Class of 2020 Commencement events to be held Sept. 17-19

Syracuse University will host a Commencement ceremony—delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic—and other celebratory events for the Class of 2020 during the weekend of Sept. 17–19.  

Commencement will be held Sept. 19 at 10 a.m. at the Stadium. This University-wide ceremony, where Syracuse University Chancellor and President Kent Syverud will formally confer degrees, is for all undergraduate, graduate and doctoral candidates. Doors open at 8 a.m.

Following Commencement, all 2020 Newhouse graduates and their families are invited to join Dean Mark J. Lodato and the faculty and staff for a celebratory reception. The event will include a dean’s welcome, recognition of participating graduates and an opportunity to reconnect with faculty. A precise time and location will be announced soon; stay tuned for details.

For more information about Commencement activities for the Class of 2020, see the event listing.

Broadcast and digital journalism senior discusses diversity and thriving under pressure

Aicha Sacko
Aicha Sacko

Aicha Sacko came to Syracuse University as an undeclared major in the College of Arts and Sciences. In the Spring 2021 semester, the broadcast and digital journalism senior transferred to the Newhouse School. Though she faced parental pressure to enter the medical field, Sacko—a first-generation college student—knew she wanted to be a journalist. At Newhouse she covers social justice stories, champions diversity and takes on every challenge that’s handed to her with determination.

What is your background ?

My mom and dad are both from Mali, which is a country on the west side of Africa. They did not have a formal education. I am the first person ever to go to a private institution, and to get a full ride. I’ll be the first person ever to graduate in the entire Sacko family.

How has your culture contributed to the stories you want to cover?

Oh, it plays a huge role. I only do social justice beats and I only do things that are important to me. I’m always doing stories on the south side of the Syracuse community. The last story I did was about how the I-81 highway is too close to the predominantly Black elementary and middle school, the Martin Luther King Jr. School. I don’t feel obligated to do it, but I am going to do those stories because those are the stories that interest me. Those are the stories that I want to put out on my platform.

What are your extracurricular activities? 

I do the Z89 radio where I run the hip-hop station. I’m not really in any particular organizations on campus, but I work with a nonprofit organization called the Know Your Rights camp. We travel to different cities where we teach predominantly Black and Brown kids about their rights when they’re interacting with police, literacy and technology. 

How does it feel being a student of color at the Newhouse School? 

It’s very intimidating. When I first transferred into Newhouse, I doubted myself because the people didn’t look like me. I had a completely different background from everybody. I believe in social justice. As a journalist, you’re not supposed to pick sides, they tell you you’re supposed to stay neutral. It was very challenging. But being the person that I am, I’m able to get through anything. I liked the challenge, because I like it when I can prove to myself that I am worthy of being in the school and I’m at the right place. So even though it’s challenging and intimidating at the same time, it’s nothing that I can’t handle. 

How do you think Newhouse can contribute to increasing diversity? 

I think they need to acknowledge that not everybody comes from the same background, and not everybody has money. And when you don’t realize those things, you create barriers for other groups. If you can acknowledge that there are other groups and they’re just as important, then you will start to see a change in how you do things, and you will see a change in how you include people. 

What pressures do you feel now that you have committed to a career in broadcast journalism?

My mom and dad both wanted me to be a doctor, so it’s a lot of pressure. Coming from a family who came a long way just to have you succeed, they put that pressure on you all the time. So I always had the pressure to graduate, to do good, to not fail and to always succeed. I know where I came from. I know I cannot afford to lose or fail. I had to keep working. I also put pressure on myself because I go to Newhouse, which is a top program for journalism. And I have to do well, so the pressure comes from all around, but that pressure only allows me to become better. 

How do you see diversity improving in the upcoming years at Newhouse and the overall industry? 

I can see more people who look like me, more people of color going here. I think I can see that the National Association for Black Journalists is growing bigger and bigger. And I can also see the graduate students and the undergraduate students joining forces, because honestly, we’re all that we have. So I really do hope that in the next couple of years, it becomes more inclusive.

