CNN News Editor & OU Alumnus Welcomes ‘Pegasus Creative’ Behind the Scenes

Joe Sutton '09

Last semester, I made one of the best decisions of my undergraduate career: I became a part of Pegasus Creative, Oglethorpe’s student communications agency, launched in the fall by the University Communications department. Thanks to Pegasus, I’ve gained hands-on experience, internship credit, and the confidence that can only come from a supportive, skillful team. (For those students out there, with summer internship orientation around the corner, why not consider applying to Pegasus?)

One of the (numerous!) great things about Pegasus is that we are offered field studies—we’re required to complete at least one—to enhance our skills and learn about other real world communications careers. Recently, my co-workers and I ventured on one such trip: a behind-the-scenes tour of CNN, courtesy of Joe Sutton ’09 (an alumnus of Oglethorpe’s program for adult students), who generously took time out of his busy schedule to show us around his workplace. Joe has quickly climbed the so-called ladder of success, earning numerous promotions, and is now a news editor and journalist for CNN. He oversees the editorial direction and news gathering for 13 states and serves as the liaison between the Washington, D.C. bureau and CNN headquarters. He credits much of his early success to Oglethorpe.

“The least I can do is stay in contact with the institution that has made me who I am and the education that has allowed me to take on any damn thing I put my mind to,” said Joe. “Being at school late at night and taking some weekend classes helped me fully prepare to take on more complex, time-devoting career positions. I understand how to manage time effectively and juggle multiple projects simultaneously, and I love being under pressure and deadlines… What I set my eyes and mind on, I usually get! That’s the stormy petrel in me.”

“It was a great opportunity to see things up close and in person,” said Zach Kevorkian ’13, Pegasus’s graphic designer. “The exclusivity of it made us feel like we were part of the excitement. The fact that our tour was personalized by an alum made it all the better, and I was grateful for the fun afternoon with my friends at Pegasus!”

Caitlyn Mitchell '13 in CNN's Command Center.

Joe showed us numerous offices including International Headquarters, the Command Center, and his own workspace, which he called “the heart of CNN.” We were given the opportunity to sit across from an anchor as she delivered her news report (live!), and to ask questions about Joe’s daily life at CNN. Between that, watching the process of a breaking news report, and posing with the majestic Lady Rainicorn (of the Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time” series), I can’t decide what I most enjoyed!

“My favorite part of the trip was seeing the control room,” said Chandler Anderson ’13, web content developer at Pegasus. “The director analyzed the various camera shots to determine which one was the most effective, and relayed that information to his crew. It was incredible seeing all of this important behind-the-scenes work done before my eyes.”

“I was impressed at how fast it all is,” added Caitlyn Mitchell ’13, former magazine features writer for Pegasus. “You know that news is speed, and that the turnaround time has to be near instantaneous, but you don’t realize until you’re seeing it that there are stations across the United States…ready to leap at a moment’s notice. My favorite part of the trip was definitely sitting in the command chair in the “Command Center”—yes, they really called it that! I was doing my best…not [to] touch any of those incredibly tempting buttons.”

“Joe Sutton gave us a tour that was unlike any tour I’ve ever gotten,” added Rebecca Williams ’13, editor of the adult degree program’s newsletter The Nightcap and friend of Pegasus. “We were able to see important procedures—like filming the news—that we would otherwise never see. (Joe) is widely respected by everyone there. It’s undeniable that he will continue to do great and amazing things for CNN!”

This opportunity would not have been possible without Pegasus—and would not have been possible if I had not pursued an internship at Pegasus. It is not enough to be supplied with opportunities, but to take them as they come. Pegasus showed me an exciting career choice that I had not previously considered, and internships like Pegasus can make all the difference in paving the path to your future.

“Internships are essential to determining who you are as a person,” said Joe. “In media, there are plentiful internships in various departments. Be flexible, be savvy, be astute in global news, (and) be committed. Generally, I find that saying ‘yes’ is a good thing…it opens many doors of opportunities in the business.”

Attention Oglethorpe students! For me, Pegasus opened the door, and it can provide many opportunities for you as well. If I’ve persuaded you to join our team, or if another internship opportunity calls to you, contact Debbie Aiken in University Communications.  Opportunity is knocking, and you only have to answer!

Finding My Way at the Modern Media Conference

As a senior at Oglethorpe, my current goals involve deciding where I want to go with my life, which paths I wish to embark upon and which journeys I will undertake.  Ironically, on a physical plane, my navigational abilities are not exactly “present.”  Maps and signs befuddle me, as do landmarks, and I can find myself getting lost in ways that are so bizarre as to be impressive… from a certain angle, that is.  While my “impressive” skills at getting lost were no different at Georgia State’s Modern Media Conference (it took me half an hour to find the cafeteria), in a deeper sense, there was some direction to be found—the type of direction that every college senior ultimately desires.

Debra Bryant '12 and Marisa Manuel '13 at the conference

I chose to attend Georgia State’s conference because of my editor position with The Tower literary magazine, as well as my internship with Oglethorpe’s Pegasus Creative (the University Communication department’s newly-launched student communications agency that gives us the opportunity to gain real world experience in a collaborative team environment).  The conference, held September 28-29, was packed with more than 20 guest speakers from major media outlets such as CNN, ESPN, WSB-TV, HLN, and WXIA.   I was accompanied by Director of Communications Renee Vary, Assistant Director Debbie Aiken ’12, and Pegasus Creative’s Web Content Development Intern Debra Bryant ’12 (who also came on behalf of The Nightcap, the Evening Degree Program’s newsletter.)

