Looking back on the initial year of Audacy's year-long Fellowship Program was a bit emotional for its architects. "I have chills telling you. We had really awesome experiences that you could not have scripted," said Sarah Harris, Audacy's Vice President of Social Impact. "We designed what we expected to be a great program, and then these really cool interactions and experiences flowed out of it. I didn't expect that, and I was blown away and thrilled by it."
Harris is even more excited about the year ahead, with Audacy's Fellowship Program team ready to step back and, as Harris put it, "let the magic happen." That magic is focused on forming collaborative relationships with bright young talent eager to pursue careers in audio, and creating a diverse, highly skilled next generation of audio entertainment leaders.
"The impetus behind the Fellowship Program was our team responding to everything that was happening in the world and in our society, and we took a very specific and focused look at diversity in our talent base," said Mica Alexis, Audacy's Director of Human Resources, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, who effectively set up and runs the program.
The Audacy team took a comprehensive look at the company's stations, marketing departments, central departments and sports content teams, identifying opportunities to diversify and expand the perspectives represented within them. These efforts resulted in the creation of Audacy's Fellowship Program, with a focus on recruiting from communities historically under-represented within the industry -- including communities of color and historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
"We really wanted to ensure that we were doing our best to hire individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups who were also entering the world of work," Alexis explained. The Fellowship Program sought people who had graduated from college within the previous two years. The team looked for people who were eager to learn how audio works, ready to dive head first into the industry, and who could also offer their Audacy colleagues an opportunity to learn from them.
"Our Fellowship Program is very different from an internship," noted Harris. "Our fellows are full-time employees. They are part of our team."
Matching the fellows with their mentors and getting them set up in their jobs was just one step in getting everyone acclimated. Another was educating established Audacy staffers on what a fellow is, and how they interact in the company's ecosystem differently than a traditional employee. In addition to mentorship, this included a monthly lunch-and-learn series to help the fellows get to know each other as well as build relationships with Audacy leaders. The lunches helped set them up for success at the company and in the audio industry at large.
Harris and Alexis both noted that each of the program's current fellows has added significant value to the Audacy team -- wowing the organization with their drive, desire to delve into the audio industry, passion and perspectives. They also had impressive personal accomplishments -- from hosting popular podcasts and creating highly rated digital content to having articles published in The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Alexis pointed out that the Fellowship Program's upcoming cohort, which begins its year-long assignment in October, will benefit from Audacy's ongoing relationship with Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse College in Atlanta. "As part of our DEI initiatives, we are partnering with these two historically Black colleges and universities to provide educational opportunities and add to their curriculum," she said.
Audacy delivers HBCU-focused growth and learning opportunities to the journalism, mass media, sports content and communication students within these two schools. The activities include dinner-and-learn series for media and communications classes, where leaders from within Audacy talk about subjects that range from sales and marketing, to podcasting 101, to how sports content creation works and the growth of the company's digital business.
"In the coming cohort," Alexis explained, "we have an open fellowship opportunity specifically in Atlanta, and our plan is to recruit within Clark Atlanta and Morehouse."
The eight fellows comprising the first cohort of Audacy's program, completing their year-long assignment this month (August), include Amani Grant-Pate (BS Journalism, Lincoln University, MO), Juliana Clark (BS Journalism, Barnard College), Nancy Wambui (BS Broadcast Journalism, Minnesota State University) and Khushboo Haresh Gulabani (MS Digital Media/Communications, Northeastern University).
Also participating are Aaron Pacheco (BA Digital Media/Film, Eastern Michigan University), Melissa Rodas (BA Marketing, Fairleigh Dickinson University), Jasper Jones (BS Communications, University of Kentucky) and Fatma (Rabia) Gursoy (BS Journalism, Columbia University).
Pacheco, Gulabani and Rodas will both be transitioning to permanent full-time roles at Audacy at the conclusion of their fellowships.
Although the initial cohort was eight, the number of fellows in any given year depends on a variety of factors, including business goals, budgeting and other considerations. Audacy focuses on creating experiences that are life-changing and career-shaping for the people in the program. "One of our values is curiosity," Harris noted. "Bringing in new voices and perspectives helps us live into this value and brings creativity, innovation and fresh thinking."
Anyone interested in Audacy's Fellowship Program can learn more at the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion landing page, accessible under the Careers tab at AudacyInc.com.
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