Annenberg Alumni News, Winter 2024

The latest news from Annenberg School alumni.

We love to hear from our alumni —about your career, what you're doing in your free time, or anything else you would like to share with your classmates. 



After teaching at Southern Connecticut State University for 33 years and Southwest Minnesota State University for seven years, Joseph Alan Ullian (M.A.C. ‘75) has decided to retire. He is working on historical documentaries about Hutchinson, Minnesota, where he now lives.

For nearly 30 years, Eric Swartz (M.A.C. '77) has worked as a branding strategist through his agency, Tagline Guru, creating brand identities for businesses, non-profits,  and more. Not quite ready for retirement, Swartz spends his spare time gardening, reading, playing pickleball, and communing with nature.

We are saddened to hear of the passing of three of our alumni:

  • Daniel Lerner (C ‘54, M.A.C. '61) worked in radio for 40 years and owned several radio stations in the Northeast area. In 2004, Lerner established the Lerner Family Endowed Scholarship to support Music or Communication majors at Penn. Read more about Lerner’s life.
  • Howard Fatell (M.A.C '77), was a lifelong learner who spent time studying at Oxford University after graduating from Annenberg. He taught religious studies at Adath Israel in Merion. Read more about Fatell’s life.
  • Linda J. Shipley (Ph.D ‘74) was the William H. Kearns Distinguished Professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Previously, she was the associate dean of the university's College of Journalism, a position she held for 18 years. Read more about Shipley’s life.


Stuart J. Sigman (M.A.C. '79, Ph.D. '82) has come out of semi-retirement to assume the position of Executive Director of Reiss-Davis Graduate School in Los Angeles. He also serves as an adjunct instructor for Meridian University.

Marc Krones (M.A.C ‘85) and Michele Sims (M.A.C. '87) recently were able to have a mini Annenberg reunion at their 40 year undergrad reunion at Muhlenberg College.

Formerly a faculty member at York University, independent scholar Robert Hanke (Ph.D. ‘87) recently published the book A Smarter Toronto: Some Reassembly Required (Palgrave Macmillan Cham). 


Professional writer Michael A. Grant (M.A.C ‘94) has co-written several books about athletics in Jamaica with Jamaican track and field analyst Hubert Lawrence. Their newest book, Fifty Days Afire: Inside Jamaica's Long Sprint to Freedom (Great House Books), details the history of the fifty greatest performances by Jamaican sprinters.

Rob Drew (Ph.D. ‘94) is a Professor of Communication at Saginaw Valley State University. His new book, Unspooled: How the Cassette Made Music Shareable, was recently published by Duke University Press.

Michael Baron (M.A.C ‘94) is currently completing a Master's degree in Computers and Information Technology (MCIT) at Penn Engineering, as well as teaching courses in the MCIT program. He is also a core lecturer at Northwestern University, where he teaches the Master's level course, “Statistics for Research in Public Policy and Administration.” 

Susan Roberts (M.A.C. '99) is currently Senior Director of Preschool Content & Consumer Products Research at Nickelodeon. She recently visited Annenberg to deliver a guest lecture to the students in lecturer Kim Woolf's "Children and Media" course. Roberts was kind enough to sit down for a Q&A with us.

Journalist and opinion writer Paul Waldman (Ph.D. ‘00) has co-authored a new book, White Rural Rage: The Threat to Rural Democracy (Random House), with Tom Schaller, Professor of Political Science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

John L. Sullivan (Ph.D. ‘00), Professor and Department Chair of Media & Communication at Muhlenberg College, recently published the book Podcasting in a Platform Age (Bloomsbury Publishing).

Yael Warshel (M.A.C. '00), Assistant Professor of Telecommunications at Penn State, recently published the book, Experiencing the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Children, Peace Communication and Socialization (Cambridge University Press). It has won five awards since its release in 2021: 2024 International Studies Association Book Award Runner-up in International Communication; 2023 National Communication Association Book of the Year Award in Ethics; 2023 International Communication Association Activism, Communication and Social Justice Outstanding Book Award Honorable Mention; 2022 National Communication Association Sue DeWine Distinguished Scholarly Book Award; and the 2021 Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication pedagogy award in International Communication.


James Devitt (M.A.C. '92, Ph.D. '01) is the managing director of public affairs and an adjunct professor at New York University, where he has been working for 20 years.

In May 2023, Ron Nirenberg (M.A.C. ‘01) was elected to his fourth and final term as mayor of San Antonio, Texas 

A new novel by writer and podcaster Jo Piazza (C'02)The Sicilian Inheritance — will be published by Penguin Random House Books in April 2024. 

Jennifer Stromer-Galley (Ph.D. ‘02), Professor in Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies was recently a guest on the podcast Infoversity on the episode “How AI and social media are changing elections.”

Weiyu Zhang (Ph.D. ‘08) was recently promoted to Full Professor in the Department of Communication and New Media at the National University of Singapore.

Jasmine Nichole Cobb (Ph.D. '09), Professor of African & African American Studies and of Art, Art History, and Visual Studies at Duke University, delivered the 2024 George Gerbner Lecture in Communication: “Unsanctioned Histories: Archives, Images and Race in the United States.” She was also a guest on the season 14 premiere of the web series "Left of Black," created by the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University.

Ken Winneg (M.A.C ‘85, Ph.D. ‘09) just celebrated his 21st year as managing director of surveys at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. At APPC, he is also involved in the Annenberg Institutions of Democracy Research and the Annenberg Science and Public Health Monitor. In 2024, he will return to the ABC News election decision desk for his 17th national election.