Sarah Torres is a first-year student in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School and the political science program at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Newhouse announces winners in 2022 ESSPA Awards competition

On Dec. 7, the Newhouse School announced the winners of the 2022 Empire State School Press Association (ESSPA) Awards, which honor high school student journalists from across New York State.

The 2022 award winners are:

View the 2021 winners here.

Faculty, doctoral students and postdoctoral scholar awarded internal funding for research projects

Three faculty members, three doctoral students and one postdoctoral scholar are the recipients of funding through the Newhouse School’s internal grants program. The program is administered by the Office of Research and Creative Activity under the leadership of associate dean Regina Luttrell.

The recipients:

Milton Santiago, assistant professor

Title: Cine Explorer

Professor Santiago will be working to develop an educational game that leverages the preeminent game engine, Unreal Engine, to teach cinematography principles like composition, camera staging, lens selection and visual storytelling. Users will be able to explore a virtual recreation of a well-known scene from an existing major motion picture and then be able to reposition and recompose the camera positions, creating their own interpretation of the creative material. He intends to collaborate with students and industry game developers.

Keonte Coleman, assistant professor and Dona Hayes, associate professor

Title: In Light of the #MeToo Movement and Racial Reckoning: Will TV News Sources Represent Their DMAs’ Diversity When Journalists Can Select Their Sources?

This study aims to find out what happens when broadcast journalists have the option to select their sources. Will those sources mimic the demographics of their news market? This mixed methods study will allow student journalists to code newscasts for the quantitative portion and interview newsroom journalists to discuss sourcing practices for the qualitative portion. The project also inspired an idea to create an inclusive crowdsourced DMA (designated market area) contact list which could help break down sourcing barriers.

Martina Santia, postdoctoral scholar

Title: It’s My Beat and I’ll Cry if I Want to: How Women Journalists Use Emotions When Reporting

Gender remains a key stratification system in numerous professions, including journalism. The proposed study seeks to contribute to the existing scholarship by highlighting the positionality of women as an underrepresented, and often undervalued, minority in the journalism practice. Specifically, this study employs an online survey-experiment to investigate how audiences evaluate women journalists who display emotions when reporting on specific beats. Funds from the Newhouse Internal Program will be used to recruit research participants for the online survey-experiment.

Ryan Wen, doctoral student

Title: “I’m Asian and also not Asian”: Deconstructing the Interplay Between Asian Subgroups’ Health Inequities and the Model Minority Stereotype Created by American Media

Asians in the United States are frequently underrepresented and understudied in health communication research due to an assumption that they are socioeconomically resourceful, educationally successful and therefore unlikely to obtain undesired care. Through deconstructing the systemic oppression coming from within and outside of the Asian community, this project will enrich the existing Newhouse courses by bringing faculty and student attention to the hidden systemic injustice and health disparities veneered by the model minority myth.    

Jocelyn McKinnon-Crowley and Yoon Lee, doctoral students

Title: Impact of Visual Distractions on News Media Viewers 

This project looks at the impact of visual distractions, like pop-ups and banner ads, on readers’ understanding of news information, using psychophysiological methods and follow-up interviews. The research team hopes to discover how mind and body measures can indicate responses to these visual distractions, and what that means for the comprehension of news media. This project will be conducted simultaneously in the Newhouse Extended Reality lab and at a lab on the west coast, in a first of its kind replication study for psychophysiological research in media effects.

Newhouse School public relations program recognized by PRNews

For the third year in a row, the Newhouse School’s public relations program has been named to the PRNews Education A-List, which recognizes the top PR programs in the U.S.

“The public relations program at Newhouse has a reputation for excellence, so I am not surprised by this honor,” says Newhouse School dean Mark J. Lodato. “Thanks to an innovative curriculum, stellar faculty and incredible hands-on opportunities, our PR students get the best possible education and training and are ready for career success as soon as they graduate.”

