Alumni & Friends Newsletter - Spring 2021
Dean Laura Lindenfeld
Dear Graduates & Friends,

It seems hard to believe that a year ago we were still in the early days of the pandemic. As I reflect on the past year and a half, I am grateful for our SoCJ family. In the middle of a global pandemic, our institution shifted to online learning; we renamed the School; launched two new degree programs; and rolled out a new journalism curriculum. Our students continued to report on our communities and highlight important stories on and off campus. 

I am so appreciative for your ongoing support and engagement as we navigated these times. Despite the challenges, you can see from this newsletter that we are still incredibly busy at the School. I hope you will join me in celebrating all of these accomplishments, and keep your fingers crossed that we can come together as a group in the near future. I look forward to that day. 

- Dean Lindenfeld
Latest News
Professor Li awarded grant to research vaccine
hesitancy and media use
Ruobing Li
Ruobing Li, assistant professor of mass communication, recently received a $25,000 grant from the university to explore the intersection between vaccine hesitancy and media exposure.

Her work will lead to a greater understanding of how these two factors influence each other, and eventually to determine what kinds of public health messages may more effectively reach those who are reluctant to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
SoCJ students walk across the stage at
May commencement

Fall ceremony planned for 2020 graduates

After 14 months of academic disruptions, journalism students returned to Stony Brook - some for the first time in more than a year - to walk across the stage at LaValle Stadium and receive their degrees. Stony Brook held 10 different commencement ceremonies, divided by School and College, at the stadium over three days to ensure social distancing. 

The University is also planning a special fall ceremony on Friday, Sept. 10, for the May and December 2020 graduating classes, who weren’t able to have in-person commencements because of the pandemic. More information is coming soon.
Alumni News
How the pandemic changed
my career path
By Jasmin Suknanan ‘18

If you knew me from 2015 to 2018 when I was a journalism student, you probably remember my non-stop chatter about food, travel, and social media. Or perhaps you recall a few glimpses of
me sitting in the Melville Library Starbucks — caramel macchiato by my side — working on a
new advice post for my blog. I was working toward a career as a lifestyle writer, and my past
internship experiences at beauty, fashion, food, and pop culture websites solidified me as a
strong candidate for the job after graduation. That was 2018. But in 2020, the pandemic
changed the trajectory of my career in ways I never saw coming.
Recent graduates embark on new journeys

Several members of the Class of 2021 have already shared where their next steps in journalism are taking them. Congratulations to all!

  • James Bowen is heading to Texas to be a multimedia journalist for KETK-TV
  • Brianne Ledda will join the newsroom at Suffolk County News
  • Alek Lewis has been hired by RiverheadLOCAL, a news site run by a mother-daughter duo of Stony Brook alumnae: Katie Blasl, who minored in journalism, and Denise Civiletti
  • Maia Vines will be pursuing her master’s degree at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School
When American astronauts return to the moon in 2024, Erika Peters ‘20 will have played a small but significant role in the journey. Peters completed an internship with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, home to the Artemis mission, the agency’s lunar exploration program. During the four-month program, Peters literally helped to write the book on the Orion spacecraft, the vehicle that will take the first American woman and the next American man to the moon.
Karina Gerry ‘20 this fall started a new job as a multimedia journalist at WUTR in Utica. Since starting there, she’s covered local politics, education and, of course, the pandemic.
Ana Llácer ’11 directed and produced an award-winning documentary about the water crisis Bolivia faced between 2016 and 2017. “UMA: A Water Crisis in Bolivia” tells the story of three indigenous communities and their fight to protect their water supplies from mining amid a devastating drought. It exposes the unsettling degrees of water and soil contamination, the state’s weakness on environmental law enforcement, and the lack of regulations on water use in the Andes region. UMA, the Aymara word for water, won awards from the Red Nation International Film Festival and the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival and was selected to compete in nearly a dozen other human rights and environmental film festivals around the world.
  • Two alumni are finalists for the Livingston Awards, a competition to support young journalists run by the University of Michigan’s Wallace House. Will James ’09 is a finalist in the national competition and Will Welch ’16 is a finalist in the local competition. The competition’s 50 finalists were selected from more than 500 submissions.

  • Greg Wehner ‘14 started a new job in February as a staff writer for Ocean City Today in Ocean City, MD where he is building a better digital presence for the outlet. In addition, Wehner recently graduated from Quinnipiac University with a Master’s Degree in Interactive Media and Communications. 

  • Rachael Eyler ‘19 was featured prominently in a story about how reporters prepare for and handle hostility from the public in the course of doing their jobs. The story ran in the winter issue of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Quill Magazine. Eyler is a weekend anchor and investigative reporter at WJFW, an NBC affiliate station in Wisconsin. Last fall, her JRN 490 project was a finalist for the Online Journalism Association’s David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award.

  • Guneet K. Singh ‘19 graduated from the NBC Page Program in early 2021 and began working as a Development Assistant at Jimmy Fallon’s production company, Electric Hot Dog, assisting with the creation of both scripted and unscripted content primarily for NBC. 

  • Nirvani Williams ‘20 beginning this summer will be covering socioeconomic disparities in western Massachusetts as a Report for America fellow at New England Public Media. Nirvani is the third Report for America fellow to graduate from the School. The fellows were Eric Schmid ’18 and Rebecca Liebson ’19.