Fifty-seven students will form the inaugural class of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism – and what a class it is. Selected from 216 applicants through a rigorous screening process, the class mirrors the diversity of New York – both economically and ethnically – in line with the School’s mission of helping to diversify the profession by opening its doors to those who otherwise would be shut out.
Forty-four percent of incoming class members are from underrepresented groups or immigrant backgrounds: 15 percent African-American; 13 percent Latino; 6 percent Asian; 10 percent immigrants. Many said that CUNY was their first choice among graduate journalism programs.
Class members come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. About a quarter are recent college graduates, half have had some prior journalism experience (including a staff writer at the New York Daily News pursuing the interactive media track), and the rest are making a career change. The average age is 27. Career changers include a teacher, a dentist, a community activist, a golf pro and a doorman.
“We were extremely impressed by the academic, personal and professional achievements of the applicant pool, and by their obvious passion for journalism and story-telling,” Director of Admissions Michele Rabin said. “Although we are a new school, many applicants chose to apply to CUNY in addition to the other top journalism programs in the country. We’re off to a fantastic start.”
Applicants underwent a rigorous admissions process that required maintaining a college GPA of at least 3.0, scoring reasonably well on the Graduate Record Examination, and submitting three to five work samples plus three letters of recommendation. Those who made it through the first cut took a two-hour exam created by the School of Journalism and were interviewed by staff members or other journalism professionals. The exam tested grammar, knowledge of current events, and ability to write news and analysis.
Countering a trend, the new class is fairly gender balanced, with women making up 56 percent and men 44 percent. Three out of four students hail from New York State, mostly from the City. Other states and countries represented in the class include Connecticut, Florida, California, New Jersey, Oregon, Japan, Iraq and Poland.
Eighteen students are graduates of CUNY colleges, with three each from Brooklyn, City and Queens Colleges. Eight are from SUNY campuses. The class includes three students each from Brown and Columbia Universities, as well as students from small liberal arts colleges such as Bard, Reed, and Vassar.
To build its pool of applicants, school officials traveled widely in the last year, visiting newsrooms at several CUNY campuses, as well as at local, private universities, such as Columbia and New York University, and holding information sessions on a bi-weekly basis. Outreach counselors also attended national conferences.