Former Newhouse students find work at National Geographic

For three years after leaving Newhouse to pursue a career in photography, former multimedia, photography and design student Vi Nguyen worked as a freelancer in New York City. Now, she’s landed what most photographers would consider a dream job: photo coordinator at National Geographic.

“The last few years have been kind of crazy,” says Nguyen. “This is the first time where it’s been somewhat stable, where I know when my next paycheck is going to be.”

Nguyen is thankful for the opportunity to work at the internationally acclaimed magazine.

“It’s a really good place for me to learn what it is I want to do in the realm of photography,” she says.

While at Newhouse, Nguyen worked closely with Mike Davis, Newhouse’s Alexia Tsairis Endowed Chair in Documentary Photography, who also used to work at National Geographic. After leaving Syracuse, she kept in contact with him.

“Mike has always been really involved with the photo community, inside and outside of Newhouse,” says Nguyen. “[He’s good at helping you] get your foot in the door at these organizations.”

It was Davis who alerted Nguyen about the position at National Geographic, which she assumed at the end of the summer.

Davis says his former colleagues regularly ask him for recommendations when positions become available because they trust his judgement. This has resulted in six of Davis’ former Newhouse students, including Nguyen, finding positions at National Geographic.

“The richest aspect of working there is the scope and depth of the types of stories that you get to engage with,” says Davis. “It’s also amazing how broad the types of images you have to create are compared to most journalistic settings.”

Another one of Davis’ former students, Andrea Wise G’15, is a contract photo editor at National Geographic and says the publication’s dedication to supporting documentary photography is unique.

“Too often, photographers are asked to do more with less, so it is a dream to have the time and resources to properly support photographers so they can produce their best work,” says Wise. “I have worked in this field, first as a photojournalist, then as a photo editor, for nearly a decade and I have never worked in such a visually-driven newsroom before.”

The reason Newhouse students end up at places like National Geographic is because of the range of skills they’re taught, says Davis.

“I teach equal doses of how to produce images and how to develop projects, edit projects. So, every student leaves here with equal skill sets, as opposed to most programs [where] you learn how to make pictures or you learn how to be an editor,” says Davis. “I think they’re intertwined.”

Visual communications department chair Bruce Strong says the fact that many former students are working at places like National Geographic says a lot about Newhouse as a school

“Our students’ photographic work consistently wins many awards and has been published by National Geographic before,” says Strong. “This clearly demonstrates that our department’s strategy is working.”

Adrianne Morales is a senior in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.

Above: Vi Nguyen and some images she took for National Geographic.