Class of 2020 Commencement events to be held Sept. 17-19

Syracuse University will host a Commencement ceremony—delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic—and other celebratory events for the Class of 2020 during the weekend of Sept. 17–19.  

Commencement will be held Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. at the Stadium. This University-wide ceremony, where Syracuse University Chancellor and President Kent Syverud will formally confer degrees, is for all undergraduate, graduate and doctoral candidates. Doors open at 8 a.m.

Following Commencement, all 2020 Newhouse graduates and their families are invited to join Dean Mark J. Lodato and the faculty and staff for a celebratory reception. The event will include a dean’s welcome, recognition of participating graduates and an opportunity to reconnect with faculty. A precise time and location will be announced soon; stay tuned for details.

For more information about Commencement activities for the Class of 2020, see the event listing.

Designing for Good: Newhouse Alumna Creates Mindful Work in Cape Town Internship

Shannon Kirkpatrick ‘23 wants her designs to make a difference. 

Shannon Kirkpatrick portrait
Kirkpatrick

From high school art enthusiast to visual communications major to graphic designer at the Kolisi Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa, her journey encapsulates a narrative of continuous learning, evolving interests and the pursuit of meaningful design anchored in social impact.  

For Kirkpatrick, creativity in art has been a passion since childhood. Growing up in Syracuse, she leaned into her inclination towards visual modes of expression through printmaking, drawing and painting in high school. After her acceptance to the Newhouse School, she initially pursued a degree in television, radio and film, but the film industry didn’t feel like the right fit, she said.  

She attended a presentation about the power of design in storytelling by Bruce Strong, a visual communications associate professor, and “it sparked something deep down,” she said.  

Following a recommendation from Strong, Kirkpatrick met with Claudia Strong, a visual communications adjunct professor. The meeting steered her towards the realm of graphic design—a pivot that felt more aligned with her evolving interests. 

five people stand and smile together
Kirkpatrick (far left) with friends during her Kolisi Foundation internship. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Kirkpatrick)

“I walked into Professor Claudia Strong’s office hours the same day, and she must have given a compelling case to join the vis department because I switched my entire career path shortly after,” Kirkpatrick said. 

She found the graphic design program in the visual communications department wasn’t just about aesthetics; it was about narrating stories, articulating ideas and creating a dialogue through design. As she delved deeper into the program, Kirkpatrick found a platform to hone her skills as a designer for The Daily Orange, a student-run campus newspaper. 

three people pose and smile with their hands in the air
“This three-month experience in South Africa broadened my creative horizon—I know what it’s like to design with heart and see the tangible results, and now there’s no turning back.” (Photo courtesy of Shannon Kirkpatrick)

“The opportunity to apply my design and art direction skills to a fully functional, award-winning newspaper like The Daily Orange was an incredibly unique opportunity that you don’t get in other, more traditional design schools,” she said. “Being a part of the DO shaped the designer I am today.” 

In spring 2023, an exciting opportunity arose: a graphic design internship with the Kolisi Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa. The nonprofit organization’s mission is to combat inequality in South Africa, with initiatives focused on food security, education, gender-based violence and access to sports. 

a person sits at a desk and works on a laptop
“I decided to strive towards this career theme: creating designs that make a tangible difference,” Kirkpatrick said. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Kirkpatrick)

“From the first moment I heard about the internship, to the following meetings and interview, I was feeling a mixture of disbelief, excitement and curiosity,” Kirkpatrick said.  

She graduated from Syracuse University in May 2023 and quickly moved to a new continent, living and working in Cape Town for 10 weeks that summer. As a member of the foundation’s graphic design team, Kirkpatrick assisted with a variety of print and digital design projects, including an annual report, promotional materials and animated social media graphics.  

“Working with the Kolisi Foundation team had that real-world connection I sought,” she said. “The work I made mattered, and I could see the communities where my designs went first-hand. I’m happy to know those designs will continue impacting people there, every day.” 

