Missouri School of Journalism to recognize 85 students at Dec. 17 commencement

Journalism arch lion wearing mortar board and tassel.

Ceremony scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. in Jesse Auditorium

Columbia, Mo. (Dec. 10, 2021) — The Missouri School of Journalism will recognize 85 students at the 6:30 p.m. commencement ceremony on Friday, Dec. 17, in Jesse Auditorium. Seating is open, and no tickets are required.

A link to a live stream of the ceremony will be available on the MU Graduation and Commencement Live Streaming page.

Download a copy of the commencement program here.

Graduate degrees will be awarded to three doctoral candidates and 15 master’s students.

Of the 67 undergraduates, 28 focused on some aspect of journalism; 39 on strategic communication. A total of 28 graduates earned Latin honors by achieving at least a 3.5 grade point average for the last 50 credits.

The top 10 percent of the School’s graduates will be inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a journalism honor society founded at the Missouri School of Journalism in 1910. The KTA reception will be held before the ceremony from 2 – 3  p.m., Friday, Dec. 17, in the Fred W. Smith Forum, Room 200, in the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. The 10 new members of Kappa Tau Alpha are:

  • Doctor of Philosophy: Lingshu Hu, Sisi Hu, Ciera Kirkpatrick, Namyeon Lee
  • Master of Arts: John Kurpius, Andrea Rillo
  • Bachelor of Journalism: Hannah Holladay, Stephanie Lubinski, Jake Mosher, Rachel Pickett, Margo Wagner, Madeline Wilson

The alumni speaker is Jon Halvorson, BJ ’04, an accomplished marketing executive who anticipates change and shapes today’s “wet-clay” opportunities into tomorrow’s marketing paradigms.  

Halvorson joined Mondelēz International last July as the VP of Global Media, Digital and Data. In this capacity, he is responsible for all working media investments, marketing data strategy and digital marketing across the company’s portfolio of brands.  

Prior to Mondelēz International, Halvorson served in leadership positions for P&G, General Electric, Visa, Intel, State Farm and Eli Lilly. He also served as Global Director of Video Strategy & Operations for Twitter, where he was charged with reimagining digital video experience, revenue optimization, collaboration with third party partners and articulation of Twitter’s video value proposition. 

Outside of work, Halvorson is an active philanthropist and committed to serving the community. He is a proud alumni of Haymakers 4 Hope, an organization that uses amateur boxing to raise awareness and money to fight cancer, and he is an active supporter of Camp Interactive. Halvorson earned an Executive MBA from the University of Michigan in May of 2017 where he graduated with highest honors.  

Madeline Wilson will present the “Thoughts of the Class.” Originally from Fulton, Missouri, she studied journalism with an emphasis in strategic communication with a minor in political science. During her time at Mizzou, Wilson was a Walter Williams Scholar, an account manager for MOJO Ad and served as Creative Director and Social Media Coordinator for Mizzou’s student chapter of the American Advertising Federation. She is graduating with summa cum laude honors. Wilson likes to spend her free time with her dog, Archie, or catching up on recent college basketball games. After graduation, she is pursuing a role in account management or strategy at an advertising agency.  

Honorary degree

Michael Golden, MA ‘ 78, is being recognized with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa. Each year the university recognizes prominent individuals, whether they attended the university or not, by presenting them with  honorary doctorate degree, the highest form of recognition offered by MU to persons of exceptional distinction.

Golden has lived a life dedicated to the public’s right to know.   

Equipped with both reporting and business skills, Golden worked as a production manager, executive vice president, general manager and publisher for The New York Times Company’s magazines, including Family Circle, McCall’sChild and Tennis, from 1984 to 1996. Later, he earned stints as publisher of the International Herald Tribune and president and chief operating officer of the company’s Regional Media Group. He served on the company’s board of directors until 2017. 

Since retirement, Golden has continued to lead in the journalism field, both across the country and around the globe. He is currently the chairman of the board of directors for the International Center for Journalists, a nonprofit dedicated to raising journalism standards, and he serves or has served on several other boards for major media organizations, as well as childcare agency Graham Windham. 

Golden received the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service from the Missouri School of Journalism in 2013, which recognized him for using management practices to sustain and promote excellence in journalism.  

In 2017, he and Carolyn Greenspon accepted the 2017 Kellogg Family Enterprise Leadership Award from Northwestern University in recognition of their family’s leadership of The New York Times, which is now in its sixth generation.  