Newhouse offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees in public relations, as well as a master’s degree in public diplomacy and global communications, which combines public relations and international relations coursework in partnership with the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Additionally, Newhouse offers an online master’s of communications with a specialization in public relations.

PRNews made note of the school’s recently revamped curriculum, which includes graduate and undergraduate courses in social media and society, social media and innovation and diversity in public relations. The curriculum emphasizes writing for digital media, incorporating technological advances in client-based PR research and campaigns, leadership skills and DEI standards, resources and best practices.

Newhouse is home to a student-run public relations firm, Hill Communications, which provides students with opportunities to take leadership roles and work with real-world clients. Students also have the option to study abroad or in major cities through Newhouse’s programs in New York City, Washington and Los Angeles.

Newhouse students, professors and alumna credited in New York Times article

Every 10 years since 1952, the British Film Institute releases Sight and Sound magazine’s Greatest Films of All Time, a list of cinema’s top 100 achievements. The list draws from polls submitted by international film critics, distributors, writers, curators and more. 

Eric Grode

Recognizing the once-a-decade opportunity, Eric Grode—director of the Newhouse School’s Goldring arts journalism and communications program and regular contributor to The New York Times—wanted to compare past lists with the upcoming one. 

“I have been a fan of this list for a long, long time,” he says. “When I realized that the 2022 list would be coming out at some point, I reached out to my film editor at The Times and said, ‘I think this could make for an interesting article.’”

Late in the Spring 2022 semester, Grode built a team of Newhouse students and faculty to assist him in collecting, inputting and analyzing the data. 

Katherine Kiessling
Katherine Kiessling G’22

He recruited alumna Katherine Kiessling G‘22, who graduated from the Goldring program in May, and assistant professor Alex Richards. Richards’ background in data journalism benefitted him in his role as a “big safety net” in the fact-checking part of the process. 

“The thing I was able to do was help them assemble the data—in the format that it needed to be—so that they could analyze it and ask all these questions and get all these answers for the piece,” he says. “But also I just made sure that [the data] didn’t have any issues that could derail their answers.”

Richards invited Abigail Baughan and Julia Virnelli—both students in his Foundations of Data and Digital Journalism course and juniors in the magazine, news and digital journalism program—to also contribute to the article. 

Abigail Baughan

“The project serves as yet another reminder for me why Newhouse has been a great fit,” Baughan says. “We have access to professors who are so knowledgeable in their fields and interests and are willing to take the time to work with students.”

Baughan and Virnelli analyzed the lists, built a large spreadsheet from the results and extracted noteworthy information, producing trends that Grode expanded upon in the article. 

“I’ve interned for newspapers before, but nothing to this scale,” Virnelli says. “It was definitely intimidating, but I’ve always been a huge fan of The New York Times.”

Julia Virnelli

Kiessling combed through Virnelli and Baughan’s large data compilations to find more trends, “using my film knowledge and my pop culture knowledge to create a story,” she says. 

Baughan notes that one of the challenges of data-driven writing is the uncertainty of what kind of story the data will tell, but both students say the experience allowed them to use skills they learned in class in a tangible way.

Alex Richards
Alex Richards

“I’m really glad they were interested in doing this work,” Richards says. “And I’m really proud of the result and all the work that they put into it.”

Grode incorporated the trends throughout his article which overflows with graphics, charts and details about the most influential films of all time like “Vertigo” and “Citizen Kane”.

Though research started in May, delays in the official list’s release extended the team’s work into late fall. On Dec. 2, “What Makes a Movie the Greatest of All Time” was published on The New York Times’ website. In addition to Grode’s main byline, Kiessling, Richards, Baughan and Virnelli are all credited with contributing to the piece.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Kiessling says of that accomplishment. “It still hasn’t quite sunk in.”

