Sarah Chakales didn’t expect that college would open so many career opportunities

She’s an international journalist for CNN now, but when Sarah Chakales was an incoming freshman in USC’s Honors College in 2003, she never imagined the world of opportunity that awaited.

She came to campus anticipating parties, football, tailgating with her dad (an MBA graduate from the Moore School of Business) and perhaps a few hours here and there in the library. She didn’t anticipate the School of Journalism and Mass Communications providing career opportunities that would allow her to rub shoulders with policymakers and political journalists.

Her career momentum began with two May Session courses, the first including a week in Washington, D.C., where she met USC alumnus and White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. A second May Session course put Sarah in Germany where she got her first taste of international reporting. 

Sarah then tagged a semester-long fellowship in U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s office and stayed in D.C. as a summer intern at CNN where she found herself working side-by-side with correspondents Wolf Blitzer and Candy Crowley.

Back in Columbia, Sarah ambitiously sought out new scholarship opportunities. Upon her 2007 graduation, she won a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to the University of Hong Kong where she earned a master’s degree in journalism. As Sarah says, “What was meant to be a one year course of study turned into a love affair with Asia.” Today, she works at CNN’s International Asia-Pacific hub in Hong Kong, writing for World Business Today anchored out of Hong Kong, London and New York. Whenever she can, Sarah likes to point out that it was USC that played a pivotal role in her career by opening the right doors.

Sarah personifies my great expectation for all of our students. She actively shaped her college experience by seeking new opportunities and fearlessly taking a road less traveled. I am convinced that Sarah’s story, as remarkable as it is, represents the type of transforming experiences readily available at USC. When opportunity knocks, I believe USC students are well-prepared to open the door.