Alumni Newsletter, Summer 2018

  • By Maritza Villela
John Smock

Celebrating Alumni Homecoming, May 19, 2018

(Photos: Jessica Bal, 15 )

Brett Dahlberg, ’17, and Melissa Noel, ’12, were honored with the Alumni Awards for Best Investigative Story and Best International Story.
Graduates from the Class of 2017 reunited at their first homecoming as J-School alumni. (Left to right: Anuz Thapa, Brett Dahlberg, Imad Khan, Eddy Martinez, Teddy Grant, Priscilla Alabi, Miamichelle N. Abad, Jesenia De Moya Correa, Stefan Anderson, and Kimberly Chin)
Adjunct professor Amanda Aronczyk led the Alumni Audio Stars panel, with Kristen Clark; ’14, Brandon Nix, ’16; Daisy Rosario, ’12; and Daniel Lewis, ’14.
Investigative reporter, Future of War Fellow, and J-School adjunct professor Azmat Khan discussed her career in journalism at homecoming.

Newmark J-School ONA18 Austin Reception

If you’re in Austin, TX on Friday, September 14, join Associate Dean Andrew Mendelson for drinks and light food during ONA18 Austin.

Time: 5-6:30 p.m., CDT

Location: Corner Restaurant, JW Marriott Austin

Alumni Updates


After taking a leap of faith and moving to Mexico City to do freelance work, Vicki Adame, ’17, accepted a job as a news editor for the Xinhua News Agency.

Althea Chang, ’12, recently started a new role as associate director of content development at Consumer Reports. The former senior news editor at The Drive at Meredith will be editing stories for the web and covering automobiles, money, and technology.

Kara Chin, ’16, was promoted from associate producer to producer and lead video editor for the sponsored financial video series at Business Insider.

Kimberly Chin, ’17, started a new position as business breaking news reporter at The Wall Street Journal in June.

In June, Brett Dahlberg, ’17, began a new job as health reporter and producer at WXXI, the NPR affiliate in Rochester, NY.

John Friia, ’17, is working as an associate producer for NY1.

Patrick Gillespie, ’14, joined Bloomberg News as a reporter and is now based in Buenos Aires, where he is covering Argentina’s economy and government.

In June, Katie Honan,’10, joined The Wall Street Journal as a reporter covering City Hall in New York City.

Former associate producer for “60 Minutes” Erin Horan,’12, has moved to “CBS This Morning” as an anchor/producer. Horan was recently nominated for an Outstanding Edited Interview Emmy for “Prisoner 760,” the story of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Mohamedou Slahi.

Former Business Insider Wall Street correspondent, Rachael Levy, ’14, is now a hedge fund reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

Barbara Marcolini,’16, was hired as a staff video producer at The New York Times. She’s working with the visual investigations team reporting and editing stories based on open source investigations.

This fall, Brianna McGurran, ’14, will start teaching Professional Communications and Presentations, and Business Writing at Lehman College. She has been a full-time staff writer and spokesperson at NerdWallet for more than three years.

Mark Morales, ’09, started a job in June as a CNN reporter covering law enforcement and cybersecurity issues.

In June, Denisse Moreno,’14, joined the Bronx DA’s office as a public information officer.

Jeanette D. Moses, ’13, is working as the editor of

Emilie Pons, ’14, joined the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, where she is writing and researching a biography on Edward Said.

Hong Qu, ’11, recently started working for the Shorenstein Center at Harvard as program director for technology.

Michaela Ross, ’15, formerly a technology and telecommunications reporter at Bloomberg Law, is now reporting on the Department of Homeland Security for Bloomberg Government.

In May, Nicole Rothwell, ’17,  was hired full time as associate producer for Futuro Media’s political podcast “In The Thick”. One of the first episodes she produced was about LGBT rights under the Trump administration.

Derek Scancarelli, ’15, is working at Meredith as a producer for PeopleTV and as a contributing music writer for

Former Harvard University research fellow Brandon Shaik, ’16, will be joining the B2B Marketing team at Forrester Research in Cambridge, MA as a research associate.

Sean Shoemaker, ’17, recently moved to Texas and started reporting for the Big Bend Sentinel in July.

Pauliina Siniauer, ’17, was hired as an investigative data journalist for the The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and is working remotely from Helsinki, Finland.

