Columbia Alumni Association & Network
National Alumni Board
Michael Wojcik '96 is the current President of the Columbia Alumni Association and Network National Board. He serves as Chief Development Officer for the American Red Cross of Massachusetts. Michael has enjoyed a 15-year career with the American Red Cross, beginning in Chicago, and also serving in Washington DC and New York City. Since joining the Red Cross in 2013, Michael has raised over $250M for people in need around the world.
Legally blind since birth, Wojcik founded and serves as national co-sponsor of the American Red Cross Ability Network, a resource group for Red Cross staff and volunteers with disabilities. Prior to joining the American Red Cross, Wojcik raised funds for the medically underserved residents of Chicago's Cabrini Green public housing development. He earlier worked in the alumni relations office at Columbia College Chicago and began his career in a small PR firm upon graduating from Columbia in 1996.
Wojcik holds a Master of Science degree in nonprofit administration from DePaul University. He is vice chair of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Jazz Pride Committee and formerly Co-Chaired The Chicago Community Trust's Young Leaders Fund. He also helped to establish The Chicago Associate Board President's Council. While a student at Columbia, Wojcik represented the College on the Illinois Board of Higher Education Student Advisory Council; served as president of the Hokin Student Advisory Board (a predecessor of today's student government association); initiated and co-chaired the Class of 96 Gift Committee, which raised $100,000 to renovate the Underground Café in the 600 S. Michigan Ave., building; and was the first student to move into Columbia's first dorm at 731 S Plymouth Crt. It pays to arrive early. Wojcik's father Mitchell "Mickey" Wojcik, attended what was then known as the Columbia School of Broadcasting in the 1950s, on the GI Bill after his service in the Korean War.
Wojcik became an ex officio member of the Columbia College Chicago Board of Trustees in 2016, when he was elected President of the Columbia Alumni Association and Network (CAAN) National Board.
Jeff Kinney is a 1987 Broadcast Journalism graduate of Columbia College Chicago. He attributes the outstanding teaching and internships he received at Columbia with preparing him for the opportunity to join a fledgling news organization known as CNN immediately following graduation. Kinney remains at CNN today as the Director of Field Production/Chief Photojournalist.
After joining CNN as an entry-level videojournalist, Jeff was immediately able to apply the knowledge that he had gained at Columbia, and soon had the privilege of covering countless historical news events around the globe in a variety of newsgathering and production roles. Kinney’s work has taken him from coverage of light-hearted feature stories to the battlefields of the Middle East, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Jeff’s work has been recognized by a variety of awards organizations such as the Emmys, the Peabody Award, the Cine Golden Eagle, the Cable ACE Awards, and others. His career with CNN has also afforded him with the opportunity to live in Atlanta, Moscow, Chicago, Washington DC, and New York. Currently, he is based in New York City, where he leads a team of nearly 100 photojournalists and managers based in 10 US cities charged with covering all major US news events and many international news stories.
Just as he’s proud to wear the title of husband, father, journalist, and CNN employee; he is also honored to identify as a Columbia College Chicago graduate. Jeff embraces the privilege of serving on the CAAN board and strengthening the Columbia community so that students and alums can flourish in their chosen fields.
Jennifer Oliver O’Connell writes at As the Girl Turns™ , and is an independent scholar/contributor to the 2018 Outstanding References Sources List (RUSA), and American Book Fest 2017 Award-winning women’s encyclopedia: Women in American History, A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection.
Along with her writing, Jennifer produces live events and coaches others on careers and reinvention. She is a certified E-RYT 500 Yoga instructor, programming and teacher training lead, and a Body Positivity activist.
Jennifer serves as Secretary for the Columbia College Alumni Association National Board. She graduated Columbia in 1987 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, where she studied Fiction Writing and Commercial Art.
Jennifer founded Tuesdays with Transitioners, a support group for those who have been laid off, downsized, entrepreneurs, and those looking to build their own business. Because of her work with job seekers, Jennifer was asked in May of 2011 to be a part of a Jobs Club panel in Washington, D.C., hosted by the United States Secretary of Labor's Office of Faith-based initiatives and Neighborhood partnerships.
Jennifer is also the co-founder and co-chair of CareerCamp International, a conference/unconference that helps participants build the careers they deserve. Jennifer speaks at other job clubs and career venues on such topics as: "10 Things to Do While You're Looking", "Rethink. Refocus. Reinvent", "How to Build an Enduring Career Reputation", and "Career Branding and YOU."
Jennifer produced the 2010 L.A. Social Media Week panel: "Social Media and Your Career".