Madeline Wilson, BJ ’21, “Thoughts of the Class”

First, I want to say thank you for this opportunity to speak today, and congratulations on making it to this point.  

As we all sat in J1100, learning about the core foundations of American journalism, I’m sure none of us were thinking about graduation, yet here we are.   

It’s been a journey to get to where we are today. One that started when we first arrived on campus, took our photos in front of the columns, and tried to figure out what a fishbowl had to do with our classes. Since then, Mizzou has become a home to all of us. For some, it meant traveling across the country and for others, it meant traveling down the street.   

By the time we got to our upper-level courses, we could already navigate our way through a few Adobe programs, write a story or press release in perfect, or close to perfect, AP style, and still find time to make new friends. Of course, these new skills didn’t come easily.  

We have poured over countless drafts, reading and rereading to make sure our tenses are active, and our oxford commas are gone, and we spent mornings trekking across campus to make sure our equipment was turned in by 8 am.   

Here we are, on the other side of it, having taken our last exams, written our last stories, and turned in our last projects. We did it. The journey we had was unique and challenging, but it made us who we are.  

Our world-class education is like no other, but what else would you expect from the best journalism school in the world? We learned through hands-on experiences both in and out of the classroom. We learned by doing, and we had trials by fire. We learned to fail fast and to keep moving forward.  

We learned to be flexible, as our whole world was moved online for over a year. We learned courage and resilience. And most importantly, we learned to do it all in AP Style.   

It wouldn’t be a full picture of our journey without mentioning the support system we relied on to get to where we are today. To all the parents who we called to ask for story ideas or to read our papers and look at our designs, thank you. To our favorite upperclassmen who told us we can, in fact, survive J2100, thank you. Lastly, to the people who are the strength of this school, our wonderful professors. Thank you for supporting us, for being patient with us, and for believing in us. Your insights and experiences are unmatched, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without you, so thank you.  

From the booths at Shakespeare’s to the cozy corner of your favorite coffee shop, we’ve called this place home. As we prepare to begin our next journey, whatever that may be, we take with us the skills we have gained and the memories we have made.   

Class of 2021, you’re going to do great things. Thank you.  

Jon Halvorson, BJ ’04, alumni speaker

Dean Kurpius, members of the Faculty, distinguished guests, friends, families and above all the honored, tested, and proud University of Missouri School of Journalism graduates.  

Thank you for letting me share with you in the celebration of one journey and the start of another. And it is this exciting new journey that is just beginning that I would like to focus on… 

As you walk across this stage and receive your diploma, you hold in your hand a powerful symbol of accomplishment. Whether your time at Mizzou was spent looking through the lens of a camera, investigating a news story or carefully crafting advertising campaigns…. there is one thing that I know about each one of you; you are all brilliant communicators and storytellers.   

And that is powerful, because there is no greater accelerator of personal success than the ability to concisely and articulately convey your thoughts and ideas.  

No matter where you go next; a newsroom, advertising agency, major news organization, or to pursue advanced degrees, you will stand out among your peers. Ahead of your years, you will find yourself tapped by managers, their bosses and sometimes even their boss’s bosses for assignments. It might begin with you drafting the meeting notes or writing a client email; but quickly, you’ll find yourself working shoulder to shoulder on larger tasks; a critical new business pitch, a presentation for management or even shaping corporate strategy.  

They will challenge you, make builds and certainly add their own style; but you’ll be surprised how quickly your ideas, become their ideas, and how much you will influence how things are done.  

You are going to be a leader… and what you communicate will have great consequence. 

Now, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of books written on leadership each year. My personal experience is that sadly the wrong people write them, the people who need them don’t read them and most have a brilliant premise that is the first chapter. Then, just to make a book of it, they unnecessarily ramble on for another 200 pages. Clearly, these authors never had to pass News at Mizzou or face critique at KMOU.  

This evening, I strive to be the right person, delivering a focused message to the right audience of future leaders.  When we close our eyes and think about leaders we admire, we often quickly arrive at a common set of qualities…







Unquestionably, these are all important. Yet, I find that something very critical is often omitted from the list…. audacity.  

Now, you may recoil or be skeptical of the word audacity being included in a leadership conversation. Being audacious often comes with a negative connotation. However, if you reflect on the same leaders, you were imagining a moment ago, I think you’ll find many of them to be quite audacious.  

