School of Journalism to recognize 487 candidates at May graduation ceremony

Eli Hoff, Janae Taylor, Nik Deogun

The program will begin at 9 a.m. on Sunday, May 14, at Mizzou Arena

The Missouri School of Journalism will recognize 487 May and August graduates at its 9 a.m. commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 14, at Mizzou Arena on the University of Missouri campus. Seating is open, and no tickets are required. Guests can enter the arena for seating at 8 a.m.

Graduate degrees will be awarded to 10 doctoral candidates and 35 master’s students.

Of the 442 undergraduates, 54 percent focused on some aspect of journalism; 46 percent on strategic communication.

The top 10 percent of the School’s graduates will be inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a journalism honor society founded at the School of Journalism in 1910. The KTA reception will be held from 3-4 p.m. on Saturday, May 13, in 88 Gannett Hall, Fisher Auditorium. The new members of Kappa Tau Alpha are:

  • Doctor of Philosophy: Shane Epping, Lisa Lenoir, Chad Owsley
  • Master of Arts: Jaclyn Allen, Zuleide de Carvalho, Morgan Jackson, Jana Rose Schleis, Inwook Song
  • Bachelor of Journalism: Christopher Blake, Abigail Blasingame, Lauren Blue, Mae Bruce, Julia Canellis, Annabelle Cook, Julia Dehner, Kathryn Freitag, Logan Goulet, Rachel Henderson, Emily Hickey, Isabella Janney, Samuel Koeppel, Chloe Konrad, Kristin Kuchno, Binkai Ma, Avery Maslowsky, Kate Michael, Marta Mieze, Cela Migan, Evanna Momtaj, McKenna Neef, Peyton Parasuram, Sarah Petrowich, Rhema Prim, Katie Anne Quinn, Madyson Schuck, Delaney Tarpley, Maggie Trovato, Michael Andrew Westphal, Lily Williams, Abby Woloss, Kate Wyman
Nik Deogun
Nik Deogun

The alumni speaker will be Nik Deogun, MA ’93, Brunswick CEO of the Americas and U.S. Senior Partner. In this role, Deogun advises clients on business critical communications issues including mergers and acquisitions, shareholder activism, IPOs, crisis and litigation, and corporate reputation matters.

Prior to Brunswick, Deogun worked at CNBC for nearly 9 years where he held several senior management and leadership roles, including Editor in Chief and Senior Vice President, Business News. In this role, he managed the network’s news content, coverage and production. He was responsible for all the editorial content for daily live news programming, working closely with anchors, reporters and producers, as well as CNBC’s network specials, documentary and news programs.

In addition to his management roles at CNBC, Deogun previously held senior management and leadership roles in a long and distinguished career at The Wall Street Journal. He was Deputy Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal overseeing all financial and international coverage for the paper and overseeing the Journal’s network of international bureaus and correspondents.

Prior to this, he was a well-respected M&A reporter for the paper, before becoming editor of the Media & Marketing group, where he oversaw entertainment, publishing, advertising, consumer products, fashion and retail. Later, he was editor of the money and investing section where he oversaw all coverage of the global financial crisis, Wall Street, banking, hedge funds, private equity, mutual funds, financial markets, investing and personal finance. He also served as deputy bureau chief in Washington, D.C. for three years where he oversaw regulatory and investigative coverage for the paper.

Janae Taylor
Janae Taylor

The master of ceremonies will be Janae Taylor. Taylor is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a focus on social and audience strategy with a business minor. She worked at the Center of Academic Success & Excellence, Mizzou Res Life, and Mizzou Athletics while being a full-time student. In August of 2022, she was hired as a marketing student assistant with Mizzou Athletics, leading the sports of football, volleyball, women’s basketball and baseball. Taylor is originally from St. Louis but plans to continue her career in sports marketing throughout the nation. 

The ’thoughts of the class’ speaker is Eli Hoff. Hoff is graduating with a Bachelor of Journalism degree focused on print and digital reporting with a minor in psychology, as well as a multicultural studies certificate. As an undergraduate student, he was a Walter Williams Scholar and Discovery Fellow. 

Eli Hoff
Eli Hoff

While studying at MU, Hoff reported on higher education and sports for the Columbia Missourian before becoming an assistant city editor at the newspaper. Previously, he was the managing editor of The Maneater, MU’s student newspaper. He has interned for the Jefferson City News Tribune and Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting. Last summer, he reported from Capitol Hill as a Washington correspondent for the Missourian and the Missouri News Network.  

In December, Hoff won the Hearst Journalism Award for feature writing. His work has also been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists, Associated Press Sports Editors and the Missouri College Media Association. Outside of journalism, Hoff enjoys reading good comic books and playing mediocre basketball. After graduation, he will return to MU to complete the Journalism School’s accelerated master’s degree program. 

