Written by Molly Olson, ’18 public relations
On any given day, it can be a challenge to keep up with Greenlee student Lester (Les) Mwirichia.
You might find him in front of the camera at an Iowa State sporting event or working behind the scenes at Hilton Coliseum editing video for Cyclones.TV.
Perhaps he’s recording a podcast or pounding the pavement selling ads for the Iowa State Daily Media Group.
Or, maybe you’ll find him studying for an exam at Parks Library or attending a meeting of Greenlee School’s First Amendment Committee at Hamilton.
One thing’s for certain — whatever he’s up to, he’s pursuing his goal of landing a career in digital sports media.
The road to Iowa State
Since coming to Iowa State in fall 2017 as a transfer student, Mwirichia, now a senior in journalism and mass communication, has immersed himself in student media, internships, his schoolwork and other activities.
“I try to capitalize on opportunities that allow me to put myself out there,” he said. “I know where I want to be and where I can be and every day is an opportunity to get closer to my goals.”
While Mwirichia is confidently pursuing those goals now, he wasn’t always so sure. After graduating from Des Moines’ Hoover High School in 2011, he attended Marshalltown Community College and Des Moines Area Community College. While he had worked as a KDPS radio DJ through the Des Moines Central Campus broadcasting and film program in high school, he hadn’t started thinking seriously about a career in journalism until community college.
After scoring an internship with FOX Sports Midwest in St. Louis in summer 2014, he knew he was on to something.
Through that opportunity, Mwirichia got a front-row seat to the world of sports broadcasting. As he helped cover the St. Louis Cardinals, he shadowed anchors and directors, assisted in writing scripts, worked in the control room — and loved every minute.
After returning to Iowa, he completed another year at DMACC and made plans to transfer to Iowa State.
With his experience, it’s no surprise Mwirichia secured an internship with Cyclones.TV, the official content and programming provider of Iowa State Athletics, in spring 2018.
As an intern, Mwirichia helps out with all aspects of production. One of his primary responsibilities this fall was hosting the “Cyclone Club Tailgate of the Week,” where he showcased a Cyclone Club member at each Iowa State home football game.
Mwirichia also hosts “Mat IQ,” a new Iowa State wrestling talk show, with Kyven Gadson, a graduate assistant for the Iowa State wrestling team, former Cyclone wrestler and three-time NCAA All-American.
As the director of digital media for Cyclones.TV, Tyler Rutherford (’05 journalism and mass communication), recruits at Greenlee’s Jump-Start Internship and Networking Fair each semester to find students with the skills to join his team. Mwirichia has impressed him with his personality and work ethic.
“He’s a very energetic person and has a positive attitude,” Rutherford said. “He has a lot of things going on, but he does a really great job of managing everything.”
This fall, Mwirichia was recognized for his academic and extracurricular achievement as recipient of the William F. and Linda Z. Tubbs Digital Media Scholarship. In its first year, the Greenlee School scholarship provides support to a student working for the Iowa State Athletics department in a digital media capacity.
Bill Tubbs (’71 agricultural journalism) recognizes the growing importance of digital media in his own work as the co-owner and co-publisher of the Eldridge North Scott Press.
“We are newspaper people and our primary product is print, but we are also looking at digital since that is an important part of media,” Tubbs said. “We wanted to continue to support the school in some way, and this scholarship seemed to fit our interests.”
Mwirichia, who previously worked nearly 40 hours per week to pay for school, says the scholarship has eased the stress of funding his education.
“I’m so relieved now—in the past, I was working multiple jobs and trying to balance that with my schoolwork,” Mwirichia said. “This scholarship allows me to let my work be my work, and I don’t have to worry so much.”
The full experience
Along with his internship at Cyclones.TV, Mwirichia develops his skills through other hands-on campus opportunities.
Mwirichia hosts the Iowa State Daily’s podcast the “Les & Kobe Show,” with fellow Greenlee student, Kobe Gaines, a junior in journalism and mass communication. New podcast episodes are released on Fridays with content focused on Cyclone athletics, campus events and other trending topics.
In addition, Mwirichia makes regular appearances on Greenlee School TV, the student-run broadcast organization, to provide analysis of Iowa State athletics.
Beyond these on-campus involvements, Mwirichia has also emceed multiple university events, including the CyFactor Talent Show and homecoming pep rallies. One of his favorite events to be part of, however, is Science Bound Saturday. Hosted by the Iowa State School of Education, the program empowers young students of color to pursue degrees in STEM fields.
“It’s imperative to give back to young people, especially young students of color,” Mwirichia said. “I get to speak to students and tell them about the importance of going to class and having good relationships with their friends and teachers.”
In addition to giving back to the community, Mwirichia also recognizes the foundation the Greenlee video production and newswriting courses provide. He often sends his clips to his instructors for feedback.
“I can learn how to make a good video or write well in my classes, and then that will translate over into my work,” Mwirichia said. “There is a direct correlation there, and it’s really helping me improve.”
After graduating in December 2019, Mwirichia hopes to continue working in college athletics.
“I’ve found a new type of freedom—when the on-air light comes on and the camera hits, I get lost in the world of sports,” Mwirichia said. “This is what I chose to do, and I plan on taking it up to the highest level.”