ASU Cronkite School convocation honors graduates, retiring faculty

Cronkite School graduates sit in a line wearing their graduation gowns, hats and stoles.

The Cronkite School awarded degrees to 387 students during the ceremony on May 12 at the Desert Financial Arena in Tempe.


The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication celebrated the accomplishments of nearly 390 graduates at its spring 2023 convocation ceremony while honoring four distinguished faculty members who are retiring at the end of this semester.

The Cronkite School recognized associate professors Xu Wu and Marianne Barrett, Professor of Practice John Misner and Kristin Gilger, Reynolds Professor in Business Journalism, during the ceremony on May 12 at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe.

Gilger and Barrett, the Louise Solheim Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication, both served in associate dean and senior associate dean roles during their tenure at Cronkite. Gilger led the Cronkite School as interim dean from 2020 to 2021.

Misner served as the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship’s curator, senior advisor to the dean and senior advisor to the ASU Foundation.

The ceremony also paid tribute to former faculty member Mark Reda, who passed away earlier this month.

Adam Symson, president and CEO of the E.W. Scripps Company, delivered the keynote address to the graduating class. The convocation served as a homecoming for Symson, who first joined Scripps in 2002 as executive producer of investigations and special projects for ABC15 in Phoenix.

Symson reflected on his rise from an investigative reporter and producer to news executive, saying he learned just as much from his failures as he did from his successes.

“If you aren’t failing in life, you likely are not trying hard enough, and not taking the necessary risks in your personal or professional lives,” Symson said. “I can tell you without a doubt that what has propelled me from the assignment desk to the C-suite has been a willingness to take risks, gather a handful of successes, but just as important, pick myself up off the floor after getting punched in the gut.”

Symson said he “stumbled plenty of times” as a journalist and CEO, submitting a reporting tape and receiving zero job offers, applying for jobs and getting rejected, pursuing stories that didn’t pan out and launching products that failed to capture an audience.

“I’ve had them all. And each hurdle, every stumble and failure strengthened my resolve to do it again, but differently and better,” he said.

Those experiences paved the way for his successes, he said.

Symson lauded the graduates for enduring through “the most dynamic of times,” which included a pandemic, along with a changing economy and political landscape.

“Just think about what you all have gone through over the last four years,” he said. “You’ve been handling the real world … and are already exercising the resilience necessary to succeed, no matter what life throws your way next.”

In total, 387 students received degrees, including 77 with a Bachelor of Arts in mass communication and media studies, 100 with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and mass communication, 80 with a Bachelor of Arts in sports journalism, 57 with a Bachelor of Science in digital audiences and six with a Bachelor of Arts in digital media literacy.

The Cronkite School also awarded 65 master’s degrees — 47 with a Master of Science in digital audience strategy, 17 Master of Mass Communication degrees and one Master of Arts in investigative journalism. Two graduates received PhDs in journalism and mass communication.

Student convocation speaker Autriya Maneshni encouraged her fellow graduates to be patient with themselves and not expect to get everything right on the first try.

Maneshni recalled waking up on her first day of classes after she fell asleep with her favorite green pen in her bed. She discovered green stains all over herself and her comforter and only had 30 minutes until she had to attend class.

The experience reminded her that the most terrible days can blossom into an “amazing experience,” she said.

“Everything really does happen for a reason even if we are blind to that reason at first,” she said. "Don’t be so hard on yourself. ... Immerse yourself in the moment and focus on the present.”

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