You can follow Jennifer on Twitter, or keep abreast of her writing, public speaking, reinvention, and Yoga work via her As the Girl Turns website, her YouTube channel, and on Facebook.
Jennifer resides in the Los Angeles area with her husband and dogs.
Shani Black is currently a creative writer/producer with over 10 years of talk, court, lifestyle, reality/docuseries and casting experience. As a member of the Writers Guild of America West and the Producers Guild of America, Ms. Black has produced both scripted and unscripted shows for MTV, OWN, Discovery, HGTV, Warner Brothers/Telepictures, NBCUniveral and FOX.
She credits Columbia College Chicago and the AEMM program with giving her the confidence and the tools she needed to complete with the industry’s best. While attending CCC, she was an RA and worked at the Portfolio Center.
Ms. Black currently resides in Los Angeles with her daughter and is also part owner of a health and beauty publication, Coverings Magazine.
Chris Broyles is Managing Director of Digital and Creative Communications at FTI Consulting Strategic Communications, based in Chicago. For over 20 years, Mr. Broyles has worked in multimedia environments as a digital and media strategist, graphic designer, technology and digital consultant and well-known litigation and in-court presentation specialist.
Mr. Broyles also has unique experience in developing creative concepts and content in a variety of mediums and social media platforms including 2D and 3D animations, infographics and video for myriad corporate client events and situations including bankruptcy, litigation, M&A, restructuring, investor relations and public affairs.
Mr. Broyles has worked across a diverse range of companies, with deep experience in the energy & natural resources, industrials and healthcare & life sciences industries with a client list that includes Apple, Abbott Laboratories, Allstate, Bayer, Coca-Cola, Dell, Diageo/Guinness USA, Dow Chemical, Energy In Depth, Google, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Novartis, PepsiCo, Pfizer, and Shire. He is also a regular speaker and presenter on the subject of “producing electronic trials,” “content creation” and “presentation strategy” around the country.
Prior to joining FTI Consulting in 2008, Mr. Broyles held management and leadership positions at the national consulting firms, DecisionQuest and Animation Technologies. Before entering the consulting field, he served as director, streaming media for well-known ‘dot-com’ companies and pioneering Internet radio stations, served as producer of a nationally syndicated radio and television political talk show, producer of the Casey Kasem hosted Radio Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, and was the program director and senior producer for the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
Mr. Broyles is actively involved with the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Midwest Chapter, AIGA - professional association for graphic design, and serves on the Board of Directors for the American Liver Foundation – Great Lakes – Illinois. Mr. Broyles holds a Master of Arts in Arts, Entertainment & Media management from Columbia College Chicago and a Bachelor’s of Art in psychology from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Ms. Castro has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 20 years. She has been employed by institutions including WBUR/NPR, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and St. Jude’s Recovery Center before moving into the independent school sector. Ms. Castro has served as an Advancement Services professional for Atlanta-area independent schools for the past ten years - including the Atlanta International School, The Paideia School and the Westminster Schools. She is currently the Data Manager at the Springmont School.
Ms. Castro has been active in the community. She served on the board of the local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). She was a member of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation Destiny Fund class of 2007 (which is a training ground for young Atlanta-area female philanthropists). Ms. Castro has been active with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) as a Pre-Conference Co-Chair and faculty member. She has also been a faculty member for the Georgia Center for Non-Profits.
Her educational background includes a Bachelor's degree in Performing Arts Management from Columbia College Chicago and a Master’s degree in Arts Administration from Boston University. She resides in the Cabbagetown neighborhood of Atlanta where she lives with her husband Aras Petrulis.
Eight time Emmy Award winning producer Karen Lee Cohen lives and breathes television and health, wellness and positivity programming.
Since 1990 Karen has been President and Founder of Crystal Pyramid Productions Inc., a Los Angeles based corporation. The company provides pilot and series production and development for broadcast, cable and internet delivery; acquisition consultation; programming and channel development; program series budgeting; and station/channel operations. She is currently consulting for Sense of Agency, LLC on the launch of their Elixir Well Being Channel.
Karen’s most recent credits include Producer of: Vantage 2016 Keynote Event in Nashville for Scenic Solutions and TRE “Beyond The Secret” live event at Royce Hall that played in 500 theatres nationwide; Conscious Entrepreneurial Experience Event at the Conscious Life Expo; and “Legends: Rodney Dangerfield” for Comedy Central.
Recruited by Paramount Television as Show Producer, she was responsible for the successful launch of the nightly reality magazine show “Hard Copy”. Prior to that Karen was Program Director at WNBC-TV for eight years, where she was responsible for a budget in excess of 75 million dollars per year, programming all non-news, non-network day parts and acquiring syndicated programming.
