The beauty of being in the NYU MS in Publishing program, according to Monica Odom, class of 2014 and the founder of Odom Media Management, is that there are “aha moments” in every class. Last week, as graduates, current students and faculty, Advisory Board members, and friends and colleagues of the program from the university and publishing communities gathered to celebrate a major milestone, the “aha moments” were everywhere. At the event marking the 25th anniversary of the esteemed program, a panel of alumni explored publishing’s past and future with heartfelt enthusiasm. A reception where guests connected and reconnected with friends old and new immediately followed the panelists’ warm words. It was both a reunion and a reimagining of what’s to come in the classroom and the world of publishing and media. As far as storytelling goes, this was as good as it gets.
The panel discussion was introduced by Gigi Dopico, Interim Provost of NYU, who spoke of the program’s deep importance to the university. In her remarks, Angie Kamath, the current Dean of the School of Professional Studies, honored both the M.S. in Publishing program and Andrea Chambers, Academic Director of the program since 2006 and now Associate Dean of the Center for Publishing and Applied Liberal Arts. After Chambers gave her own welcome speech, she was surprised with a congratulatory video featuring publishing industry leaders, students, and current faculty members.
Andrea Chambers, Associate Dean of the Center for Publishing and Applied Liberal Arts, (left) with Angie Kamath, Dean of the School of Professional Studies
The alumni panel, deftly moderated by Kim Castro ’08, the Editor and Chief Content Officer of U.S. News & World Report, focused on the Publishing program, how it influenced the careers of the panelists, and where the publishing industry is headed in the future. The panelists: Lavinel Savu ’99, the Head of Content and Editorial at Amazon Fashion, Laura Ross ’10, the Senior Manager of Commercial Strategy at Barnes and Noble, Monica Odom, and Liz Sellers ’20, an Assistant Editor with Berkeley Publishing Group at Penguin Random House, were all delighted to return to NYU to provide their perspectives on the current state of publishing and speak about their time at school. Odom looked back on how traveling to the Frankfurt Book Fair with the Publishing program helped inspire her to become a literary agent. Liz Sellers stated that she obtained an internship at Abrams by “[being] professionally annoying,” and emailing Abrams’s publisher after being connected to them through Andrea Chambers. After she shared her story, she encouraged current students to be professionally annoying, too, and event attendees laughed approvingly at the advice. On the topic of diversity and inclusion, the panelists agreed that while the industry has room for improvement, it is moving in the right direction.
When asked about which classes they would add to the current curriculum, the panelists had compelling suggestions. Savu suggested a course on e-commerce and the user experience surrounding it. Sellers thought that a grammar-themed class would be productive for students, and Odom believed that a networking class would help make this essential skill less nerve-wracking to learn. While Ross did not have any specific suggestions for new courses, she noted that she wished she had enrolled in Advanced Social Media Marketing Practices and Manga and Graphic Novels, noting the importance of these topics on the market today.
From left to right: Moderator Kim Castro '08, Lavinel Savu '99,Laura Ross '10, Monica Odom '14, and Liz Sellers '20
At the end of the panel, each panelist was asked to give some advice to current students. Savu told students to “always be curious, and teach others what you know, both the good and the bad,” and informed them that “the best lessons come from what we learned to never do again.” Odom emphasized that “publishing is the transfer of passion from person to person,” so students should “follow their obsessions” when making important career choices. Ross reminded students that “every conversation you have could potentially impact your career,” so they should “be focused and flexible…[but] open to all opportunities.” Sellers emphasized Ross’s points on adaptability; she advised students to “stay on your toes and be ready to take on [changes]” in the “constantly evolving” publishing industry.
After the panel, drinks and Mediterranean-themed appetizers were served alongside a large chocolate cake as attendees both chatted with their friends and made new connections with students, faculty, and alumni alike. The photo booth station was also a huge hit; attendees loved posing for the camera, and the photo strips made for charming souvenirs. At the end of the night, attendees left the meeting in high spirits, and wished the program twenty-five more years supporting students and the industry.
Lara Drzik is a third-semester M.S. in Publishing student. She currently is exploring potential careers in editorial, marketing, subsidiary rights, managing editorial, and contracts at a book publishing house, and is also considering being a literary agent. In her spare time, she enjoys solving the New York Times crossword puzzles, exploring New York City by foot, and catching up on the Marvel Cinematic Universe.