FSU Honors Program students visit Washington, D.C., on alumna-sponsored trip to learn from media experts

Students from FSU's University Honors Program pose with NBC journalist Chuck Todd (center), chief political analyst for NBC News and former host of NBC's Meet the Press, during a trip to Washington, D.C., to learn about the intersection of politics and journalism.

Students from the Florida State University Honors Program traveled to Washington, D.C., for a weekend trip that featured a conversation between students and NBC journalists at George Washington University.  

Thirteen honors students from a range of majors participated in the trip sponsored by 1992 alumna Kristian Denny Todd. 

Honors students toured the GW campus and talked with professional journalists about global and national events and reporting and producing the news. Journalists included Peter Lodge, director of the GW School of Media and Public Affairs; Kristen Welker, current moderator for NBC News’ “Meet the Press”; Chuck Todd, NBC News’ chief political analyst and former moderator of “Meet the Press”; Carrie Budoff Brown, senior vice president of politics at NBC News; and Kristian Denny Todd, the trip’s sponsor and a strategic and crisis communications expert who is married to Chuck Todd. 

Discussion topics included voter dissatisfaction and elections, the White House, issues around climate change and current challenges in news reporting.  

“Listening to the guest speakers was an incredible experience,” said Emma Roush, an honors student majoring in media communication studies. “Everyone was extremely welcoming, eager to answer our questions and give really thoughtful responses.” 

The speakers also shared stories from their career journeys and offered advice for the students as they consider their own futures.  

“As an undergraduate student at FSU, I desired an opportunity to speak to current professionals in my chosen career and ask them how they got to where they were,” Denny Todd said. “This was my goal for our honors students, and it worked out beautifully. Everyone was so impressed with the depth and knowledge of our students. I was so proud.”  

Denny Todd, who serves on the FSU Undergraduate Studies Development Council and the FSU Foundation Board of Trustees, arranged the trip with the Honors Program and made a gift to support student travel costs.  

Students from the Honors Program pose outside the U.S. Capitol during a trip to Washington, D.C., to learn about the intersection of politics and journalism.

As a longtime expert in political communications, serving as principal adviser to Bernie Sanders during his 2016 and 2020 presidential primary campaigns and to Muriel Bowser during her successful campaign for mayor of Washington, D.C., Denny Todd used her and her husband’s professional connections to design an exclusive experience for the FSU students.   

“We’re grateful to have Kristian Denny Todd’s visionary support as a partner in providing transformative opportunities for our students,” said Joe O’Shea, associate provost and dean of Undergraduate Studies. “Her generosity and creative thinking led to an invaluable experience for honors students, who returned to campus invigorated and inspired from their time in D.C.” 

The students also explored sights around Washington, including the U.S. Capitol, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Museum of the American Indian. 

“Everyone got to know each other better and created new connections as we spent time exploring Washington, D.C.,” said Sofia Martinez, an honors student in media communication studies. 

The university’s competitive Honors Program has grown exponentially, from about 400 incoming freshmen in prior years to a class of 600 last fall. The goal is to have 800 honors students in the upcoming academic year.  

“The University Honors Program is in an exciting phase of expansion,” said D. Craig Filar, associate dean of the Honors, Scholars, and Fellows House. “Enrichment opportunities like this one, sponsored by our donors, are one of the most impactful ways for both our students and alumni to engage in collaborative learning and professional development. This trip to D.C. provides an amazing blueprint for future opportunities.” 

For more information about the University Honors Program, visit honors.fsu.edu.