Chester Soria, ’12, became deputy press secretary for the New York City Housing Authority in June.

In July, Divya Verma, ’13, joined’s digital newsgathering team as a video producer.

Kristine Villanueva, ’17, started working full time as reporter/moderator at Spaceship Media, in addition to freelancing at Free Press for their 37 Voices project.

After interning for five months at Business Insider, Katie Warren, ’17, accepted a full-time position as strategy reporter.

Mary Wilson, ’16, was promoted from associate producer to producer at BuzzFeed News’ Twitter morning show, “AM to DM,” where she is producing political, entertainment, and breaking news segments.

Emily Ziemski, ’17, is combining her love for culinary arts and journalism at Blue Apron, where she is an associate culinary editor.

Alum in the Spotlight

Video producer Gosia Wojtunik, ’11, spent an adventurous summer in Russia covering the FIFA World Cup for Reuters. Her pieces on dedicated soccer fans included the story of a man who cycled from Belgium to Kalinigrad to raise money for a charity and another about a group of fans who drove a tractor from Switzerland to support their team.

She also traveled to Kaliningrad Oblast, where she covered the Viking village, witnessed a wood carving championship, and filmed the process of making amber jewelry.


Valerio Bassan, Tow-Knight ’17, won a funding award from Google News Initiative’s Digital News Innovation Fund. Bassan is working on a paywall model called Istmo that rewards loyal readers and supports publications working toward business sustainability.

NBC News video journalist Melanie Bencosme, ’14, produced, shot, and edited  Raising ‘theybies’: Letting kids choose their gender. 

Go Baller Media, founded in 2014 by Chris Dell,’13, through the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism, recently partnered with the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation. They will be building a new website and managing digital/social media branding and marketing for the restoration of the historic Fillmore Heritage Center. Go Baller’s Meetup group, B.Y.O.B. – Build Your Own Brand, was recently featured in 50 Meetups & Conferences for Brand Managers to Attend in 2018 & 2019 by MerlinOne.

The podcast of George Goss,  ’16, “NCR In Conversation,” won first place for Best Podcast from the Catholic Press Association. Goss built the podcast studio, came up with the name, created the format, and produced and edited most of the first season.  His story with colleague Shireen Korkzan, “Fast-food workers celebrate Puzder’s secretary of labor nomination withdrawal,” won second place for Best Online Presentation of Multimedia Visuals.

Founder and editor-in-chief of ReviewFix.comPatrick Hickey, Jr.,’11, is promoting his book, The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers.

Marianna Keller, ’10, received her first Emmy nomination for a story on dementia that she pitched, shot and edited for

Jacqueline Linge, ’09, a journalism teacher at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens, is the 2018 recipient of The Robert Greenman Award for High School Journalism Teaching and Advising.

In June, Kat Long, ’15, (pictured above with host Alex Trebek) appeared as a contestant on “Jeopardy!”, and was close to making it to the final round before being eliminated in the Shakespeare category. Kat was also selected to participate in the Kavli Science Editing Workshop at the Online News Association’s 2018 Conference in Austin, Texas.

Angely Mercado, ’16, was featured in a Now This video, discussing body image, race, and stereotypes.  

Jesenia De Moya, ’17, was selected as a Climate Solutions Reporting Fellow by the New Economy Coalition and The Media Consortium.  For the next year, she will be trained on climate change reporting and solutions journalism.

A project by Jake Naughton, ’14, about India’s LGBTQ community was published in VICE Magazine’s annual Photo Issue. He also photographed British author Michael Donkor for the Guardian Weekend Magazine.

CEO and Founder of Hindsight Technology Solutions and Tow-Knight Fellow, ’18, Hersh Patel, will launch his new product, “Smart-Tagging” with The Virginian-Pilot in September.  The tool will enable readers to gain information on key terms while viewing a piece.

Jeanne Pinder’s, ’10, “Cracking the Code” health cost investigation with Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 Live in New Orleans won a national Edward R. Murrow award for continuing coverage. Jeanne was the lead reporter for her startup Clear Health Costs.

Michael Rain, Tow-Knight, ’17, won a TED Residency. His TED Talk, “What it’s like to be a child of immigrants,” has been viewed more than 700,000 times.

