Student Spotlight: Rayshaun Sandlin

A theatre industry veteran takes an intermission for Newhouse’s arts journalism master’s program 

As the New York City theatre world took a pause at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rayshaun Sandlin took a pause, too. The former Broadway casting associate wanted something more, and in pursuit of fulfilling his long-time aspirations of continuing his education, he found the Newhouse School. He is now one of eight students in the Goldring arts journalism and communications master’s program.  

Rayshaun Sandlin portrait
Rayshaun Sandlin

Since joining the Goldring program, Sandlin’s byline has appeared in publications such as and Rochester City Magazine. He’s been selected as a participant for an intensive podcast workshop with Antica Productions and is a reporter for the Syracuse edition of the PBS documentary series “Family Pictures.”  

“I’m glad that I took this leap of faith,” Sandlin said of his decision to join the program. 

After working in the theatre industry for eight years, Sandlin now looks to become a storyteller in a different way — writing stories about the industry, why arts and entertainment are still important, what happens behind the curtain and more.  

Why did you choose Newhouse, and more specifically the Goldring arts journalism program? 

Newhouse was the only school that I applied to. Writing has always been a part of my creative process and my creative journey, and I believe that journalism is its own kind of art. My intent is to expand the general public’s idea of what storytelling is, what it looks like and what it means. Newhouse seemed like the best place to do that. So I applied, and debated between the Goldring program and the magazine, news and digital journalism program. With my background and experience in arts and entertainment, the arts journalism program just made more sense. Grad school has been on my to-do list since undergrad many moons and years ago! 

Rayshaun Sandlin sits on the Toronto International Film Festival sign
Sandlin at the Toronto International Film Festival, a Goldring program excursion.

You worked in casting on Broadway before Newhouse. What was the moment you decided to go back to school and earn a master’s degree? 

I had been working in casting on Broadway since 2021. Before that I was working off Broadway at the Public Theater, and working at the Apollo Theater as well before that. So, after eight years maneuvering of the ebbs and flows of the industry, I thought it was a good time for me to take time out and write and reflect on all I’ve experienced thus far in the entertainment industry and to use this opportunity to fully immerse myself in learning another skill set, adding on to everything I’ve learned thus far. 

How do you take what you learned in your previous job and apply it to your work in the program? 

I’ve had the chance to experience the arts and entertainment world from many angles, so now having the opportunity to write about the field I’ve been so intimately involved in also made the most sense. Being able to use my wealth of knowledge from the field as a resource for my writing is an added privilege and benefit. I was fortunate to use my skills to secure a high-profile interview with Syracuse native Thom Filicia for one of my first pieces I wrote this past summer. Filicia was one of the original people on [the TV show] “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” With getting that interview, I had to use my former communication [savviness] talking to his representation and things of that nature. I did use that experience that I had from my casting background to get that connection and nail that interview. 

Rayshaun Sandlin holds a Playbill while posing next to a poster for a musical
Sandlin was in the theatre industry for eight years, and worked as a casting associate on Broadway.

What do you hope to achieve in your time here at Newhouse? 

I’m hoping to gain an additional skill set that builds onto everything that I’ve been able to do already on my journey. I then hope to make something completely different from what I have done thus far. I’m hoping to gather up as many of these Newhouse skills as I can and go from there. 

What’s been a favorite experience so far?

Even with all my experience, being here at Newhouse is certainly a whole new world for me but I feel like it’s exactly where I need to be at this moment. I’m grateful for the learning opportunities I’ve had thus far. From already being published in local news outlets to being the executive producer on a show, to being selected for an intensive podcast workshop on campus to being hired as a reporter on a PBS documentary series covering local Syracuse families and their history, they’ve all been great opportunities for me to extend my budding skill set and I’m grateful to Newhouse for affording the privilege and space to test and triumph.  

Rayshaun Sandlin stands on the tv set for Mornings on the Hill
While at Newhouse, Sandlin has taken advantage of opportunities, including being an executive producer on “Mornings On The Hill.”

Why is arts journalism important to you?

My background is in theatre and entertainment. After 2020, theatre was one of the first entertainment industries that took a major hit and the bounce back is still an uphill battle today. I think arts journalism can be used as a tool to help propel and amplify the importance of arts and entertainment especially when it imitates the world’s dark times. What has already been affirmed for me since I’ve been here is that fact that arts journalism is its own form of art and because of that, also has to be uplifted.  

What are your career goals after Newhouse? What do you hope to learn that you’ll take with you into your future career? 

We will see! Again, I’m hoping to take what I get from this experience, which I think has been great thus far, and do something completely different. I want to merge my expansive background with the experiences I get from here and create an entire new genre for myself.  What I hope to learn that I will take with me into my future career is how to be Oprah. I think she’s media mogul goals. The closer I can get to being Oprah Winfrey, the better.  

Katie Fongvongsa is a senior in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.