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Sam Messina: The Sneeze and A Hat-Trick

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Mar. 3 2023, Published 6:21 p.m. ET

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For most of us, a sneeze is such an unremarkable daily occurrence that we hardly even pay attention or notice when one comes along. For Moouse Media, and Moouse University Founder Sam Messina, however, a seemingly innocuous sneeze was all it took for his life to flip completely upside down during his junior year of college. But where others may have felt defeated, Messina embraced a path filled with opportunity that ultimately paved the way for countless other college students.

As a kid, Messina discovered his love for making movies; in the early days of Apple’s iMovie software, he would edit together videos he’d shot on his GoPro and camcorder. As he grew older, his passion for video projects was forced to take a backseat to his other true love: hockey.

For Messina, hockey became a way of life, and all his hard work paid off. After high school, he was accepted to the University of Alabama, where he started playing hockey for the school’s team. Messina was living the college life he’d always imagined for himself. It never occurred to him that everything could turn in an instant, or with a sneeze.

During Messina’s junior year, he was laying in bed on a day just like any other when he sneezed, and unknowingly ruptured an aneurysm that had been lying dormant in his brain. The bleeding in his brain was serious. Doctors told Sam he had a condition called AVM, or arteriovenous malformation, and after an incredibly dangerous and invasive surgery performed at the University of Chicago, Sam was left with 27 staples in his head and quite a bit of free time on his hands. While all his friends were still away at college, Sam again picked up a camera, for the first time in a long time.

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“I was just a different person after the surgery, all I wanted to do was make videos, shoot videos– anything revolving around that. And it immediately revamped my whole life because I didn't have hockey, I didn't have school, I didn't have friends to hang out with. And all I really had was myself and my passion,” says Messina.

It was in those early days during Sam Messina’s recovery that Moouse University was created. “I started the brand, Moouse University, which is basically a community where we empower and connect college students who are really just trying to find their passion or just get into building a brand for themselves.”

Moouse University, whose title is derived from Messina’s own nickname, is a full-service production company that hires college students to produce high-quality content on college campuses all across the country. Messina noticed a pattern that on every college campus, there were one or two kids with a decent quality camera and many more with creative ambitions. Through Moouse University, Messina aims to help those kids take their hobby to the next level.

“They may be passionate about something like videography, but then they don't necessarily know how to brand themselves, or how to charge clients and how to manage clients, how to get new clients, how to build their websites, how to build a logo, and all of these things that I had to learn on my own,” Messina says.

For burgeoning content creators and entrepreneurs, Messina hopes that Moouse University can be a stepping step to industry success. “If they work with our brand, we can be that connection for them to really be professional with clients.”

Messina is also the creative force behind the Do U Podcast. Each episode features one college student located in the United States who joins Messina for a conversation about the unique and interesting journey they are taking through their college years. Guests discuss their interests, their plans, and their hopes for the future.

Messina believes that by hearing what others are up to, college students will discover their own passions and be inspired to pursue them. “I want people to be able to learn from just hearing from other people.”

All of Messina’s plans for Moouse University relate back to one central question. “How can we empower other college students who are in that same position? Because I think there's a lot of college students who are lost and trying to find that thing that they're passionate about.”

For Moouse University’s collegiate members, the experience is truly one-of-a-kind. “I haven't seen any other people who are doing stuff like this with a whole college community and who like trying to empower students,” says Messina. Messina is one of the first to pioneer a program aimed at fostering the growth of content creators, and based on Moouse University’s results to date, the breadth of his impact will only continue to grow.

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