Emmy award-winning journalist and Telemundo anchor, Maria Celeste Arrarás, 55, returned to her alma mater, Loyola University New Orleans, in preparation for her 30th anniversary in broadcast journalism.
She will celebrate with a special newscast, airing May 20 on Telemundo, that will feature a segment shot during her visit to the university last week.
Arrarás also is being honored by the Loyola School of Mass Communication with an induction into the Den of Distinction, the school’s way of recognizing alumni success.
Arrarás said the university helped shape her for success, and she is thrilled to be offered the recognition. She said although Loyola is a completely different world than it was when she attended, the program inspired her to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.
“I never wanted to be on television before,” she said. “It was here, when I sat in these sets, and I saw how you can communicate with images, and it was like a light bulb went on. I just loved what I was doing. And now here I am.”
After graduating from Loyola in 1982, Arrarás returned home to Puerto Rico, where she had a difficult time breaking into the field, she said. Taking advice, Arrarás decided to accept any job in the communication field, just to get her foot in the door. She began her career as an advertising copywriter, until she got her first break as a reporter at Canal 24, a television station in Puerto Rico.
When she was offered a higher paying job at a larger station, Arrarás turned it down.
“I thought, I would rather be the head of the rat than the tail of the lion,” she said. She also said she thought she owed her first employers her loyalty for giving her a chance.
And it paid off. Arrarás went on to cover major events all around the world, write several books and host a show on Telemundo, “El Rojo Vivo con Mariá Celeste.”
She has won multiple awards and Emmys, has appeared on The Today Show and recently hosted a GOP debate for CNN.
Sonya Duhé, director of Loyola University School of Mass Communication, said Arrarás is an important figure to both students and faculty.
“We’re thrilled that our current students are able to look at someone who graduated from here, and all of the success that she is having,” Duhé said. “It is a real inspiration to students and faculty because student success is truly our No. 1 goal.”
“Maria especially has excelled in her field and we are so very proud to be able to honor her,” Duhé said.
Arrarás said she is thrilled to be included in the school’s Den of Distinction.
“It is an incredible, unexpected honor,” Arrarás said. “If you had told me when I was a student here that this was going to happen to me, I would have said ‘Nah, no way, not me, no way on Earth.’”
As a Hispanic woman, Arrarás said she has overcome many obstacles to get to where she is today, but she encouraged students not to dwell on what may be working against them.
“I don’t go into a room with 11 men and think, ‘Oh my God, 11 men and me.’ I think there are 12 thinking minds here,” she said.
Arrarás is the first Hispanic woman to be inducted into the Den of Distinction, and students like Edwin Unzalu and Valeria Kawas say they are extremely proud.
“For me, this means a lot,” Kawas said. “She’s my biggest idol. Being able to see her in the Den of Distinction, it’s not only a personal pride but as a Hispanic, as a Latina, I feel very, very proud of her.”
Unzalu said it is important for the school to recognize the success of its Hispanic graduates, and Arrarás’ induction gives him hope for his career.
“It shows that the barriers are being broken down. It inspires me to do what I love and pour my spirit and my mind into my work,” Unzalu said.
“I have grown up watching her on television, and to see the School of Mass Communication recognize her is incredibly affirming.”
Simoneaux is a senior at Loyola University New Orleans. She wants to work in journalism when she graduates.