Alumni Weekend | Columbia Journalism School

Alumni Weekend 2023

Alumni Weekend will be on April 28 & April 29, 2023!

Registration is open for our in-person Alumni Weekend on April 28-29 at Pulitzer Hall. Tickets include access to all Alumni Weekend events, including the Hearst Lecture, Dean's Panel, Alumni Awards Ceremony, and more! Reconnect with classmates and participate in events with alumni and CJS faculty weighing in on the most important topics of the day. All alumni are welcome, and classes ending in 3 and 8 will be celebrating milestone anniversaries.

Register Here

You can view the schedule for Alumni Weekend below.

If you want to know who your reunion class representatives are or have any questions, please reach out to Luke Maxwell, Development and Alumni Administrator.

Come Back. Give Back. Connect.

Alumni Weekend 2023

Friday, April 28, 2023

1:00 PM - 6:30 PM Registration Open

2:30 PM - 4:00 PM ChatGPT in the Newsroom with Professor Mark Hansen, David & Helen Gurley Professor of Journalism and Innovation and Director of the Brown Institute for Media Innovation

Space limited for this event. First come, first served. Bring your laptop!

AI was hot — add “generative” to AI and you break the internet. In this session we’ll look into novel uses of ChatGPT and its ilk for the newsroom. At the Brown Institute, we’ve been looking at using Large Language Models (LLM)  like ChatGPT and GPT-4 to perform sometimes complex data tasks — producing structured from unstructured data, classifying text, scraping websites. We’ll discuss what an LLM is all about and what you can do with it — beyond writing stories. Yes, people worry about generative AI — and there is a lot to worry about — but for this brief session we’ll make sure to examine the upside.

3:00 PM - 4:30 PM Afternoon Tea

4:00 PM - 5:30 PM Long Form Narrative: Turning Journalism Into Books with Professor Sam Freedman

Professor Sam Freedman, author of 10 books, has been teaching a popular book seminar at the J-School for over 30 years. Here, he talks with alumni authors about the connection between deep reporting and book writing.

  • Moderator: Sam Freedman, Professor of Journalism
  • Andrea Elliott ‘99, author of 2022 Pulitzer Prize winner Invisible Child
  • Regan Penaluna ‘14, author of How to Think Like a Woman: Four Women Philosophers Who Taught Me How to Love the Life of the Mind
  • Shomari Wills ‘13, author of Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires

6:00 PM - 7:00 PM Hearst Lecture with guest Matt Thompson of the New York Times

Hearst Digital Media Lectures examine the changing media industry with an emphasis on digital media and online journalism. The 2023 Hearst Lecturer is Matt Thompson, Editor of Headway at The New York Times. This year’s lecture, titled "How Do Journalists Learn From History?" will discuss how we transmit knowledge across generations within journalism, especially given the epic shrinking of the local press corps.

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM Hearst Reception


Saturday, April 29, 2023

8:30 AM - 5:30 PM Registration Opens

8:30 AM - 10:00 AM Breakfast

9:00 AM - 9:30 AM Building Tours

10:00 AM - 11:30 AM Conversation with Dean Jelani Cobb

Join Dean Cobb in conversation with two Alumni Award winners.

  • Jelani Cobb, Dean and Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism
  • Charles M. Sennott ‘86, Founder and Editor-in-chief of The GroundTruth Project
  • Anika Navaroli ‘13, Practitioner Fellow at Stanford PACS

11:45 AM - 1:00 PM Alumni Awards Ceremony

Please note that his year’s ceremony will be held in the Lecture Hall and will include a to-go boxed lunch.

Read more about our winners here!

1:00 PM - 2:00 PM Alumni Awards Lunch

12:00 PM - 3:00 PM Photo Booth

1:30 PM - 2:00 PM Building Tours

2:00 PM - 5:00 PM Screening Room: Showcasing CJS Documentaries

Curated by Professor June Cross, we have chosen student films from the past decade of the documentary specialization program that highlights the program's diversity along the lines of culture, gender, and racial lines. We are keenly interested in highlighting women filmmakers from the last decade, but much attention was paid to the Reunion Classes of 2013 and 2018. These students have gone on to be profiled in the NYTimes and New Yorker and have won many awards, including the Student Oscars and BAFTAs.

