With extensive professional experience as a journalist, talk show host, and news anchor, Derek McGinty, SOC/BA ’81, created an endowment fund that benefits students of color in journalism. The Derek McGinty Journalism Fund for Experiential Learning will provide financial assistance for students seeking to participate in learning opportunities, such as conferences, internships, and networking events.
McGinty hopes the fund will help students get their resumes out of the pile and stand out among applicants in the same job or internship pool. “This might give students a chance to do something that they otherwise wouldn't have done,” he expressed. “Who knows what it will mean down the road because each one of those contacts can expand as it goes through the years and become a bigger deal.” With this opportunity, the School of Communication alumnus wants to encourage students to make connections that will help launch them forward in their professional careers.
When reflecting on his experience as an AU student, McGinty recalls how essential internship and networking opportunities were in building his career. “I noted that my career really started off because of the internships I did, and my experiential learning outside of the university,” he expressed. “That is what made a big difference for me. It put me in contact with people I otherwise never would have met.” As a student, he interned for Good Morning America and took the opportunity to apply for the Desk Assistant position at ABC News after seeing it on a bulletin board. In his role at ABC News, he worked closely with his boss, who gave him a recommendation for a role at WTOP Radio as a news writer. After, he transitioned on to be a talk show host for WAMU after a friend and fellow AU alum, who worked at the station, encouraged him to apply. “Without that contact, without that just that little bit of full push, none of that would’ve happened,” he said.
McGinty’s focus on supporting Black students stems from his experience at AU. He hopes Black students can take advantage of opportunities that he wasn’t able to when he was in their shoes. “I’m trying to help students in any way I can,” he explained. “I said, ‘What can I do that would facilitate people getting ahead in their careers as quickly as possible?’” While he was unable to attend the National Association of Black Journalists conferences, and other similar opportunities as a student, he began attending when he was in his thirties, which allowed him to understand the value of attending as early as possible. “If I could have gotten there in my twenties, it would have been much better,” he shared. “If I can facilitate some of that for students, then I think I’ll be doing a good thing.”
McGinty continues to express the value of utilizing skills and a professional network to become the best professional possible. In addition to creating the Derek McGinty Journalism Fund, he has always been adamant about giving back to AU students and sharing his knowledge. The journalist has continuously provided mentorship through the SOC Alumni Mentorship Program and being an SOC volunteer in a number of ways. “The most fulfilling thing to me is passing on something,” he said. “And what I can pass on is mostly knowledge.”
Not only does he pass on knowledge, but his advice for Black students: “If you're going in for an interview, know who you’re being interviewed by and what they're looking for,” he stressed. “Be on your game because the fact is, you can’t afford to come in there and show that you don't know what you're doing.”
This story originally appeared on AU’s School of Communication’s news site.