The initial days of living in Cape Town were challenging as she navigated through cultural changes, but an adventurous hike with newfound friends at sunrise to Lion’s Head—a mountain overlooking Cape Town—marked a shift.  

“At this point, about halfway through my time in South Africa, I was finally starting to feel at home,” she said. “I had established strong friendships, felt comfortable with my host family and started finding my favorite hikes and cafes in Cape Town.” 

a person stands at the top of Lion's Head mountain in Cape Town, South Africa
Kirkpatrick hiking Lion’s Head in Cape Town. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Kirkpatrick)

As the internship came to a close, Kirkpatrick found that the designs she was producing, the intention behind them and her future were irrevocably changed. 

“Combining a new cultural experience with a design internship had a profound impact on me—I saw the true meaning behind ‘designing for good,’ where my designs would help this incredible nonprofit tell its stories,” she said.  

“Afterwards, I decided to strive towards this career theme: creating designs that make a tangible difference.” 

a person points to a sign on the top of a mountain
Kirkpatrick on a hike in Cape Town. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Kirkpatrick)
a person hangs out of a safari vehicle on a game reserve
On a safari on Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. (Photo courtesy of Shannon Kirkpatrick)

Now back in the United States, Kirkpatrick remains committed to designing purpose-driven work that creates positive change. She still designs for the Kolisi Foundation remotely and continues to shape the trajectory of her career as she blends her passions for art and social impact. 

“This three-month experience in South Africa broadened my creative horizon—I know what it’s like to design with heart and see the tangible results, and now there’s no turning back.”

Allen Huang is a graduate student in the media studies program at the Newhouse School.

Newhouse Students Honored in Berlin Indie Film Festival, White House Eyes of History Contest

Alexandra Siambekos ’23 won the Best First Time Director, Documentary award in January in the Berlin Indie Film Festival’s monthly competition. She won for her documentary film “The Keepers of Manari,” which served as Siambekos’s honors thesis while she was a television, radio and film student at Newhouse. 

Alexandra Siambekos filming “The Keepers of Manari” in Arcadia, Greece. (Photo courtesy of Alexandra Siambekos)

Eyes of History

Four Newhouse students earned accolades in this year’s Eyes of History contest—sponsored by The White House News Photographers Association—including three wins for broadcast and digital journalism (BDJ) senior Nicole Aponte and a First Place honor for BDJ senior John Perik. This contest is held annually to select the best in visual journalism across still, video and multimedia disciplines, with a division exclusively for students.

Winners will be recognized later this spring at the Eyes of History Gala.

TOP HONORS
Runner-Up – Nicole Aponte
View gallery

GENERAL NEWS OR FEATURE: NARRATION
First Place – John Perik
Second Place – Nicole Aponte
Third Place – Nicole Aponte
View gallery

LONG FORM FEATURE
Second Place – Collin Bell
Third Place – Murphy McFarlane
View gallery

Newhouse Students Win 25 Awards at BEA Festival of Media Arts

Newhouse School students and their projects had a phenomenal showing at the 2024 Broadcast Education Association (BEA) Festival of Media Arts with 25 awards, including a Best of Festival honor for the The NewsHouse‘s “Infodemic” reporting project and five First Place wins. Among the awards were also honors in the Screenwriting, Animation and Esports Coverage categories.

BEA will recognize the students again April 13-16 during the BEA2024 Convention in Las Vegas.

Awards:

Best of Festival, Student Interactive Media and Emerging Technologies: “Infodemic” by The Infodemic Staff (Also, First Place Website category)

Multimedia Storytelling, First Place: “Phone scammers wreak havoc on Americans and their wallets” by Alejandro Rosales, Sarah Dolgin, Emily Baird and Matthew Brodsky

Video Sports Story/Feature (long), First Place (tie): “SyraCruz” by Will Birks

Video Sports News Program, First Place: “Syracuse Women’s Basketball Vs. Northeastern University – ACCN Pre-Game Show” by Audrey Glynn

