Zoe Selesi ’22 grew up moving between California, Nigeria and, most recently, England. By the time she was 18 years old and an incoming first-year student at Syracuse University, she had attended 11 different schools.
At the start of her college search, Selesi was determined to attend a school in the United States where she could spend all four undergraduate years. “I was definitely looking for my forever school,” she says with a laugh. For Selesi, that meant a campus with abundant student clubs and organizations, diverse communities, and opportunities to be involved in a wide range of academic and extracurricular experiences. Syracuse quickly became a top choice after she saw videos by social media influencer Margot De Riemer ’20 (who goes by Margot Lee), a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School for Public Communications. Though Selesi had to make her selection without a campus visit, she knew Syracuse was the right fit, and she arrived excited to make the most of her time here.
It’s going to be a great year. I know I’m going to do so many new things, meet so many more people—I’ll just be living my best life!—Zoe Selesi '22
The Appeal of the Press Pass
Selesi had become captivated by the possibilities of journalism when she was still a student in England and, hoping to hone her writing skills, started producing pieces for an online publication aimed at teens. Her work led to an invitation to cover the London premiere of the movie Black Panther and then to interviews with director Ava DuVernay and actor Storm Reid of A Wrinkle in Time. “It was beyond belief,” she says. “I was in the press junket, and everyone else was from Buzzfeed or BBC or Sky News—and then there’s me, just a teenager who doesn’t know a lot about writing, but there I was interviewing these super cool people!”
At the start of her sophomore year, Selesi declared magazine, news and digital journalism in the Newhouse School as her major. Now a rising senior, she says the program has helped her gain confidence and develop skills that she puts into practice outside of her coursework. Selesi served as the web editor for Renegade, a student-run general interest magazine focused on the Black community at Syracuse, and took the lead on rebuilding their website. This year, she and three of her closest friends will launch a podcast series they’ve been developing based on their diverse perspectives on the college experience.
Giving and Receiving Through Mentorship
Selesi gravitated toward opportunities for mentorship, and these have powerfully and positively shaped her college experience. As a first-year student she discovered Dimensions, a peer-to-peer mentoring program for women of color run out of the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Weekly discussions with her Dimensions community helped her navigate the homesickness and culture shock she felt upon returning to the United States after a 10-year absence. “It has really helped to be part of this group of awesome women,” she says. “We relate to what we are each going through, and we’re here for each other every step of the way.” Selesi now has an internship with the program and serves as a mentor.
During her senior year, she will also be the president of Margins, a mentorship program founded by two Newhouse students in 2019 to connect students from marginalized and underrepresented populations with industry professionals—many of them alumni—for guidance through their years at the University and beyond. Margins’ industry focus means it offers a unique kind of comradery and support, Selesi explains, and provides students with connections to help them thrive in their professional journeys.
It has really helped to be part of this group of awesome women. We relate to what we are each going through, and we’re here for each other every step of the way.—Zoe Selesi '22
In her first year on campus, Selesi connected with an upperclassman who has proven to be one of her most influential mentors so far. She met Kelsey Davis ’19, G’20 while Davis was finishing her bachelor’s degree in television, radio and film, which she followed with a master’s in entrepreneurship from the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. At that point, Davis had already founded CLLCTVE, a platform designed to allow Generation Z content creators (those born around 1997-2012) to share their portfolios, connect and network. Selesi reached out to Davis and was soon able to join CLLCTVE as a writer. Over the past two years, Selesi has served in several roles and is currently the digital content editor. “I’ve learned so much at CLLCTVE,” Selesi says. “It’s a start-up environment, and Kelsey is so forward thinking. I’ve been able to participate in so many different ways, and that has really helped me get a sense of the kind of work I love to do.”
Living Her Best Life
While mentorship has shaped her vision of the future, Selesi has never lost her determination to be involved in a wide range of campus activities and enjoy every moment to the fullest.
She appreciates the opportunities she’s had to pursue interests outside of her major. Selesi has long been an enthusiast of Korean entertainment media and has expanded on this appreciation with a minor in Asian/Asian American studies through the College of Arts and Sciences. And although COVID-19 thwarted her plans to study in Korea with the Syracuse Abroad World Partner Program, she has found her study of Korean language very gratifying and has been fascinated by what she’s learned in courses delving into Asian culture and history.
Selesi counts the friendships she’s made at Syracuse among her most valuable experiences. She recently joined Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity, and is looking forward to the new opportunities, experiences and connections this membership will introduce. “It’s going to be a great year,” she says. “I know I’m going to do so many new things, meet so many more people—I’ll just be living my best life!”