International journalist joins Journalism and Media Studies faculty
International investigative journalist Mary D'Ambrosio traveled throughout Latin America covering stories of social justice wherever she went. This fall, D'Ambrosio is journeying to Rutgers to teach as a professor of Professional Practice in the School of Communication and Information.
D’Ambrosio, who has been published in numerous publications including the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle, developed a love for writing about social justices issues. It is with the average people living in the areas where she traveled that D’Ambrosio found the “real” stories. This humanistic approach to journalism came from experience, she said.
“Covering a presidential campaign, for example, it can be very hard to get through to those people," she said. "A lot of them have rehearsed answers already."
Despite her clear knack for chasing down stories, D'Ambrosio said she did not always want to be a journalist.
In high school, she told her mother she wanted to be a fiction writer. But being the granddaughter of immigrants, D'Ambrosio's parents wanted her to have a more professional career and suggested journalism, another form of storytelling.
With her mother’s direction, D'Ambrosio joined her school newspaper.
“(The school newspaper) let us do what we wanted,” she said. “They never censored anything we wrote out of fear that we’d embarrass the school.”
D’Ambrosio said she felt immense power working for her school paper, covering any topic she wanted. She went on to win the New York Journalist of the Year Award, confirming her abilities.
After graduating high school, D'Ambrosio formally studied journalism at Syracuse University and later began a decade of work throughout Latin America.
D’Ambrosio said Latin America was a focal point for news at the height of the Cold War.
According to her website, she covered “seminal events in the developing world.” This included, but was not limited to the Mexican debt crisis and Russia’s emergence from the U.S.S.R.
Later, when D’Ambrosio was looking for a job, she went to the Associated Press hoping to be part of the foreign affairs team. She met with the editor and he explained two options to her.
The first was a traditional approach to covering the international stories she was interested in. It would take about seven years, which D'Ambrosio said “sounded like forever to me at 24 years old.”
The second approach was more unorthodox and risky.
The editor told D'Ambrosio that, as a young journalist with a passion for traveling, she should seek out stories and travel to the countries she was interested in writing about.
D'Ambrosio chose the second option.
Without the editor's advice, D'Ambrosio said she would have been lost. Her career choices since that point have never been strategic to advance her career or position, but focused on a journalist's public duty.
Since then, she became the founding editor of the multimedia news source Big World Magazine and began a teaching career.
Becoming an adjunct professor at New York University was a logical next step, she said. The profession was “part of the family business” as both of her parents were teachers.
It was important to D’Ambrosio to mentor and guide students about to enter the professional journalism field.
“It can be hard, for example, knowing what job to take after you graduate,” D’Ambrosio said,
She shared a story about how a professor helped her with the same exact dilemma.
D’Ambrosio came in with her feet on the ground running, said Steven Miller, coordinator of Undergraduate Studies for the Department of Journalism and Media Studies.
From the first week, D’Ambrosio was emailing him about internships and opportunities for journalism students, Miller said.
“Her projects since teaching have all been very student-orientated,” Miller said in reference to her five-week study abroad course in journalism.
In previous years, the study abroad course has been based in Istanbul, where students have worked together writing, filming and photographing different news stories.
The program and its students have won several awards for their work. This year, the program will be going to Florence, Italy, to continue writing and photographing stories about the Syrian refugee crisis, local arts and local news.
In addition to being proactive, Miller said D’Ambrosio embodies what a journalism professor should be able to share with her students.
“She has a great experience in traditional and online media ... which is needed in the field of journalism because of the way it is transitioning," he said. "D’Ambrosio has been at the forefront of all of this.”
Those traits are also recognized within students in the Journalism and Media Studies major.
Chisa Egbelu, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said having a professor with a professional background such as D’Ambrosio’s gives him more confidence in the material he is learning.
"She has a lot of knowledge and experience to share with students," he said. "That only makes Rutgers look better and that affects me because I am part of Rutgers."