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Howard X NPR Day 2024!

Jeezy and Howard students at the Tiny Desk
Sommer Hill
Jeezy and Howard students at the Tiny Desk

Upon receiving the email invitation for the NPR X Howard networking event, I was overjoyed as an aspiring audio reporter. NPR is a place where I envision my future, and the entire experience, from the headquarters tour to the exhilarating Tiny Desk concert featuring Jeezy, was incredibly thrilling. Attending a Tiny Desk concert has been a long-desired dream for me, and I have to say I loved it! The warmth and hospitality of the staff made the event even more enjoyable.

-Trinity Kinslow, Senior, Howard University

I have always tuned into NPR's website and YouTube page, so it was really cool getting to see the newsroom and how the station regularly operates. I love how NPR uses culture and communication to not only inform but connect with people, and it was reflected very well during the tour, panel, and of course the Tiny Desk Concert!

-Olivia Blevins, Senior, Howard University

How did this come about?

NPR's Content Development and Learning team wanted to get some Howard connections so that NPR could begin building out university partnerships for future internship opportunities. Christine Cox, Early Career Specialist, reached out to Sommer Hill, Senior Social Media Associate and the Co-lead for NPR Noir, NPR's Black employee resource group (ERG) and a 2019 graduate of Howard University.

The details...

Christine and Sommer brought in current Howard student, Trinity Kinslow, Senior, Journalism student and School of Communications Director of Special Projects, as a point of contact on the ground. They knew for certain that students would want to see a Tiny Desk concert (because who wouldn't) and checked with the music team for the February lineup. Jeezy had just been slated.

Michel Martin, Co-Host of Morning Edition and Up First, Gene Demby, Co-Host of Code Switch, Jonathan Franklin, Reporter for Newshub and Alante Serene, Visuals Assistant Producer for NPR Music, agreed to speak to the group.

Invitations sent!

Trinity created an invitation, and on January 24th, we posted it on Instagram with the Howard University School of Communications council and NPR Extra. The 40 slots were filled by the end of the day.

Game Day!

Trinity Kinslow, Alante Serene, Gene Demby, Jonathan Franklin, Michel Martin
/ Sommer Hill
Sommer Hill
Trinity Kinslow, Alante Serene, Gene Demby, Jonathan Franklin, Michel Martin

The day started with welcoming remarks, introductions from our tour leaders, Chuck Roberts, Facilities Specialist and Howard Alum, Ajani Daniel, Production Operations Specialist, Kristin Wright, Newscast Editor, and Darrius Cook, Production Operations Specialist, a surprise message from Bobby Carter, Tiny Desk Senior Producer and rules from Head of Security, Bill Wright. This is also when students were told whose Tiny Desk they would be seeing. The studio erupted in applause and the tour started.

Finally: The Tiny Desk. The students were so excited! Bobby arranged for them to get in the front row. After the concert was over, Jeezy came directly to the Howard students and took a few group photos. He yelled out "HU" and of course, the students responded "YOU KNOW!". It was truly an iconic moment.

It's not over yet!

Alante Serene, Jonathan Franklin, Trinity Kinslow, Gene Demby, Michel Martin, Sommer Hill
/ Christine Cox
Christine Cox
Alante Serene, Jonathan Franklin, Trinity Kinslow, Gene Demby, Michel Martin, Sommer Hill

Following the Tiny Desk Concert, Trinity Kinslow moderated a panel with Michel Martin, Gene Demby, Jonathan Franklin and Alante Serene. Each panelist gave specific and thoughtful advice. Michel said "When I started out, the attitude was: you are the master of substance but the employer is the master of style... You want to get to the point where you are the master of both." Students were engaged and had the opportunity to ask questions following the panel. Finally, to wrap the day up, Christine and Sommer instructed NPR employees to meet us in the lobby for a meet and greet mixer. Students networked with NPR employees, asked questions, got contact information and shared their printed resume.

The highlight for me was the panel discussion featuring Alanté Millow, Gene Demby, Jonathan Franklin, and Michel Martin. These individuals are my role models, inspiring me to persevere in my work. The networking hour presented a valuable opportunity, and I was fortunate to engage in a discussion with Gene Demby to refine a story idea.

I extend my sincere gratitude to Sommer Hill, Christine Cox, and Trinity Kinslow for orchestrating this opportunity for Howard students. Witnessing the strength of the Howard community in this setting is truly uplifting. I eagerly anticipate future opportunities with NPR and hope that the collaborative relationship between Howard and NPR continues to thrive. It is crucial for esteemed news organizations like NPR to consistently partner with HBCUs, contributing to the cultivation of the next generation of dedicated Black storytellers, producers, hosts, directors, content creators, reporters, and executives.

-Trinity Webster Bass, Junior, Howard University

That's a wrap!

The students walked out of NPR feeling more connected to the organization. They were also inspired by all the different departments they saw. We have gotten so many thank you messages from both the students, professors and my colleagues at NPR. We can definitely say it was a success and we hope this is a blueprint for future endeavors.

"Every organization I work for, I certainly bring what I have learned from Howard with me and I try to bring new Howard students into the building as well. On February 6th, I was able to accomplish that at NPR," said Sommer Hill.

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Sommer Hill
Sommer Hill (she/her) is the social media senior associate for NPR Extra. She started with NPR in May 2021. Her primary responsibilities include managing the social media accounts for NPR Extra, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and TikTok, as well as managing the NPR Extra blog.