With his interest in music serving as a driving force as he considered his work prospects, as a first-year student Ennis was able to get a job at WWFM, the classical radio station that opened at the college that same year.
“I’m glad I’m now able to give back some of the nurturing I received at Mercer,” said Ennis.
“I just read about the station having its 30th anniversary,” Ennis said. “It doesn’t feel like it was that long ago that I was working there as a board operator and editing taped interviews.” Ennis added that the experience he received on the job was invaluable. “I learned so much.”
Ennis remembers the MCCC TV and Radio program as a great introduction to college and one that inspired him to continue to pursue his passion for media production. “I loved the hands-on experience and the camaraderie of working on projects with other students,” he said, noting that the lessons he learned in the value of teamwork have carried all the way through to his job today. “Learning those skills is very important in any field,” he said.
After graduating from Mercer, Ennis transferred to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. There, he focused on film production, along with cinematography, lighting, and sound recording. After earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, Ennis found himself staying at NYU, where he spent two years in a full-time position managing the college’s new film and television sound stage.
Seeking additional experiences, Ennis also sought out freelance work as a production assistant, gaffer, cameraman, and assistant director. “I went door to door. Work doesn’t come to you in this type of industry,” he said, noting that among the people he had the opportunity to work with was actor Robin Williams in an educational program for the American Cancer Society.
A few years later, after working for The Wall Street Journal’s television station, Ennis made the decision to go back to school, only this time in a different direction – both geographically and academically. He enrolled at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary in Iowa, drawn by the rural landscape and slower pace of life in the Midwest. After earning his master’s degree he took a position as Director of Youth Ministries at a church in Cedar Rapids, IA.
While Ennis enjoyed working with young people, he was still being pulled towards media as a profession and decided to continue working with youth on a volunteer basis. He recalls that the prospects for work were fewer. “There wasn’t as much production work in the Midwest as there was in New York,” said Ennis.
After a short stint as a cameraman for a local television station, Ennis made the move into the telecommunications field, becoming a communications distribution designer at Sand Communications. “I took classes and went to conferences until I became fluent in the information transport system field,” he said, noting that while in the position he designed communication systems for two area hospitals and several corporate businesses.
Next Ennis took a job at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics as a communication distribution designer; eventually he was promoted to manager of communications infrastructure. During his first eight years there, he worked on complex communication and construction projects. In his last two, he took a position as senior project manager for an international medical research project for Huntington’s disease, the second largest National Institute of Health funded grant in the country.
These days, Ennis has come full circle, having taken a job earlier this year as director of Media Technologies for Kirkwood Community College.
“This position ties in a lot of my background,” said Ennis, who is looking forward to guiding students in the beginning phase of their media career the same way Mercer did for him. He added that his background as a youth minister has also proven helpful in his current position, as well as in his role as a father to three sons and a daughter.
In his time away from the office, Ennis still indulges in his sports and music hobbies by serving as a board member and referee administrator for the American Youth Soccer Organization, and as a private guitar teacher.