Journalism Professorship Awarded to Ann Simmons

SUNY New Paltz’s James H. Ottaway Professorship of Journalism welcomed L.A Times journalist Ann Simmons. Simmons lectured workshops for nine days. 

Every spring semester, the professorship seeks a distinguished, high-achieving journalist to share their work with the community, provide students with skills to better their writing and further inspire and encourage those interested in journalism.

The professorship has brought award-winning journalists to SUNY New Paltz since 2001. This professorship was named after the founder of Ottaway Newspapers Inc., and is the first and only Endowed Professorship in Journalism at SUNY New Paltz, thanks to a generous donation.

“When someone’s fully sunk in and this has been their life for a long time, that is very powerful for our students,” said Lisa Phillips, associate professor of digital media & journalism.

Simmons, a global development writer and editor, veteran foreign correspondent and self-proclaimed “6’2’’ with an attitude” conflict reporter, shared her knowledge and experiences with those who attended her engaging workshops and enlightening lectures.

“She has a really lovely and important focus on culture, so modeling that flexibility, that open-mindedness and open-heartedness for our students is incredibly important. She’s also boss and brave,” Phillips said. “Now that she’s here I see what a gift she has for storytelling and connecting with people. She just brings this graciousness, to everything she does.”

While on campus, Simmons hosted seminars, visited classes, and held a Q&A session with President Donald P. Christian. The session was a salon-style dinner, where faculty and students were able to ask her questions in an informal setting, and hosted a public lecture to conclude her time spent here.

Simmons has been in the journalism field for more than 25 years, during which she has shed light on international issues, such as poverty, gender inequality and war conflicts.

“She is bringing a wealth of experience from having reported on frontlines of some of the most important historical events. She’s also written her perspective as a woman of color, and as somebody who has seen the industry change tremendously, ” said Rachel Somerstein, coordinator of the Ottaway committee and assistant professor of digital media and journalism. 

Simmons led three main workshops: “Russia: Beyond the Headlines,” “Women on the Frontlines” and “Global Development.” During these workshops, Simmons called attendees to bring their own voices to the conversation, while broadening their understandings of certain viewpoints and situations with her enthusiasm and expertise. 

Past visiting Ottaway professors have remained in contact with students, and some even write letters of recommendation, act as networking connections within the field and return to campus.

 “Become versed in all aspects of journalism and follow your passion,” Simmons said. “You’ve got to be a multi-platform journalist today. You’ve got to be able to do a little bit of everything. Internships for sure are critical, really to get your grounding in the field.”

With her fluency in several languages and many academic degrees and honors, Simmons is able to effectively communicate with people internationally. She hopes to further educate people on the world outside the United States with her powerful and passionate words and continued research.

“There’s a whole world out there, and it’s important to experience that world, in order to foster understanding between people,” Simmons said.