Archive | Featured Alumni

April featured alumnus: Chris D’Arienzo

April featured alumnus: Chris D’Arienzo

It all started with a dream.

Chris D’Arienzo, Paw Paw native and ’94 MSU School of Journalism graduate, said during an interview with the Macomb Daily that he would go to musicals all the time while visiting his mother on the East Coast.

Photo via Flickr.

He dreamed of one day having a musical of his own.

“I said I wanted to write a Broadway show,” D’Arienzo said during the interview.

Writer for the smash-hit musical “Rock of Ages,” D’Arienzo was nominated for five Tony Awards in 2009 including best musical.

Based on hits from the ‘80s, “Rock of Ages” includes music from Journey, Styx, REO Speedwagon, Foreigner, Pat Benetar, Whitesnake Twisted Sister, Poison and Asia, to name a few.

Despite his initial negative attitude, D’Arienzo decided to go to New York to make his “Rock of Ages” dream come true.

“When I pitched it, I jokingly said, ‘This is a Broadway show,’ and everyone kind of laughed,” D’Arienzo said during his Macomb Daily interview. “Then all of a sudden we were going to New York, and we said, ‘The critics are gonna hate us, but hopefully the audience loves us. Then we opened and got a rave in the New York Times.”

Touring around the world, “Rock of Ages” has been recognized as one of the 50 longest-running musicals of all time.

Dabbling into the film industry, D’Arienzo also wrote and directed the film “Barry Munday” and is currently directing the film “Always On My Mind,” starring Nick Nolte and Glenn Close with music by Elton John.

On April 6, “Rock of Ages” will be returning to D’Arienzo’s alma mater for a one-night show at MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts.

The show begins at 6 p.m. and tickets start at 25 dollars.

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February featured alumni: The Bachelor edition

February featured alumni: The Bachelor edition

In the history of ABC’s hit reality show “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” two Spartan grads have been a part of the fan-frenzy mania.

As week five of the 18th season is quickly approaching, the gossip about this year’s bachelor, Juan Pablo Galavis, is quickly heating up. But what many MSU students and alumni do not know is that two highly talked about bachelors in the past call MSU their alma mater.

Bachelor #1

Bob Guiney preforming with Band from TV. Photo via Flickr

Bob Guiney

From: Riverview, Mich.
MSU Graduation Year: Class of 1993
Season: One of “The Bachelorette” & four of “The Bachelor”
Relationship Status: Divorced

After getting his first view by the public eye back in 2003 on season one of ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” Guiney was not chosen by at-the-time bachelorette, Trista Rehn. Rehn just celebrated ten years of marriage to the season’s winner Ryan Sutter in Dec. 2012.

Guiney was later chosen to be “The Bachelor” for the fourth season of the show, and was added to the list of seven who left the show without proposing.

In 2004, Guiney later married soap opera star Rebecca Budig from All My Children. After almost six years of marriage, Budig filed for a divorce in 2010.

This former Spartan football walk-on was the host of TLC’s 2008 show called Date My House and is currently part of a charity band of actors called Band from TV.

Bachelor #2

Ed Swiderski

Ed Swiderski. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

From: Monroe, Mich.
MSU Graduation Year: Class of 2002
Season: Five of “The Bachelorette” & three of “Bachelor Pad”
Relationship Status: Dating

Causing drama in 2009 during season five of “The Bachelorette, ” Swiderski walked out mid-season on bachelorette Jillian Harris to focus on his job. After realizing he had left what he thought to be the love of his life, Swiderski returned to the show and ended up winning the season.

After merely a few months had passed, celebrity tabloids released that Swiderski and Harris would not be making the walk down the aisle.

Recently, Radar Online released a series of odd email messages that led readers to believe that he is now dating Natalie Bomke, a host of Good Morning Chicago.

Currently living in Chicago, he is the Senior Vice President at Legacy Marketing Partners, author of the book “Pinterest for Business: How to Pin Your Company to the Top of the Hottest Social Media Network” and an Alumni Board Member here at MSU.

