York City.
Rissmiller believes it. So does his dad.
The Rewards of a Handwritten Note
Larry Rissmiller is a longtime iron worker, and he builds skyscrapers.
For a quarter century in New York City, he has climbed atop steel girders to help construct skyline icons like One World Trade Center. His office is often without walls, and sometimes, he’ll send a sun-lit photo from where he stands to his son, his only child.
When he does, he includes a message. Here’s one:
“Here is your city, Mitch. It’s waiting for you.”
In a way, Rissmiller has already arrived. He worked there this summer.
He interned for Madison Square Garden and assisted with its marketing and digital strategy. He honed brand development, carried out competitive research, learned how to code, wrote everything from blog posts to MSG emails and worked with such MSG brands as The Rockettes and the New York Liberty, the city’s WNBA team.
He forged friendships, developed new contacts and connected with media professionals he knew. That includes Daryn Carp, the longtime assistant to Andy Cohen, the host of Bravo’s well-known show, “Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen.”
After his freshman year at HPU, Rissmiller wrote Cohen a note and articulated how the talk-show host inspired him. Afterward, Cohen sent Rissmiller a tweet: “Hey, pal. Thanks for the note. Hopefully, our paths will cross again. Keep killing it!”
Four years later as an HPU freshman, Rissmiller contacted Carp, and she invited him to the show. Rissmiller drove from his Pennsylvania home to New York City and met Cohen and Carp.
Rissmiller has kept in touch with Carp, and last summer, he scooted across town from his internship at Madison Square Garden to see her. She gave him one look and exclaimed, “You’ve grown up so much!”
Rissmiller will be the first to admit he’s had help. That came from HPU.
Determination Pays Off
Joe Michaels remembers the bow tie.
A year ago at a meet-and-greet for communication majors, Rissmiller walked up to Michaels and introduced himself.
The year before as a freshman, Rissmiller worked as an anchor for HPU’s Triad News. But he didn’t cotton to hard news. He wanted to do more lifestyle and entertainment reporting, similar to what Cohen does on Bravo.
So, like he did with Cohen, Rissmiller approached Michaels.
The next day, he dropped by Michael’s third-floor office in the Nido R. Qubein School of Communication and asked about producing a campus talk show. But before that, he wanted to make sure Michaels remembered him.
“Bow-tie boy!” he said.
Rissmiller made his pitch, Michaels listened, and right away, he knew.
“Whatever you want to do, bud,” Michaels told him, “I’m behind you.”
Hard Work: A Recipe For Success
Michaels knows a thing – or two – about talk shows. He’s a 44-year veteran of NBC who has won eight Emmy awards, and for more than two decades, he directed the TODAY show and worked with everyone from Katie Couric to Matt Lauer.
Today, he’s HPU’s Artist in Residence and teaches students the production intricacies of TV.
He helped Rissmiller create “Let’s Talk” in the School of Communication lobby, and in doing so, Michaels discovered a student who possessed the skills needed to program, lead people, put a show together and interview well on camera.
The next summer, Michaels ran the pool feed for major news networks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, and he knew he could bring in student interns to help. He knew who to approach. Rissmiller jumped at the chance.
He worked 14-hour days, 10 days straight. He drove broadcast talent in golf carts, helped supervise other college student interns, and along the way, he met people like CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
But Michaels expected that from Rissmiller. He watched what he did with “Let’s Talk.” And he watched what Rissmiller did when he asked for advice about how many internships he should go after his sophomore year. Michaels told Rissmiller to go after as many as he could.
Rissmiller applied for at least 80 – and he got a few interviews.
“That’s guts,” Michaels says. “I knew then that this kid is going to be successful.”
Rissmiller is currently interning for SFW, a marketing and advertising agency in Greensboro, North Carolina, and like he has done for years, he follows his four-word mantra.
He knows he’ll never settle. But he knows who keeps him motivated.
HPU faculty like Michaels.
“The internships I’ve gotten and the people I’ve met is because of my professors,” Rissmiller says. “That’s a hallmark of HPU, and they do it insanely well. You’re around talented people willing to help, and you don’t feel like a number. They know you.
“I wouldn’t be the person I am today without them.”