2:00 PM - 3:15 PM Reporting on Trauma, Conflict, and Tragedy with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma

From the frontlines of protest and conflict to investigative reporting on human rights abuses, covering the news often means covering trauma. Join alumni and the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma for a searching conversation on navigating  professional and personal challenges when reporting on the most difficult human experiences.

  • Moderator: Sheila Coronel, Toni Stabile Professor of Professional Practice in Investigative Journalism and Director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism

  • Dr. Elana Newman, Research Director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma

  • Laila Al-Arian '06, Executive Producer, Al Jazeera English Fault Lines

  • Jina Moore ‘06, Editor in Chief, Guernica

2:00 PM - 3:15 PM Managing the 21st Century Newsroom with Professor Bill Grueskin

The news business is going through a period of fundamental and irrevocable change. And it’s up to news managers to ensure that the public will be informed accurately, compellingly and fairly in the years to come. Professor Bill Grueskin speaks with alumni news leaders about challenges, opportunities, and what lies ahead.

  • Moderator: Bill Grueskin, Professor of Professional Practice 
  • Richard Chacón ‘93, Director of Standards and Practices, NBC News Group
  • Jennifer Hicks ‘03, Head of Audience Growth, The Wall Street Journal
  • Subrata De ‘95, Executive Vice President, Vice

3:30 PM - 4:45 PM Global Perspectives: Covering Today’s International Stories with Professor Sheila Coronel, Director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism

Professor Sheila Coronel, Director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, speaks to alumni covering international affairs in a rapidly changing world. In this conversation, they will cover current trends, challenges to the functioning of the press in the global arena, journalist safety, and what’s to come for international reporting.

  • Moderator: Sheila Coronel, Toni Stabile Professor of Professional Practice in Investigative Journalism and Director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism
  • Anup Kaphle ‘08, Editor in Chief, Rest of World
  • Valerie Hopkins ‘13, Moscow correspondent, The New York Times
  • Peniley Ramírez ‘22, Executive producer of Investigations & Special Projects, Futuro Media Group

3:30 PM - 4:45 PM The Intersection of Journalism and Podcasting with Professor Joanne Faryon

Space limited for this event. First come, first served. 

There are 2.5 million podcasts on Apple and nearly 5 million on Spotify. How does journalism distinguish itself in this crowded space? If the "medium is the message," how do journalists not get left behind in the podcast revolution?

  • Moderator: Joanne Faryon, Associate Professor of Professional Practice
  • Shannon Lin ‘19, Audio Producer, The New York Times
  • Alexandra Dole ‘22, Journalist and Audio Producer
  • Monica Hunter-Hart ‘22, Podcast Producer, Nikkei Asia
  • Salina Arredondo ‘23, Current Student
  • Lina Fansa ‘23, Current Student

5:00 PM - 6:30 PM 50th Reunion Dean's Reception (Class of 1973)

5:00 PM - 6:30 PM 25th Reunion Dean’s Reception (Class of 1998)

5:00 PM - 6:30 PM J-TEN Reception (classes 2013-2022)

Interviews with the 2023 Alumni Award Winners

Read our interviews with 2023 Alumni Award Winners Shuja Nawaz, ‘73 M.S., founding director and current distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center; Sonia Goldenberg, ‘80 M.S., documentary filmmaker and columnist at The New York Times; Eugenia Harvey, ‘83 M.S., chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and executive producer at WNET; Charles Sennott, ‘86 M.S., founder and editor-in-chief of The GroundTruth Project; and Gina Chua, ‘88 M.S., executive editor at Semafor. Read also our interviews with the First Decade Award winner, Valerie Hopkins, ‘13 M.A., Moscow correspondent at The New York Times covering Russia and the War in Ukraine; and Anika Navaroli, ‘13 M.S., Practitioner Fellow at Stanford PACS who is receiving the Courage award–a special citation for her bravery as a whistleblower at Twitter.