     Second Place: “Syracuse Men’s Basketball vs. Daemen Postgame Show” by Stella Balaskas

     Award of Excellence: On The Bench — April 11, 2023” by Ryan Bridges, Cameron Ezeir and Nick Zelaya

Graduate Interactive Media and Emerging Technologies, First Place: 44 Films Mobile App by Jake Sala

Graduate – Audio, Third Place: “Water Towers (The Color of Her Eyes)” by Mikey Alessie

Graduate – Documentary, Award of Excellence: Bets on a Burning Farm” by Collin Bell

Graduate – Film and Video, Second Place: “Beautiful Daze by Francs” by Timothy Lamar Cato III

Micro-Documentary, Third Place: Sentient Incentive” by Murphy McFarlane

     Award of Excellence: “Primavera Negra: Black Spring” by Jorge Rosales

Animation, Third Place (tie): “Time Capsule” by Jesse Monford

     Award of Excellence: “Echoes in the Sand” by Miles Isgrig

Film and Video – Narrative, Award of Excellence: “The Hunter” by Tim Rose, James McConnell, Daisy Leepson and Kenneth Barrist

Radio Features, Third Place: Phone scammers wreak havoc on Americans and their wallets” by Alejandro Rosales (WAER/Infodemic)

Television Newscast (Less than 3 Days a Week), Second Place (tie): CitrusTV: Market Shares — November 10, 2023” by Jake Morel, Sean Dempsey, Peter Elliott and Bradley Hoppenstein

Television Newscast (4/5 Days a Week),  Second Place: CitrusTV News Live at 6 — April 21, 2023” by Josh Meyers, Teagan Brown and Jake Morel

Television Short Feature, Third Place: “Preaching Pride to the Choirby Nicole Aponte (NCC News)

Television Long Feature, Award of Excellence: Miraculous Marathon Meg” by John Perik (NCC News)

Television Hard News, Award of Excellence: “Syracuse Reacts to Controversial Speaker” by Nicole Aponte (CitrusTV)

Scriptwriting – Narrative Feature, Third Place: “Dance Dads” by Samantha DeNaro

Audio/Video Sports Event: Play by Play Talent, Award of Excellence: “Syracuse Crunch vs. Hershey Bears: AHL Hockey” by Jared Johnston

Esports Coverage, Third Place: Worlds Quarterfinals, NiKo Returns to G2 and Valorant Challengers Announced | The eSports Juice Box” by Hayden Kim and James Wu

 

Data Journalism Project Launches, Focuses on Impact of Police Vehicle Accidents in NY

Photo illustration of a crash involving a police car
Photo illustration by Peter Pietrangelo/USA TODAY Network

Police vehicle accidents and the impact such crashes have had on communities across New York State are the focus of a new data journalism project involving Newhouse School students working in partnership with reporters from the USA Today Network and Central Current.

The first two stories from the “Driving Force” investigative series were published last week on The NewsHouse, the result of exhaustive reporting that began in June 2023. The initial stories looked at Syracuse police crashes and emergency driver training for officers in New York State, with more articles set to be published over the next few months.

At Newhouse, the project was led by Jodi Upton, Knight Chair in Data and Explanatory Journalism, and Nausheen Husain, assistant professor of magazine, news and digital journalism. Students in three of Upton’s data journalism classes read hundreds of pages of documents, pulling out details such as the type of conduct, date, officer involved and the resulting discipline in a process called “data tagging.” 

The Driving Force reporting team meets at the Newhouse School in September 2023. (Photo by William Ramsey/USA Today Network)

The exercise helped the students to grasp the importance of how government PDFs can be converted into data for analysis, Upton and Husain said. The team went through the records, court papers and other state and police documents to locate individuals who were injured or killed in police vehicle accidents.

Overall, the reporting collaboration now includes 35,000 records from 115 departments ranging from those in large urban areas to village departments with only a handful of officers.

