With Mentoring and Networking, Alumni Help Communication Students

“Bet on you, have patience, and enjoy the ride,” sports broadcaster Lindsay Czarniak told the audience of George Mason communication students, alumni, and faculty at the 2018 Annual Fall Forum, “Pathways to Your Future,” held October 23 on the Fairfax Campus. Sponsored by the Insight Committee of the Department of Communication—the department’s volunteer advisory board comprised of experienced leaders in professional communication—the event gave attendees the opportunity to participate in 15-minute roundtable mentorship sessions where Mason students and alumni were able to hear advice from industry professionals, ask questions, and make connections.

Despite a power outage on campus that for a time left Dewberry Hall in partial darkness, the future looked bright as students met face-to-face with representatives from a range of organizations, agencies, and businesses, including the U.S. State Department, the Washington Redskins, and Goodwill Industries International. Each mentor represented one of the Communication Department’s areas of concentration.

The Annual Fall Forum is a collaboration between the Insight Committee, faculty, staff, students, and the community to offer career preparation opportunities to a constantly changing field. “It’s really important as a professional to help create a path for those coming behind us,” said Chad Tragakis, MA Telecommunications ’04, Vice Chair of the Insight Committee and director of communications at Northrop Grumman Corporation.

In her speech, Czarniak recounted the twists and turns on her career journey from CNN production assistant to reporter at NBC4 in Washington, D.C. to ESPN sports anchor. She offered the nearly 200 attendees tricks of the trade before it broke into small groups for interactive sessions.

Of the 18 roundtable discussions, five were run by Mason communication alumni who have returned as mentors. Once on the other side of the table, they understand the value of jumpstarting a career while still a student, and how important it is to make connections. Karlene Koh, BA Communications ’18, graduated in May and is now the news bureau lead in Northrop Grumman’s corporate office. At Mason, she was vice president of the university’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. In that role, Koh helped organized the annual event; this was her first time returning as a mentor. “It got me to where I am today,” Koh said, “so why not give back?”

Czarniak wasn’t the only media celebrity in attendance. Angie Goff, BA ’01 Communications, now a broadcast journalist for NBC4 in Washington, D.C., who has participated as a mentor in past years, returned this year. She is excited to see how the events and opportunities for students have grown. Said Goff: “Any advice that I can bring back and offer so that my future Patriots can get out there and kill it, I’m all for.”

By Kristen Greiner, 11/6/18