Yes, with the benefit of hindsight their actions seem logical and perhaps obvious. You might even think that anybody would make the same decision in their shoes. But, upon further examination, we realize that at the time they were bold stands that didn’t conform to the common convention of the time.  

  1. Arthur Sulzberger Jr., Chairman of The New York Times Company, decisded to put content behind a paywall[1]  
  1. Satya Nadella pivoted Microsoft to focus on cloud computing.  
  1. Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, shifting business model from DVDs to streaming.   
  1. Patrick Doyle, CEO of Dominos, famously admitted their pizza was terrible and fixed it. 

These leaders were audacious. They saw a different future than the one before them and brought it into reality.  And I would argue that being audacious isn’t just a nice to have, but increasingly essential to a leader’s success. Why is that? 

First, the pace of change is accelerating. While upcoming trends and disruption used to be things that we could see coming from a great distance away… often years. This provided time to exploit current advantages, build impenetrable barriers to entry and migrate to the next opportunity. That is no longer the case. Change comes at us faster than ever.  

For proof look no farther than the S&P 500. “Big organizations are shorter-lived than they have ever been. In 1958, the average tenure of a company on the S&P 500 was thirty-three years.  

It dropped to twenty-four years as of 2016 and it is projected to shrink to 12 years by 2027. This means half of the S&P 500 will turn over in the next decade[2].” 

Some of these companies will be acquired or merge. Others may be taken private. But for the majority, they will simply not evolve and grow fast enough to meet the threshold. They are passed by bolder companies with bolder ambitions for what the future holds.  

Leaders who fail to explore and drive truly incremental innovation, risk irrelevance.   

The second reason is that we live in a sea of sameness. While we have more access to more content than any other generation, the simple fact is that most of it is average.  And the average is drowning people out.  

What was the last advertising campaign that truly captured your attention?  

When, apart from Ted Lasso, have you really been excited about a television show?  

We have regressed to the mean, because average is safe.  

When everybody has a voice and a platform, it is audacity that challenges you to have a point of view and stand up for it. It is audacity that pushes you to break out from average and dare to be great. 

The third reason audacity is critical for modern leaders is that the challenges we face as a society and are growing, often exponentially. Consider these daunting challenges.  

The Global Economy. More than 493 million full-time-equivalent jobs were lost in 2020.  

Education. Temporary closures in more than 180 countries at some point during the pandemic, kept an estimated 1.6 billion students out of schools. 

Trust, a topic quite close to many of our hearts as journalists. Disinformation around the world costs an estimated 78 billion dollars annually[3], not including societal impacts. 

These problems are not going to be solved by simply optimizing the past or doing what we did yesterday just a little bit better. These problems will only be solved by imagining what does not yet exist and pulling it forward into today’s reality.  

My challenge with you today, is to be a truly audacious leader…. 

  1. Bravely explore who you are as a person, electives do not end with college. Life is a giant elective.  
  1. Break out of the sea of sameness, by bringing your whole self to work, even when that leaves you vulnerable  
  1. Fiercely collaborate with others, recognizing that they are not your competition and that if you work together, you can both achieve more  
  1. And when sit down to write that first memo, presentation or email for your boss dream and fight for what you, your team and this world can be – even if others cannot see it yet. It is a fight worth fighting.   

Remember…. You hold the pen and the power to create change

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/18/business/media/18times.html 

[2] Scott D. Anthony, S. Patrick Viguerie, Evan Schwartz and John Van Landeghem, “2018 Corporate Longevity Forecast: Creative Destruction Is Acceleration,” Innosight Executive Briefing, accessed November 20th 2021.  

[3] https://www.zdnet.com/article/online-fake-news-costing-us-78-billion-globally-each-year/ 

Michael Golden, MA ’78, Honorary Degree recipient

Good evening.  It is an honor and a pleasure to stand before you and be recognized by the university with this degree.    I want to thank Curator Robin Wenneker, Provost Latha Ramchand and Dean David Kurpius.  I am humbled by this recognition.  

My time at Columbia in 1976 and 77 had a major impact on my family, my oldest daughter was born here; and on my career and my life.  I thank you for that.  