Ms. Cohen's first Emmy was for producing the ninety-minute music variety fashion extravaganza “NBC Salutes Chic Chicago” and the eight Regional Emmy awards are among the many industry awards she has won to date.
Ms. Cohen served was a member of the Board of Trustees of Columbia College Chicago from 1993 through 2004 and was Co-Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee for 3 terms. She was also a founding member of what is now the LA chapter of CAAN. She is a 2016-2019 member of the CAAN National Board and a member of the Impact Committee which is currently creating a Mentorship program for alums. She is an active member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, where she has served on the Rewards Committee and on the ATAS Foundation’s Educational Programs and Services Committee. She has been a consultant to Columbia College Chicago and recently taught a course on Producing Television Talk and Magazine Shows for UCLA Extension.
She has recently become an Ordained Minister and has added Officiating Weddings and Life Coaching to her repertoire.
John started at CNN as a Video Journalist (VJ) 2 weeks after graduation. During the first 2 years at CNN John moved from VJ to doing audio, Master Control, graphics and floor directing. This was the basic path of gaining experience, taking skilled tests and proving that you can work in a 24/7 stressful news environment. The ultimate goal was to become a Technical Director (TD) then a Director. After taking the TD test, John was promoted to TD in 1990, and remained a TD at CNN for the next 6 yrs.
Highlights during this tenure were covering the Gulf War, the OJ Simpson trial, Oklahoma City, and the 1992 Election night. John was the main TD for the 1996 Election night coverage as well as DNC and RNC conventions.
John also traveled as a TD for Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. The day after the 1996 Elections he took a position at CNNSI Sports network as a Director. It was a great experience but he quickly realized how much he missed news and especially the fast-past changing world of Breaking News.
A management positioned opened with CNN International in 1998 overseeing the studios, control rooms and managing staff. John was offered the position, but little did he know that he was on a much different path than originally planned. With his technical background and directing leadership, it was a position in which he excelled, and he was given opportunity to constantly grow. John remained at CNNI and worked his way up from Supervisor to Manager and then Director of Operations.
In 2006 John oversaw the London, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi production centers. This allowed him to take many international trips, get involved in major projects linking CNN’s production centers together, and gain a higher profile within CNN management. From 1998 to 2014, John’s time at CNN International gave him a lifetime of experiences, relationships and worldly ventures.
In mid-2014 John’s boss came to him with the idea of moving to CNN domestic with a similar title and responsibilities, but much more exposure. He was excited about the challenge and has supported CNN and HLN networks ever since. The timing was interesting because of the looming 2016 elections and ever-changing cable news environment. Although John worked almost daily with his CNN Tech Ops teams in the other cities it was a different pace than CNNI. CNN International was a marathon and CNN was a sprint. John had the majority of 2015 to get acquainted with CNN’s workflows and programming direction. 2016 was the year of travel for John with political events all leading up to election night November, 2016.
“As far as I can tell the election is still on-going,” John says.
Since early 2018, John has been dedicated building to the new CNN New York facility in Manhattan, called Hudson Yards. This will be the first fully IP technical broadcast center in the US. All of CNN’s New York prime time shows will be moving to Hudson Yards in early 2019. John's current title is Vice President of CNN Technical Operations for CNN Worldwide.
On a personal note, John met his wife at CNN when they were both graphic operators in 1990. Aug 1st was their 26th wedding anniversary. They have a 23-year old daughter and 19-year old son, 2 horses, 3 dogs and 3 cats. John is an avid Cubs fan and still reeling over the 2016 World Series.
Braydan Hogue spent his final semester at Columbia College Chicago participating in the Screenwriting Semester in LA program. In a matter of days he nabbed an internship with the short-form content production company: Lut! Med!a Productions. This role transitioned into a full-time position working on the sets of music videos for superstars, such as Drake, Rihanna, & Zayn. Braydan loved the community of artists, the free-spirited people, and the sunny weather, but ultimately decided he needed a little more freezing-rain in his life and jumped the Hollywood ship before it sinks into the Pacific. Braydan is currently a Promotions Manager at KOMU8-TV: NBC Affiliate and Mid-Missouri CW. He eats, sleeps, and breathes video content: from waking up and having his morning cup of Snapchat and Instagram stories to attending at least two films a week at the cinema; Braydan LIVES video.
Marty Kane is an arts and education advocate currently residing in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood. Marty serves as Assistant Director of Admissions with Columbia College Chicago; he supports students and educators primarily from Northern California and the Northwestern United States. In addition to serving on the alumni board, he is also a member of the Chicago alumni chapter. Marty has been a steadfast alumni volunteer since completing his undergraduate studies.