For more information on the 2023 winners, see our press release here.

Shuja Nawaz, ‘73 M.S., founding director and current distinguished fellow at the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center

What is your favorite memory of the J-School?

My first RW1 assignment sent me to Harlem to cover the preparations for a campaign visit by Senator McGovern. I took off completely unaware of the environment. Spent the day wandering around, talking to people on the street and in a bar. When the reporting was done I decided to follow my internal compass and headed West through Morningside Park toward Columbia, eventually finding my way back to the J School. Professor John Patterson was astounded that I had not been mugged in the park! The luck of the innocent prevailed that day I suppose.

Which story or project are you most proud of and why?

My master’s thesis on the run up to the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 that I had covered as a war correspondent for Pakistan TV was easily my most interesting and gratifying project. Apart from the critical eye of my Advisor John Hohenberg, I valued the advice of John Patterson who had become a mentor and eventually a friend. Hohenberg called it an Asian “Guns of August”! Patterson told me to convert the thesis into a book. Some 35 years later and countless interviews and much archival research later, Oxford University Press published Crossed Swords: Pakistan, its Army, and the Wars Within. That book, written after I took early retirement from the International Monetary Fund in 2005, opened the door to the think tank world in Washington DC and has become standard reading on Pakistan. It was well received both in India and Pakistan and globally. Thank you, Professors Hohenberg and Patterson!

What advice would you give to the next generation of J-Schoolers?

Keep an open mind on what you want to do. And employ your reading and writing skills in whatever you take on. The J-school training will give you the edge over others. The rest depends on you taking leaps of faith and making the extra effort that will leave you satisfied even if you don’t achieve everything you aimed for. The journey matters.

Sonia Goldenberg, ‘80 M.S., documentary filmmaker and columnist at The New York Times

What is your favorite memory of the J-School?

I vividly remember a boat ride on the Hudson with a jazz band with all our teachers and classmates on our first day in school. Memorable evening. The next day the party was over and we worked around the clock, running around the city like crazy, and writing fast, without much sleep, not sleeping at all in my case more than once. Also memorable was a visit to The New York Times, in 1979. Half of the newspaper was turning digital, the other half was still ancient print. Fascinating to watch.

Which story or project are you most proud of and why?

Reporting of the first town that was taken over by the Shining Path terrorists and the first TV story in Peru on forced disappearances by the army in the Emergency Zone under military rule. They took guts and had an impact. I am proud of my first book, years of work. The most memorable moments were receiving an award from Gabriel García Marquez himself for my documentary Memories of Paradise. Also, winning Best Foreign Documentary from Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto and Artistic Vision Award from Big Sky Film Festival in Montana for my last film Following Kina. Making documentaries in Peru is a labor of love, just finishing them takes persistence from beginning to end. So these awards mean a lot to me. Teaching how to make documentaries to young Peruvians. My youngest student is an extremely talented filmmaker now, she is my pride. Taking the murder of my Peruvian colleague Hugo Bustios to the Inter American Human Rights Court when I was director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. The case was one of the very few cases reopened in Peru after the Truth Commission published its report. The case is still on trial, however, and I hope justice is served at last this year. And lastly, my two front pages in The New York Times.

What advice would you give to the next generation of J-Schoolers?
I'd say be passionate, be determined, be curious, be critical, and above everything else, enjoy the ride. And I want to add this because it might help someone: J. School was very hard for me. I had virtually no experience, my English was not good enough so I struggled. It is hard at the beginning. So just stick to it, don’t give up and you’ll be fine.

Eugenia Harvey, ‘83 M.S., chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and executive producer at WNET

What is your favorite memory of the J-School?

My favorite memory of the school involves my first conversation with Joyce Shelby, my thesis advisor. Like me, Joyce was from a small town in Georgia, and had also attended CUJ right after college. She immediately sensed I was overwhelmed with the looming deadlines, my ill-formed thesis ideas and an overall lack of focus. Joyce let me sit there and blather until I got a cohesive thought out and when I finished, she smiled and asked, "Honey, do you need some iced tea?" We burst out laughing and in that moment filled with empathy and humor, I learned the two hallmarks of creating and surviving a career in broadcast journalism.

