2005 Communication grad now works for Oprah
Rita Thomas was one of a select grouping of celebrities, national figures, Harpo employees, and everyday people who experienced a day that will go down in television history. The Oprah Show ended its reign on daytime television after 25 years, with a two-day farewell, including a star-studded bash at the United Center in Chicago. Since 2007, Thomas has been part of the Oprah Winfrey-owned Harpo Radio team which develops and produces programming on the Sirius XM Satellite Radio network broadcast nationally to more than 20 million subscribers. She's a senior associate producer.
The radio network and its programming slate will continue. Thomas is part of what she terms "a small family," and naturally, she loves her job.
"We are given a lot of creative freedom here. Our ideas are heard and listened to. You feel comfortable pitching ideas," she said. "That's a huge part of what makes working here so much fun."
Thomas' team re-purposes programming from the Oprah Winfrey Show, first broadcast on television.
Thomas looks fondly on her days at UW-Parkside as a student and campus resident. "It was a huge help for me personally. It forced me to be more independent and take my future into my own hands. It helped me mature," she said. Thomas, a military brat whose family moved around, also appreciated the campus' diversity.
Thomas drew the connection between her hosting duties at WIPZ, the campus radio station, gaining an internship at Wisconsin Public Radio in Milwaukee, and landing a full-time position there upon graduation, to working for one of the most powerful women in the world.
"I love having the ability to provide people with information that can change their lives. I find great pride in hearing people say 'I learned this.' Perhaps, 'I found a lump in my breast by following advice from Dr. Oz that I heard on the radio,'" she said.Thomas is truly enjoying a work experience few will ever have. It all began with a tour of UW-Parkside as part of a pre-college program. Thomas said she felt a bond with her professors and stays in touch with five of them. "My friends can't believe that. That's truly unique about UW-Parkside. They actually care. I love Parkside," said Thomas.