Eli Hoff, BJ ’23, ‘Thoughts of the Class’

Good morning! Today, we’re exactly where we want to be. 

We’re excited. We’re proud. We’re a little bit nervous, and maybe even more than a little bit tired. But we’re not in unfamiliar territory, because all of these feelings have been part of the J-School experience.

We think about things differently in our little corner of Mizzou. Our alphabet starts with ACs and B-roll (and roll carts). We talk about Audition and Premiere more than most actors. Some of us even think YAYA is a state.

Our language of the J-School becomes a way we view the world. We’ve learned to look at places for their people, people for their stories, stories for their truth, and truth — well, we tried to define truth in our classroom discussions.

There’s no other place quite like this, quite like the Missouri School of Journalism. There’s a reason for that.

Academics and administrators told us that college was about finding places to belong.  The J-School embodied that process. We pivoted from broadcast to print to strat comm — and we all pivoted to Zoom. We found our places in studios and newsrooms, huddled around press boxes and mult boxes.

It wasn’t a linear journey. We navigated brand new classes and a pandemic. We handled demanding clients and stonewalling sources. We managed to bond with friends on deadlines and days off. 

Needless to say, we didn’t any of that alone. We learned so much from professors who have earned the “pro” part of their title. We looked up to our talented peers, celebrating them and challenging ourselves to keep pace. We vented to each other in that same special language, one devoid of Oxford commas.

Through that journey, we’ve ended up here — exactly where we want to be.

But we’ve also ended up at a fork in the road, a rather useless fork with a few hundred prongs, one for each of the paths we’ll take from right here. We’ll land in ad campaigns and on front pages, behind social media accounts and in front of cameras. We can go anywhere. We’ll go everywhere. That’s the sign of a good mafia.

Mostly, we’ll do what we’ve learned at the J-School and keep finding our places.

We came here for the world’s first and finest School of Journalism. We never found it. Instead, through these spaces, we created our school of journalism. That, more than any skill we learned in a classroom, has been the Missouri Method.

At our school of journalism, we’ve found ourselves exactly where we want to be. And now, we’re ready to find our next places. We’re filing this chapter and pitching our next angle. Class of 2023, we’ve managed to beat deadline. Thank you, and congratulations.

Nik Deogun, MA ’93, alumni speaker

Good morning to all of you. It is an honor and a privilege to speak to you on such a special day in your lives. Thank you Dean Kurpius for inviting me. First and foremost, congratulations. You have all worked hard to earn your degrees and this a great accomplishment.

By the way, in the spirit of the times that entire paragraph was written by ChatGPT. In fact, when I punched in Journalism school commencement address, I got a perfectly acceptable 800 word speech.

From now on, I’m going to leave you guessing which parts were written by me and which by chatGPT.

Honestly, the very idea that I would be invited to speak at a Missouri commencement was very far from my mind when I was here as a grad student in the early 1990s. My reporting partner Chris Blake and I wrote a raft of stories for the Missourian that got the Vice Chancellor fired and led to the ouster of the chancellor of the university. 

So, let’s put it this way, I wasn’t very popular with the administration.

Before I start, I want to say Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms in the room and an early Happy Father’s Day to the dads. To the mothers, I have to say that listening to me deliver a graduation speech doesn’t sound like a great Mother’s Day! My gift to my wife, the mother of our two kids, was to encourage her to stay home and not listen to me any more than she has to.

In all seriousness, I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t have attended Missouri, if not for my wife. After we finished our undergraduate studies in Ohio in 1991, she deferred going to graduate school and worked two jobs in Columbia, Missouri, to support me in school here. 

As a foreign student who would have been kicked out of the country after my studies, she also agreed to marry me earlier than we had planned so I could get a green card and a job! Thirty years later, we are still married.

In preparation for this address, I did two things. First, I asked my former boss at CNBC, Mark Hoffman, also a Mizzou grad and the father of a Mizzou grad, for advice on a speech. He said: BE BRIGHT, BE BRIEF AND BE GONE

The second thing I did was something I did at Mizzou and have done ever since: I procrastinated. You know, never write a story or file a paper until you are hours away from deadline. So after finally realizing chatgpt wouldn’t give me a commencement address that would get me a passing grade at Mizzou, I got to work. 

I know you have load of folks who will tell you things you should do or books you should read. I have three life lessons on things you SHOULD NOT do.


Every graduation speaker seemingly in history has urged graduates to follow their dreams. Here’s the problem. Your dreams change and when you’re 22 or 24, you may dream too small. 

You know what my dream was when I was sitting where you are: My dream was to work for the Chronicle of Higher Education. I’m not kidding. I covered the university beat for the Missourian, I got the vice chancellor fired, I wrote a ten page magazine cover story on academic tenure (I clearly knew nothing about clickbait!) So the next logical step was to work for the Chronicle. I don’t think they even responded to me to my pleas for a job.