Upton and Husain said the partnership is building a public-facing police vehicle crash database. It plans to hold workshops to help the public and other journalists inspect local police department documents and understand the impact police vehicle crashes have had on communities. 

The investigation was supported with funding from the Data-Driven Reporting Project. That project is funded by the Google News Initiative in partnership with Northwestern University-Medill.

Master’s Alumni Profile: Justin Maccagnan G’22

Justin Maccagnan G’22

Newhouse Master’s Program: Television, Radio and Film
Current Position: Production Support Engineer at NBCUniversal and CNBC Business Channel

How did you obtain your current position?

This position, weirdly enough, came through a LinkedIn recruiter. My profile was suggested to her as I had a large technical background working as an engineer for trucks, stadiums and universities. I’ll be honest, I thought it was spam, so I ignored it, but after looking her up, I decided to talk to her. We had two interviews and here we are. It has been nothing short of spectacular since. 

What’s an average day like for you on the job?

As a production support engineer, I support all technical equipment for CNBC business channel and NBCUniversal, specifically the New York offices at the NASDAQ. This includes camera equipment, graphics operation systems, INews software, transmission technology and control room operations (any equipment breaks, I am fixing it). Aside from this, our shop has also merged with the IT department. So, I am also tasked with making new employee work accounts, troubleshooting computer programming issues, internet software updates, fixing PC routers and dealing with any issues that may be IT related. 

Any given day can be vastly different, which is why I love this job so much. We are a call support shop, so we respond to whoever calls with an issue, meaning one day I could be working on an INews issue and the next I am working on a camera problem in one of the main studios. On a regular day, I am also working on major projects that the network needs done. These projects come in spurts, but they are very exciting, and I love knowing that I am working on the future studios/equipment of CNBC.  

How do you feel Newhouse prepared you for your current position?

Classes in sports and TV production were what helped prepare me the most for my current position. With professors like Olivia Stomski and Andy Robinson, I was able to obtain base knowledge of how to work in sports production and operate cameras as well as learn technical aspects of production. Specifically with Robinson’s class, the greatest part was staying after our show tapings and studying the technical aspects that went into operating the graphics system as well as the TD switchboard. I never thought staring at wires would be so enjoyable but after seeing how every wire contributed to the broadcast, I was hooked. Without Robinson’s class, I don’t know if I would have gone in the direction I did. 

All of the hard skills I learned were from being an engineer intern for the ACC Network and Syracuse Athletics. I did this job for the entire time I was in Syracuse. Things I learned included how to make ethernet cables, hardwiring cameras, setting up audio consoles, troubleshooting video signal issues and cleaning fiber cables. I developed a very close friendship with the chief engineer of Syracuse Athletics, and that friendship both led to my current job and is a friendship I will have for the rest of my life. In truth, Newhouse as well as Syracuse Athletics helped guide me to what my true-life passion was. 

Did Newhouse open your eyes to new professions or aspects of your field you may have not considered when applying? 

Through Newhouse, I was introduced to the ACC Network and Syracuse Athletics. At first, my objective was to just get in the door and work live sporting events. Scott Hecht, the then director of ACC Network, appreciated my enthusiasm and asked if I wanted to be an engineer intern. I had no clue what engineers do, but to me, it was an opportunity, so I jumped at it. That one leap of faith was what led me to where I am now. 

The greatest thing that happened to me while at Syracuse was working for Tom White, the chief engineer for Syracuse athletics. Up until I met Tom, I had never known what an engineer does. Tom took every chance he had to teach me something new. As an engineer, your main task is knowing every single piece of equipment, wire and cable that goes into a specific broadcast. You are the line of defense if something falls apart and all eyes look to you to fix said problem, so you are always learning something new. With Tom, we dealt with lots of issues, and I began to realize this is the career path I wanted to pursue. Very few people want to become broadcast engineers, so this helps the field as there are usually job openings for these positions. I saw this as not only an exciting growth opportunity, but one that I could make a full career out of.

What unique features of your graduate program drew you to it? 

