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NPR's Top News Executive Nancy C. Barnes Urges Graduates to Embrace Change, Not Fear It

May 7, 2019
Convocation Spring 2019

Keynote convocation speaker Nancy Barnes (left) advised graduates to "hold fast to your principles and find your guiding compass in this time of disruptive change." Student speaker Bryce Newberry said, "We're so lucky to be graduating from a school that will make us leaders in the industry, no matter where and what the job entails." (Photo: Victor Ren)

Nancy C. Barnes, senior vice president for news at National Public Radio, told new journalism graduates from Arizona State University they need to be prepared to celebrate change, not resist it.

Barnes was the keynote convocation speaker at the graduation ceremony Tuesday for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Comerica Theatre in downtown Phoenix, where 313 students received degrees with more than 2,400 guests in attendance.

Barnes, who also has led newspapers in Houston, Minneapolis and Raleigh, North Carolina, said she entered journalism at a time of typewriters and dial-up landlines. Since then, both the technology that reporters use and the way audiences consume information have been transformed, she said, and the pace of change is only likely to accelerate.

“Success will depend on your ability to lean into change, to bravely and, indeed, happily, face the future, and not rage against it,” she said. "At the same time, she advised graduates to “hold fast to your principles and find your guiding compass amid all of this disruptive change.”

Journalists, she said, bear a heavy responsibility to “hold up our responsibilities to the First Amendment and (to) tell the American people not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear and to know to live in our free society.”

Barnes, who took the top news position at NPR last fall, also encouraged the graduates to live a “life of adventure.”

“Make it a spectacular one – one that when that blink of an eye comes and you are living in that future that looks like today’s science fiction, reflecting back on your lifetime, you will feel that it was a life to be proud of, a life that imbued you with hope, optimism, love and adventure.”

Of the school’s 313 graduates, 292 received bachelor’s degrees, with 149 earning a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication and 57 earning a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Journalism. Eighty-five students received a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Media Studies. One student earned a new Bachelor of Science in Digital Audiences degree.

The Cronkite School also graduated 19 master’s degree students. Of those, 12 earned a Master of Journalism and Mass Communication, three received a Master of Arts in Sports Journalism and four a Master of Science in Business Journalism.

Two students, Jamie Bowen and Kristin Pellizzaro, received doctoral degrees.

Student speaker Bryce Newberry reflected on the deep sense of community he and other students have experienced at Cronkite.

Convocation Spring 2019

New graduates, Lexi Diama (left) and Yvonne Arbolla (right), show their school spirit on graduation night. (Photo: Victor Ren)

“We’re lucky to have gone to a school where we were a team,” he said. “Like any family, we inspire each other and lift each other up at every milestone.”

He encouraged fellow graduates to keep that spirit alive as they enter the workforce. “Do as you’ve done here … and celebrate everyone’s success.”

About half of the graduating class earned high academic honors. Seventy-one students graduated summa cum laude with grade-point averages of at least 3.8; another 40 graduated magna cum laude with GPAs of 3.6 to 3.79; and 36 graduated cum laude with GPAs of 3.4 to 3.59.

In addition, 24 students were inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a national college honors 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.

Seventeen students received the ASU Alumni Association’s Moeur Award, which is presented to graduates with the highest academic standing who have completed their degrees over eight consecutive fall and spring semesters at ASU.

Convocation Spring 2019

Austen Bundy, a recipient of the Outstanding Undergraduate Student Award, poses for a photo with his parents, Lucrecia and Scott Bundy, after the Cronkite convocation ceremony at Comerica Theatre. (Photo: Victor Ren)

Convocation Spring 2019

Graduate Cydeni Carter (center) shares a moment with her grandparents, Ronald and April Brooks, who drove down from Prescott, Arizona to attend convocation. (Photo: Victor Ren)

STUDENT AWARD WINNERS

Outstanding Graduate Student
Ashley Mackey

Outstanding Journalism Dual-Degree Student
Alicia Gonzales

ASU Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate
Kelsey Mo

Outstanding Undergraduate Students
Mia Armstrong
Austen Bundy
Lillian Donahue
Samie Gebers
Ethan Millman
Keri Orcutt
Imani Stephens

Outstanding Online Student
Shelley Fry

Highest Grade Point Average in Journalism
Kelsey Mo

Highest Grade Point Average in Media Studies
Amber Shepard

Top Innovator Award
Kayla King-Sumner

Cronkite Spirit Award
Jordan Elder
Chancellor Johnson

Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society
Mia Armstrong
Allison Barton
Jamie Bowen
Charles Bramlett
Gabriela Calles Monsivais
Jordan Elder
BrieAnna Frank
Madeleine Holler
Marguerite Mackrell
Kelsey Mo
Jaime Muldrew
Bryce Newberry
Keri Orcutt
Kirstin Pellizzaro
Daniella Rudoy
Case Smith
Skyler Snider
Rebecca Spiess
Imani Stephens
Adin Tarr
Ashlee Thomason
Jakob Wastek
Robert Werner
Jade Nicole Yeban

Moeur Award
Mia Armstrong
Allison Barton
Charles Bramlett
BrieAnna Frank
Madeleine Holler
Marguerite Mackrell
Kelsey Mo
Jaime Muldrew
Bryce Newberry
Keri Orcutt
Rilee Robinson
Daniella Rudoy
Nicholas Serpa
Case Smith
Jakob Wastek
Robert Werner
Alexandra Wolfe

Student Speaker
Bryce Newberry