Gracyn Doctor G’20 turned tragedy into inspiration

Gracyn Doctor was in her senior year of college when her mother, Rev. DePayne Middleton, was killed along with eight others in the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015.

“It changed everything,” she says. “It kind of halted my whole life. Everything got thrown out of whack.”

Doctor returned to school and graduated with a degree in sports management, then took some time over the next few years to heal. During that time, she launched a foundation in her mother’s name that provides financial support for college students. In 2019, she started the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications master’s program at the Newhouse school, after realizing that her work in sports management had been pulling her toward broadcast media.

“Whenever I worked the tournaments, it was with the media department. My mentor was a broadcaster,” she says. The arts journalism program felt to Doctor like the perfect way to combine all her interests.

During her graduate studies, she worked on The NewsHouse, the Newhouse student-produced news website, and interned at Syracuse University public radio station WAER—which she found especially rewarding, because she aspires to work for NPR someday.

Doctor also launched the podcast Talkin’ Black with Brandon Jackson, a master’s student in public relations. The program covers arts and culture topics, particularly those that are relevant to a Black audience.

“[It was] the best year of my life,” Doctor says of her time at Newhouse. “It [was] a really hard journey, but I’m so glad I didn’t decide not to go to grad school, and didn’t just stay stuck in what I was going through. I’m glad I found ways to work through that.”