Julia Sassoon is a junior public relations major at the Newhouse School.

Madelyn Geyer, content manager at the Newhouse School, also contributed to this article.

At Newhouse, Polina Shemanova is becoming the person she wants to be

Polina Shemanova

It’s Oct. 9, 2022 in Louisville, Kentucky. Polina Shemanova spikes the volleyball. In one swift move, she solidifies a record of 1,701 kills and breaks the previous record of 1,698 career kills held by fellow Syracuse University player Dana Fiume ‘01. But there was a time when Shemanova felt confused while playing the game she loves most.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, Shemanova arrived in Central New York in 2017 for her first year at Syracuse University. Though she had been learning English since second grade and was privately tutored in the language as she prepared for college, there was still a challenging adjustment period—from volleyball vocabulary to salutations. 

“The first month [in the U.S.] was the biggest culture shock,” she says. The casual greeting “how are you” was especially confusing.

“When I was a freshman, it was more people being super curious, asking ‘where are you from?’ and ‘what’s your cultural background?’” she says. “I enjoyed the curiosity of other people that sparked right away when you tell them your background. It took me like a month to realize, oh shoot, [how are you] is just a greeting.”

When deciding on her higher education, Shemanova says the ability of Syracuse University student athletes to confidently speak in front of audiences drew her to the school. As an undergraduate, Shemanova majored in communication and rhetorical studies in the College of Visual and Performing Arts and linguistic studies in the College of Arts and Sciences

Polina Shemanova

After graduation, she wanted to continue her volleyball career while nursing an interest in sports media. The Newhouse School was the perfect fit. 

“Anytime that we have current athletes in our program, it is a great opportunity for the other students to really learn more about being a college athlete, not only how to interact with the mass media, but to better understand what college athletes go through on an everyday basis,” says Olivia Stomski, director of Newhouse’s Sports Media Center.

Stomski and Shemanova, who’s majoring in broadcast and digital journalism, first met through a Zoom call and have built a strong connection over Shemanova’s time at Newhouse.

“She’s so positive,” Stomski says. “Her energy is absolutely contagious. The time that I was able to spend with her and our relationship was very much built on her enthusiasm and interest in becoming a grad student here at Newhouse.”  

Shemanova’s life is drastically different from her time as an undergraduate. She has days where she’ll wake up at 4 a.m., workout at 5 a.m., and then attend classes from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Balancing athletics with graduate-level academics has left the student athlete with little spare time in her schedule, but “I love it to death,” she says. 

“All the hours I’ve spent at Newhouse are what make me the person I want to be,” she says. “It’s completely worth it being busy. Time management is everything.” 

Shemanova is organized and ambitious, while also uplifting those around her. 

“When you’re around Polina and even if you’re not interacting with her, one of the things that really sets her apart is that she does her best to bring out the best in others,” Stomski says.

Shemanova recognizes her innate curiosity as an international student, and how that increases her awareness as a journalist. She covered a story on immigrants attending the Northside Learning Center, which offers free English language classes to refugees and immigrants, as well as a story on a woman from Somalia who recently opened up a restaurant in Syracuse.  

While building her broadcast journalism skills in classes, Shemanova reflects on the prestige of Newhouse’s faculty. 

“The fact that someone can learn from a professional still in the industry is amazing,” she says. “Newhouse never sleeps.”

As for the future, Shemanova wants to play volleyball professionally. If that doesn’t work out, she would “love to develop my career in the news world,” she says, while being a color commentator for volleyball on the side. 

Whatever Shemanova does, Stomski won’t be shocked.

“If you told me that she was the president of a network or you told me that she was the leading analyst for the Olympics, nothing would surprise me when it comes to what she’s capable of doing.”

Nico Horning is a first-year student in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.