I had the great fortune to have a 40-year career in newspapers and digital news delivery.   It was jump started with my studies here at the Journalism School.  To say the industry went through major changes during the span of my career is perhaps the greatest understatement I can make.  

The reason I’m standing here today is because of my 34 years at The New York Times and The New York Times Company.  The Times is dedicated to providing accurate, reliable information to help people make decisions large and small to better their lives and that of their families.  It’s immensely gratifying work.   We strove to provide context and meaning so readers and viewers could understand how events that happened far from where they live would impact their lives and their families.    

Perhaps the pinnacle of that work is giving our audience the information they need to participate in democracy – to choose the leaders they want.  Exercising the right to vote is the most fundamental underpinning of Democracy.   And democracy is the fundamental underpinning that makes the work of the men and women of The New York Times possible.  

That is a virtuous cycle that has existed and been taken as rock solid since before The Times was founded in 1851.  It allowed me and hundreds of thousands more to have fulfilling careers not just at The Times but across media: websites, newspapers, radio, television, film – all of news information and entertainment.  

Why am I carrying on about this?  Because democracy in the United States is threatened more than it ever has been.  If democracy is made to fail, it effects much more than journalism.  Democracy is the guarantee of Academic freedom, of the right to move freely across the country in pursuit of work; to read what you want; to write what you want, to question authority and get answers, to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.    

I can’t understate how fundamental democracy is to the most important forces that have shaped and continue to shape our country.  If you question that, look around the globe, reflect on life in China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and many other countries.  

Democracy was challenged in World War II.  The US rose to the challenge and with much of the world defeated that threat preserving our way of life and saving much of Europe and Asia.  An attack from the outside is usually easy to spot.  It makes us band together and fight.  An attack from within can be less clear, harder to spot and therefore more threatening.  

Remember, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party were democratically chosen in Germany in the 1930s.  It was the last democratic election in Germany until after they were defeated in 1945.  

What are the signs of the threat to democracy in the US?    

Each of the 50 states certified their 2020 election as free and fair without significant fraud that could have changed the outcome.  Joe Biden was democratically elected as President with large majorities in both the popular vote and the Electoral College.   Every recount and audit, without exception, confirmed the results.   Our electoral systems work.  The close examination of the 2020 election and its results is proof.    

You know the campaign Donald Trump launched to overturn the result.  That lie remains the motivating influence in his life.  

Today, according to polls, 60% of Republicans believe the election was “stolen” and Trump was the true winner.  Dozens of state legislatures dominated by Republican majorities have written legislation, much of it signed into law, to restrict voting access, as well as legislation to give election officials and state legislatures the power to overturn results if they believe the results are fraudulent.  Think about that in the context of the 2020 election.  Every secretary of state and every state official certified the elections were fair and free, yet 106 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to overturn the result.  

There is concerted action afoot to make counting ballots and verifying elections a political process.  History says when that happens the only thing that stops it is revolt or war.  

There are a variety of views on how serious this crisis is.   The Michigan Secretary of State calls it a “five-alarm fire” that should have everyone’s attention.  It’s true that democracy was the victor in the aftermath of the 2020 election.  It’s also true that many states are hard at work to set a new, unlevel playing field in place for the 2024 election, one that can be manipulated if officials don’t like the election result.  

If you, like me, believe the freedoms we have in this great country are of immense value and are the bedrock that makes America the great nation it is, you should be concerned. Whether you are a democrat, a republican, or an independent, you should speak out, to your friends, your family, your colleagues.   And I believe you should look very closely at the candidates you vote for in 2022 and 2024.  Do they support democracy and the right to vote?   Do they believe in the truth?  Will they stand up for your rights as you stand up for theirs?  Our freedoms are at stake if this goes wrong.  

Here at the Journalism School’s graduation, I believe the role of the press is well understood.  It’s our right and our obligation to inform society of the most important trends and developments in our society.   There are so many important stories. It is a real challenge to report and understand them, to give our readers a clear analysis so they can take action to better their lives.    

The hardest stories to cover are the very large, complex, slow-moving stories that are most fundamental to society: climate change, social security, health care.  This school is dedicated to helping students, and society, understand those complex systems and their impact.   

We must add to that list the divisive split in our political system that now threatens our way of life.  

Now is the time to stand and be counted.   

Let me finish by again thanking you for this recognition.  I accept it humbly on behalf of those who work to make journalism and our society better. 

Updated: November 30, 2022

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