Mary Mitchell is an editorial board member and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times.
She joined the Sun-Times in 1991 as an education writer, and has covered city hall, the federal courts and authored several award-winning series before becoming a columnist in 1995.
Mitchell’s work often rallies the African-American community to confront issues such as violence, police misconduct, and social injustice. She has also been an advocate for Chicagoans who would otherwise not have a voice.
For instance, Mitchell used her column to bring exposure to a talented young musician who was unable to bridge the gap between the scholarships he received and tuition. Sun-Times readers responded by sending nearly $20,000 in small donations, thereby enabling the young man to realize his dreams.
Several of Mitchell’s stories have led to changes in Illinois law. In 2005, after a series of columns exposed the predatory practices of some out-of-state adoption agencies, the General Assembly passed an adoption reform bill.
In 1997, legislators passed a law that made it a felony for prison workers to engage in sex with inmates after a 1996 series revealed that Illinois had no law forbidding the sexual abuse.
Mitchell has received numerous journalism and civic awards, including the Award of Excellence from the National Association of Black Journalists, the Studs Terkel Award from the Community Media Workshop; and the Peter Lisagor Award from the Chicago Headline Club. In 2004, Crain’s Chicago Business honored her as one of the 100 Most Influential Women in the city. In 2012, Mitchell received the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Headline Club.
Her column appears every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Mitchell is the former co-host of V-103’s “Chicago Speaks.” She is a frequent panelist on WTTW’s “Week In Review,” and FOX-TV, and has appeared on national news programs, including Meet The Press.
Mitchell is an alumna of Dunbar Vocational High School and Columbia College Chicago, and resides on the South Side of Chicago.
Growing up in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood, Ron Norinsky ’70 obsessed over the radio. At just 11 or 12 years old, he and buddy Bob Sirott ’71 hung out at the local radio station petitioning DJs to emcee neighborhood dances. When Sirott headed to Columbia College Chicago, Norinsky followed—but his focus shifted to television.
Ron’s first job was operations crew at WTTW. In 1971, he left that job for Corporate TV, working in a broadcast quality studio for CNA Financial doing training, marketing and sales support. He spent 3 years learning production, but more importantly developing relationships with other producers and directors at big Chicago corporations.
Wanting a more lucrative career and to start a family, Ron went into sales for the newest Sony dealership in town. It was there he was asked to start an equipment rental division, and realizing how profitable the business was, founded video equipment rental and post/duplication company Video Replay, which he ran for 36 years.
Ron had the privilege of working with many talented clients and hiring a number of Columbia grads who later went on to accomplish great things. Video Replay introduced video walls and 3-D TV to Chicago conventions and was selected as the official A/V contractor in charge of the party that launched the Big Ten network (a joint venture between Fox Sports and the Big Ten) in Chicago. In 2011, after 36 years in business, Ron sold the building that housed Video Replay.
Today, he gives back to his alma mater for giving him the tools to succeed. In 2014, the Norinsky Family Production Grant was established, offering financial assistance to freshmen and sophomores in entry-level classes to help fund Television projects.
After graduating from Columbia College Chicago, Rebecca began her career in television working for: ABC-7 Chicago (writing in their community service department), as a producer and on-air talent for WEB-FN (a Chicago Financial News network) and as an Associate Producer for The Jenny Jones Show.
After the cancellation of Jenny Jones Show, while waiting to get placed at another show, she ran in to a friend who worked in radio and said if she got bored she could come by and help him write news for the station...and when she took him up on that opportunity she never looked back.
Beginning her radio career in 2003, Rebecca started off as the Promotions Director at a small suburban station called STAR 105.5FM in Crystal Lake, IL and shortly after began voice-tracking overnights.
A year later she was doing Morning at their sister station WXLC 102.3FM where she stay for 4 1⁄2 years as, “The Joe and Rebecca Show”. Following that, other stations she worked for were: 97 ZOK in Rockford, 100.3 LOVE FM in Chicago, Q101 (guest spot on “Mancow’s Morning Madhouse” as ‘Juanita the Hot Latina Bombshell’), FRESH 105.9FM, and then in 2008 landed a job at WBBM-FM B96 in Chicago, where she still works.
Some of her B96 accolades include hosting the weekly 1-hour community service show, “Chicago Connection” (which airs on B96 and 104.3FM JAMS) for the last 7 years, representing B96 backstage at the 2017 Grammys in Los Angeles, and the 2017 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas.