The four of us had numerous lectures to choose from, some headed by photojournalists, others by newspaper editors, and a few by the professors at Georgia State themselves. The variety of seminars offered went far beyond what I had anticipated, and I used up an entire booklet taking notes on what was discussed.

Throughout the course of the day, I was able to attend five sessions, ranging from a passionate lecture called “Get to the Damn Point!” (something which I have admittedly not done yet—read on!) to an informative presentation on what makes student government an exciting body to report on. (As a member of our school’s SGA, this was especially topical for me!).  Journalist and Editor Michael Koretzky ended the conference with several stories concerning his own experiences in the professional world; he encouraged the audience to “be fired for the right reason,” before recounting several situations in which he was fired for just that.

So, what is the “darn” point of me writing this?  Well, there are several points I wish to share with you—I had fun, I learned a lot, and I hope to have more opportunities like this in the future.  Is this where I want to go with my life?  Do I want to work in PR, journalism, broadcasting, or some other form of media?  I don’t know, but I now see them as options, which puts me a step closer to finding my way than I was before.

Will & Drive: One OU Student’s Comeback Story

In this CNN video report, Will Carter ’12 demonstrates how an electronic device has enabled him to drive again after a brain injury.

Like many Oglethorpe students, Will Carter ’12 has found “his place” over the past three years, carving out his niche in theatre and slowly making a name for himself in Atlanta’s crowd of amateur stand-up comics.  But unlike most others, Will has had to overcome remarkable odds to get here, a story that he tells with pride on the CNN Health blog this week.

The rising senior and award-winning playwright has always enjoyed the performing arts, and as a youngster he enjoyed watching comedians perform on stage.

“I have always been a kid who loves to make people laugh,” recalls Will.  “I would watch a lot of stand-up when I was younger…when Toy Story first came out, I quoted it constantly just to make people laugh.”

But at age 17, Will was involved in a head-on car accident that left him with a severe brain injury and a long road to recovery ahead.  The once highly confident high school student had become wheelchair bound, he’d lost his ability to drive, and tasks that once came easy to him, like studying, took more focus and concentration than ever before. Continue reading

OU Alum & Students Link Up For Star-Studded Conference

Trustee Trish Treadwell (right) mingles with OU students during an alumni event last fall.

Last week, Oglethorpe alumna and trustee Trish Treadwell ’96  sponsored several OU students to attend the Seventh Annual Spelman College Leadership Conference for Women of Color.  The two-day intergenerational event attracts thousands of women of color from around the world, and this year, Treadwell accompanied five young future leaders to the conference:  Stephanie Perello ’12, Zena Stephens ’13, Keturah Thomas ’13, Erica Blake ’13, and Malika Whitley, a 2011 OU graduate.

This year’s conference theme, “Reset: Sustaining Women for 21st Century Leadership,” stemmed from the concept that women of color, in particular, feel obligated to take care of others—often at the expense of themselves.  The modern woman juggles her responsibilities as a student, as a family member, and as a business and community leader. More than 40 professional men and women spoke at the conference, including CNN journalist Soledad O’Brien, Olympian Bonnie St. John, and Kimberly Davis, president of JP Morgan and Chase Foundation.

To Malika Whitley ’11, who is a member of Oglethorpe’s 2011-12 IDEX Fellowship for Social Enterprise, many of the speakers’ points hit home.  As an IDEX fellow, she will be challenged to create ways to improve India’s Affordable Schools.   “I enjoyed all of the speakers but what Soledad O’Brien had to say really struck me the most,” said Whitley.  “She has just finished a new documentary about motivating students in failing schools, and she spoke about giving children resources and incentives to come to school.  Many people in both the United States and in India view school as a luxury, but by giving students something to show their parents—something to attest to the benefit of schooling, we can change this notion.  I plan to take these ideas with me when I go to India.”

Throughout the conference, the young women took in advice about branding, taking care of themselves professionally and personally, and training their minds to be resilient.    Continue reading

Golden Advice for ‘Life After College’


The entire room of college students grunted in unison at the encouragement of Nadia Bilchik, president of Greater Impact Communication, during her lecture last Wednesday. Nadia won over her audience with ‘power grunts’, free copies of her new book, Life After College: The New Graduate’s Guide, and most importantly, invaluable advice about thriving in the professional world.

The hot topic was networking, and Nadia stressed the importance of strategically building relationships (and eventually a network) through connection, conversation, and collaboration. When Nadia first came to America from South Africa in 1997, she says that she didn’t know anyone. And now, she hosts CNN’s Weekend Morning Passport with TJ Holmes.

Nadia Bilchik (center) with OU students, including her daughter Alexa Kesler '14 (second from right).

Nadia painted a picture of networking as a reciprocal process, saying “it’s not just about being a go-getter—success is about being a go-giver.” As a sophomore already thinking about how to go about building a career, that really resonated. She explained that people feel good about giving, but they won’t respond well if you’re demanding. According to Nadia, you have to be aware of how you approach people because they may not remember exactly what you say to them, but they will definitely remember the way you made them feel. And the way you make them feel starts precisely with how you feel about yourself.

Nadia encourages us to “always light the fire,” which essentially means to bring your energy and turn on a positive attitude. Naturally, humans will deal with a broad range of emotions as they go through life, but Nadia spoke about the importance of “acting up, even if you’re feeling down,” particularly in the workplace. Her secret? She channels positive emotions from moments when she’s been happy.

There were many lessons to be learned from Nadia: how to connect to people by expressing genuine interest in them, how to use social media to build your networking database, and how to simply avoid putting off negative energy by accessing positive memories. But, the main lesson I took away was how to take control even when feeling anxious about the future—and I already feel inspired and better prepared for what lies ahead.