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DSLS Travels to NYC for Networking Trip


CCI’s Diversity Student Leaders Society traveled to New York City for its tenth annual spring networking trip to visit media and communication organizations during Spring Break. 

Led by CCI DSLS Director and CS Lecturer Alice Wirth, with assistance from CCI Dean Mike Wirth and Communication Studies Lecturer Nick Meade, the group met with a number of communication and information professionals, including nine CCI alumni.

The trip started with a visit to the Monday, March 18 GMA Strahan & Sara Show, ABC’s new daytime talk show, to be part of the studio audience. Alice Wirth was invited to the stage midway through the show to compete in a St. Patrick’s Day-themed contest, which she won, taking home a pair of oversized green glasses as her prize. The group talked with hosts Michael Strahan and Sara Haines after the show and took a group picture.

The next visit was to CNN’s New York offices, which was arranged by CNN Supervisor/Executive Producer for the Anderson Cooper Show Tori Blasé (JEM ’93 and Emeritus CCI Board of Visitors member). CNN session speakers included: Elissia Alam, HR coordinator and head of CNN’s New York City internship program; Laura Vigilante, CNN brand marketing and awards manager; and Rob Frehse, supervising editor of CNN News. Students also toured CNN’s newsroom and sat in on the live broadcast of CCN Anchor Brooke Baldwin’s CNN Newsroom.

The next stop was a visit to the International Radio and Television Society Foundation (IRTS) to meet with long-time IRTS President and CEO Joyce Tudryn. Tudryn provided great insights and advice about how to break into the communication and information industry including a variety of networking and interviewing tips. The group then met with Madison Square Garden Company Vice President of Communications Ed Patterson (PR ’89 and Emeritus Board of Visitors member) and took an All Access Tour of Madison Square Garden, one of the most famous sport and concert venues in the country.

Alumnus Jeff Boyd (CS ’92) hosted an alumni session, featuring eight CCI graduates who are now working in New York City. The event was held at Heidrick & Struggles, a top executive search firm where Boyd is now a principal. Justin Crawford (JEM ’18), a BOLD TV correspondent and a Cox Media Group digital media specialist, was instrumental in recruiting the session panelists. (The full list of alumni panelists and their current jobs is provided below.)

“Giving DSLS students the opportunity to connect and network with outstanding communication and information professionals and alumni is a life changing experience,” said DSLS Director Alice Wirth. “Students return to campus from these networking trips with a much better idea about what they want to do and where they want to go. They are also highly motivated to put in the work required to succeed as a result of the advice and inspiration provided by our speakers.”

After the meetings, the group spent a day sightseeing in the city. They also attended an NYC University of Tennessee alumni reception, meeting with graduates from all colleges around campus. Jamie Lonie (PR ’10 and a member of CCI’s Board of Visitors) is president of the NYC UT Alumni Association.


CCI Alumni Session Panelists

Andrea Arreaza Perez (AD ’17), Junior Account Manager, Verizon Creative Advertising

Jeff Boyd (CS ’92), Principal, Heidrick & Struggles

Jacob Coffin (JEM ’14), Development Manager, Big Fish Entertainment

Justin Crawford (JEM ’18), Correspondent BOLD TV/Digital Media Specialist at Cox Media Group

Brooke Fraser (JEM ’12), Digital Producer, Today Show

Myiah McCullough (CS ’18), Executive Assistant, The Vanity Group

Margaret Menefee (JEM ’08), MSNBC Line Producer, MTP Daily

Rachel Underwood (JEM ’18), NBC Universal Page Program