Media Career Night

Media Career Night

Media Career Services hosts virtual Media Career Nights each semester for student based on a variety of themes. Panels of College of Media alumni share stories about their career path in how they went from the University of Illinois to where they are now. Panelists also share career advice and job and internship search tips. This is a great way for Media students to network and connect with Media alumni.  

If you have any questions, please reach out to

Media Career Nights 

Stay tuned for details on more Media Career Night panels coming Fall 2022!

Watch Past Media Career Night Panels

If you are an alum interested in being a panelist for a future Media Career Night, please reach out to


Recorded April 12, 2022.

Panelists include:

Renee Cogdell Lewis, Legal and HR Consultant, Private Investigator, Mediator, and Coach at MFR Law Group PLLC (BS '90, Journalism)

Aura L. Lichtenberg, Partner and Divorce and Family Law Attorney at Berger Schatz (BS '06, Journalism)

David E. McCraw, Lead Newsroom Lawyer at The New York Times (BS '76, Journalism)

Todd Stern, Entertainment Attorney and Shareholder at the law firm of Weintraub Tobin (BS '85, Advertising)


Recorded March 2, 2022.

Panelists include:

Isabel Morales, Media Relations Manager at The Nature Conservancy (BS '13, Journalism)

Rosie Powers, Strategist at Mission Minded (BS '12, Journalism)

Bradley Smith, Program Development Manager at Children’s Miracle Network (BS '18, Advertising)


Recorded February 9, 2022.

Panelists include:

Stephen Feder, Producer, T-Street Productions (BS '02, Media Studies) 

Emma Miller, Senior Vice President, Scripted Development and Programming, AMC Networks (BS '08, Media Studies)

Mike Vainisi, Head of Original Content, ATTN: (BS '08, Journalism)


Recorded April 6, 2021.

Panelists include:

Michael Brumm is currently a producer/writer for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he has played a sleazy banana, an angry ear of corn, and a man with his head in a vise. He was also a consulting producer on At Home with Amy Sedaris, where he inspired Thanksgiving turkeys to rise up and murder humans. And before that, he was a 4-time Emmy-winning writer for The Colbert Report, where he wrote jokes for President Obama and the always-hilarious Henry Kissinger. Michael has also written the children's book His Royal Dogness: Guy The Beagle, which received a cease and desist letter from the Duchess of Sussex herself, and the upcoming graphic novel series The Cryptid Club (HarperCollins, due out 2022). When not working, Michael enjoys writing about himself in third-person for hastily thrown together bios. Go Illini! 

Linda Burstyn moved to LA to work as a drama writer. She’s worked as a writer/producer on a number of shows, including: Netflix’s The Girls on the Bus; History Channel’s Project Blue Book; AMC’s The Killing; NBC’s State of Affairs; CBS’s NCIS; ABC Family’s Chasing Life; USA’s In Plain Sight; NBC’s Patient Zero; CBS’s The Education of Max Bickford – among others. She just signed a deal with MGM on a 10-part limited series (The Ten Commandments of Jacob Ostreicher) that she created and together they will take out to sell to streamers this spring. She is currently pitching another drama series (Torrent Point) and is in development on a third one for Gemstone Studios.

Catherine Adel West was born and raised in Chicago, where she currently resides. She graduated with both her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. Her work is published in Black Fox Literary Magazine, Five2One, Better than Starbucks, Doors Ajar, 805 Lit + Art, The Helix Magazine, Lunch Ticket, and Gay Magazine. Catherine's short story ORION'S STAR is featured in the forthcoming body positive anthology EVERY BODY SHINES (Bloomsbury, May 2021). Her sophomore novel BECOMING SARA KING is slated for release in 2022. In between writing and traveling, Catherine works as an editor.


Recorded March 10, 2021.

Panelists include:

Dave Kissel
Dave Kissel is currently a Global Business Lead at Doyle Dane Bernbach Worldwide, one of the world's most creative advertising networks. As a partner to McDonald’s in 44 countries, the world’s largest restaurant company is DDB's biggest multi-national client. Dave is responsible for the global leadership and coordination of the agency's McDonald’s relationships, helping each office deliver high-impact strategy, content and experiences to measurably grow the McDonald’s brand and business. Dave is a member of DDB Worldwide’s Executive Leadership Team, as well as a member of Omnicom's Global Client Leadership Team. 
In addition, Dave is currently a Strategic Advisor to, and the former CEO of, InStadium, a national Nielsen-measured media network consisting of 450+ pro and college teams. Under Dave’s leadership, he helped transform InStadium into a multi-media video and gaming platform for major brands. Prior to InStadium, Dave helped create the award-winning agency Zócalo Group, Omnicom’s first dedicated social media agency, a division of Critical Mass.
A frequent speaker on sports marketing, advertising and social media, Dave has more than 25 years of accomplishments and awards in sports media and marketing. Dave is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's College of Media, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism, and is currently a director on the College’s Executive Board. He lives in Chicago's northern suburbs with his wife and three daughters.

