Alumni Newsletter, March 2022

  • By Salma Abdelnour Gilman

Dear Alumni,

It’s no surprise that our alums are doing incredible work in 2022, as ever. Take a glance at this month’s Alumni News section below, and please send any updates my way, including personal news you’d like to share.

Also: Don’t hesitate to reach out anytime to say hi or touch base about how Newmark can help you with your career, including any programs or events you’d like to see. Thanks to all who’ve already completed the survey for filling out your current contact and employment info, and for letting us know how we can help and if you’d be interested in mentoring a current student. For those who haven’t done the survey yet, please take a quick moment to answer three brief questions so we can all stay in the loop.



The news below was submitted by faculty, staff, and alumni. Send your items to, and cc

Roxanna Asgarian ’11 made the shortlist for the J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress awards for her forthcoming book, “We Were Once A Family: The Hart Murder-Suicide and the System Endangering Kids,” which will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2023. Two awards, in the amount of $25,000, are given annually to aid in the completion of significant works of nonfiction on topics of American political or social concern. The winners will be announced on March 16.

Anya Van Wagtendonk ’18 is at Grid covering misinformation. Fellow Newmark alum Ben Powers ’19 also works at Grid, covering tech. The two were part of a team that broke multiple news stories about the Canadian truckers convoy.

Shantal Riley ’19 published her story on contaminated fish in Lake Superior in the Washington Post Magazine.

Sean Sanders ’19 was promoted to producer at ABC News/Good Morning America. Kirk Cohall ’20 also recently joined Good Morning America, as a production associate.

Sierra Leone Starks ’13 published her work on Black hair culture in Seattle in The Seattle Times

Mariah Thomas ’21 is an assistant editor at Good Housekeeping, and her story, “Black Designers Changing the World of Interior Design,” ran in February during Black History Month.

Paula Moura ’18 worked as a field producer and archival researcher on the film “The Territory,” which received a Special Jury Award: Documentary Craft and an Audience Award at the World Cinema Documentary competition at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. She was the 2021 Newmark Tow fellow at Frontline and is now a digital reporter there.

Kelsie Sandoval ’20 is now a senior media relations officer at UCLA Health, covering OB-GYN, pulmonary, cardiology, and emergency.

Lea Ceasrine ’18 recently started a new job as a podcast producer for the University of Chicago’s podcast network. Previously, she was living in San Francisco and working as a producer at its local NPR station, KALW.

Oliver Morrison ’14 is covering the K-12 education beat at PublicSource.

Monica Melton ’15 joins Business Insider as a senior tech editor, starting March 14.

Ali McPherson ’20 is a freelance audio editor at WHYY, working on a project editing archival footage for Fresh Air Archives.

Willa Rubin ’18 is now an associate producer at NPR’s Planet Money.

Mathew Ramirez Warren ’08 made an upcoming independent documentary feature, “Weed Dreams,” about Oakland’s first-in-the-nation Cannabis Equity Program. It was recently awarded an SFFilm Documentary Film Fund Grant.

Brianne Barry ’13 won four NY Emmy awards, as well as a Suncoast (Florida) Emmy award, for various multi-platform projects in 2021: “Street Level: Brooklyn Heights Promenade,” “Finding a Home in a Harlem House of Worship,” “Lives Lost: Saying Goodbye,” and “Exploring Your Health: COVID-19 Explained.” She leads the digital video production team at Spectrum News.

Ashley Rodriguez ’20 was promoted to news producer at NBC affiliate WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida, and is now producing a new half-hour broadcast focusing on the Treasure Coast.

Tionah Lee ’15 joined Entertainment Tonight as digital writer in December.

Simon Galperin, EngageJ ’16, was awarded a JSK Community Impact Fellowship late last year. He wrote a Medium post about his work, including a shoutout to the Newmark J-School.

Jesenia De Moya Correa, BilingualJ ’17, contributed to Nieman Lab’s 2022 Journalism Predictions package.

Kynala Phillips ’21 has joined The Kansas City Star as a service journalism reporter.

Zanna McKay, EngageJ ’19, joined StoryCorps in a production role.

Diara Townes, EngageJ ’19, has joined the Tow Knight Center’s Internet Initiative as the research and communications associate.

Carla Canning ’21 is now a Tow Fellow at The Marshall Project.

Sarah Min ’18 is an investing reporter at CNBC Pro, where she’ll be covering markets and investing for the subscriber audience.

Ariam Alula ’19 took on a new role as an editorial associate at American Press Institute

Benjamin Chambers ’20 is now a full-time staff photographer at the Erie Times-News, part of the Gannett/USA Today Network, after a successful experience as a Pulliam Fellow in the Visual Team for The Arizona Republic (also in the Gannett/USA Today Network).

