Alumni Insights

Virtual events allow alumni and students to connect online.

When the COVID-19 pandemic put an end to in-person events, the Newhouse School found a new way to connect students and alumni: virtual events.

A series of events featuring alumni guests from all areas of the communications industry kicked off just after the end of the spring semester and ran through the summer, drawing hundreds of attendees from across the country. Similar events will continue to be offered this fall.

May 8: Weijia Jiang G’06, who was named CBS News White House correspondent in 2018, discussed her job covering the Trump administration during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moderated by associate dean Joel Kaplan, the talk covered everything from social media to press conferences to the relationship between the president and the media.

May 14: Chris Licht ’93, executive producer and showrunner for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and executive vice president of special programming at CBS, discussed the challenges and unexpected rewards of producing the show from home in a conversation moderated by associate dean Hub Brown. Attendees were also treated to a surprise brief appearance by Stephen Colbert.

May 21: Meredith Goldstein ’99, “Love Letters” columnist and entertainment reporter for The Boston Globe, discussed her role as an advice columnist—how she got there, and how it has changed during the pandemic. Associate professor Aileen Gallagher moderated the discussion.

May 28: Sportscasters Mike Tirico ’88, host and play-by-play with NBC Sports Group, and Ian Eagle ’90, play-by-play announcer with CBS Sports, YES Network, TNT and Westwood One Radio, joined Olivia Stomski, director of the Newhouse Sports Media Center, to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic might impact the future of sports.

June 2: Time magazine film critic Stephanie Zacharek ’83 discussed how the act of moviegoing has changed in the time of coronavirus, and offered predictions on the future of the film industry, in a conversation with Eric Grode, director of the Goldring arts journalism and communications program.

June 10: Shelvia Dancy, professor of practice in broadcast and digital journalism, moderated a conversation with four alumni who were on the ground covering the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter demonstrations across the country. Guests were A.J. Lagoe ’00, investigative reporter at KARE 11, Minneapolis; Liz Sawyer ’14, reporter at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis; Norman Seawright G’14, reporter at WCCO in Minneapolis; and Cheryl Wills ’89, anchor at NY1 in New York.

June 18: Lewis Williams, executive vice president and chief creative officer at Burrell Communications, discussed how brands are taking a stand against racism. Beth Egan, associate professor of advertising, moderated the discussion.

June 25: Rebekah Jones ’12, former geographic information systems manager for the State of Florida Department of Health, discussed her role in tracking Florida’s COVID-19 data, and the political fallout from her attempt to maintain transparency. Newhouse Dean Emeritus David Rubin moderated the discussion.

July 1: Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Michael M. Santiago G’19 shared his experiences covering the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter demonstrations, and discussed his recent departure from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bruce Strong, chair of the visual communications, and Mike Davis, Alexia Endowed Chair, moderated the discussion.

Aug. 13: Assistant professor Jennifer Grygiel hosted a conversation with Ahiza García-Hodges G’13, reporter at NBC News, Alfred Ng ’15, senior reporter at CNET, and Steve Kovach ’08, tech editor at CNBC, to discuss the current status of TikTok, and implications for the social media industry, investors and freedom of expression in the U.S.

Future events will be posted on the Newhouse events calendar and publicized via the school’s social media channels.