One of the key features of my program was that I was brought on as an instructional associate. As someone who aspires to be a college professor one day, I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to get some teaching practice. I worked with first year and sophomore production courses and loved every minute of it. 

The television, radio and film program is arguably the most unique program at Syracuse. It is an amazing program in that the objective of both the professors and the curriculum is to allow the student to grow their mind as well as tap into their creative potential. The program’s objective is to help you find your creative voice and run with it. Aside from that, this program also uniquely combines all facets of the film and entertainment industry into the coursework, including screenwriting, pitching films, business models of the film industry, production and law practices that all networks/film houses follow, giving a well-rounded knowledge of the entertainment world. 

Lastly, if you join the program and you feel you may not be bonding with the film material as much, Michael Schoonmaker, the television, radio and film department chair, is more than willing to help find you electives that are in the other programs of Newhouse. I had several graduate friends take courses outside the normal TRF curriculum and they couldn’t have been happier.

Did the Newhouse Career Development Center aid you?  

The Newhouse Career Development Center did help me, both with my resume as well as job leads. Bridget Lichtinger was crucial to my success at Syracuse and my resume looked a lot better once we went over it a couple of times. She is a true asset to the school. 

What are some obstacles or misconceptions about your field?

A lot of young students that get into the broadcast engineering field may think they just set up the equipment and then leave it for the people to operate. Unfortunately, this is anything but true. As an engineer, your job is to know where everything goes for a broadcast. And when I mean everything, I mean EVERYTHING.  

I’ll use an example: Say you are using a Sony camera. As an operator you just need to know which buttons on the camera do what, how to shoot and what to shoot. As an engineer, you need to know button functions, where do the wires that are connected to the camera go, what signal goes to those said wires, what is the lens type of the camera, what unit powers the camera and what signal sends to the operator so they can see what they are shooting. When you think about this, most people’s minds explode and you’re not expected to know all this right out of the gate- but when you work many years in the field, you are expected to eventually know all the information pertaining to those systems spoken about. 

What moments in your career have been most exciting or defining thus far? 

There have been many, so I’ll name a couple:

The engineer job with CNBC and NBCUniversal: This is a position most people don’t get until they are in their 30s due to the level of knowledge required. By a stroke of luck, I was brought on with an expectation they would train me on equipment for the long term, so I am always appreciative that I got such a unique and amazing opportunity. 

Phillies corporate event: This was the first major corporate event I had worked for the Phillies and due to a callout, I was left to man the event by myself. I set up everything, operated all consoles and broke down everything afterward. It was a big moment for me as it increased my confidence that I could do these events by myself.

What advice do you have for current or incoming students?

One of the greatest assets of Newhouse is the main control room for Syracuse Athletics and ACC Network out of Syracuse. Go inside, look around and talk to the people that run operations there- they are always looking for dedicated students that can work events and want to learn. Whether you are someone that wants to be an on-air talent, producer, replay operator, or even engineer, they always have spots available for people to get involved. 

Even if you don’t enjoy it as much as I did, I promise you the most successful producers and on-air talents are the ones that know about the technical aspects of a TV broadcast. It can only help you in the long run. 

The classes I recommend are any production classes with Olivia Stomski and I also recommend any courses with Kelly Leahy, Robert Thompson and Shaina Holmes. Three of the best professors I had while at Syracuse.

Newhouse LA Student Spotlight: Taylor Chaiken

Taylor Chaiken

This semester, I am working as a wardrobe assistant to a celebrity stylist, as well as a fashion PR intern at CLD PR. This has been such a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I could not be more grateful for. Adjusting to the LA culture has been extremely easy for me and beyond exciting. I have been given the opportunity to follow my dreams of furthering myself and expanding my career in the fashion industry, and am lucky enough to be in such a great position for life after graduation. It is definitely not easy balancing two internships, all while taking 12 credits, but the staff and opportunities are so phenomenal that I wake up excited every day. I highly recommend every Syracuse student to take advantage of this opportunity and all of the experiences that come with it.

