Loyola University Chicago

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Loyola alumna to speak at SOC commencement

Loyola alumna to speak at SOC commencement

Loyola University Chicago graduate Jean Hodges will be the keynote speaker at the School of Communication’s 2022 commencement to be held on May 12. The title of her speech is “Searching for the Answers to Life's Biggest Questions.”

Passionate about news as “a vehicle for sharing accurate information, and storytelling’s power to unite people around common values,” Hodges, Senior Director of News Culture and Communication at Gannett Co. Inc., brings those values to the forefront of her work each day.

Her position at this largest publisher in the nation is focused on “everything from content development to onboarding new talent to employee retention,” as she highlighted.  

When coronavirus altered the newsroom operation forever, Hodges focused on leading initiatives that meet the challenges of the virtual newsroom with training geared to virtual leadership and coping with burnout.

Prior to the GateHouse Media and Gannett Co. merger in 2019, Hodges was the Senior Director of Content for the News and Interactive division of GateHouse. In this role she developed content strategy for more than 300 community newsrooms across the country and helped to launch GateHouse News Service as the national editor for shared content that was used across newspapers, both online and in print.

Hodges’ work extends to her partnership with historically Black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions of higher education to offer paid internships to those who have traditionally been underserved.

“For as long as I have known Jean, she has been an outspoken advocate for three important values: ethics, education and empathy. She has been at the forefront of developing ethics guidelines for newsrooms, for training and development opportunities for journalists at all stages of their careers, and for creating newsrooms where people feel a sense of genuine care and belonging,” said Professor Jill Geisler, Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity of the Loyola School of Communication. “She is a champion of inclusion who has never been hesitant to challenge the status quo. And as she’s told me more than a few times while volunteering at Loyola programs, this university is her home and her heartbeat."

Before moving into the corporate world of news, Hodges spent more than 20 years as a reporter and editor, leading groundbreaking projects in Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and England.

Hodges holds a BA (’84) in English and Philosophy from Loyola University Chicago. “My studies directly informed my passion for using communication to right wrongs and to give a voice to the voiceless,” she recalled. Hodges was also a Knight Digital Media Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on different forms of storytelling beyond print, especially video and audio.

“We’re thrilled to have Ms. Jean Hodges as our commencement speaker,” said Dr. Hong Cheng, Dean of the Loyola School of Communication. “Jean’s success story in her career, her deep commitment to Jesuit values and her tremendous professional insights will be inspiring and enlightening to our 2022 graduates and all other commencement attendees.”