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November featured alumna: Julie Aigner-Clark

November featured alumna: Julie Aigner-Clark

During a CNBC interview with Julie Aigner-Clark, founder of The Baby Einstein Company, she said that one of the things she admires most about business is when people are willing to listen to the ideas of someone who may not necessarily be “the boss.”

Julie Aigner-Clark

Photo via

“I admire bosses who can listen to people who work for them and accept their ideas and believe that the idea of the person who answers the phone can be just as valid and excellent as the person who has the Harvard MBA,” Aigner-Clark said.

A Michigan State University College of Education class of 1988 graduate and former school teacher, decided she would create a video that would expose toddlers and children to the arts in a way that was easy to understand.

Five years after its release, The Baby Einstein Company generated nearly 20 million dollars in sales before it sold its rights to The Walt Disney Company.

With the ultimate goal of her videos to allow families to spend time together, Aigner-Clark said in her CNBC interview that her dream would to be able to balance her work life so that it does not interfere with the amount of time she spends with her family.

“My dream is to try to maintain the closeness that we have as a family as my kids get older,” Aigner-Clark said. “… We just have such a wonderful family life.”

Although her The Baby Einstein Company, that she started from her home as a stay-at-home parent, is just a tidbit of the amazing things that this MSU grad has accomplished. She has been featured in innumerable media outlets including USA Today, CBS Nightly News, Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The New York Times just to name a few.

Also, she has been personally honored at the president’s State of the Union address, and is also the founder of The Safe Side, which is an organization that has dedicated itself to the safety of children and is partnered with The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

But she is not done yet. Her recent company that was released this year—called Baby Bytes—is an interactive application that can be downloaded by parents for on-the-go baby and toddler engagement. Using the research done by Dr. Elizabeth Vandewater, an associate professor at the University of Texas – Austin, Aigner-Clark was able to fine-tune her application to make it as user-friendly as possible for babies.

Ultimately, the ideal personal qualities that an individual should have to be successful are to be optimistic and do whatever it is that you love, Aigner-Clark said during her interview.

“I admire people who make choices based on good priorities,” she said. “I admire people who do what they love, who aren’t unhappy in work, who see the good things in everything.”

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October featured alumnus: Brandon Kirby

October featured alumnus: Brandon Kirby


Brandon Kirby

Many students wonder how to crack into the incredibly competitive field of journalism, especially if they want to explore the exciting entertainment industry of Los Angeles.

“The best qualities to have in being a successful journalist are resilience, persistence, never saying no and always being willing to dig for more,” said Brandon Kirby, MSU School of Journalism alumnus and editorial assistant at the Hollywood Reporter.

In a relatively short span of time, 24-year-old Kirby has accomplished some pretty amazing things in his career both pre and post graduation from MSU.

Kirby said he did internships at places including Lansing CityPulse, online entertainment blog emcBlue, M3, and Capital Area Women’s LifeStyle Magazine he was able to learn invaluable lessons that he has been able to use throughout his career. Another noteworthy position—Brandon used to be the editor-in-chief of The Big Green. He said all of his internships ultimately set him up with the experience needed to land an internship and eventually a full-time position at The Hollywood Reporter.

Internships today are extremely important in making oneself a marketable candidate in the very competitive job market that there is today. If done well, internships can also have the potential to turn into a full-time opportunity.

MSU prepared him for the workplace in ways he did not even realize while first taking classes, Kirby said. He said that learning things beyond just journalism coursework, such as interpersonal and collaborative communication skills, are invaluable in being successful at an internship or in the workplace.

However, his current position at The Hollywood Reporter did not come to him without complete goal-driven dedication on his part, which often times required him to step out of his comfort zone in order to seize a particular opportunity.

“Being successful after graduation requires you to take advantage of every opportunity and always be willing to put yourself out there,” he said.

This is something he still currently finds beneficial even today in his career.

Although, Los Angeles is over 2,000 miles away from East Lansing, there is always a way to stay connected with fellow Spartans just about anywhere in the world after graduation.

Kirby said he always gets great joy when he finds MSU graduates out in LA, and that there is always a bond when he comes in contact with people in his career that are fellow alumni such as himself.

While Kirby has already had a fantastic start to his career in journalism, keep an eye out on this Spartan alumnus because we will surely be seeing more great things from him as time progresses.

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