Storytelling in New Dimensions

Sonny Cirasuolo

When Sonny Cirasuolo ’21 discovered the course Virtual Reality Storytelling at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, it was if he’d struck gold. At the time, Cirasuolo was just looking for a fun course. Little did he know it would lead him to the forefront of developing immersive media in the metaverse, the simulated digital world of extended reality (XR) that blends the real and virtual. After first taking readers on interactive journeys for Yahoo Sports, Cirasuolo signed on as a creative technologist and XR engineer for the startup Nowhere, which provides a robust platform for multitudes of people to gather in the metaverse. “I really enjoyed the Virtual Reality Storytelling class,” he says. “Everything I’ve been doing is based off that one class. It ended up being what shaped my career, which is pretty cool.”

The course introduced Cirasuolo to Professor Dan Pacheco, a leading expert on journalistic storytelling that uses emerging media platforms and the metaverse. “Sonny threw himself fully into projects, often inspiring others to join him. I saw an opportunity to help harness and focus his energy on something creative,” says Pacheco, the Peter A. Horvitz Endowed Chair in Journalism Innovation and professor of practice in the magazine, news and digital journalism department. “It has been exciting to see his career flourish as he continues to inspire others with his work in the industry.”

Dhani Joseph takes on Newhouse DC

Dhani Joseph

Growing up, broadcast and digital journalism sophomore Dhani Joseph understood the importance of education. Taught by his family to always do well in school, Joseph excelled academically. When the Bronx native entered high school, he aspired to a career in the medical field, though his academic strengths skewed more towards his current career goals. 

“I hate math,” he says. “However, I was always good at reading and writing so [I said,] ‘let’s see where this takes me.’” 

Reflection during the COVID-19 pandemic reversed Joseph’s dreams, and he decided to pursue a career in sports journalism at the Newhouse School.

“Even though I didn’t get into sports until middle school, I was always around sports, picking up on all the different commentators,” Joseph says.

As he watched, he was inspired by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Newhouse’s own Mike Tirico ’88 and Bob Costas ’74.

The Newhouse School, “the best communications school in the world,” was the driving force behind Joseph’s decision to attend Syracuse University. He says he knew it was the place for him to learn essential skills “as a journalist and sports commentator, so I can—one day—be one of the greats of Newhouse.”

Joseph is well on his way to being one of the greats as he completes the inaugural semester of Newhouse DC, a one-semester program where students experience working and living in the nation’s capital. They take classes, complete an internship and connect with the vast Newhouse Network. 

L-R: Scott Abraham ’05 and Dhani Joseph at FedEx Field. Photo courtesy of Instagram.

Joseph interns with Pro Sports Outlook where he creates NBA, NFL and MLB content. He recently shadowed his Newhouse DC mentor Scott Abraham ’05—a sports anchor at ABC7/WJLA-TV—at a Washington Commanders game at FedEx Field. Joseph also toured the WJLA studio with Abraham and Michelle Marsh ’05, an Emmy Award winning journalist and anchor. He watched them broadcast the news live and got a chance to sit at the anchor desk.

A self-proclaimed planner, Joseph says the decision to come to Washington, DC was unexpected, but essential.

“I wanted to be a part of the first initial cohort able to experience something brand new to potentially get an edge over my competition… I feel like doing a program like this, with the connections I am making with the sports industry while I’m here is something you can’t take for granted.”

L-R: Scott Abraham ’05, Dhani Joseph and Michelle Marsh ’05 at the WJLA studio in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of Instagram.

Joseph is not only completing Newhouse DC, a program where he says “the opportunities are endless,” but he’s also in the important role of president of the Syracuse University chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. 

“We have the responsibility of being a resource for Black journalists on campus whether that is giving resources on scholarships, fellowships, potential internships that are around, just being a resource for Black journalists who don’t know where to find these things,” he says.

“We want to be a place you can come to and say ‘Alright Dhani, I’m trying to find this,’ and we will do our best to help you… We try to have a community. Being Black journalists at a predominantly white institution, we try fostering bonds that last throughout these students’ careers.” 

