Two days before entering the University of Toronto’s one-year Bachelor of Education program, award-winning media practitioner Marci Ien received a phone call from the news director at CHCH-TV in Hamilton, which had laid her off a year earlier, with the offer of a reporter position at Queen’s Park.
Being the youngest journalist at the time in a unionized environment meant that Ien was out of work every time there were lay-offs or the company changed hands.
“I was at a crossroads this one particular time they laid me off and things were not going well for me,” said Ien.
Looking for job security, she enrolled in the Teacher Apprenticeship Program (TPA) offered by the then North York Board of Education that allowed candidates to be matched with mentors in classrooms for a year before entering the U of T Faculty of Education.
Ien completed her training at Pierre Laporte Middle School and was on her way to the U of T when she got the phone call from CHCH-TV.
“I was thinking of putting off teaching for a year, but I was told there was a waiting list and it was either now or never,” she said. “I decided to go back to CHCH and the rest is history.”
Nearly two decades later, Ien is returning to the classroom.
The CTV Canada AM co-host has been appointed a distinguished visitor professor in Ryerson University’s Radio & Television Arts (RTA) program. The two-year appointment began at the start of the year.
Ien graduated from the program 24 years ago and is among 22 distinguished alumni on the RTA Wall of Fame.
In her new role, she will guest lecture and participate in workshops, presentations and discussions and meet with students and faculty to offer advice and insight on the latest developments in TV news practices as well as workplace opportunities and career trajectories.
“Marci Ien’s experience speaking to and connecting with Canadians as a broadcaster will be of tremendous benefit to our students,” said provost and vice-president academic, Mohamed Lachemi. “Having professionals of her calibre at Ryerson gives students real-world examples of the careers and futures ahead of them.”
Ien, whose father Joel Ien is a retired Toronto school principal and superintendent, said the appointment is a special homecoming.
“Being given this golden opportunity to return to my alma mater to engage young people and learn from them because they are so brilliant is a dream come true,” said the married mother of two daughters. “I have not only been able to mentor kids in my workplace, but also outside in schools or as part of various community programs. I am really passionate about mentoring the next generation because we need them to be strong and qualified. Knowing me, there will be no limit to the amount of time I will dedicate to this position. The sky is the limit.”
Faculty of Communication & Design dean, Gerd Hauck, is thrilled to have Ien back at Ryerson.
“Her impressive career coupled with her desire to work with our students and faculty will undoubtedly foster excellence in our RTA students as they become media professionals,” he said.
The daughter of Trinidadian immigrants who arrived in Canada 48 years ago, Ien was cast in the children’s television series, “Circle Square”, before completing high school a semester early and pursuing a broadcasting career.
Beginning as a news writer and general assignment reporter with CHCH-TV in Hamilton in 1991, she moved to CTV six years later and has covered six federal elections and other significant stories, including Swissair Flight 111, which crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Halifax in September, 1998. All 229 passengers and crew died in the disaster.
She’s a recipient of a Canadian Radio Television News Directors award for the news serial, “A Journey to Freedom: A Look at the Underground Railroad”, and Harry Jerome and Planet Africa awards for media excellence.
Last year, Ien and fellow broadcaster and RTA alumni, Dwight Drummond, created scholarships that will be awarded annually to two RTA second-year students.