Learning to adapt in a time of upheaval. Treating employees and others with understanding in a time of crisis. Finding ways to pivot in times of trouble. Four alumni shared how Fordham has impacted their careers in the media and entertainment industries at a virtual event on April 26 titled “Community Building in the Time of Binge-Watching.”
The event was the third in a series, hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations in partnership with the Office of Undergraduate Admission, designed to appeal to Fordham graduates as well as newly admitted undergraduate students and their families.
Here are some of the stories Fordham alumni shared.
Learning to Be Flexible
Before the pandemic hit New York City in March 2020, Javier Morgado, GABELLI ’06, had never produced a TV show from home. Morgado, the executive producer of CNN’s 11 a.m. weekday show At This Hour with Kate Bolduan, said he remembered being sent home on a Friday in mid-March, unsure of how he and his team would pull off their next show.
“I remember … getting a note from the president of CNN saying, starting on Monday, I need you to do your show from home and figure it out. We’ve never done that,” he said. “Adjusting to change is part of reality in the business of entertainment and news.”
It’s something Morgado said he had to do as a graduate student at Fordham’s Gabelli School of Business.
“I started grad school in January of ’03, and America went to war in Iraq in March of ’03, so I was barely eight weeks in and I worked on the international desk at NBC, and now I was faced with being a part-time business student, needing to tell my professors that I can’t go to class because we’re at war,” he said.
Morgado said that his professors were extremely willing work with him to help him make it through graduate school.
“I actually found all of my professors beyond accommodating—they completely understood what I did,” he said. “Most of the other students in my classes were finance people or people that were marketers and accounting types, so [they were]like, ‘OK, we get it. You’re the news guy. No problem.’ And we found ways to work around it.”
Samara Finn Holland, FCLC ’03, senior vice president at Kaplow Communications, said that Fordham taught her practical life skills that help her remain flexible in a changing work environment, something she tells people to this day when they ask her about what she learned in school.
“I learned how to problem solve. I learned how to ask questions. I learned how to critically think. I learned skills that I’m applying every single day, no matter what type of project … I’m working on,” she said.
Amen Igbinosun, GABELLI ’10, an actor, producer, and teacher at California State University in Los Angeles, had been directing a play in March 2020, but COVID-19 caused that project to end abruptly. He said lessons he learned at Fordham helped him get through a difficult time.
“I was upset and quite concerned, but at the same time, people were getting sick—I had members of my family get sick, so I was a lot more concerned about other things during that time period,” he said. “But I do think that one of the great things … about Fordham is that they don’t teach you how to be a cog in the machine—you know, just shuffling papers. I was able to think outside the box.”
He said the pandemic gave him a chance to turn back to personal projects he is passionate about, such as telling stories of the African diaspora in the United States.
“I was able to engage my community,” said Igbinosun, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Rahway, New Jersey. “I was able to continue engaging my craft, continue to stay afloat during this time of uncertainty.”
For Morgado, who got his MBA from Fordham, the past year has made him think back to a class he took with James A.F. Stoner, Ph.D., called “Management, Spirituality, and Religion.”
“We’re [usually]taught to manage by looking at profit and loss statements and bottom lines,” but Stoner’s course focused on the benefits of “managing with compassion and heart, and understanding that people are human,” he said. “That was never more tested than in the last year.”
Morgado said he had to communicate uncertainty to the members of his team and help them deal with their fears about getting sick and working during a pandemic.
“How do you deal with all that? I would say that the backbone of all that was birthed in that classroom, and little did I know 15 years later, it would play out with a global pandemic while I was managing my own show,” he said. “But Fordham made me ready.”
Learning from Your Connections
Besides learning from her professors, Zubi Ahmed, FCRH ’12, a writer, comedian, filmmaker, and host of Kutti Gang, a live comedy show featuring South Asian performers based in Brooklyn, said that learning from her classmates at Fordham really helped her in her professional and personal life.
Ahmed said she met a fellow student through Fordham’s Commuting Students Association who said that he tried to reflect daily on what was happening to him and take notes on it each day. That lesson on the value of reflection and journaling stuck with her, and it became something she did to get through the pandemic.
“I literally just started to reflect on everything that I had gone through— if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t have realized how far I had come and how much growth there has been,” she said. “I did have to take therapy, and that helps a lot, but [a lot of]that is realizing what parts of your life do you want to grow in. Reflecting has definitely helped me, and that’s something that I learned from Fordham.”
Taking Advantage of New York
One of the biggest things that impacted Igbinosun’s career was the access that Fordham provided him while in school. As a football player in the business school, Igbinosun said he and some of his teammates decided to take Invitation to Theater as one of their electives. As part of the course, students went to see plays throughout New York City and then discussed them in class.
Seeing King Lear performed at the Classical Theatre of Harlem was life-altering for Igbinosun, who has gone to act in TV shows, such as TNT’s hit show The Last Ship, History Channel miniseries Texas Rising, and Tina Fey’s multicamera comedy pilot The Kicker.
“It was an all-Black cast, and it was the first time in my life that I saw someone who looked like me, a Black man, walk on stage and say, ‘I am king,’” he said. “And I believed them. It was so powerful for me to see those images that instantly I had to stop what I was doing in the business school, and I ran into the theatre program.”
Igbinosun, who graduated with a business degree and theatre minor, said that he immediately began spending countless hours in Walsh Library reading stories and plays by Black authors, while also creating his own works.
“That kindling happened at that time I was at Fordham, where I was vulnerable to receiving ideas and collaborating and thinking of what could be,” he said.
“Community Building in the Time of Binge-Watching” was one of three events in a series titled From Fordham to Your Field. Read about the two other events in this series, “Forge Your Own Path: Creative Career Journeys” and “Caring for Others in a Pandemic.”