It has become the event of the year for students and alumni at the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication (SJGC). This year, the annual “Grads are Back” symposium was no different.
The event, held October 25-26 during FAMU’s Homecoming, featured alumni from across the country representing all aspects of media including entertainment, journalism, graphic design, and public relations.
The theme for the event was, “Grads are Back 2023: Building Confident Communicators for the Future.” The focus was to give students the opportunity to interface with, and hear from, alumni who are breaking barriers in their fields while charting the course for the next crop of content creators and public relations professionals.
The event featured a new highlight this year with “Grads are Back After Dark: A Fireside Chat with the Dean,” featuring a candid conversation with Hollywood PR executive Staci R. Collins Jackson ’96. Following the event, Jackson was honored with the 2023 Thelma Thurston Gorham Distinguished Alumni Award for her work.
On Thursday, Kimberly Godwin Manning ’83, president of ABC News and chair of the Board of Visitors (BOV), kicked the day off with the annual BOV meeting before programming got underway.
Eight panels and workshops were presented to students focusing on topics related to Graphic Design, Public Relations, Journalism, and Entertainment.
The event is spearheaded by the SJGC BOV.
BOV member and alumna Elise Durham ’91 produced the event for the second consecutive year. She said “Grads are Back” continues to get bigger and better every year.
“I am so proud to work with our alumni from across the nation to present relevant programming for our students,” the Emmy award-winning producer and Assistant General Manager of Marketing, Communications and Customer Experience at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport shared. “I remember being a student, myself, being in awe of alumni who were actually doing the jobs I hoped to one day hold myself. It is a joy to help ensure current students have the same experience.”
The Thursday Colloquium, powered by Paramount and the Content for Change Creators’ House, delved into the ever-changing world of Artificial Intelligence and how technology is impacting content creation, jobs, academia, and inclusion across several industries.
Denise Hendricks ’92, executive producer at MSNBC and BOV member moderated a panel titled
“In Living Color: The Power of Producing,” underscoring the overwhelming need for diverse voices to be at the table when content is created.
“Our voices are needed not just in front of the camera, but in decision-making and management roles like producing behind the camera,” she said.
Hendricks served on the “Grads are Back” planning committee. She said her favorite part of the event is interacting with students.
“I get so much joy out of talking to the students, finding out what their interests are, and finding ways to help them navigate their college journey and early careers.”
Other members of the “Grads are Back” committee included 3Ms’ Brian Rice ’91, television news anchor Rod Carter ’90, music publicist Paula Witt ’91, FAMU, Assistant Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Affairs Kimberly Hankerson ’96, Aderant’s Will Ayers ’08, SJGC Internship Coordinator Ranata Hughes, SJGC professors Clarence Fowler and Alicia Hope, and Information Technology Coordinator Christian Whitaker ’13 and ’15.
View the full digital program HERE.