Young Alum Aims High, Thanks To Professor’s Push

Derek Hubbard ’12 did not have to venture far from the Hilltop to launch his dream career. Hubbard serves as the communications and public relations manager for Dallas HD Films, a local production company, and co-executive producer of “Inside Entertainment,” a weekly TV show about pop culture in the Lone Star State.

Derek Hubbard '12

Derek Hubbard ’12

He credits internships, on-campus opportunities and an astute observation from a favorite professor for giving him the skills and motivation he needed to carve out a successful career in a competitive industry.

“I’m grateful that SMU allowed me the platform to explore a lot of different options,” he says.

Hubbard majored in corporate communications and public affairs with a minor in Spanish. That academic route paved the way for a variety of internships with companies such as The Marketing Arm, Southwest Airlines and Tulchan Communications in London.

“With each of the internships, I had a lot of cool experiences and I learned a lot,” he says.

Along the way, he became more focused on a different future. “I always had this dream of transitioning into some form of entertainment; I always knew I wanted to be in that industry,” he remembers.

Hubbard grabbed as many on-campus opportunities as he could to further develop his portfolio, including acting as moderator for the Tate Lecture Series. Among the celebrities he met were Katie Couric and Michael J. Fox.

“It really gave me a platform to learn and to connect with people who were in the industry,” he says.

During his senior year, Hubbard intended to apply to graduate school at Columbia University with an eye toward eventually establishing an entertainment career. He sought the counsel of teacher and mentor Rita Kirk. Kirk is professor of communications studies in Meadows School of the Arts and director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU. After listening to his plan, she made a statement that would change his life.

“With a straight face, she looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘You know what, Derek, you’re aiming too low.’ I was speechless,” he says. “Her words were playing in my head on a loop. A couple months later, it really hit me what she meant.”

Stop talking about your dreams and make them happen.

Hubbard put his graduate school application on hold and concentrated his efforts on networking, sending out queries and pursuing leads in New York and Dallas. Months after submitting his résumé to Dallas HD Films, he finally got a meeting with Hussain Manjee, president of the company.

“It wasn’t even an interview; it was supposed to be an informational meeting,” Hubbard remembers. “At the end of the conversation, he offered me a job.”

Helping to create “Inside Entertainment” has been an exhilarating challenge, he says.

“We realized that there was a void in the Texas market,” he says. “We have all of this talent, we have all of this entertainment locally that we weren’t showcasing, so why couldn’t we do an ‘E! News’ here in Texas?”

“We essentially had 45 days to go from nothing to a fully produced TV show,” he adds.

“Inside Entertainment,” which debuted March 7, airs three times a week on KTXD, a Dallas-based independent TV station. The half-hour program, hosted by Bri Crum and Paul Salfen, offers an inside look at local food, fashion, celebrities and more.

As he talks about the show, Hubbard circles back to the professor who inspired the leap forward in his career.

“I consider her [Rita Kirk] a friend of mine at this point. I know I can go to her with anything,” he says. “I’m not going to stop aiming high, because that’s what my girl Rita would want!”

— Sarah Bennett ‘11

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