The best way to grow professionally is to speak with those who already have the career accomplishments and real-world experience that you are working toward.
Nineteen students majoring in radio, television and film had just that opportunity on March 2 during Rowan’s “Fireside Chat with Sunny Hostin.” The conversation of perseverance was moderated by Chase Campbell, a senior advertising major and president of Rowan’s Advertising Club, as well as Ayala Gedeon, the assistant vice president of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Hostin, a co-host of “The View,” attorney, author and journalist, joined students via Zoom for a discussion about the importance of having a mentor, following your dreams and being proud of who you are.
“My college experience was very much about making those friendships and bonds that I carry with me today, you know, 30-some odd years later,” Hostin said. “I didn’t have anyone to explain to me what it was like to register for classes, or what it was like to decide what my major would be or what it was like to live in a dorm. Nothing. And it was kind of scary, if I’m being honest. So, my friends, my family… that was the difference for me.”
Hostin entered school as a college freshman, attending Binghamton University at just 16 years old. She began as a pre-med major before her disdain for math caused her to switch majors to communications. She was assigned a mentor, Louie del Vijay, through New York’s Educational Opportunity Program in order to help her navigate college life, and quickly became very grateful for his guidance.
“He became a mentor, and continued to mentor me. That was invaluable for me, because I didn’t know how to navigate anything,” Hostin said. “I’d always gotten 100% on everything… I got to college and got a C, and it was like my world was falling apart. I thought it was all coming to an end. I was a charade; I was letting everybody down. I wasn’t going to be a doctor. I knew that I wanted to be a broadcast journalist, but I didn’t want to do something different than what my family had in mind for me. And Louie gave me permission to live my dream. He gave me that permission.”
In addition to the influence of her mentor, she also discussed how community was vital to her growth, both personally and professionally – especially as an Afro-Latina woman with little representation in media.
“There comes a point when you realize that alone, you survive, but together, you thrive. And personal growth must be an attribute to the total community. I realized when I was in college that you are not the majority. But there was such strength in organizations like Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Black Student Union or the Latino Student Union,” Hostin said.
Hostin graduated from Binghamton University in 1985 and went on to attend law school at the University of Notre Dame. After graduating in 1994, she worked as an appellate law clerk, a trial attorney for the Department of Justice and a federal prosecutor.
She was a very talented attorney – having been given a Special Achievement Award and never having lost a case – but, in her heart, she knew she still wanted to be a journalist. So, when the opportunity arose, she took it.
“I remember when I left my law practice, the television contract that I got was worth what my bonus check was in law,” she said. “People thought I was nuts. Nobody leaves that kind of money [but] I did, because I felt that if you’re good at what you do, the money and success come [naturally].”
And she was right.
Hostin worked as a commentator for Court TV before being offered a spot on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.” In 2007, she became the legal analyst for CNN’s “American Morning,” and in 2014, she began her guest appearances on ABC’s “The View,” where she would later become a permanent co-host.
In 2019, Hostin hosted and executive produced “Truth About Murder With Sunny Hostin,” a six-episode documentary series on Investigation Discovery. She also hosted the “Have You Seen This Man?” podcast, produced by ABC.
Through all her success, she still remembered all that her college education taught her.
“I learned how to argue… I learned how to think very quickly on my feet. I learned not to be embarrassed to present in front of a group of strangers,” Hostin said. “I learned how to listen to very diverse points of view and be open to those views. And discuss with grace, [despite] my different point of view… [I learned] this wonderful lesson that you can survive failure, you can survive change and you’ll be better for it.”
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