Renowned Journalist Masha Gessen to Join Newmark J-School Faculty

  • By Newmark J-School Staff
Photo: Lena Di

Masha Gessen, an internationally known Russian-American journalist and educator, has been named a professor at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, starting in the Fall 2023 semester. 

The CUNY Board of Trustees approved Gessen’s appointment to the full-time faculty title on March 27, 2023.

A staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of 11 books of nonfiction, Gessen has been honored by multiple national and international media and public policy organizations for the insight and impact of their work. They are a thought leader in international affairs, human rights, and gender studies, as well as a recognized expert in Russian life and politics. Their perspective at this time in world history – when the economic and political consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its tensions with the West continue to dominate headlines – is particularly valuable.

“Gessen is one of the most prominent and prolific thinkers working in journalism today,” said Newmark J-School Dean Graciela Mochkofsky. “Their deep-reaching work on the rise of authoritarian forces, the political weaponization of gender rights, and the role of independent journalism in our society make them a perfect fit for the Newmark J-School, which is going through a moment of expansion and growth.” 

Gessen said Dean Mochkofsky “is taking a place that was already an outstanding professional school and turning it also into an intellectual center, a place to think critically and creatively about journalism. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”

“One of the great things about the Newmark J-School is its diverse student body. Most of the students are very much in a position to question things that our political discourse tends to normalize. I want to help them build on that strength,” they noted.

Gessen added that the journalistic profession is undergoing an important and exciting period of change. “Large-scale events have challenged journalists in ways that we are still unpacking,” they said. “I look forward to thinking through this with my new colleagues and students.” 

Among Gessen’s long list of professional accomplishments are having written for The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Harper’s, and numerous other publications. Their topics have included Russia, Vladimir Putin, autocracy, Donald Trump, LGBTQ rights, AIDS, and medical genetics. Prior to moving to New York in 2013, they spent 20 years as a journalist and editor in Moscow, including serving as editor-in-chief of the popular science magazine Vokrug Sveta. They were famously fired from this position in 2012 after refusing to cover a Putin event.

Because of their expertise in European, Russian, and LGBTQ matters and their reputation for informed commentary, Gessen is a frequently invited guest on such current affairs media outlets as “Amanpour and Company,” “All in with Chris Hayes,” “The Tonight Show,” “Fresh Air,” and NPR, CNN, and MSNBC.

Two of their books have been translated into 20 languages, and they have a 12th book under contract, expected to come out in 2024. Their work, The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, won the 2017 National Book Award for Nonfiction. They have also received the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Commentary, and in May they will receive the Blake-Dodd Prize in Nonfiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

As a teacher in higher education, they have held the title of assistant professor at Bard College, where they were also a distinguished writer in residence. They will continue there as a visiting distinguished writer. Prior to that, they were a professor of American Institutions and International Diplomacy at Amherst College. 

Gessen was the keynote speaker at the Newmark J-School’s 2019 commencement and was awarded an honorary doctorate degree for their body of work during the ceremony. They have been the recipient of 15 international fellowships and residencies from such organizations as the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard, New York Institute for the Humanities, and the New America Foundation.

Gessen has been instrumental in launching the Russian Independent Media Archive, a new digital project undertaken by PEN America with the Gagarin Center at Bard College. The goal is to preserve the content produced by independent news outlets, which have been censored by the Russian government for reporting on the war in Ukraine, in addition to other issues. The project will be unveiled at a special event at the Newmark J-School on April 11. You can RSVP here.