Brian Reich,’16, led the communications team for the United Bid of Canada, Mexico, and the United States, which in June, was awarded the rights to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America.  A speechwriter and strategist, he also runs a sports fan intelligence startup called Casual.  His book, The Imagination Gap, will be published by the end of the year.

Ana Maria Rodriguez,’15, and her colleague Eulimar Núñez published an immersive video project, When Abortion is a Lifeline on Univision Noticias. The project explores how laws that prohibit access to abortion in Latin America and the Caribbean infringe upon women’s rights. Rodriguez also started working part-time teaching in the communications department at the University of Miami.

Eliza Ronalds-Hannon, ’11,  co-wrote a piece for Bloomberg Businessweek on the downfall of Toys R Us, “Tears ‘R’ Us: The World’s Biggest Toy Store Didn’t Have to Die. “

Kate Ryan, ’17, wrote a powerful piece for The New York Times, “Surviving the Long-Term Trauma of Sexual Violence,” where she shares her own story as well as those of  29 other survivors.

Roxanne Scott, ’14, was awarded a Pulitzer Center Grant for Crisis Reporting. The grant will give Scott the opportunity to travel to Nigeria to report on food insecurity and health.

Mary Stachyra Lopez,’09, won first place for social justice reporting (sub-category “Call to Family, Community and Participation”) from the Catholic Press Association’s 2018 Catholic Media Conference Awards for her article “Love, the universal language.” 

New York Times staff video journalist and J-School adjunct professor Samantha Stark’10, was nominated for a News and Documentary Emmy Award for “The Forger”.

Almudena Toral, ’10, head of feature video at Univision Digital, has been nominated twice in the News and Documentary Emmy Awards’ “Outstanding Feature Story in Spanish” category for “Orlando Recobra El Pulso” and  “Una Odisea Cubano”.

Starting in September, NetaData founder and H R Venkatesh, Tow-Knight ’16, will be a JSK Stanford Journalism Fellow for a year. He will research ways to combat disinformation in India.

Maria Villasenor, ’14, and her team won the Gerald Loeb Award  for Best Video for “Bitcoins, blockchain and Ethereum: Ancient stone explains money’s future.”

Amy Yensi, ’10, was nominated by The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter for the General Assignment Report Emmy category for WJZ’s “Man rescues people after explosion.”


Mary Wilson, ’16, hung out with”Orange is the New Black” actresses Natasha Lyonne (middle) and Danielle Brooks (right) at the BuzzFeed News Twitter show “AM to DM”.
Deron Dalton, Social Journalism ’15, deputy editor and senior entertainment editor at The Tylt, made an appearance on “Cheddar Live,” where he discussed the Song of the Summer. 
Julia Sclafani, ’17, who loves covering early morning breaking news at The Sacramento Bee, has seen her fair share of wildfires.
Cesar Bustamante, ’11; Ashley Welch, ’11; Alva French, ’11; Naeisha Rose, ’15; and Michelle Bangert, ’11, celebrate Homecoming Happy Hour at Printers Alley.
Andrew Menezes, ’15; Stephen Jefferson, Tow-Knight, ’16; Michaela Ross, ’15; Shannon Firth, ’12; Nathan Frandino, ’11; and Natalie Cofield, Tow-Knight, ’18, at the third annual Washington, D.C. alumni picnic and field day.
Alums gathered on Wednesday, August 8 at the Renaissance Hotel Mixx Lounge in Washington D.C. for a happy hour hosted by Associate Dean Andy Mendelson; Carrie Brown, director of the Social Journalism Program; and Marisa Osorio, interim assistant director of student affairs. (Left to right: Joel Schectman, ’09; Daisy Rosario, ’12; and Michaela Ross, ’15)
Stephen Jefferson, EJ Advanced Certificate Program, ’16; Jackie Snow, ’12; and Natalie Cofield, Tow-Knight, ’18.
George Goss, ’16, with wife Kathleen Hennessy and Mary Stachyra Lopez, ’16, at the D.C. Happy Hour.
Althea Chang, '12, posed for a headshot while representing the J-School at AAJA 2018 in Houston, Tx this August.
Althea Chang, ’12, had her headshot taken while representing the J-School at AAJA 2018 in Houston, TX in August.
Craig Newmark chatted with Class of 2016 alums Emily Holzknecht and Doha Madani at a reception in June celebrating his $20 million gift to the J-School. (Photo by Skyler Reid, ’13)


