Mariama Jalloh ’22 could barely believe her eyes when she got an email about hosting Syracuse University’s virtual Commencement ceremonies. “I checked the ‘cc’ field to make sure it wasn’t a scam,” says Jalloh, a junior majoring in broadcast and digital journalism at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications . “After making a few inquiries, I found out that the nomination was legit. I submitted a resume reel, and a week later I got the gig.”
Jalloh is excited—and admittedly nervous—to host a livestream of the University’s signature event in the newly renovated stadium on May 22-23. She is confident that her Newhouse education will carry the day. “I’m grateful to have this opportunity as a student. It’s a chance to showcase my skills and hone my craft before a large online audience.”
Being surrounded, once again, by students and their families—it will be heartwarming.—Mariama Jalloh ’22
She will share hosting duties with fellow broadcast and digital journalism major Ricky Sayer ’21, who graduates in December. Like Jalloh, he learned of his nomination last month via email.
Sayer is thrilled to represent not only the Newhouse School but also the Class of 2021. “It will be great to see everyone together again,” says Sayer, a veteran of CitrusTV, the University’s student-run television studio. “There’s already an air of excitement and anticipation on campus.”
Making an Impact
Jalloh had wanted to attend Syracuse University for as long as she’d wanted to be a journalist, but money was tight. Thanks to support from the Our Time Has Come and the Invest in SUccess scholarship programs, she was able to transfer to Syracuse from her local community college during her sophomore year.
Since then, Jalloh has proven her mettle on campus and in the community. A member of the Dean’s List and Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, she participates in the African Student Union and in the Juvenile Urban Multicultural Program, which mentors underprivileged high school students. “I believe in giving back,” says Jalloh, who is concerned about the nation’s dropout crisis. “Everyone needs someone to believe in them.”
Her commitment is evident back home in Reading, Pennsylvania, where she faithfully volunteers for the Islamic Society of Berks County. She recently observed the holy month of Ramadan by cooking and preparing meals for those unable to do so.
Perhaps it is her empathy for others that makes this aspiring journalist a gifted storyteller. Professor of Practice Les Rose considers Jalloh a star in the classroom despite her reserved demeanor. “Mariama represents the best of Newhouse and the University,” he says, describing her as skilled and ever evolving. “She is proof that sometimes the quiet students make the biggest impact.”
I’m grateful to have this opportunity as a student. It’s a chance to showcase my skills and hone my craft before a large online audience.—Mariama Jalloh ’22
One thing is certain—Jalloh is thrilled to return to the stadium. Aside from the occasional COVID-19 test, she has not set foot in the building since attending a men’s basketball game in February 2020. Meanwhile, the facility has undergone a $118 million facelift.
“I can’t wait to see how everything looks,” says Jalloh, who plans to spend the summer interning in New York City and serving as a T.A. on campus. “Being surrounded, once again, by students and their families—it will be heartwarming.”
Holding His Own
Ricky Sayer also is a Pennsylvanian with a passion for reporting. Since the age of 13, he has been creating “packages”—self-contained taped news reports—that have earned him a loyal online following. His Twitter handle, @RickyReports , is popular among Syracuse students, thousands of whom regularly turn to his account for campus news.
He credits Newhouse for molding him into a social media savvy investigative reporter. “I may have taught myself how to be a journalist, but Syracuse has taught me how to be a good TV reporter,” says Sayer, named 2021 Newcomer of the Year by the Syracuse Press Club. He also has been recognized by the Society for Professional Journalists, the Hearst Journalism Awards Program and the Broadcast Education Association (BEA).
The Class of 2021 has been through a lot. We’ve learned how to come together, to be a source of inspiration for each other.—Ricky Sayer ’21
The Bryn Mawr native is a fixture at CitrusTV, where he spends 40 hours a week as an executive producer, programming director and reporter. Of the hundreds of stories that he has produced for the station, he is especially proud of last fall’s piece on President Joseph R. Biden Jr. L’68, H’09. “I took an in-depth look at his time at Syracuse through the eyes of those who knew him then,” says Sayer, who subsequently earned a BEA Award of Excellence for Television Long-Form Reporting. “It was great digging into his past, getting to know some of his close friends and colleagues.”
In his spare time, Sayer serves as news director of WJPZ-FM (Z98 Radio), the University’s student-run radio station, and as an on-air intern at WBNG-TV, the CBS affiliate in Binghamton. This summer, he will travel to Washington, D.C., to participate in a graduate capstone course, providing reporting duties for Nexstar-owned television stations. “Ricky will more than hold his own in the nation’s news capital,” says Associate Professor Chris Tuohey, who chairs the broadcast and digital journalism program. “He’s one of the most motivated students I’ve ever seen.”
Rose agrees, recalling the time Sayer ditched class to cover a breaking news story. “How does a prof deal with that?” he asks half-jokingly. “Ricky is the rarest of students—a reporter who must attend class on occasion.”
Sayer will draw on his extensive background, which includes stints at CBS News in New York and NBC10 Philadelphia, to provide color commentary for Commencement, which is being split into three ceremonies because of state-mandated COVID-19 event attendance restrictions.
“The Class of 2021 has been through a lot,” Sayer adds. “We’ve learned how to come together, to be a source of inspiration for each other. The best way we can make a difference is to be true to ourselves.”