Championing Students and the Arts

Eric Grode’s students in the Goldring arts journalism and communications program should be prepared to receive emails from him at 1 a.m.  

Eric Grode
Eric Grode. (Photo by Addie Christopher)

Grode ’93, the program’s director, is always looking for potential writing opportunities for his master’s program students. So, when one of the many industry connections that Grode has developed over the years passes along a lead, he wants his students to get that information as soon as possible – even if it’s the middle of the night. 

It’s one small example of the support Grode provides his students, a type of tireless dedication that shows why he received a 2023 Syracuse University Graduate School Excellence in Graduate Education Faculty Recognition Award.  

After graduating from Newhouse with a degree in magazine journalism, Grode ushered his love of writing and the arts into an enviable career stretching from head theater critic for The New York Sun and, to copywriter, theater critic and reporter for The New York Times. He draws on his extensive professional experience to help guide students on freelance opportunities.  

“There are a lot of places that are eager to have content from young writers. Some take really good care of their writers, and many don’t,” says Grode, who began teaching at Newhouse in 2012. “Knowing what’s out there and knowing best practices puts you in a better position when you need to identify less than best practices.” 

Eric Grode working at his desk
As director of the Goldring program, Grode is a tireless supporter of his students. (Photo by Madelyn Geyer) 

He’s very active in the field as a freelance Times critic and reporter. He’s also the author of two books,  “Hair: The Story of the Show That Defined a Generation,” and “The Book of Broadway: The 150 Definitive Plays and Musicals.”   

Grode is starting work on a third book on American film history. As with other projects, he recruited a Goldring alumna to help with research on this latest work. He’s humorously cagey about the book, but hints that “it has a lot to say about society.” 

The road map

The Goldring program is the first such master’s program in arts journalism at an accredited communications school, having pioneered the concept of training journalists to write about the arts. Grode, the program director since 2016, takes a detailed approach with students when they first arrive at Newhouse, requiring them to fill out a long, multipage contract.  

While it may seem tedious, Grode likens it to a road map. He pores over the contracts and asks students about their strengths, weaknesses and goals.  

Eric Grode and Natalie Reith sit side by side at a table as they edit a paper
Grode and Goldring program alumna Natalie Rieth G‘23 edit an article together. (Photo by Madelyn Geyer) 

After a long conversation, “it just becomes a question of figuring out where each student is, where they want to end up and tailoring their classes, extracurriculars and life skills to get them there,” Grode says. 

It’s this keen understanding of his students’ personalities and aspirations that makes Grode exactly the kind of educator a university wants for their graduate students. Whether he’s bombarding email inboxes in the middle of the night with writing opportunities, introducing students to award-winning writers in New York City or advising someone on their academic schedule, the support for his students is constant. 

Making connections

Grode is gracious about connecting students with top film, TV, theatre and culture critics he’s met over the years, like A.O. Scott, Stephanie Zacharek and Emily Nussbaum. The advocacy extends to creative activities outside the classroom, too.  

As he began constructing a large film data visualization story for the Times in 2022, Grode knew he needed help. He recruited three Newhouse students to collect and compile the important data that brought the massive article to life. The students received a contributing credit in the global newspaper, something most writers only dream about. 

By the end of the Goldring program, Grode can step back and let his students lead the way. Saying goodbye is his favorite part of the year, he says. 

 “Being able to synthesize and work with students and get all of them ready for the world is something that I take really seriously,” Grode says. “I was just very flattered and honored to see that recognized.”  

This is the first in a series of three stories about Newhouse faculty honored by Syracuse University in 2023 for teaching excellence.