Which story or project are you most proud of and why?

While working as a Field Producer at ABC News, the country was in racial turmoil after the Rodney King verdict. (LAPD brutally attacked unarmed motorist Rodney King and it was videotaped. Still, a jury acquitted the cops.) At work, colleagues eyed each other warily, and from LA to NYC, tension, grief, and cynicism were the norm. A couple of producers toyed with ideas on how we could tell the story in a powerful way. Producer Mark Lucasiewicz came up with a simple idea: what if we put two men, one Black, one white, in identical situations and have them experience life in a city. They'd be accompanied by a same race and gender photographer. I'd become the in-house hidden-camera expert so I began researching how we could capture subtleties like tone, attitude, and actions. I also researched American cities to find one not known for racial strife.

I hit the road for nearly five months, and finally settled into St. Louis, MO. I practically lived there, researching parts of town, sensing cultural vibes and documenting experiences. After a few months, I called Luk and correspondent Diane Sawyer and said, "I have it. I found it. We have a story." It took our team nearly four months to shoot and edit but we captured the gaping disparity between how the two men were treated. During this period, the Black members of the production team lived the anguish of seeing our lives, and fears, captured on tape and when the piece aired, we knew it was not the end of the story. Indeed, to date, more than 50 organizations, companies, schools, colleges, and universities have used "True Colors" as a training vehicle for teaching tolerance and/or DEI training. I believe that's when I truly learned that Journalistic storytelling could change lives.

What advice would you give to the next generation of J-Schoolers?
Focus on being a great storyteller. Listen with your whole self, but yield the floor of attention to the person, place or event you're writing or talking about.

Charles Sennott

Charles Sennott, ‘86 M.S., founder and editor-in-chief of The GroundTruth Project

What is your favorite memory of the J-School?

The first day when we gathered in the World Room and felt the weight of history in the halls of the J-School, and the challenge before us to set out in New York City as a beat, a place where we could practice the craft. And for me, that larger memory of the excitement of New York and those very first days in Pulitzer Hall all comes clattering back in the sound of typewriter keys clacking away on the old Royals in the RW1 class. I believe we were the last class to use the manual typewriters, and very soon after we started in the fall of 1985 we were making the transition to the future as  desktop computers (and floppy disks!) became available to us, a process which was completed by the Spring semester. I think that makes us the living link in the origins of humanity story between the long history of Columbia J School and the digital future of journalism.

Which story or project are you most proud of and why?

There are many datelines and scoops that I am proud of through nearly 40 years in the field, but I am most proud of what I hope will be an enduring legacy that we are creating through The GroundTruth Project by supporting and inspiring a new generation to serve as local reporters through our Report for America and Report for the World program. At a time when journalism feels very much under attack, I am proud as the founder of GroundTruth that we are finding a way to fight back and create opportunity for the next generation and I am always amazed at the caliber of work this new generation is producing through innovative and pioneering ways to tell the stories that matter.

What advice would you give to the next generation of J-Schoolers?

Start your career as a local news reporter, and embrace the idea that there is no better way to be grounded in the craft than to serve the community where you live. And do not let anyone try to tell you that the old days in journalism were better. They weren't. They were laced with many problems, including racism and misogyny and as a result too many newsrooms missed far too many stories that needed to be told and missed out on the perspectives of those who bring their own lived experience in telling those stories. Now there is an incredibly exciting future for journalism once we navigate past this moment of tumult and disruption amid a general erosion of trust in the work we do. It's hard to see that there is a blue sky there beyond the dark clouds gathering around us, but I do believe it's there. And each of you have an opportunity -- and an obligation -- to navigate us into that future and regain the trust that journalism seems to have lost.

Gina Chua, ‘88 M.S., executive editor at Semafor

What is your favorite memory of the J-School?

