Jennifer Sawyer, FCRH ’09, forged a career in communications as a producer at the Martha Stewart Show and Yahoo, but she didn’t find the work completely fulfilling.
“[I]t was amazing to have a video you produced watched by over a million people and exciting to be part of such a crazy, whirlwind world,” says Sawyer, but “I kept coming back to this nagging desire to do something that … allowed me to connect with people in a deeper way.”
She’s found that as a digital content producer at Busted Halo, an online magazine for young adults exploring their spirituality.
“I’m doing social media, I’m writing and producing some video, and doing some strategic planning—basically giving my voice of how we can reach more people in their 20s,” she says.
The Massachusetts native came to Fordham with a faith she practiced “out of tradition, but never really something I thought deeply about” until she got involved with two Fordham programs: Global Outreach, which is a cultural immersion and service program, and the University’s Francis and Ann Curran Center for American Catholic Studies.
“I was drawn to how much the professors really invest in you as a student,” she says. “We had this all-encompassing way of experiencing our faith and studying our faith.”
The Curran Center offers lectures and public conferences on myriad topics in Catholicism. It also offers a concentration in American Catholic studies, which Sawyer combined with a major in communications and a minor in sociology.
As a member of the Curran Center Advisory Board, Sawyer recently came back to campus to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the naming of the center. The gala event honored the center’s benefactors, John Curran, PhD, PHA ’66, and Constance Curran.
“It’s been thrilling to see [the center] grow and to meet some of the students currently in the program,” she says. “And to reconnect with [founding director Mark Massa, SJ,] and the people who made it a really special place.”
During her sophomore year at Fordham, Sawyer took a kind of leap of faith—even flying on a plane for the very first time—when she participated in two Global Outreach (GO) trips, first to Mexico and later to Glenmary, a missionary farm in rural Kentucky.
“At Fordham, I developed this awareness of the injustices happening everywhere—from our community in the Bronx to our country to outside of it. I think the Jesuits really brought to the surface this [idea that we should] go out into the world and be with people who are most in need,” she says.
Sawyer says the service trips made her “a better leader” and spurred her to chaperone GO Navajo in 2011, “a fantastic experience … to be with students who were experiencing a lot of those feelings and questions that I had as an undergrad.”
She also found a Fordham home away from home with The Ram. She joined the student newspaper staff two weeks into her freshman year, and it “evolved into one of the greatest parts of my time at Fordham,” says Sawyer, who held various editorial roles for four years.
She also practiced her journalism training through internships—at a local newspaper in Massachusetts, a small PR agency, and the Martha Stewart Show, where Sawyer returned for a full-time job after graduating from Fordham in 2009. There, she helped produce cooking and health segments until the show ended its run in 2012, when she moved on to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and the Cooking Channel.
Sawyer, who had originally envisioned a career writing at a magazine, embraced this new path: “It’s still storytelling, just in a different way and a different medium.”
She spent two years at Yahoo as a producer on the celebrity interview show Daily Shot with Ali Wentworth and a photography show called the Weekly Flickr. She also worked with Katie Couric on news videos.
But a feeling of restlessness troubled Sawyer. “I kept coming back to the question, ‘Am I doing the most good that I can in my job?’”
She found an opportunity to combine her faith and her media background at Busted Halo, which is published by the Paulist Fathers with offices at St. Paul the Apostle Church, across the street from Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus.
Sawyer says that St. Paul’s “allowed me to continue the same sort of spirit that Fordham did in terms of keeping my faith in check and meeting a slew of amazing young adults doing great things.”
“If I can help other young adults have those conversations in the way Fordham allowed me to see how relevant faith is in my daily life,” Sawyer says of her job at Busted Halo, “that’s exciting to me.”
With a heart for serving others and an interest in travel, Sawyer regularly volunteers in communities locally and abroad. She’s traveled with her church to Nicaragua, worked at a Catholic children’s camp in Mississippi, and done several service projects in New York City.
“[P]art of how I found my way in my career as a storyteller is because I love to connect with people and love to get to know their backgrounds and where they come from,” Sawyer says, “and experience life as they do.
– Rachel Buttner