Claudia Cruz,’08, was recognized with the NAHJ 2018 Sí Se Puede Leadership Award for her work leading the Bay Area chapter for the past three years, where she brought in more than $40,000 in grants and in-kind donations.
J-School alumni posed for a fun picture after an NAHJ breakfast at the Intercontinental Hotel’s Olé restaurant in Miami.
Associate Director of Career Services Yolanda Rodriguez, Director of Alumni Services Brooke Stachyra, and Director of Admissions Colleen Leigh hosted the NAHJ alumni breakfast.
Felicidades to Vicki Adame, ’17, who was elected vice president of print for the NAHJ National Board. She will be serving a two-year term.

NABJ 2018 Detroit

Malik Edwards, ’17; Max Patiño Associate Director of Multicultural Recruitment; Naomi Yane, ’18; and Khorri Atkinson, ’16, gathered at NABJ 2018 Detroit.
J-School alums Khorri Atkinson, ’16; Melissa Noel, ’12; Walter Smith-Randolph, ’10; Kizzy Cox, ’12; and Brandon Nix, ’16, reunited at NABJ 2018 Detroit.
J-School alums Khorri Atkinson, ’16; Melissa Noel, ’12; Walter Smith-Randolph, ’10; Kizzy Cox, ’12; and Brandon Nix, ’16, reunited at NABJ 2018 Detroit.
Class of 2012 alumnae Melissa Noel (left) and Kizzy Cox won awards for Best Single Story Feature in Digital Reporting and Best Short-Form Radio Feature on a Network, respectively, at the 2018 NABJ Salute To Excellence Awards.

J-School Love Story

Rebbecca Bratek,’14, and Terence Cullen, ’14, wedding picture
(Photo Credit: Iburi Photography)

Rebbecca Bratek,’14, and Terence Cullen, ’14, met at the J-School in 2013. Rebecca said that on their first day, they almost ran into each other literally as they were passing through the newsroom’s glass door.

They soon became good friends in Wayne Svoboda’s Craft 1 class and started dating in January 2014.  In April 2016, Terence popped the question at one of their favorite hiking spots, Shadmoor State Park in Montauk, NY.

On May 26, Rebecca, a social producer for CBS News, and Terence, communications director for Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides, were married at the Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo, NY. Terence’s brother officiated at the ceremony, which was attended by many of their J-School friends.


Amy Goldstein, ’07, married Dave Simkovitz in May.
Associate Director of Multicultural Recruitment Max Patiño wed Rosanne Matos surrounded by family in the Dominican Republic.
Aisha Al-Muslim, ’09, married Larry Harris on July 7 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
Maritza Villela, ’17, and Brett Robertson were married on May 26 in Roatan, Honduras.

J-School Babies

Kayla Rivera, ’17, welcomed daughter Riley Skye Ramos on July 3, 2018. Does the “hello world” on her beanie look familiar? (Think password for the J-School guest network.)
Mirva Lempiainen, ’09, and husband Jean-François Antier welcomed their daughter Lily on May 16, 2018. They are based in Guadeloupe, the French Caribbean. Mirva is a freelance travel writer, and Lily is becoming quite the little traveler as she accompanies her mom on reporting trips.

Q&A with Melissa Noel, '12

Melissa was honored as a “Woman of Influence” at the inaugural Guyanese Girls Rock Foundation Honors and Awards Luncheon on June 23 in Queens, NY.

Many alums will recognize Melissa Noel not only as a Class of 2012 graduate but also from her many years assisting and mentoring students in the J-School’s Research Center. She recently accepted a position as a TV correspondent for international news and lifestyle programs in the Caribbean region. She will also be the alumni speaker at the Newmark J-School’s 2018 commencement ceremony in December.

The J-School was not only where I earned my master’s in journalism but also where I put my expanded experience to practice as a part-time staff member in the Research Center after graduation.

While I built my brand as a reporter and sought opportunities to cultivate my niche in Caribbean-region reporting, the J-School provided me with opportunities for growth, from training sessions and workshops to networking. The genuine support and guidance I received during my tenure there are priceless.

Faculty and Staff News

In July, Associate Professor Lisa Armstrong and Graciela Mochkofsky, director of the Spanish-language Journalism Program, were named the 2018-2020 Tow Professors.