Judy Serrin - a great professor who was my RW1 instructor - once asked the class, early in the semester, to do a quick pop quiz on names of U.S. cabinet secretaries: A survey, she said, for some other class. She didn't check the results, but the following week she asked us if any of us had looked up the names of secretaries we didn't know. Her lesson: If you don't know something you should know, go and find out. Don't wait to be asked. It's a good lesson, and one that stuck with me through the decades.

Which story or project are you most proud of and why?

Too many to list...when I ran The Asian Wall Street Journal back in the 1990s, we had reporters chasing a story overnight that Indonesian President Suharto, battling a tide of riots and unrest, would step down in the morning. We had good sourcing, but it wasn't definitive, and we had to make a call, early in the morning, whether to print or hold the story. We printed. I took a shower, headed to the office, and when I got there the word came in: He had resigned.

But probably the proudest moment was at Reuters, in 2021, when - after several failed attempts that involved a multi-country team working through multiple nights coordinating and tracking logistics and movements - we finally got nearly a hundred staff and family members onto a plane out of Kabul and into Pakistan.

What advice would you give to the next generation of J-Schoolers?

Make friends, and get to know the professors. What you learn in your year here is incredibly valuable, but it pales compared to the lifelong learning you'll gain from staying connected to the J-school community over the decades.

Valerie Hopkins, ‘13 M.A., Moscow correspondent at The New York Times

What is your favorite memory of the J-School?

I’m not sure there is one concrete favorite memory of my time at Columbia. What I loved most was having the time to think about journalism all the time, both during classes and in the evenings at the regular events with practitioners. As I contemplated really getting started on my career, it was fantastic to get to hear from people who had spent decades practicing journalism, people like C.J. Chivers, now a colleague, Clarissa Ward, and Bob Woodward, who all came to speak during my year at the J-School.

Which story or project are you most proud of and why?

2022 is by the far the most important and most memorable year of my career. I am proud that I was in Kyiv when the war started and did work that I found meaningful in the first months of the war. I am also very proud that I made the decision to return to Moscow in August to keep our bureau staffed, despite the increasing difficulties of working in Russia. I feel grateful to do this work for a publication I love with the most supportive colleagues and editors I could ask for. I’m proud of the stories I did about how Ukraine and Russia are changing, and also proud that some of them also appeared in audio format on our flagship podcast “The Daily”.

What advice would you give to the next generation of J-Schoolers?

Your professors and administrators are your biggest advocates, get to know them, pepper them for advice, and stay in touch with them. Find a story that you love and immerse yourself in it, try to become an expert, and follow the story where it takes you.

Anika Navaroli, ‘13 M.S., Practitioner Fellow at Stanford PACS

What is your favorite memory of the J-School?

The best thing about the J-School to me has always been the people. I have so many memories of laughter and joy within those hallways. And the magic in the air on Pulitzer day. But, one moment I’ll never forget is the day my niece was born. I was in the middle of class and got so excited to see a text that she was here that I got up and walked out without explanation. Thankfully, two of my dear friends who I met at J-School were in the class with me and told the professor what was going on. By the time I rejoined class, there were congratulations all around. It’s moments where family, friends, and school combined in the most beautiful ways that I’ll never forget.

Which story or project are you most proud of and why?

In 2013, after watching the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements build, I was convinced there was something big happening with speech and social media. There were not a lot of people who agreed with me or saw what I saw. But I was determined to research and write more about the topics. So, I ended up writing my master’s thesis titled “The Revolution Will Be Tweeted” and explored issues like Section 230 and limits to free expression. A decade later, these same issues are currently before the Supreme Court and impacting the daily lives of so many people on our planet. I’m proud of myself for trusting my instinct and pursuing work that I thought was important. 

What advice would you give to the next generation of J-Schoolers?

The most important thing that I like to tell students is that the job or role that you are dreaming of doing may not actually exist yet. I wrote my master's thesis about an entire field that hadn’t yet been created that I would later work in. So while we live in a world that is changing and innovating so rapidly, industries often take time to catch up. Believe in yourself and trust that the niche intersection you are obsessed with is going to become as big of a deal as you think that it is. Go get prepared with your studies, your research, and your practical experience so that you will be intellectually prepared to meet the moment when it arrives.