Mitchell kicks off Fox series


Having a background in liberal arts is a good thing.

That’s what NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell (CW’67) told an audience of roughly 90 College students in a speech given in Logan Hall on September 30.

Mitchell’s speech concentrated on her journalism career, which she began as a program manager at Penn’s own WXPN radio station. Mitchell recounted her “inauspicious start” in the male-dominated field of journalism, where she was forced to take a position as a late night “copy boy” for Westinghouse, what she called the “very bottom of the rung” of the journalism ladder. Mitchell quickly worked her way up that ladder, eventually moving from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., where she is now a featured correspondent on such shows as “Meet the Press” and “The Today Show.” She has covered everything from Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan to the current New York Senate race.

Mitchell spoke of the jarring “transition from being an undergraduate to being a journalist,” a transition she feels Penn students are now better prepared for, thanks in part to the Annenberg School for Communication and the Fox Leadership Series. Mitchell stated that she hoped the series “will provide a rich experience for undergraduates to spend time with people from outside the academic world.”

In response to the concern of many students about what Caroline Strzalka
(C’ 00) referred to as “a lot of pressure to go into the business world,” Mitchell maintained that she remains “passionate” about the preservation of the liberal arts education, encouraging students to take classes in a variety of fields.

Mitchell’s speech was the first installment of the Fox Leadership Series, an interdisciplinary program in the College of Arts and Sciences, which, said College Public Relations Director Elaine Wilner, “will be a series of interrelated components that all revolve around the idea of leadership.” Wilner added that the program, which is funded by a $10 million gift from University Trustee Robert A. Fox, will include having “distinguished alums come in and talk about leadership lessons they have learned in terms of their careers.”

“[The talk] was very inspiring,” said Newton Lee (C’02), who regarded the Fox Leadership program as “a step in the right direction.” Strzalka agreed, saying, “It’s about time they had something like this for the College.”

The names of the students who attended the lecture and accompanying reception were selected by lot from responses to a College e-mail announcing the event.

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Originally published on October 14, 1999