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Alumni Newsletter, October 2021

  • By Virginia Jeffries

UPCOMING EVENTS

INAUGURAL BLACK MEDIA FAIR
Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 at 5:00 p.m. and Saturday Oct. 16, at 9:00 a.m.
The NABJ Chapter at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism is hosting their first ever Black Media Fair. This virtual fair was created for and by Black journalists interested in understanding the role of Black media in today’s field. Students will have the chance to ask hard questions and network with prominent Black journalists in the industry via Zoom.

Find more details and the full agenda here.

Register here

HIRE NEWMARK!
Friday, Oct. 22, 2021 at 12:00 p.m.
Career Services is hosting its annual Fall Career Fair (virtually) and would love to see you there! This is the school’s premier recruiting event, where you can share jobs, internships, fellowships, and freelance opportunities with our students, who will soon join the alumni ranks. We are excited to partner with Handshake again for this virtual event. At the fair, you’ll be able to engage with students and alums in a variety of formats, including one-on-one sessions and group meetings.

  • To sign up as a recruiter on behalf of your company, register with your work email (not Gmail or your J-School email).
  • To attend as an alum to meet with recruiters, register with your J-School or personal email.
  • Spread the word by sharing the event with your media company’s HR department.
  • Questions? Please reach out to career.services@journalism.cuny.edu.

PITCHING STORIES AMID NEWSROOM DIVERSITY INITIATIVES
Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021 at 1:00 p.m.
Pitching stories about underrepresented communities while bringing diversity to a newsroom is a significant challenge for any journalist. Being a new hire or intern adds another dimension, often as an “unofficial diversity educator” for colleagues. This seminar will outline strategies to craft smart, successful pitches while avoiding stereotyping and pigeon-holing.

Speakers:
Linda Shockley, former managing director of the Dow Jones News Fund
Karen Rouse, editor at New York Public Radio station, WNYC
Register here

SAVE THE DATE: HOMECOMING
Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021
It’s looking better and better for an in-person reunion at 219 West 40th Street — and a special happy hour with the Dean for the 10th reunion classes of 2010 and 2011.

ALUMNI NEWS

The news below was submitted by faculty, staff, and alumni. Send your items to alumnioffice@journalism.cuny.edu. 

Cole Rosengren ’15 has been promoted to lead editor at Waste Dive, a top source for independent coverage of the U.S. solid waste and recycling industry. Waste Dive’s 2020 series on emerging issues with the disposal of PFAS chemicals recently won a Neal Award for best subject-related package.

Dan Heching ’16 was hired as a digital news writer for People.

Sabrina Schmidt Gordon EngageJ ’16 has a new feature-length documentary “To The End,” about four women of color leading the fight for a Green New Deal. The documentary is one of six environmental films awarded impact campaign grants from the Redford Center.

Dominic McKenzie ’18 & Tow-Knight ’19 was named a recipient of the 2021 Consul General of Jamaica Heritage Award. He joins notable Jamaican reggae artists Shabba Ranks and Gyptian as 2021 awardees. The award, given by the Jamaican government’s diplomatic representative across 33 states, honors the outstanding service of Jamaicans living in the United States in their respective spheres of influence. The ceremony is November 5 at the Offices of the Consulate General of Jamaica in Manhattan.

Jose Cardoso ’19 has joined The Wall Street Journal as a news assistant.

Beatrix Lockwood, EngageJ ’19 was recently named Washington Post Opinon’s operations editor. She was most recently the community engagement editor at Reuters, where she worked on audience development, analytics ,and social media strategy.

Zee Ngema, EngageJ ’20 was recently promoted to full-time staff writer at OkayAfrica. She began working at the publication during her 2020 internship.

