Date August 9, 2018
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Catherine Campo: Educating through performance

As an intern at CNBC’s “Mad Money,” the Brown theatre and performance studies concentrator is helping viewers improve their financial lives.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — At the end of her first day as a summer intern at CNBC in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Catherine Campo headed to the gym. She hopped on a treadmill, pressed start and then glanced up to see what was playing on the gym’s televisions. 

Every single one was playing the episode of "Mad Money with Jim Cramer" she had finished taping just an hour before.

“I couldn't believe it,” said Campo, who will be a junior at Brown this fall. “My hard work was right there, plastered on at least 15 televisions. It was so tangible. I had helped to make that show happen. I had helped to get it to these TV screens.”

As a production intern, Campo’s primary role is to facilitate the show’s famous “lightning round” session, in which host Jim Cramer answers rapid-fire questions from viewers seeking advice on particular stocks. For each show — one airs every weekday — Campo has to find 12 viewers, call them to get more information and then book them.

Before her “Mad Money” internship, Campo interned at the breaking news desk. But as a theatre arts and performance studies concentrator, she wanted to explore a career that was on screen, rather than online. 

As an engaged scholar at Brown — a student whose coursework and senior capstone project address community challenges — “Mad Money” in particular interested her with its emphasis on educating viewers without deep financial expertise about how to better invest their money. The internship serves as one of her required practicums as an engaged scholar.

While “Mad Money” isn’t a performance in the traditional sense, Campo says that it follows many of the conventions of theatre: there’s a script, a cast and crew, and a final show. And the main goal, she says, is to engage the audience, in this case so that they can learn something about finance. Cramer is known for using a variety of antics — from throwing office chairs to dressing as a baby — to get his viewers’ attention.

“As an engaged scholar, I am really interested in the role of performance in education,” Campo said. “So I am critically examining Jim Cramer's performative tricks and what makes him a performer people want to (or don't want to) listen to. Through the lens of education, I am wondering about the accessibility of the show and how successful it is at achieving its mission of attracting viewers with little to no previous financial experience.”

Campo says she’s been amazed at the impact of the show on the potential lightning round participants she speaks to every day.    

“Talking to these viewers, I have learned what a difference Jim Cramer and his show has made,” she said. “It is so rewarding to hear their stories.”

The internship has not been without its challenges. As far as she knows, Campo is the only CNBC intern who is studying theatre in school. She says her concentration is sometimes met with surprise.

“I work doubly hard to prove that I belong at CNBC,” she noted. “From day to night, I am reading every piece of business news possible from every reliable source. I'm on Investopedia or I'm reading Warren Buffet's favorite books and Michael Lewis classics.”

Looking ahead to her capstone project, Campo said she may pair her newfound financial knowledge and her experience with “Mad Money” to propose her own finance show that educates younger and first-time investors.

“In college, many students begin to manage their finances for the first time — but there aren’t many resources, or at least accessible and entertaining resources, to offer advice in this critical time,” Campo said. “I see my proposed show as a sort of fix to that problem.”