Taylor Rooks 
Taylor Rooks is a sports journalist and broadcaster. She is the host of Take it There with Taylor Rooks on Bleacher Report and appears regularly on Turner Sports programming. Prior to joining Bleacher Report and Turner Sports, Taylor served as reporter and anchor for SportsNet New York and as a host, reporter and correspondent for the Big Ten Network.

Carol Voronyak
Illinois alum (’04) Carol (Mayer) Voronyak is in her 17th year working for ESPN.  She currently serves as Director of Talent Recruiting and Negotiations.  After making connections as a student-athlete (golf) member of the Illinois Athletic Board, Voronyak secured a position as a production assistant at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, in 2004.  She has since worked her way up the ladder, relocating to ESPN's Chicago offices in 2010, and recently to a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee. The Richmond, Illinois, native is responsible for recruiting on-air talent and negotiation of contracts for all ESPN platforms (ESPN, ESPN2, SEC Network, ACC Network, Snapchat, etc.) nationwide. 

Voronyak married her husband, Nate, in 2014. They have three small children: a daughter, Hope (5), and sons, Valor (3) and Lion (1).


Recorded February 10, 2021.

Panelists include:

Dan Balz is Chief Correspondent at The Washington Post. He covers national politics, the presidency and Congress. He is also the author of several books including two bestsellers.

Nisha Chittal is the Director of Audience & Engagement at where she leads a team of journalists working on a multi-platform editorial and growth strategy. She has led teams and previously written for publications like,, Elle, Racked, Jezebel, Poynter, and others.

Michael Strautmanis is the Chief Engagement Officer at The Obama Foundation. He spent over a decade in Washington, DC, including serving in the Obama White House for four years as the Chief of Staff of the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs, and the President’s Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett.


Recorded September 23, 2020.

Panelists include:

Jack Modzelewski
Jack is chief executive of JackKnifePR, which provides communication advisory services to corporations, start-ups, and non-profit organizations. In his new book Talk is Chief – Leadership, Communications and Credibility in a High-Stakes World, Jack shares with leaders his life-long experiences advising organizational chiefs on messaging, media, marketing, crisis management, and stakeholder relationships. During his 35-year career with global communications agencies, he was president of FleishmanHillard International Communications, where he held other executive positions during his nearly 27 years with the firm.

Jim Schlueter
Jim is recently retired after a long career at Boeing, where he served as the Director of Technology Communications. He is a member of the College of Media Alumni Leadership Council.

Angela Sinickas
Angela is CEO of Sinickas Communications, an international management consultancy focusing on communication effectiveness, research, and strategy. She has worked with clients in 32 countries, including 25% of the Fortune 100 largest global companies. A frequent speaker at conferences and a former adjunct instructor at Northeastern University, she has published a manual, textbook chapters, and over 150 articles about measurably successful communication.


Recorded October 14, 2020.

Panelists include:

Stephen Feder
Stephen is a producer at T-Street Productions. Prior to his current position, he was a Vice President at Lucasfilm and Senior Vice President at Annapurna Pictures.

Steve Hirsen
Steve was the original director of America’s Funniest Home Videos and Entertainment Tonight. He is currently a full-time professor at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.

Emma Miller
Emma Miller is Senior Vice President and co-head of AMC Scripted Development and Programming. After receiving her BA in Media Studies, she began her career with brief stints at The William Morris Agency, later WME. Her work at the agency piqued her interest in development, leading her to a job with Marti Noxon and Dawn Olmstead’s production company, Grady Twins. Later, Miller moved to Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television, where she gained extensive production experience working on multiple series, including The Americans, Under the Dome and The Borgias. She then joined AMC, where she has spent the last six years focused equally on development of new series and the overseeing of current series. Fear The Walking Dead, Hell on Wheels, The Son, Dietland, Nos4A2, Soulmates and The Walking Dead: World Beyond are among the series Miller has worked on during her time at the network. In 2018, Miller was named among Hollywood Reporter’s Next Gen: Rising Executives 35 and Under.

Mort Nathan
Mort was one of the creators of the Golden Girls TV series and has had a long career in comedy productions.

Frank Sinton
Frank is C.O.O. and Executive Producer at A. Smith and Company Productions. He is producer of such programs as Trading Spaces, America Ninja Warriors, and Hell's Kitchen.


Recorded November 10, 2020.

Panelists include:

Allan Brettman
Allan works as a science writer on the project communications team at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Prior to joining the PNNL, Allan was a business news reporter for The (Portland) Oregonian covering Nike and the sports business beat.  

Douglas Isbell
Doug is the Cross-Program Risk Communication Coordinator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he works on issues related to space nuclear power and sample return, including the most recent two Mars rover missions.

Emily Scott
Emily is a public affairs specialist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Previously, she was a science writer at the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology. She has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.