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ESPN anchor Matt Barrie, a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, challenged the school’s newest graduates to pursue their dreams, even when it’s fourth-and-long.
Barrie, who graduated from Cronkite with his bachelor’s degree in 2001, was the keynote convocation speaker at ASU Gammage, where 247 students received degrees. Referencing ASU football’s 19-point fourth quarter rally in November to beat the University of Arizona, Barrie encouraged the graduates to never quit.
“No matter the score, no matter how many things aren’t going your way,” Barrie said, “you stay in the game, and you will win.”
In his speech, Barrie traced his career path from the Cronkite School to the anchor desk at “SportsCenter.” He said he faced some adversity as well as some good luck along the way, from a small television station in Wausau, Wisconsin, to ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.
At the age of 27, Barrie said he was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, a form of temporary facial paralysis. Through it all, he remained positive. “I decided that adversity, rather than destroy me, would build character and make me better a person,” he said.
Barrie told the Cronkite graduates that they are entering an exciting time in journalism. He said the industry is much bigger with more opportunities than when he graduated from the school. He touted the value of a degree from his alma mater in this new media environment.
“I can tell you from first-hand experience how valuable of a currency you now have with a degree from Cronkite,” he said. “And what doors it will open.”
The Cronkite School graduated 219 bachelor’s degree students, with 95 earning a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication and 26 earning a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Journalism. Ninety-seven students received a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Media Studies. One student received a Bachelor of Science in Digital Audiences.
The Cronkite School also graduated 25 master’s degree students. Evan Billingsley, Michael Bluhm and Guy Harrison received doctoral degrees.
"The single most distinguishing characteristic, the element that sets us apart from any others is you, our students," said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan during the ceremony.
Student speaker Charlene Santiago, who grew up in Puerto Rico, shared her personal story as a Cronkite student and her initial insecurities speaking English and being homesick. She said she overcame this by pushing herself beyond her comfort zone.
Santiago became a standout student in Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS, where she work as a producer and reporter. She also spent a semester at the school's Washington, D.C., bureau and participated in a depth reporting project investigating Puerto Rico's recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria.
"I’ve come to learn that we are our biggest obstacle," she said. "When we fail to try, we betray ourselves. When you want something, you really will go out of your way to achieve that goal. As you start your careers or your job hunting, I want you to remember that we can be our biggest rival. But we can also be our biggest asset."
A third of the graduating class earned high academic honors. Thirty-one students graduated summa cum laude with grade-point averages of at least 3.8; another 28 graduated magna cum laude with GPAs of 3.6 to 3.79; and 21 graduated cum laude with GPAs of 3.4 to 3.59.
In addition, 17 students were inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a national college honors society that recognizes academic excellence and promotes scholarship in journalism.
One student received the ASU Alumni Association’s Moeur Award, which is presented to graduates with the highest academic standing who have completed their course work toward their degree while attending ASU for eight consecutive fall and spring semesters.
STUDENT AWARD WINNERS
Outstanding Graduate Student
Outstanding Undergraduate Students
Ariana Bustos, AnnMargaret Haines and Madison Kerley
Outstanding Online Student
Highest Grade Point Average in Journalism
Highest Grade Point Average in Media Studies
Top Innovator Award
Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society
Meagan Barbee, Evan Billingsley, Michael Bluhm, Ariana Bustos, Daniel Crumbley, Kade Garner, AnnMargaret Haines, Guy Harrison, Lauren Intrieri, Madison Kerley, Benjamin Leibowitz, Alessandra Luckey, Davyn Matte, Maya Patrose, Nicole Randock, Monica Sampson and Ann Marie Schlup