Taylor Chaiken is a senior majoring in communication and rhetorical studies at the School of Visual and Performing Arts and minoring in public communications at the Newhouse School.

Student Spotlight: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sophia Simons

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (MC2) Sophia Simons is a student in the Newhouse School’s advanced military visual journalism program and an active-duty service member in the United States Navy. Simons, who is studying advanced photojournalism, joined the 10-month program to learn the civilian side of photojournalism and receive an education from some of the top experts in the industry. During her time at Newhouse, she’s completing coursework in not just photography, but sound, communications, multimedia storytelling, writing and design.

Why did you want to be a part of the advanced military visual journalism program at Newhouse?

MC2 Sophia Simons plays with children while documenting a women’s shelter in Cartagena, Colombia in November 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Simons)

For me personally, I wanted to join the program so I could learn the civilian side of photojournalism, receive education from some of the top minds in our field and to gain experience and knowledge from my peers across the different branches. To be frank, I was simply looking for the opportunity to learn and grow in my field.

What have you been surprised to learn while in the program?

I was surprised to find how similar the world of photography is to that of the Navy. While you can be an amazing photographer, the connections you make are arguably more important to telling people’s stories. In the military, making connections is akin to currency and the ability to forge strong connections can give you greater access to telling people’s stories.

Why is visual journalism important to you?

Visual journalism is important to me because I believe each person’s story deserves to be told. We are all held subject to death one day and frankly it’s the stories we tell of each other that transcend death. Adding a visual aspect to the telling of the story allows the viewer to create a stronger emotional tie, to connect on a deeper level and truly see the story.  

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd class Sophia Simons (far right) poses for a photo with three individuals from the Honduran army while visiting a Red Cross in San Pedro Sula, Honduras in November 2022. (Photo courtesy of Sophia Simons)

You get to complete a lot of photography projects in the MVJ program. What are some of your favorite subjects to photograph?

In the military, we do not have a lot of access to studio photography on a regular basis so many of my favorite subjects to photograph have been people in a controlled environment. But I find that uncontrolled action and emotion shots are still my favorite, as I think they speak more deeply to a person’s story.

One of the most prominent buildings on Syracuse University’s campus, Crouse College, was built in 1888. (Photo by MC2 Sophia Simons)

Once you’ve returned to your military position after the program, how do you envision using the skills you’ve gained at Newhouse? 

When I return to the military, I intend to teach my junior Sailors what I have learned here so that we can improve our craft across the fleet. I also wish to use the skills to one day join the Blue Angels.

What do you hope to do in the future?

When it comes to my future, my main goal it to be able to help people, wherever that may be and in whatever capacity. I wish to make it to a Chief in the Navy and I am striving to create a better future for those that come after me.

Newhouse in the News

Some recent media appearances, interviews or stories by Newhouse School faculty and staff.

Margaret Talev, Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship

Robert Thompson, Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture

Harriet Brown, Magazine, News and Digital Journalism

Makana Chock, Communications

Brian Sheehan, Advertising

J. Christopher Hamilton, Television, Radio and Film

Adam Peruta, Advanced Media Management

Lars Willnat, Communications

Roy Gutterman, Magazine, News and Digital Journalism

Aileen Gallagher, Magazine, News and Digital Journalism

Nina Brown, Communications

WellsLink Hosts 20th Annual Transitions Ceremony, Welcomes Jenn Harper as Keynote

Twelve Newhouse students will be honored at the WellsLink Leadership Program’s 20th Annual WellsLink Transition Ceremony on Friday, Feb. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m. in Hendricks Chapel. The ceremony will be followed by a reception.

“The WellsLink program has been transformative for many of our first-year students of color. By providing mentoring, leadership development and a supportive community, it not only  supports the transition to college life but also lays the foundation for their success at Syracuse University and beyond,” says Breana Nieves Vergara, Multicultural Affairs assistant director.

