What We Watch: Carol Griskavich, Community Education Specialist

As Community Education Specialist at WPT, Carol Griskavich’s “typical day” is anything but typical – working on detailed event logistics or traveling the state to meet with viewers we serve. We sat down with Carol to learn about her role at WPT and her favorite public television programs.

“I could listen to Jacques Pépin read the phonebook.” -Carol Griskavich

What is a typical day like for you at WPT?
There’s no typical day. I could be here at the office, working on planning and logistics for new community programming ideas – or fine-tuning existing ideas.

Alternately, I could be traveling the state to meet with community leaders and learn how they want to be represented. We are public broadcasting: We serve the public. I learned a long time ago that you have to treat the experts like the experts. So we have to tap the experts in each community.

What is your favorite part of your job at WPT?
I was just talking about this with my friends. I’ve always wanted a job where I get to listen to people tell me their stories – and I finally found it. I could just listen to peoples’ stories all day. And not only do I get to listen to these wonderful stories, but I am able to share those stories with others throughout the state. I can’t believe they pay me for it, honestly!

Editor’s note: One example of some of Carol’s work in the community is an upcoming free screening of the POV film Dalya’s Other Country at the Goodman Community Center in Madison, accompanied by a free community meal and panel discussion. These screenings aim to build common ground between attendees with differing life experiences. Visit wpt.org for event details.

If you had to pick, what are your favorite PBS shows – and why?
My life is incomplete without Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.! He presents genealogy in such a thorough, well-interpreted way. The stories he uncovers move a lot of people.

I’m addicted to documentaries, so I love POV and America ReFramed. Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War was tremendously moving – and challenging – for me.

Behind the scenes: Reluctant folk dancer Carol celebrating Greek Fest in Madison.

And what are your must-watch WPT shows?
Wisconsin Life gives my friends and me ideas about new places to explore. I’m really excited about the new season being hosted by Angela Fitzgerald. She’s a wonderful personality! Another local favorite is Tribal Histories. In school, we studied the history of Native Americans in Wisconsin, but we never got to this contemporary view. It underlines “We’re still here.”

Editor’s note: Three new episodes of Tribal Histories air this December on WPT! Watch wpt.org for updates.

Finally, what’s your favorite thing about public television?
At the risk of sounding corny, it brings people together. I grew up in Wisconsin. And I grew up watching Wisconsin Public Television with my family. It’s a tradition. I watched This Old House and New Yankee Workshop with my dad. I watched Masterpiece with my mom. And my sister and l loved  Storylords.

No matter the show, we always talk about what we’ve seen afterward, and it gives us the opportunity to break down stories on a personal level. For example, I’ve talked at length with my mom, other relatives, and friends about The Vietnam War. We’ve been able to get beyond Ken Burns’ films specifically and talk about where we were then, and where we are now.

In short, public television gives people talking points that they can use to relate to their loved ones – and to strangers. It gives them the chance to start some of these often-difficult conversations. Public television offers easily digestible information that brings people together.

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