Geraldine Baum is joining the Newmark J-School as assistant dean of external affairs, a newly created position.

On May 19, Social Journalism Director Carrie Brown spoke at the PhDigital Bootcamp at Texas State University,  a program to help faculty design innovative courses and curriculum.

Jenny Choi, formerly the deputy director of the News Integrity Initiative, has moved into a new grant-funded role at the Newmark J-School, as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives. In this position, she will assist the school by providing leadership and coordination of our diversity-oriented grants.

In addition to being nominated for an Outstanding Arts & Culture Documentary Emmy for her work on “BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez”, adjunct professor Sabrina S. Gordon, ’16, was invited to become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ documentary branch. 

After six years at the J-School, Joanna Hernandez accepted a full-time faculty position at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, as a digital storytelling lecturer and director of inclusion and diversity. During her time at the Newmark J-School, Joanna served as director of career services, director of diversity initiatives, chair of the Diversity Committee, and head of the Knight Diversity Summer Internship Program.

Jere Hester appeared on an edition of MetroFocus with alum Ben Fractenberg, ’09,  who is a reporter with The Forward, and with editor Liena Zagare to discuss the state of local news in New York. Hester was quoted on the same topic on Politico and The Associated Press. 

Journalist and former civil rights attorney Alia Malek has joined the Newmark J-School as director of the International Reporting Program. Malek is the author of two books and has written for publications including The New York Times, Foreign Policy,, the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor and Jadaliyya.

Alexa Maurer joined the Student Affairs / Career Services team as administrative coordinator. She previously worked in York College’s Academic Affairs Department, at New York Code + Design Academy, and at Hunter College.

On October 10, Graciela Mochkofsky, director of the Spanish-language Journalism Program at the Newmark J-School, will be honored with a Maria Moors Cabot Prize for outstanding reporting on the Americas.

Christa Noelle is leaving the J-School after six years but is very excited for her next adventure as Associate Director, Integrated Student Services at Wake Forest University School of Business in Winston-Salem, NC. Stay in touch with Christa at

Admissions Director Colleen Leigh attended the 2018 Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month reception at Gracie Mansion on May 10, 2018, where she caught up with New York City’s Director of Community and Ethnic Press/Deputy Press Secretary Jose Bayona, ’11.

Director of Admissions Colleen Leigh meets alums at events at Gracie Mansion and the Harvard Club in New York City.

On June 9, Leigh also moderated the J-School’s Newsmakers Diversity in Journalism panel for PHTimeIsNow at the Harvard Club, NYC. Colleen posed for a photo with alumni attendees Miya David, ’14; Anne Lagamayo, ’13; and Cesar Bustamante, ’13.

Bob Sacha is now associate professor of video storytelling. Along with alums Matt MacVey, ’14, and Guglielmo Mattioli,’16,  he recently published a guide to 360 video for news community and ethnic media newsrooms.

Career Services

Mentoring Program:

Please join Career Services and Alumni Services as we start a mentoring program at the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. We’d like to start next spring with the Class of 2019. Come share your knowledge.

Please take a few minutes to complete this form.

Fall Job & Internship Fair:

Are you ready for the next opportunity in your career? Please join us on Thursday, Oct. 18, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for our Fall Job & Internship Fair. This is the J-School’s largest fair. Last year, representatives from nearly 50 companies attended.

Latino Media Job & Internship Fair:

Come meet representatives of Latino media on Thursday, Nov. 1, 12-3 p.m.


Be a Next Gen Donor!

Be among the first alumni to support scholarships at the newly named Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

J+ Workshops

J+ would like to offer our alumni 50% off select digital skills workshops using code ALUM50.

J+ is a series of affordable and convenient digital skills workshops such as social media and audience engagement, video storytelling for the web, drone journalism and more for working journalists, freelancers, photographers, video journalists and other communicators.

Research Center

Associate Professor and Chief Librarian Barbara Gray reminds alumni to check out the Research Center’s online resources.

Research Center Alumni Resources

Public Research Guides for Reporters

We Want to Publicize Your Work

Alumni interested in promoting or highlighting their work are strongly encouraged to pitch their stories to Social Media Marketing Manager Ellen Lai, who presides over the J-School's social media accounts.

Send ideas, pitches, videos, photos and links