As for the future, Joseph only wants to take on more…and make history at Syracuse University. His goal is to complete all three Newhouse off-campus programs, which would be “pretty historic since most people don’t have a chance to do Newhouse  LA and DC.”

He plans on Newhouse LA next summer and Newhouse NYC in Spring 2024, hoping to get his name on a plaque, too. One down, two to go.

Jacob LeRea is a first-year student in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.

Assistant professor brings object-based learning into arts journalism class

Rawiya Kameir
Rawiya Kameir

Rawiya Kameir has always been interested in combining the arts and journalism, writing stories for cultural publications like The Fader and The Outline. When the opportunity arose to be a member of the new Faculty Fellows Program at the Syracuse University Art Museum, she took it.

The goal of the program is to train professors in utilizing object-based teaching techniques, so the museum’s pieces can be used as an educational tool. Kameir and her fellow faculty members learned how to use the museum’s organization systems and catalogs before taking the knowledge to their students for the semester.

Kameir, who teaches in the magazine, news, and digital journalism program, first learned about the opportunity through Eric Grode, director of the Goldring arts journalism and communications program. It captured her interest right away.

“I thought it sounded really cool,” Kameir says. “As someone who teaches courses about writing about art and thinking about art, it made perfect sense to take advantage of an opportunity to be really up and close with all of this art.”

Once Kameir was selected to be a part of the first cohort of fellows, she underwent training over the summer. She and the other participants learned about research methods used by Kate E. Hollohan, the museum’s curator of education and academic outreach, and Melissa A. Yuen, the interim chief curator.

At the end of the training, the fellows identified a class where they could apply the object-based principles of the program. Kameir applied her training and funding to Literature of Arts Journalism, a graduate-level course she’s teaching this semester.

This fall, Kameir took her class to the museum where she challenged her students to analyze the piece “The Red Badge of Courage (after Stephen Crane),” which she personally curated. This exercise, accompanied by readings and articles on collage theory, allowed the class to collectively create a small syllabus inspired by the piece.

“Each of [my students] read about one of these things in their own areas of interest. And then we annotated a syllabus together,” she says.

This served as practice for the class’ final independent assignment, which involves the students selecting a piece from the museum, researching different types of literature that will enrich their understanding of it and creating a syllabus.

Kameir wants her students to consider “all of the potential avenues that [they] could read about, that might not be directly related to this object… that can help [them] gain a deeper understanding of it.”

Kameir believes everyone can benefit from object-based learning, advising Newhouse students and faculty interested in learning more about this initiative to visit the Syracuse University Art Museum.

“It is something that I really recommend. It’s also a nice break. If you have an hour between classes, it’s a good place to go and get inspired.”

Taylor Huang is a senior dual magazine, news and digital journalism major in the Newhouse School and an information management and technology major in the School of Information Studies.

Luttrell and Molta publish paper in Journal of Communication Pedagogy

Regina Luttrell, associate professor of public relations and associate dean of research and creative activities, and Daniela Molta, assistant professor of advertising, co-authored the paper, “A Pedagogical Mystique?: Lessons of Incorporating Feminism Into Skills-Based Communication Courses,” which was published in the Journal of Communication Pedagogy.


It is imperative that today’s advertising, journalism, mass communication, and public relations students are prepared to engage in corporate activism and corporate social responsibility communications once in the workforce. This article explores the need for incorporating equity-based pedagogy, using feminism as one of many approaches, into skills-based communication courses. The researchers conducted 20 qualitative interviews with academics to discuss various approaches, examples, and learnings. The findings suggest that using a feminist framework to teach skills: (1) enhances the skill being taught, (2) allows students to communicate more effectively, (3) builds life skills, and (4) comes in many forms. The article concludes with consideration to areas for future research and contributes to the understanding of academics engaged in a feminist approach to teaching skills-based communication courses.