This Super Bowl Sunday, millions of viewers will tune in to a cuddlier kind of competition when Team Ruff and Team Fluff face off for Puppy Bowl XVI.
UMW alumna Jordan Kyler ’14 has worked for nearly a year on the show, which has become increasingly popular since it began in 2005. As production coordinator on the two-hour Animal Planet production, she uses skills she acquired at UMW – where she channeled her passion for art into a career path – to create what has become one of America’s favorite, and cutest, traditions.
“Working on Puppy Bowl was my first big break into larger-scale productions,” said Kyler, who’s held similar positions with Voice of America and PBS. “It took a lot of hard work to get to where I am.”
She’ll put on her game face this weekend for her biggest job yet, Discovery Studios’ Puppy Bowl, where a floppy-eared hound dog and a fluffy Labrador tussle for a rope toy. A Chihuahua, a Dalmatian, a poodle and a pug – 96 pups face off for a furry football game at GEICO stadium, complete with commentators, instant-replays, a referee, even an MVP puppy player.
Wiggling tails and waggling tongues make for an intimidatingly adorable rivalry with an air of spontaneity, but it’s all been carefully curated by Kyler and her colleagues. Viewers who can peel their eyes off the pups, will see the Photoshop and graphic design skills Kyler acquired in college on full display on sponsor banners around the field.
Kyler describes her Puppy Bowl schedule as a “non-stop rollercoaster,” supporting teams of executives, producers and more. From booking crew and scheduling travel to coordinating catering and assisting with talent, she stays busy on- and off-set.
Hailing from Staunton, Virginia, she liked UMW’s intimate campus. She’d always loved art but didn’t know if it would bring a paycheck. So she set her sights on biology and a pre-medical track … until she pushed past her comfort zone, stepped into the classrooms of Melchers Hall and embarked on a major in art.
“The art department was fundamental to my growth as an artist and as a person,” she said. “I grew mentally, artistically and conceptually.”
That’s thanks in part to Professor of Art and Art History Carole Garmon, who convinced Kyler she could make a living pursuing her passion. She recalls that “a-ha moment” in her capstone course when Garmon passed around a handout listing career opportunities. The two worked together to land Kyler an internship with National Geographic.
“She jumped in with the same curiousness and gusto as she does with all her projects,” Garmon said of her former student, who also served as photography editor for the school newspaper. “She’s a go-getter.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in studio art at UMW, Kyler got a master’s in photographic and electronic media at the Maryland Institute College of Art. Now she has a contract as an associate producer on the National Geographic Wild show Secrets of the Zoo. She’ll bring her A-game to this one, too.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how important it was to declare [a studio art major]. It led me to where I am today,” said Kyler, who marks her third year working in production this May. “It’s unreal. It feels like I’m just getting started.”
Catch Puppy Bowl XVI on the Discovery Channel, Sunday, Feb. 2, at 3 p.m. EST.