Newhouse NYC Professors: On and Off the Job

by Isabella Wood

December 6, 2017

At Newhouse NYC, we are so lucky to have amazing professors who are successful leaders in their industries. There is nothing better than being taught by people with current, real-world experience–and there is something to be said about learning from powerful women.

I interviewed our three professors to see how their professional careers inform their classes, and how teaching has influenced their professions.

A photo of Ariana Finlayson
Ariana Finlayson

Ariana Finlayson

Adjunct Professor, Social Platforms, Processes, and Perspectives

When you work in and teach social media, your job responsibilities–and your syllabus–are constantly changing.

This is certainly true for Professor Ariana Finlayson, who is the vice president of digital engagement at Marina Maher Communications, a modern marketing communications company in New York City. She has an editorial background, having worked at Hearst and Wenner before transitioning into public relations and marketing.

“At the end of the day, I love reaching consumers, and I really find people in general really fascinating,” she said of her transition.

In her current role, Professor Finlayson is overseeing various team members and brand sets. It’s a switch from her previous job on the front lines of corporate brand channels.

She recognized that being a manager is not all that different from being a teacher.

“When you’re in a managerial role or in a leadership role, like being an adjunct, you have to be really aware of how much energy you have because you’re affecting a lot of people,” she said.

She mentioned that her classes can help in her professional career, because her students are a “soundboard for reaching generation Z,” which is a frequently-targeted audience. Professor Finlayson often discusses targeting, so we can help her determine what the youngest generation will be captivated by.

Professor Finlayson also says the class brings her back to the roots of the industry, as she gets to explain complicated concepts to people who are essentially blank slates.

“In a way it kind of keeps me human, and doesn’t make me go too far down the marketing strategist hole,” she said.

Teaching a class reminds her of the industry basics, which she has less hands-on work with in her managerial position.

“I kind of have to break it down back to its foundation,” she said. “I keep reconnecting with that foundation” while teaching the class.

But her career helps her class even more. Social media is ever-changing, and Professor Finlayson is careful to not get stuck teaching old practices. She is constantly updating her syllabus with the industry.

“My syllabus has never stayed the same semester over semester… it kind of changes based on the clients that you have,” she says.

Being immersed in the industry means she always knows what is up and coming in the social landscape, so she can teach her class in real time.

A photo of Joy-Ann Reid
Joy-Ann Reid

Joy-Ann Reid

Adjunct Professor, Race, Gender, and the Media

Professor Joy-Ann Reid, best known as the controversial and captivating host of MSNBC’s “AM Joy,” begins every class with a discussion of what happened in politics over the previous week.

“This is honestly the perfect time to be teaching this class,” she said of teaching such a relevant topic in the tumultuous political atmosphere.

She will frequently rearrange her syllabus to include relevant lessons during weeks when the topic is pertinent. For instance, this semester we discussed the concept of race and policing in America during the NFL anthem protest controversy, which was incredibly relevant and topical.

As an MSNBC anchor and national correspondent, Professor Reid is always happy to share her insights on the news as well as listen to her student’s perspectives.

“What you write in your papers is so interesting… it offers a different perspective,” she told me about the class as a whole.

Professor Reid is also an invaluable resource to her students because of her diverse professional background. Along with hosting her own show, she is a frequent guest on “Meet the Press” and “The Rachel Maddow Show,” she is working on a documentary project and she has written books including Fracture: Barack Obama, the Clintons, and the Racial Divide.

Professor Reid is not only working in a landscape relevant to this class, but she’s living it.

“Being a woman and being African-American means that I notice these issues of diversity,” she said, making clear that issues of race and gender are not unique to this political landscape. However, they are at the forefront of the news more often than usual.

“Ninety-nine percent of what I cover is politics,” she said, and mentioned that teaching her class reminds her that “not all news audiences are over 50 years old.” Her students give her perspective each week during in-class discussions and through writing assignments—and we are just as lucky in return.

A photo of Maryanne Stanganelli
Maryanne Stanganelli

Maryanne Stanganelli

Adjunct Professor, Communications Law for Public Relations and Advertising

Professor Maryanne Stanganelli, who finds direct parallels all the time between teaching and her legal career. teaches the communications law class. She is a litigation professional development manager at the law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. In that position, she works on professional development and mentoring young lawyers, so her role at the law firm is “almost teacher-like.” She mentioned the direct parallels between teaching undergraduates and professional development.

“What was great when I started this job was to be able to match my knowledge with a more practical approach for undergraduates,” she said.

This is not Professor Stanganelli’s first teaching job. Previously she taught both undergraduates and law students at the University of Miami, and she liked teaching because it is easy to get bogged down in specifics of law, whereas “this class requires you to stay on top of what is fun and new and cutting-edge.”

She also mentioned that her class reminds her of the basics, and gets her out of speaking exclusively in legalese.

“Every once in awhile you have to give legal advice to a small company where there is no lawyer and you have to be able to explain it in a way that’s not speaking in legalese… it takes some effort,” said Professor Stanganelli, comparing that circumstance to teaching law to undergraduate students with little to no background in the subject.

But, of course, her professional experience is invaluable to her students.

Until just recently, Professor Stanganelli was a litigator specializing in copyright and trademark law, a huge focus of our class. Her cases would frequently work their way into her lessons, ensuring that each lesson was as current and relevant as possible.

She loves her law career for the same reason she loves her class. “In both, you get to learn about new industries all the time,” she said.

We are so grateful to learn from these three industry stars as they teach us things we couldn’t imagine learning in any other classroom setting, and we hope we help them along the way as well.

Isabella Wood is a junior broadcast and digital journalism major at the Newhouse School.