Jessica Piotrowski (Ph.D. ‘10), Associate Professor at the University of Amsterdam, recently co-authored “Digital Media and Developing Brains: Concerns and Opportunities” in Current Addiction Reports

Michael Serazio (Ph.D. ‘10), Associate Professor of Communication at Boston College recently published the book, The Authenticity Industries: Keeping it "Real" in Media, Culture, and Politics (Stanford University Press). Read our Q&A with Serazio.

A. Susana Ramirez (Ph.D. '10), Associate Professor of Public Health at University of California Merced, has launched a newsletter — “Desperately Seeking: Musings about media, inequality, & health along with advice about productivity and parenthood in academia.”

Mario Rodriguez (Ph.D. ‘11), Assistant Professor of Media and Mass Communication at the American University in the Emirates, recently published a paper dedicated to late Professor Emeritus Klaus Krippendorff (1932 - 2022) — “‘Blame it on the Black Star’: Black Holes in Culture” in the International Academic Forum Journal of Cultural Studies.

Aymar Jean Escoffery (Ph.D. ‘12 ), Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University, delivered the keynote address at the 2023 Association of Internet Researchers conference — “Reparative Media: Cultivating Stories and Platforms to Heal our Culture.”

Emily Thorson (Ph.D. '13), Assistant Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University, is the author of the new book, The Invented State: Policy Misperceptions in the American Public (Oxford University Press).

After spending six years in Michigan, Eileen Le Han (Ph.D. ‘14) moved with her family to Texas and is now living in the Houston area. Han works remotely as a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, University of California, San Francisco. She recently received a UC research grant to study tobacco-related misinformation and its impact on Asian Americans.

Nora Draper (Ph.D. ‘14), Associate Professor of Communication at the University of New Hampshire, was recently a panelist on the Advertising & Society Quarterly discussion of Professor Joseph Turow's book, The Voice Catchers: How Marketers Listen In to Exploit Your Feelings, Your Privacy, and Your Wallet (Yale University Press). 

Rosemary Avance (Ph.D. '15), assistant professor in the School of Media and Strategic Communications at Oklahoma State University, lives in Tulsa with her husband, three kids and three dogs. Her new book, Religion in the Digital Age: The Internet and Modern Mormon Identity (University of Utah Press) is slated to be published in 2025. She is currently completing a grant-funded community research project with the Oklahoma Media Center on Oklahoma’s local news ecosystem, with an emphasis on rural journalism and informal news networks. Read more about her research. 

Sandra Ristovska (Ph.D. '16), Assistant Professor of Media Studies in the College of Media, Communication and Information at the University of Colorado Boulder, co-authored "Preparing Publicly Engaged Scholars: A Guide for Innovation in Doctoral Education," a new report from the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS).

Yoel Roth (Ph.D. ‘16) is currently the Knight Visiting Scholar at the Center for Media at Risk at Annenberg. We spoke to him about his research on trust and safety on the internet.

Michelle Jeong (Ph.D. ’16), Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, recently received a K01 grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health to study the impact of exposure to branded e-cigarette marketing on youth.

Jingwen Zhang (Ph.D. '16) Assistant Professor at the University of California, Davis, won the American Public Health Association K. Everett M. Rogers Award, which honors outstanding contributions to advancing the study and/or practice of public health communication. 

Lyndsey Beutin (Ph.D. ‘18), Assistant Professor of Communication Studies & Media Arts at McMaster University, recently published her debut book, Trafficking in Antiblackness: Modern-Day Slavery, White Indemnity, and Racial Justice (Duke University Press). We spoke with her about the book.

Corrina Laughlin (Ph.D. ‘18) recently accepted an Assistant Professor position at Loyola Marymount University.

Nour Halabi (Ph.D. ‘18) is the co-editor of the new book, Middle Eastern Television Drama: Politics, Aesthetics, Practices (Routledge).

Elena Maris (Ph.D. ‘18), Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago recently wrote “The Humanities Can't Save Big Tech From Itself” for Wired and was a guest on the Državljan D podcast.

Eunji Kim (Ph.D. ‘19), Assistant Professor, Columbia University, won the Best Paper in Asian Pacific American Politics Award from the Western Political Science Association for her paper with Cindy Kam — “Othering in Everyday Life: Anti-Chinese Bias in the COVID-19 Pandemic” — in Public Opinion Quarterly.


Douglas Guilbeault (Ph.D. ‘20), Assistant Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, recently published “Online images amplify gender bias” in Nature.

Stefanie Gratale (Ph.D. ’20), Postdoctoral Fellow at Rutgers University, recently received a 5 K01 grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health to study the impact of misleading tobacco marketing on youth and young adults.

Prateekshit "Kanu" Pandey (Ph.D. ‘22) accepted an Assistant Professor position at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Celeste Wagner (Ph.D. ‘22), currently Assistant Professor at Journalism at the University of Florida, will be joining Rutgers University as an assistant professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies in the fall.

Mohammed A. Salih (Ph.D. ‘22), Foreign Policy Research Institute Senior Fellow, recently spoke at the Foreign Policy Research Institute webinar “Iraqi Kurdistan Peshmerga Reforms: Progress, Setbacks, and the Path Forward.”

Kelly Diaz (Ph.D. ‘23) recently accepted the position of Postdoctoral Fellow at Swarthmore College’s Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility. She was also a guest on the Leftist Teen Drama podcast episode, “'We’ll Stay Here Until We Get That Pill’: The ‘Felicity’ Sit-In Episode.”

Ava Kikut-Stein (Ph.D. ‘23) was awarded the 2024 Abby Prestin Dissertation of the Year Award from the The International Communication Association and National Communication Association Health Communication Divisions for her dissertation: “What You Know or Who You Trust? Examining the Main and Interaction Effects of Behavioral Beliefs and Source Trust on Prevention Behaviors Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic with Longitudinal Survey, Experimental, and Youth Participatory Action Research.”