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Scripps Howard Visiting Professionals visit J1010

Freshmen in the School of Journalism were treated to a guest appearance in their “Future of Media” course by, not one, but a trio of high-powered “visiting professionals” currently teaching on the Athens campus.

Julie Agnone, Andy Alexander and Bob Benz joined the noon-hour J1010 class on the third week of the semester for a “get-acquainted” visit.

When the Scripps Howard Foundation took up the cause of journalism education at Ohio University thirty years ago, one of the best ideas to emerge was the Foundation’s funding of a “Scripps Howard Visiting Professional” to teach on campus each year.

I’m sure they had in mind professionals like Agnone, who recently stepped down from her post as VP of Operations for Education and Childrens Media at the National Geographic Society.

“I was thrilled that at least a dozen students stopped after the [J1010] class to introduce themselves, and many said they plan to visit my office for a chat,” according to Agnone. “One arrived within 15 minutes!”

Agnone and her husband, long-time National Geographic photographer John Agnone, recently moved back to Athens, his hometown, setting the stage for her to teach courses in the School of Journalism.

My 200+ freshmen greeted each speaker with applause, and posed question after question about their careers.

“I was very intrigued by today’s guests in class. They are all professionals in the field, but since they all come from different backgrounds, we got to hear different stories from every speaker,” according to first-year student Hayley Ricci.

“I left inspired to work hard to achieve my dreams, as well as enriched with knowledge coming from successful people within my major.”

Andy Alexander, long-time Cox News DC bureau chief and former Washington Post Ombudsman, is the Scripps College of Communication’s SHVP as well as an alumnus of the journalism school.

“The value of Scripps Howard Visiting Professionals is that they provide students with an opportunity to connect directly with people who remain very connected with industry,” according to Alexander.

“In many cases, we can put them in contact with people who make hiring decisions on interns or entry level employees. And even with freshman, we can help them as they begin to develop strategies for launching their careers.”

Bob Benz’ was the Scripps Howard Visiting Professional in 2014-15, but stayed on for an additional year as a visiting professional, in part because of the impact he made last year. Visiting this year’s J1010 was a repeat of his experience a year ago.

“Before I walked out of the J1010 class, I already had two meeting requests from students. Four more came in within the next hour, including one young woman who said, ‘I want to be an investigative journalist, but in all honesty, I have no idea how I would go about doing that. Do you have any suggestions for me?’ Yup. Lots of suggestions,” according to Benz.

“I can’t wait to meet with her. It’s thrilling to see young people so passionate about journalism. The Scripps Howard Visiting Professional program gives students direct access to people who know the business intimately and can connect them with key people in the industry.”

Agnone agreed, adding that students need to be able and ready to learn new skills and how to reach audiences through new media.

“My best advice to anyone about to enter the job market is to acquire as many different skills as possible, including staying involved in how publishing companies are capitalizing on technological changes and how audiences interact with the information marketplace.”

Of course, one of the main benefits of the visiting professional program is the ability of students to connect with big-time professionals on an ongoing basis.

“Bob Stewart explicitly told these freshmen to reach out to us, and they did,” according to Alexander. “Within three hours of the class, I had heard from six of them and scheduled private sessions to help guide them as they explore where they want to go with their Scripps education.”

Taking part in the SHVP program also gives visiting professionals a chance to interact with each other, according to Benz. “I also was a bit humbled to stand shoulder to shoulder with Andy Alexander and Julie Agnone. As they discussed their careers, it made me wish I could go back to school to learn from them.”

September 9, 2015

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