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ESPN ‘Undefeated’ Editor Encourages Graduates to Be Bold

December 11, 2017


Kevin Merida
ESPN's Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief of "The Undefeated," encourages graduates to be drivers of change in journalism at the fall 2017 Cronkite Convocation keynote speaker. Photo by Marcus Chormicle


Kevin Merida, the former Washington Post managing editor who now leads ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” rallied the newest graduates of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication to be a driving force of change in journalism.

Merida was the keynote convocation speaker Monday at ASU Gammage, where 280 students received degrees.

In his address, Merida said journalism is in the midst of a digital revolution, headlined by young, innovative media professionals. He pointed to new media startups and young media executives who are reshaping and redefining the profession.

“Success and opportunity await you now, not tomorrow,” Merida said. “Your generation is powering the change that we need.”

Merida is at the forefront of this change as as senior vice president and editor-in-chief of “The Undefeated,” ESPN’s innovative media platform that explores the intersections of race, sports and culture.

Merida, whose son attends the Cronkite School, said the school produces outstanding graduates. He mentioned 2013 Cronkite alumnus Master Tesfatsion, who he helped hire as a sportswriter for The Washington Post, as an example of someone who is pushing the limits of journalism.

“You are graduating from this magnificent school of journalism and mass communication,” Merida said. “And I predict that the most magical time of your life is ahead of you.”

This fall semester, the Cronkite School graduated a total of 247 bachelor’s degree students, with 113 earning a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication, 113 receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Media Studies and 21 earning a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Journalism.

The Cronkite School also graduated 32 master’s degree students, 20 earning a Master of Journalism and Mass Communication and another 12 earning a Master of Arts in Sports Journalism. Wafa Unus received a doctoral degree.

Student speaker Cecilya Moreno of Gilbert, Arizona, encouraged graduates to embrace uncertainty and turn the power of fear into courage. Moreno shared the story of how she stayed optimistic when her godmother died. She told the graduates to embrace their passions.

“The future is full of possibilities and opportunities, with change being the only constant,” she said. “I encourage you to look at the unknown as an adventure. Approach unexplored territory with excitement.”

The ceremony also included the induction of Cronkite alumna Adelaida Severson, the president and CEO of Bushtex, which is one of the nation’s top satellite communications companies. She is the 47th inductee into the Cronkite Hall of Fame, joining Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times reporter Julie Cart, CNN International’s Becky Anderson and Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall, among others.

Cronkite Dean and University Vice Provost Christopher Callahan said a third of the graduating undergraduate class earned high academic honors. Twenty-three students achieved summa cum laude status with grade-point averages of at least 3.8; another 25 graduated magna cum laude with GPAs of 3.6 to 3.79; and 34 graduated cum laude with GPAs of 3.4 to 3.59.

In addition, 10 students were inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a national college honor society that recognizes academic excellence and promotes scholarship in journalism. The top 10 percent of the graduating class is inducted into the society each semester.


Outstanding Graduate Student
Jasmine Spearing-Bowen

Outstanding Undergraduate Students
Hannah Dickens, Thalia Varelas, Emily Liu, Taylor Bishop and Nicole Walker

Highest Grade Point Average in Journalism
Libby Allnatt

Highest Grade Point Average in Media Studies
Gregory Vickers

Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society
Elliott Adams, Libby Allnatt, Taylor Bishop, Taylor Clark, Hannah Dickens, Emily Liu, Andrea Neff, Mallory Prater, Adrienne St. Clair and Nicole Walker

Student Speaker
Cecilya Moreno