Aside from radio, Rebecca began doing voice over work in 2017. She was the live voice over at the NHL Draft in Chicago in June 2017, and has been voicing audiobooks with 14 titles published to-date ranging from cookbooks, young adult books and mysteries.
Hilary grew up in Michigan and went to high school in Costa Rica. When she returned to the States she went to college at Saint Mary's Notre Dame and then transferred to Columbia College Chicago. After graduating with her Bachelor's in Arts, Entertainment, Media Management in 2010 she did a year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA in Albany, NY. Upon completion of her year, she went to graduate school at New York University and graduated with her Master's in Arts Administration. She took on jobs with renowned arts organizations working in their Development departments. She worked in Major Gifts with the American Ballet Theatre, Individual Giving with The Actor's Company Theatre, Special Events with The Kitchen and with Art in General and was the Development Manager of Individual Giving with the Brooklyn Center for Performing Arts at Brooklyn College.
She left the fundraising world to work at a booming tech start up in NYC, ClassPass, for a year before relocating to Salt Lake City, UT. She is now Associate Director for the Northwestern University Leadership Council (NULC).
Rahel Rasu serves as Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications of McCann Worldgroup's New York-based Global Corporate Communications Team. In this role, Rahel is responsible for orchestrating the global network’s presence and overall management, development and activation of its global and regional event programs, sponsorships, and speaking engagements. She also partners with clients to align agency/client objectives and sync opportunities for mutual participation at industry and internal events.
Rahel joined McCann from Advertising Age’s DataCenter, where she worked with leading agency and company sources to assess and verify content across multiple disciplines including Media, Digital, Search, Direct, Promotions and Public Relations for Advertising Age’s annual reports.
Rahel received her B.A. in journalism from Columbia College, Chicago. She has co-chaired multiple events as part of the Executive Achievements Committee of She Runs It (formerly the Advertising Women of New York). She has also served as the co-chair of the volunteer board and mentor for the America Needs You Fellows Program, an intensive two-year program for high-achieving, low-income, first-generation college students.
As the Community Representative for the Renegades, Jake is quite an involved student on campus, whether it is hosting and attending events on campus, running practices, or creating new clubs, Jake gets the ball rolling. As a student, Jake has secured a spot on the Dean's List in each of his 4 previous semesters as he pursues his Bachelor of Science in Music Technology and Minor in Environmental Studies in honors courses as well.
Bryan Smiley is an experienced media professional, and Vice President of Creative Development & Production at Columbia Pictures; a Sony Pictures Entertainment company. Before joining Columbia, Bryan co-founded No Label Productions, a multicultural film and television company.
Prior to No Label, Bryan consulted for several top media companies including Fox Digital Entertainment and Fox Digital Studios. At Fox, Bryan worked across multiple divisions, creating a new business model to produce, market and distribute feature films starring top social influencers.
Previously, Bryan worked as Executive Director of Home Entertainment & New Business Development for New Regency Productions, an award-winning film and television company. In that position, Bryan helped shape and implement New Regency's global home entertainment strategy by managing New Regency's extensive film library. In his business development role, Bryan focused on digital strategies and initiatives, with an emphasis on creating new revenue streams through emerging technologies and platforms.
Traffic/Transportation Anchor Roz Varon was the first in the country to bring traffic rush hour reporting to TV morning news. She joined ABC 7 News as Morning Traffic Anchor in April 1989. Roz not only updates Chicagoans on snarls and travel times, but she also provides extensive coverage of the transportation beat.
Roz has won multiple Emmy Awards in Traffic Reporting, Specialty Programming, Spot News, and Features. Also, she has been honored with several Peter Lisagor Awards, including one for her "Weekender" series, a weekly roundup of metro Chicago events. The Girl Scouts recognized her as a role model with their "Girls Scouts of the USA Thanks Badge." Additionally, she won the Illinois Broadcasters Association's Silver Dome Award for her breast cancer special, "Faces of Inspiration."
Most recently, Roz has published “On the Road with Roz: Adventures in Travel and Life,” a delightful and heartening collection of words and images detailing her travels on Route 66 and around the world with her family.
As a breast cancer survivor, Roz works diligently to help heighten cancer prevention and awareness and is an in-demand motivational speaker. An animal lover, she volunteers much of her time to the Anti-Cruelty Society and PAWS Chicago.
Since 2000, Roz has served on the Board of Governors of the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and is currently a member of the Columbia Alumni Association & Network National Alumni Board (CAAN at Columbia College).
She received a B.A. in Broadcast Communications from Columbia College, and resides in the western suburbs of Chicago with her husband, daughter, two dogs and a cat.
Chicago Alumni Chapter
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