“I’ve seen students gain tremendous confidence in themselves and their abilities. Students form strong bonds with peers and mentors that motivate them to achieve their full potential. The relationships we work to facilitate through the program truly enrich the academic experience for students of color in their critical first year on campus. I’m excited to watch these talented young leaders continue to thrive with the foundation the program has provided.”

WellsLink Hosts 20th Annual Transitions Ceremony

Through academic, social and cultural enrichment activities to foster success for first-year students of color on their college journey, the WellsLink Leadership Program is nationally recognized for academic and leadership excellence. As a celebration of student leader growth, the Transitions Ceremony honors WellsLink Scholars who have successfully transitioned into their second year at Syracuse University.

Jenn Harper

The ceremony will host keynote speaker Jenn Harper, award-winning social entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics Inc., student scholars’ stories of transformation, and Academic Excellence Awards, Leadership Capital Certificates and stole presentation.

“For incoming students of color, the Transitions Ceremony serves as a visual representation that they are capable of success in college. Being able to see students that look like you prevailing in their academics and lifestyles is empowering,” says Ashley Kao ’26, second year WellsLink Leadership Program Scholar and peer leader.

“It is a reminder that they can do anything they put their mind to, and they’ll always have the WellsLink community to support them.”

The following Newhouse students will be honored at the ceremony:

Master’s Alumni Profile: Jerald Pierce G’18

Jerald Pierce G’18 

Newhouse Master’s Program: Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications 
Current position: Chicago Editor at American Theatre Magazine, Chicago, Illinois 

What set you on your career path?

Well, I got my undergraduate degree in acting and realized fairly quickly that that life wasn’t for me. I still loved theatre, so I wound up looking for other ways to stay involved. I saw a (now defunct) website advertising that it was looking for theatre reviewers who were also theatremakers themselves. I had strong opinions about theatre and it was a pretty low risk opportunity, so I gave it a try. I wound up running that site for a bit when the editor needed to step away, and I realized that I absolutely loved criticism, both writing and working with other writers on their reviews. So, when I got to the point in my life where I was thinking about getting a masters degree, Newhouse and the AJC program were one of a few different paths I was interested in, and I let the admission fates decide what was next. That’s all to say, basically I just kept following open doors until I made my way to my current path.

What skills did you acquire at Newhouse that you use in your work now?

I came into Newhouse with basically zero reporting or journalism knowledge beyond what you can glean simply from reading a lot of news. I could form complete sentences to give my opinion on art, but everything I know about journalism, reporting and editing I got from Newhouse.

What experiences or activities that you took part in outside the classroom stands out from your time as a graduate student at Newhouse?

The easy answer is to point to any of the trips I was able to take while at Newhouse that I never would have been able to take on my own. Attending the Toronto Film Festival, traveling to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston and spending time in Israel were all life-changing experiences that I never would have had the opportunity to do, and now they’re all foundational in one way or another to who I am as a reporter and editor.

Jerald Pierce
Jerald Pierce (Photo by Dominique Hildebrand)

What does it mean to you to be a Newhouse alum?

Newhouse has been a great support system for me so far in my career. I’m not a big “networking” person, but Newhouse comes with a built-in network that continues to pop up everywhere I go (American Theatre Magazine’s current managing editor is also a Goldring alum, for instance). Over the years, I’ve leaned on folks I met at Newhouse for career advice and job references, so being an alum has been a real support system during my career journey.

What advice would you offer someone thinking about pursuing a graduate degree?

Take the leap. I went to graduate school at 27, marking a complete change in career path. It can be hard to find time and opportunities to solely focus on skill-building post-college. Grad school gave me a chance to hyper-focus on what I wanted to learn with minimal distractions, and that’s incredibly valuable.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Ideally, I’d love to be the lead theatre critic at a publication somewhere in the country. As someone prone to walking through any door that is open, I’ve learned that I never really know where life is going to take me. But if I could shape that path, I’d want it to lead to being a trusted source of theatre criticism for a community.