Ohio University

Alumna Spotlight - Ugonna Okpalaoka, BSJ '12

Alumna Spotlight - Ugonna Okpalaoka, BSJ '12

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Year Graduated: 2012

School: E.W. Scripps School of Journalism

Major: Broadcast Journalism

Current job title and location: NBC News Events Producer in New York, New York

What do you do? My team is fairly new to NBC News, so our responsibilities are still evolving, especially in these quickly changing times. I primarily produce events and experiences that create and strengthen the connection between our company and our audience. They can range from a panel discussion to a film premiere to a full-blown festival. Obviously, the way that looks has changed in the world of COVID-19, but that just means there are a lot of exciting opportunities to launch new ideas. 

What made you come to Ohio University? Were there other places you considered? I always thought I would go to college in a big city but the day I stepped on to Ohio University’s campus, all of that changed. Not only was it beautiful, but I could tell all the students genuinely enjoyed going there. It didn’t take much convincing for me to do the same.

How did the Scripps College of Communication equip you with the skills you needed to succeed? I knew I wanted to be involved in media somehow, but I wasn’t sure how. The Scripps College of Communication gave me the chance to explore my options and find the right fit through a number of great mentors, organizations, and internships. I graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism, but I left with a deep well of connections and experience across the media industry. 

What about your experiences here was so memorable? The people were the most memorable part of my experience on campus, simply put. There were so many incredible people who taught me, studied with me, created with me, and built lifelong friendships with me. I was able to build a community that made me feel safe enough to begin growing into who I am today. 

Tell us about your career path. After graduating from Ohio University, I was accepted into the News Associates program at NBC News. It’s a great fellowship that exposes you to different career paths in news producing. After my year in the program, I was hired at the TODAY Show, where I worked my way up from a researcher to a producer for seven years before transitioning into my current role.

How has your work life and or focus changed due to the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. and resulting precautionary measures? I’m not sure if I’m even fully aware of all the ways my life has changed this year, but I know it has been a disorienting few months for everyone. I’m figuring out how to keep my productivity and attention up while working from home as well as how to separate my personal life from work when my office is also my living room. And quite frankly, I’m also figuring out how to manage the stress and anxiety that comes with such uncertainty. What has encouraged me though are all the new ways we’ve found to connect with our loved ones. It has made the things that matter in life clearer. I hope, through my job, I can find ways to deliver that same sense of connection to our viewers.

What advice do you have for current students? The one piece of advice I always share is to take advantage of as many opportunities as you can while you’re in school. There is no other time in your life when you’ll be afforded the resources to try your hand at different skills. Find out what you like and find out what you don’t like — both are valuable in helping you carve out your path. Learn from as many people as you can and create as much as you can. Attending Ohio University is a wonderful way to find your place in the world, but it is up to you to seek it out.