By Sam McDonald

If you're wondering what it's like to host a network television talk show, just ask Old Dominion University strategic communication major Parish Thompson.

He caught a simulated glimpse of the national spotlight on recent trip to New York City organized through ODU's chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America.

Parish Thompson is seated at the hosts desk during a simulated broadcast of “The Tonight Show” that took place during a tour of NBC Studios in New York. Image credit: NBC

"It was so cool," Thompson said, describing his experience at NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. As part of a studio tour, Thompson and a group of fellow ODU students peered behind the scenes of beloved programs and taped a souvenir, faux version of "The Tonight Show," with Thompson playing the role of late-night host. He bantered with guests, made introductions, and led a trivia quiz while his fellow classmates served as guests, band members, camera operators and sound techs.

Throughout, Thompson appeared at ease. Could show business be calling?

"I started to think that," he said, laughing. "I had never read a teleprompter before, and we didn't know what we were going to say. It was going too slow, so I started ad-libbing ..."

The 20-year-old junior from Newport News said was thrilled to visit one of the landmark locations of American entertainment while also learning tricks of the television trade. "And just knowing the famous people who have walked through those halls — that was like a dream come true for me," he said.

Thompson was one of eight ODU PRSSA club members who took a spring trip to New York March 14-17 under the guidance of lecturer Steffon Campbell. They traveled to The Big Apple by train and stayed in Times Square.

Besides visiting NBC Studios, the group toured the United Nations Headquarters and attended a talk by Muriel Fox, co-founder of the National Organization for Women, hosted by The Museum of Public Relations.

Emily Harrison, a 21-year-old strategic communication major from Stephens City, Virginia, described the New York City journey as both fun and memorable. "Every place we toured, we were all so excited to talk about it," said Harrison, president of ODU's PRSSA chapter. "It was really wonderful."

New York was Campbell's second trip with communication students, having taken a group to the PRSSA ICON Conference in Nashville last fall.

The New York visit required lots of logistics and planning, he said, but the results were worthwhile.

"The greatest memory for me was seeing the spark of enlightenment in the eyes of the students when they were able to produce their own show at NBC Studios," Campbell wrote. "I believe this definitely expanded their minds in terms of possibilities after they've graduated."