McCaffrey scholarship encourages students to embrace how technology shapes and defines journalism

McCaffrey scholarship encourages students to embrace how technology shapes and defines journalism

Wednesday, November 8, 2017 - 7:15am
Cindy McCaffrey
Cindy McCaffrey

For students at Nebraska’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications the topic of technology is a hot one because of the ever-evolving way in which we use it to communicate big and small. That is why the emerging media scholarship created by alumnus Cindy McCaffrey is a big deal.

The list of highly recognized tech companies and brands McCaffrey has been affiliated with during her inspiring career is long — and impressive.

After graduating in journalism from Nebraska in 1980, the South Bend, Indiana, native worked for daily newspapers in the Midwest and San Francisco Bay Area. 

“Because of a very favorable experience with the journalism program in high school — and also because of the influence of the movie ‘All the President’s Men’ — I knew upon entering UNL my freshman year that I would major in journalism,” McCaffrey said.

In 1987, she was hired as a copy editor at what was then the fledgling magazine Macintosh Today in San Francisco. The magazine was founded by the late David Bunnell, a Nebraska alumnus considered a pioneer of the personal computing industry who started PC Magazine, PC World and Macworld.

Macintosh Today was one of the first publications produced entirely using Macs and LaserWriter printers, and McCaffrey became instantly enthralled with Apple.

“I fell in love with Apple’s story and its products while working at Macintosh Today and decided that I needed to be a part of the excitement coming out of the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, California,” McCaffrey said. “I didn't have any real tech experience, so I had to figure out where I fit into the company. Apple’s PR department seemed like a good place to start.”

She was hired by Apple as an entry-level product publicity specialist in 1988 and over the next several years held many positions in public relations, marketing communications and product and brand management. She was the company’s director of corporate public relations when she left Apple in 1996.

McCaffrey would go on to use her skills and knowledge to help other Silicon Valley tech companies, including The 3DO Company, CBT Systems and E*Trade.

She eventually arrived at Google, where she served as vice president of corporate marketing. She also helped launch Google’s philanthropic endeavor based at Google.org, which strives to extend the reach of nonprofit innovators and connect them with resources that include funding, tools and volunteer support from around Google. 

It is no surprise she is now involved in several philanthropic and community projects in California.

As an alumna of the Nebraska College of Journalism and Mass Communications, McCaffrey has brought her gifts back to where she got her start.

“I am forever grateful to the journalism program at the University of Nebraska for providing me with a solid foundation upon which to build a career that took many exciting, often challenging and always rewarding twists and turns,” McCaffrey said. “The education I received at Nebraska gave me all the skills and confidence I needed to be successful in the many positions I held throughout my career.”

A few years ago, McCaffrey created the McCaffrey Emerging Media Scholarship with a $100,000 gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation. The permanently endowed fund enables the College of Journalism and Mass Communications to award annual scholarships to students who have an interest in technology-related careers in areas such as computer science, informatics or others.

“This scholarship combines two of my passions: the art of communications and the science of technology innovation,” McCaffrey said. “Tech tools present exciting and interesting opportunities for information gathering, presentation and dissemination. It’s a completely nascent, constantly evolving area, and I’m excited to see how tomorrow’s communicators will incorporate technology in shaping and defining the future of journalism.”

Anna Fobair, a senior advertising–public relations and broadcasting major who grew up in Bettendorf, Iowa, is the current recipient of the McCaffrey Emerging Media Scholarship. Along with her double major she has an informatics minor, which made her a strong candidate for the scholarship.

Fobair has held a variety of internships, including ones for Husker Vision; Lincoln Parks and Recreation; KWQC in Bettendorf, Iowa, Hope Venture in Lincoln; and Weber Shandwick in New York City.

She said it was validating to be selected as a McCaffrey Scholar. “Knowing someone believes in me to do great things after graduation — it’s so humbling.”

Fobair chose an informatics minor so she would be more marketable for media-based jobs, and she believes it’s preparing her well, especially with more skills for the digital and technology-based world.

If Fobair could say anything to McCaffrey, it would be, “thank you so much for helping me get through my senior year. I’m really honored and in awe. …”

McCaffrey had the experience of growing up in Indianapolis, Dallas and Omaha, as her father’s career with AT&T took him and his family to these cities for work. She graduated from Omaha Burke High School before enrolling at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Currently, she and her husband, Mick, live in the San Francisco Bay Area and Maui, Hawaii.

To learn more about opportunities to support the College of Journalism and Mass Communications through support for students or many other ways, contact Senior Director of Development Greg Jensen at 402-458-1181 or greg.jensen@nufoundation.org.

This article was written by Rebekkah Watkins, the public relations intern at the University of Nebraska Foundation and a Nebraska senior who studies journalism, history and classical studies.