On July 12, the University announced Ann M. Simmons, the current Moscow Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, as the Zubrow Distinguished Visiting Journalist Fellow for the College of Arts and Sciences for Fall 2022.
The fellowship is currently entering its third year. Since its inception, the school has welcomed a variety of journalists, including former Sun Editor-In-Chief Marc Lacey ’87, who is currently the managing editor of the New York Times.
“The idea [for the program] was to really foster deeper and more meaningful engagement between the media and the [University],” said Ray Jayawardhana, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Simmons was chosen through an extensive selection process by an advisory committee of three Arts and Sciences faculty members — Prof. Kaushik Basu economics, Prof. Riché Richardson Africana studies, and Prof. Itai Cohen physics — along with Vice President of University Relations Joel Malina, Director of Communications Tricia M. Ritterbusch and Jayawardhana.
Jayawardhana said that the committee takes nominations from many different sources into consideration, including faculty nominations and nominations from news organizations interested in the program. In Simmons’s case, WSJ Managing Editor Karen Miller Pensiero nominated her.
As part of the program, the distinguished visiting journalist is expected to visit campus for a minimum of two weeks, with some staying an entire semester. This requirement, Jayawardhana said, aims to foster the journalists’ engagement with the Cornell community beyond guest lecturing and allows them to work closely with students.
“The idea is that they would not just sort of come by, do a panel or one event and go away but actually spend some time, engage with our faculty, learn about their research, their scholarship,” Jayawardhana said.
Simmons, whose career has spanned decades, felt inspired to pursue journalism due to the influence she believes journalists have on society.
“I think being a journalist, we have such a powerful tool, which is the pen or the computer right now,” Simmons said. “We can certainly use that for good.”
Simmons spent much of her career in Russia, writing for both Time Magazine and the Wall Street Journal. There, Simmons said, she wrote some of her most impactful work, including covering the collapse of the former Soviet Union.
Simmons said she felt especially compelled to tell the story of the Russian people during the collapse, along with the challenges of their transition from a socialist to a market economy.
“So many people really had no experience about what it was like to be inside the Soviet Union,” Simmons said. “To be able to tell stories from that perspective was really important.”
In addition to Simmons’s extensive experience as a journalist, Jayawardhana applauded the timeliness of her work. Simmons is currently in Moscow covering the Ukrainian-Russian conflict for the Wall Street Journal.
“We feel, at this particular moment, it’s a bit of a coup, or privilege for us to have her visit us in the thick of things,” Jayawardhana said.
Prof. Bryn Rosenfeld, government, echoed this excitement at the opportunity and expertise that Simmons will bring to the University.
“I’m thrilled that Ann Simmons will be Cornell’s next Zubrow Distinguished Visiting Journalist,” Rosenfeld said. “Cornell students will have an incredible opportunity this fall to learn from a long-time observer of Russia whose reporting brings into sharp relief the consequences of Russia’s war in Ukraine and Russia’s efforts to redefine its role on the global stage.”
During her time as the distinguished visiting journalist, Simmons hopes to hear student perspectives on the western media coverage of Russia, as well as students’ aspirations in journalism.
“I’m really excited about learning why young people today still want to get into journalism,” Simmons said. “I think it’s probably the best career ever.”
Simmons also shared advice for students aspiring to a career in journalism.
“Read as much as possible,” Simmons said. “Even though Russia is my so-called area of expertise, I have other interests as well. That’s gained through reading and knowledge.”
Correction, Aug. 26, 11:00 a.m.: The initial version of this article misspelled the name of a source.