On May 18, 2008, a packed auditorium at the WVU Creative Arts Center awaited the commencement of seniors and master’s degree candidates from the School of Journalism. Among the crowd were aspiring graduates, friends and family members, all with one common purpose – to celebrate the end of a journey and the beginning of a new chapter in life.
Commencement speaker, Vince Gonzales, an award-winning CNN correspondent, perhaps best known for investigating the identity of the fallen hero in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, gave graduates advice that can be applied to any discipline.
“I don’t have to tell you that today we live with an explosion of media and information sources,” said Gonzales. “We’re in an amazing period of transition right now, and it offers great opportunities to people who can grasp them. That’s where you come in.”
In offering his perception of what the future landscape of communications may look like, Gonzales countered the conventional wisdom.
“It’s not true, as some would tell you, that network news broadcasting and newspapers, otherwise known as ‘old media,’ are dead. Not yet,” he said. “The truth is, right now, old media and new media need each other. They need to evolve together and become something different. Your job is to figure out what that is.”
And, then, Gonzales addressed the question that was on the minds of many graduates.
“So, how do we succeed? How do you succeed?”
Giving simple bits of advice, including “be bold” and “make the truth your friend,” Gonzales gave students a wealth of knowledge by supplementing his statements with his own stories and experiences.
His speech was met with applause and gratitude from the graduates-to-be, moving the event to the much anticipated presentation of candidates and conferring of degrees.
Graduates also had the opportunity to hear from an industry professional that had donned the same graduation cap and gown twice before.
Alison Zemanski, a 2005 SOJ graduate from the public relations program and a 2007 IMC master’s degree recipient, offered the Alumni Charge to the class of 2008.
Graduates also had the chance to see their fellow classmates honored, as Dean Maryanne Reed presented awards to students with the highest academic honors, including top graduating senior Elizabeth Brandt, a public relations major.
After the ceremony, Brandt commented on how the SOJ faculty influenced her while she was a student.
“They have prepared me extremely well for a career in public relations,” said Brandt. “Professors like Pam Hanson gave me a very solid foundation.”
Even though Gonzales spoke from his experience as a broadcast journalist, Brandt found his advice to be informative.
“It’s still relevant,” she said. “He had some very encouraging words for me.”