Samantha Shanahan ’20 has joined the photo department at The Wall Street Journal as a photo editor.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

STUDENT LOAN FORGIVENESS
Great news for government and non-profit employees who have student loans
Under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, those who work for a government (federal, state, local or tribal ) or non-profit and make regular loan payments for 10 years may have their remaining student loan debt forgiven. Unfortunately, the program was a quagmire and few of the people who should have benefitted have had their loans forgiven. The U.S. Department of Education has announced a “Public Service Loan Forgiveness Limited Waiver Opportunity.”

It is available only for a short time, so those who may be eligible should check now.

Newmark J-School doesn’t have any other information about the opportunity, so interested students and alumni should visit the federal government’s official site for the program. The New York Times also published an informative article earlier this month.


THE VETERAN JOURNALISM PROFESSOR WHO VENTURED TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE CLASSROOM AND BACK

Lenn Robbins ’19 had already spent 30 years as a New York-area sports reporter and three years as an adjunct sports journalism instructor when he started his master’s degree at the Newmark J-School.

Before enrolling in 2017, Robbins was working as an in-house reporter for the Brooklyn Nets. But after three years, the Nets eliminated Robbins’s position for budgetary reasons — along with several dozen others.

“I’m sitting there thinking to myself, so now what do I do?” he said. “I knew I loved teaching, right?”

He started looking for teaching jobs, and several colleges told him he had to have his masters to teach for them. He started considering going back to school, but it was not an easy decision.

“I think I was 57 at the time,” the father of three said in a phone interview. “This was going to be like taking classes with my kids.”

But Robbins said his concerns evaporated when he arrived on campus that first day. “I’ll never forget it,” he recalled. “As soon as I opened the doors and walked in, I knew I was in a newsroom. I could feel the energy. I saw the layouts of the desks and I said, ‘this feels right.’”

He loved being a student again, but it kept him very busy. Besides his full course load and parenting duties, Robbins continued teaching undergraduate and graduate students at NYU and Rutgers University.

Six weeks into the term, a new health condition and heavy treatment regiment added an extra layer of complexity. Mysterious symptoms, including a clogged ear canal that did not clear up, led to the diagnosis of Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare cancer in his head and neck. At first, he did not plan to alter his schedule.

“I was a knucklehead, you know?” he said. “I actually had this absolutely naive concept that I could go for my chemo Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and be perfectly ready to go back to class on Monday.”

Robbins went for treatment five days a week, every three weeks. Soon, he found he was so exhausted, he had to pare down his class schedule. He shared news of his situation with the faculty and staff. On our call, Robbins was effusive about the support and compassion he got at the J-School.

“Every professor there was just like, ‘we’re gonna work with you,’” he said. “I know it sounds cliched, but I was humbled by the experience I had there. Really.”

By his second semester, Robbins’s cancer was in remission. He graduated in 2019. After a recurrence later that year, he was treated with a targeted gene therapy. “I was just taking an oral medication,” he said. “That wasn’t that hard.”

In August 2021, he started teaching Sports Reporting to third-semester students at NewmarkJ. Robbins said he uses techniques he learned when he was a student in the M.A. program. Robbins also credits his Newmark J-School education with helping him overcome a lifelong difficulty taking photos.

“The thing that I was most thrilled about was that when I walked in there, I could not take a photograph. It was horrible,” Robbins said. “I would try to take a picture of a couple and the couple wouldn’t even be in the shot.”

That all changed when he took a photojournalism course with John Smock. “One of the assignments was to photograph skating rinks. And so I went out there one day with my camera in the snow and I took like a hundred pictures,” Robbins said. “And one of them wound up in the class project.”

Robbins is still an adjunct instructor of sports writing at NYU and Rutgers. He is also working on a book of fiction based in his home neighborhood of Stuyvesant Town on Manhattan’s East Side.

But teaching at Newmark J-School is a highlight of Robbins’s week. It’s something he has always wanted to do.

“I will never forget the pride I felt walking across that stage as a CUNY grad. I remember thinking how cool it would be to come back and teach,” he said. “When (former arts and culture reporting director) Jan Simpson — talk about cool — reached out to me, I was so thrilled. I hope that comes through in every class.”