2014 Commencement Speaker - Soledad O'Brien
Soledad O'Brien is an award winning journalist, documentarian, news anchor, and producer. At the forefront of the biggest breaking news stories of the past two decades, O’Brien is one of the most sought-after journalists of current day.
In June 2013, O’Brien launched Starfish Media Group, a multi-platform media production and distribution company, dedicated to uncovering and producing empowering stories that take a challenging look at the often divisive issues of race, class, wealth, poverty and opportunity, through personal stories.
O’Brien was the originator of the highly successful documentary series for CNN “Black in America” and “Latino in America” which will continue being produced under Starfish Media Group. Through SMG, O’Brien will contribute additional programming to CNN, as well as short-form segments for Al Jazeera America. Furthermore, O’Brien will take over the reigns as executive producer and moderator for The National Geographic Bee in May.
Through SMG, O’Brien recently entered into a multifaceted partnership with HBO, joining the “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” team in June 2013, giving her the opportunity to further delve into the compelling storytelling she is known for, except now through the vast prism of sports. In addition to appearing on the award-winning program, the deal with HBO encompasses a first-look opportunity for scripted projects and long-form programming concepts with O’Brien’s Starfish Media Group.
Earlier in her career, O’Brien co-anchored for “Weekend Today” and contributed to segments on The “Today” show and “NBC Nightly News”. In 2003, O’Brien transitioned to CNN where she was the face of CNN’s morning news shows for many years, and in 2011 won an Emmy for "Crisis in Haiti Report" on Haitian orphanages, following the massive earthquake. In 2013 she won 2 Emmy awards for reporting on "Kids and Race" and for the networks reporting of the 2012 presidential election.
Her coverage of Hurricane Katrina earned her and CNN a George Foster Peabody Award. She also received another Peabody Award for her coverage of the BP Gulf Coast oil spill. Her reporting on the Southeast Asia tsunami garnered CNN an Alfred I DuPont Award. O'Brien's critically acclaimed documentary series, “Black in America” and its follow-up "Latino in America," are among CNN's most successful domestic and international franchises.
In 2013, "Latino in America 2," the story of a Latina boxer who dreams of Olympic glory, won the celebrated Cine Award for documentaries. Her documentary "Gay in America: Gary and Tony have a baby", and "Unwelcome, The Muslims Next Door" also won numerous journalism awards. O'Brien was named journalist of the year by the National Association of Black Journalists and one of Newsweek Magazine's "10 People who Make America Great."
In 2013, O'Brien joined Harvard University as a Distinguished Fellow and was appointed to the Board of Directors of the foundation for The National Archives.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, O'Brien and her husband, Brad, created The Soledad O’Brien + Brad Raymond Starfish Foundation to help disadvantaged young women get to and through college. This year they will award scholarships to 25 deserving young women.
It was announced in February 2014 that O’Brien along with her production company and foundation will partner with COVERGIRL’s Girls Can initiative to create content dedicated to telling stories of young women who have faced obstacles in their journey of reaching higher pursuits.
O'Brien lives in Manhattan with her husband and four children.