The return of the grads

School of Journalism and Graphic Communications Interim Dean Dhyanna Ziegler
enjoying the Grads Are Back Barbecue | Photo credit: Justyn Thomas

During the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication’s (SJGC) annual “Grads Are Back” series alumni shared plentiful advice in how students should prepare post Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University’s (FAMU), Thursday, Oct. 12.

Grads Are Back, in the past has been a week-long sequence of seminars, with a job fair incorporated into the festivities. The event informed undergraduate students on what awaits them in the journalism field.  

This year, Grads Are Back was condensed into a one-day event, jam packed with alumni testimonies revealing their road to becoming media professionals. 

When asked why it is important for the grads to return and share their experiences, Interim Dean of SJGC, Dhyana Ziegler, expressed the importance of students being exposed to real-world journalist. 

“It’s important to see successful people that not only look like you, but have also gone through the same program, and have been able to go out and achieve amazing positions in this business,” Ziegler said. 

Will Ayers, public relations manager for the Home Depot, voiced his thoughts on sharing experiences with up and coming multi-media journalists.

 “Many times in life, students look at our fancy job titles and they don’t understand that we came from the same place that they came from,” Ayers said.  “It’s very important to come back and participate in Grads Are Back, because it gives me an opportunity to share the knowledge I learned in my professional career with the students that are trying to get jobs in the industry.” 

The alumni felt privileged to be able to return the nuggets of knowledge that was given to them. Hillary John, Director of Communications at American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), communicated the significance of giving back.

Hillary John AARP Director Of Communications and panelist for Branding your way through Storytelling | Photo credit: Justyn Thomas 

“You give what you got,” John said. “I really got a lot by being at FAMU. I loved it here, I got a lot of great direction from my professors, so giving back is what you have to do.”

FAMU breeds people of character and presents students with the journalistic abilities needed today, according to actor and filmmaker James Bland. 

“FAMU is my foundation, I am who I am because of Florida A&M University,” Bland said. “I realized I didn’t get here by myself. There were other grads that came back when I was a student here, who poured and instilled information in me, and I need to do the same thing. I need to pay it forward,” Bland said.

Alumni said that they are inspired by SJGC’s young professionals and it is refreshing to be in the students’ presence.  

“Giving back makes me feel good,” Ayers said. “It makes my soul feel good to come back and share my story with the students, this (Grads Are Back) provides me with an opportunity to pay it forward, to propel the next generation of Rattlers, to make them better than me.”

John said that she was driven by the energy the students radiated during her trip back.

“It’s amazing when you see the students, you know what you’re saying is resonating. You get filled up by all the energy that’s here and the drive and the hunger that the students have it just motivates me even more,” John said.

Bland said he knew his blessings were directly connected to his giving and coming back reminds him that his work matters.

“It’s all about serving a purpose greater than myself. If I didn’t come back, it says a lot about the person that I am,” Bland said.  “I understand that my blessing is connected to blessing other people, and I know I will be blessed in return through the universe receiving this energy and saying ‘I want to double your portion because you’re willing to share it,” Bland continued. 

The SJGC alumni are never short on advice for the students preparing for the professional world. According to them, practical preparation and unwavering dedication are the cornerstones of how to be successful in this industry. 

 “Be prepared to put 10 years into your dream, it won’t happen overnight. If you’re not ready to put 10 years into it, then you don’t really want it,” Bland said.