Then I dreamed a little bigger because I got an internship at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the summer of 1992. Actually, it was something called the OK Bovard scholarship and it was given to one Mizzou student every year. In those days, the Post Dispatch was a hot property. I mean I’m sure it’s a still a great paper but back then it was owned by the Pulitzer Publishing Co. 

And at the end of my summer internship, they offered me a job. It was a union paper and paid $36,000 – more than I ever imagined. As my editor there claimed, they had reporters from New York to LA knocking on their door and they gave me a choice: I could finish my degree or quit Mizzou and join right then. 

I gulped and said. “I’m afraid I can’t. My wife is moving to Atlanta to get her Ph.D so I need to move to Atlanta after I get my degree.”

He shook his head and walked away. The next day, two grizzled veterans of the Post-Dispatch – the writing coach (yes, they had a writing coach) and the famed city columnist Bill McLellan took me for a beer at 2 in the afternoon. Or it may have been 11 AM. “Kid,” one of them said, “you’re making a big mistake. You’re giving up a great job for a girl.” 

I did turn down the job. I finished my master’s, and thanks to following Allison to Atlanta, I ended up at the Wall Street Journal, where I spent 15 fantastic years in Atlanta, Washington and New York.  Years later, when I was a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in NY, I happened to have a couple of big scoops involving St. Louis companies, and I got a call from an editor the Post-Dispatch, saying “Hey, are you the kid who was our intern?” “Yes,” I replied.

My point is simply this: I turned down a few jobs and didn’t pursue dream jobs – one of my dreams was to be the publisher and editor of Beverage Digest – because I was open to new ideas and careers and I didn’t overplan my professional path. 

THE LESSON: Every dream has its detour. Dreams can change and become even bigger.


It’s human nature to want to land the big fish, the big story and the big accounts. You wouldn’t be where you are as graduates if you weren’t ambitious and hungry. Don’t get me wrong — pleasedon’t get rid of that desire to succeed.

But when you’re starting out, it’s tempting to want to cover the biggest stories, the ones being swarmed by everyone else. It’s the same in business, you want to work on the biggest accounts with the hottest clients. 

In my first couple of years as a reporter for the Journal, I was frustrated that I wasn’t getting on page one as often I thought I should have. I wasn’t getting in on the action. I was bemoaning my fate on the spot news desk of the Atlanta bureau when the phone rang.  

It was a gentleman from North Carolina who sounded a bit wacky and told me how he had been busted for selling ostrich and alligator meat. He sounded odd but it turns out the Journal likes oddball stories in addition to the big stories of the day. A few days later, I was driving to North Carolina and I got a page one “ahed” – the offbeat stories the Journal runs to this day on page one.

More than two decades later, after I had switched careers to try my hand in business, much the same thing happened. I was brand new in my role as the Americas CEO of the Brunswick Group, where I work today. We had just missed out on a couple of big assignments when the phone rang, and I answered a call from the head of communications and marketing at a large company. They weren’t on our target list and we assumed that one of our bigger competitors had long ago locked them up as a client. 

But it turned out she wasn’t happy with them and felt they were being taken for granted. She was looking for a new partner and for a new agency. A few months later, we were hired and it remains one of our top clients to this day.

The bottom line: Be open to the unexpected call, the unexpected meeting. There are no small stories or small clients and chances are one of those stories or accounts will make your career.


There is a good chance you will come to a crossroads in your career. A new job will come your way. You will decide whether to take it or not. Someone will dangle more money or more authority or a new beat. So how do you know you are making the right decision?

You don’t. But there is a pretty good chance you will have more than one career. As you come to that decision, try to make sure you are going to a place where people are smarter than you, where they are known for their integrity and where you can learn. That will be far more important than anything else.  Never take a job for the vanity of the announcement. 

 But take one where at first you may genuinely not know what you’re doing. It’s ok to be intimidated. If the folks around you are smart, you will learn fast.

A friend of mine has a good saying: When was the last time you did something for the first time in your life. 

I’m on my third career, and it’s been the most illogical career in many ways and has been anything but a straight line. I spent 15 years at the Journal in a variety of reporting and editing roles in a variety of different cities. I then switched to television and spent nine amazing years at CNBC, learning an entirely new medium and business. Then nearly five years ago, I moved to the Brunswick Group, a leading critical issues advisory firm with its share of Mizzou grads by the way, including Mark Palmer, our former managing partner. I have had to learn how to be a strategic adviser and how to run a firm. I’m still learning. 

In the end, new technology will change a lot of your jobs and careers. And while ChatGPT could write many a commencement address, many a term paper, it can’t write your life. Only you can do that.

Congratulations again.

Updated: May 16, 2023

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