Words by Nada Abdelrahim
Visuals by Felton Kizer
Media Leader Fueling Change through Her Passion and Curiosity
Teri Arvesu lives her life curiously. She says that curiosity is what keeps her going and fuels almost everything for her, so it’s no surprise that she would choose a career path based on wanting to know more about people and their stories.
At only 16, her mother’s friend needed some extra help in their local news studio. For her, it just made sense to take the opportunity, especially since she enjoyed the news. She recalls that whenever a hurricane would come to Florida, she would spend the whole day watching news coverage.
Journalism excited her and it eventually influenced her decision to join newspaper club in high school and to also do the photography for the yearbook.
After being offered a long term job at that same local studio, Arvesu was just at the start of her career. She would eventually go on to be an assistant producer at Telemundo, then move to Univision, and finally, end up here in Chicago as the VP of Content for Univision Chicago Local Media.
“It’s getting results and having a network” --and according to her, you need both. This combination is what Arvesu sees as the common denominator for her success, in addition to her passion and joy that comes with getting work done.
Arvesu and her team have had their fair share of recognition, with eight Emmy awards and being named 40 Under 40 in 2016 for Crain’s Chicago Business. As someone who started her career as a producer, Arvesu never felt comfortable about being recognized publicly. She is grateful for it nonetheless and has come to terms with the spotlight that these type of accolades bring.
In an industry where content isconsumed quickly and forgotten about even faster, Arvesu is one of the leaders who is lobbying for more resources that would allow her team to create more meaningful content for the community.
She notes that journalism is the only occupation mentioned in the constitution, showing how closely freedom of press and democracy is tied together. Now, in a time where the press is getting criticism from both those in power and the general population consuming the news, it’s even more important to be in this line of work for the actual work itself.
While revenue is based on ratings, Arvesu is driven by purpose. She is always questioning why she is in this line of work. To Arvesu, “having a sense of purpose is the key to happiness and what fills you up.”
If you think about it, when your purpose is wholesome, it’s like feeding yourself with organic food--you will stay fuller for longer, unlike a superficial meal that only fills you up temporarily.
In addition to questioning the purpose, Arvesu also believes that it’s important to take as many opportunities as you can. “When you are young, say yes to everything, because it creates a brave person.”
While she continues to push the need for purposeful content, Arvesu is also working to change the conversation about diversity in the workplace.
Her interest in the conversation stems from her involvement with the Women’s Leadership Council. It was the moment where she came to many realizations about how people of different cultures can grow up uniquely, and how this manifests within the workplace and in basic human interaction.
Growing up in Miami, Florida, Arvesu was part of the majority as a Cuban-American and she attributes this environment to instilling confidence in her from a young age. To her, diversity is not about checking the box. It’s color, but it’s also socioeconomic status, location, education, and more.
Now she is working to influence change. She feels that companies need to invest in teaching their employees emotional intelligence and how to operate as a fair and just institution. Experiences with the council taught her that not everyone is like her, which encouraged her to be more attuned to these nuances, especially when it comes to misunderstandings.
While she doesn’t expect to change the world (even though she’d like to) she says, “The wheels of change move very slowly, but you start from your own circle.” With her own team she uses this awareness to create a safe space where her team feels comfortable sharing their ideas, despite their differences.
When it comes to her words of encouragement for future journalists she says, “Nothing big comes in life without a risk.”
She encourages people to work hard and to take inspiration from their surroundings and own it 100%. As a runner, Arvesu uses this analogy to remind herself to always push to be the best: “When you are running, and you are the best on the track, there is usually a big distance between you and the people behind you. But when you look around and see that you are by yourself, you might wonder, for a moment, if you went down the wrong path. It’s hard sometimes to be the only one, but when you are that good, that’s what it means. Sometimes being the best is lonely and intimidating, but keep your focus and you will reach the finish line.”