Rheaa Rao ’16 joined Bloomberg as the newest markets hub editor, where she’s part of a team working on markets stories across asset classes.


Alumni are always welcome on the J-School campus—and please keep in mind that the Covid protocols apply to anyone entering the building. If you’re planning to come to campus, check out the reopening plan guidelines here.

Turns out there’s a page on the CUNY site for ordering Newmark J-School T-shirts, coffee mugs, umbrellas, and other school swag. The categories could use some updating, truth be told: The umbrellas are listed under Golf Products (why?!). But it’s nice to know the stuff is there. If there’s anything you want to order that’s out of stock (or non-existent), let us know and we’ll see about trying to get it there.


Alumni Discounts for J+ Summer Intensives
Newmark J-School alumni get 20% off the tuition for Summer Intensives, a series of workshops on digital skills, innovation, visual and social storytelling, and reporting and writing in NYC. The workshops take place on campus, in person, in July. Each summer, dozens of journalists, journalism teachers, and students come to New York from all over the United States and the world for this memorable and career-enhancing program. Apply today to refresh your skills. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until June 1, but earlier is better.

Zara Katz ’12 (left) and Lisa Riordan Seville ’10

When Lisa Riordan Seville ’10 and Zara Katz ’12 climbed onto a prison-bound van for a ridealong in 2016, they had no idea it would become a years-long adventure. The trip opened up the chance to get to know a group of people whose experience is often overlooked: Women who have family members in prison. The impressions from that initial ride, and the many that followed, led the pair to make a documentary feature that will have its world premiere at this year’s South By Southwest (SXSW) festival.

“A Woman on the Outside” follows Kristal Bush, a Philadelphia woman in her 20s who has seen nearly every one of her male relatives and friends get incarcerated —and who organizes van rides for women traveling to faraway prisons to visit their own loved ones.

Spending time on the van, talking to the women passengers, and reporting on their lives gave Riordan Seville and Katz a unique view on the impact and ripple effects of mass incarceration.

“The dynamic at most prisons is that it’s mostly women and children visiting,” said Riordan Seville in a recent Zoom interview.

“Potentially a quarter of American women know someone who is incarcerated,” added Katz. “That’s a lot of America. For Black women, over half know someone who is incarcerated. This is not a numbers or a statistics documentary. This is a human story, an individual family story.”

During the timespan covered in the film, Bush’s father and brother get released from jail after spending decades behind bars, and she’s figuring out how to rebuild her life with them in it. Bush’s attempt to keep her nephew from going into foster care plays a pivotal role in the story.

The idea of showcasing the experiences of Bush and the women who ride on her van grew out of an investigative reporting project on mass incarceration that Riordan Seville had worked on with fellow alum Hannah Rappleye ’10.

Katz, a longtime visual producer, took an interest in the project when she realized there was almost no visual documentation of what mass incarceration looks like from the inside. That led Katz and Riordan Seville to start a related Instagram feed (@EverydayIncarceration), inviting students and others to post photos from their own reporting. The feed turned into a multi-year photo archive of the impact of mass incarceration on inmates and their families, and to a workshop with the Magnum Foundation in which the pair led focus groups with women visiting family and friends in jail. That’s how Riordan Seville and Katz first met Bush.

“She shared her family stories with us,” said Katz. “Eventually she said, ‘You guys need to just get on the van, come for a ride and talk to everybody.’”

For Riordan Seville, covering incarceration was a natural outgrowth of her childhood curiosities. “I grew up around criminal justice issues. My dad is a lawyer, but I refused to ever entertain the idea of being a lawyer,” she said. “At J-School I decided to go hang out at the court in downtown Brooklyn, and to challenge myself: What’s it like to go in with an open mind? A lawyer goes in with a certain perspective, and has a client, but a journalist goes in with questions.”

Since graduating from Newmark, Riordan Seville has worked as an independent journalist, recently publishing a cover story in New York Magazine profiling incarcerated men who died at New York’s Rikers Island. She has reported for NBCNews, BuzzfeedNews, The Guardian, The Nation and others, and has worked on NBC News projects including the Peabody-award winning “In Plain Sight: Poverty in America” (2013).

Katz joined NBC News Digital as the photography director this month. A longtime independent visual producer and filmmaker, she has previously worked as the photo editor for and was the director of still photography for “Her America: 50 Women 50 States,” a digital project for Lifetime/A+E Networks.

For “A Woman on the Outside,” the pair took on the entire production, start to finish.

“We had no idea what it took to produce a feature-length documentary, and it was probably good that we didn’t,” said Riordan Seville.

What comes next? “We’re hoping for distribution, so [the film] has a life outside of festivals,” said Katz. “We hope to be able to do an impact campaign too,” to show “what it means to support someone who is incarcerated.”

“A Woman on the Outside” will screen at SXSW on March 13, 14, and 19.