MJF alumni impact media, business and government

MJF will laud five graduates for significant career contributions in the areas of government, news, entertainment and business at the second annual MJF Distinguished Alumni Days, April 2 – 4 in Oxford, Ohio.

“These alumni have built broad and unique careers from a strong educational foundation at Miami,” said acting MJF Chair Howard Kleiman. “The MJF department helps train students in a solid liberal arts foundation leading to a variety of career paths. Our students are required to double major, which deepens their preparation for careers in a changing new media landscape. These successful graduates model ways for students to navigate that journey.”

The 2017 distinguished alumni are:

  • Laura Melillo Barnum (class of 1987, mass communication) is the immediate past executive director and vice prseident of community relations of the Yum! Brands Foundation.
  • Chris Molnar (class of 2004, mass communications), producer on the CBS television drama NCIS: Los Angeles.
  • Jeff Pegues (class of 1992, mass communication) is CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent based in Washington, D.C.
  • Amy Scalia (class of 2004, mass communication)is founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of Cincy Chic & Cbus Chic online e-zines for women in Cincinnati and Columbus.
  • Lynn Smith (class of 2001, mass communication), host of HLN’s Weekend Express.

Faculty and student events include a panel presentation and reception featuring the honorees 4-6 p.m. Monday, April 3, in the Television Studio, 107C Williams Hall. Honorees will also be speaking in classes, meeting with university officials and touring campus. The panel and reception are open to the public.


Laura Melillo Barnum

Laura Melillo Barnum

Laura Melillo Barnum is a 1987 graduate of Miami University who majored in mass communication. Most recently she has served as executive director of the Yum! Brands Foundation and vice president of Global Community Investment overseeing $10 million in non-profit giving around the globe. She helped create and grow a critical relationship with the World Food Programme, a division of the United Nations devoted to ending hunger.

Barnum served in various capacities during her 22 years with Yum! Brands, the world’s largest restaurant company. She previously was corporate vice president for media relations and investor relations for R.H. Macy & Co., Inc. in New York City.

Serving in the press office for Presidents Ronald Reagan (40th) and George H. W. Bush Sr. (41st), she was, at the time, the youngest special assistant and deputy press secretary to a sitting president in the history of the White House.

Barnum is the immediate past chair of the Board of Directors of the Dare to Care Food Bank, the largest in Kentucky, and serves on the Commonwealth’s Taskforce on Hunger. She was also appointed by Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin to the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Center for the Arts.

Chris Molnar

Chris Molnar

Chris Molnar graduated from Miami University in 2004 with a major in mass communication. He is currently producer of the CBS television drama NCIS: Los Angeles.

In addition to his leadership role with CBS, he is co-producing a feature film, The Relationtrip, along with having recently wrapped producing season 1 of the web series We Don’t Hate It Here.

Past jobs have included associate producer on the TNT series King & Maxwell (pilot) and post production supervisor on another CBS show, NCIS.

After graduating, Molar freelanced as an assistant editor in Cincinnati, followed by a move to North Carolina to work on several independent feature films, including Dog Days of Summer. He is a member of the Producer’s Guild of America and an active partner with the MJF Inside Hollywood Program.

Molnar currently resides in Los Angeles.

Jeff Pegues

Jeff Pegues

Jeff Pegues is a 1992 graduate of Miami University where he was a scholarship football player and starting wide receiver. He majored in mass communication. Pegues is the CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He joined CBS News in July 2013 and reports for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms.

Since joining CBS, Pegues has led the network's coverage of the terrorist attacks in Orlando and in San Bernadino. He has also become one of the most informed voices on the conflict between the black community and police. Not only has he reported extensively on recent police actions and Justice Department investigations in Baltimore and Ferguson, but he has also authored a book on the issue: "Black and Blue: Inside the Divide Between Police and the Black Community."

Pegues has more than two decades of experience covering stories of national and international magnitude, including presidential elections, Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath.

Prior to joining CBS News, he spent nearly 10 years at WABC-TV in New York. Pegues also served as a weekday anchor and reporter at WBAL in Baltimore and the top-rated WSVN in Miami. He has been recognized with numerous national and local Emmy Awards and nominations.

Amy Scalia

Amy Scalia

Amy Scalia, a Cincinnati native, is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of Cincy Chic and Cbus Chic. She graduated magna cum laude from Miami University with a B.A. in Mass Communication in 2004.

Cincy Chic and Cbus Chic are free, online e-zines providing interactive health, beauty, fashion, social and career information to women. They are the only online lifestyle publications for women in the greater Cincinnati and Columbus areas. Cincy Chic launched in January 2007 and now has more than 24,000 opt-in subscribers.

From growing up in the cornfields of Harrison to now owning a home on the Cincitucky side of the river in Ft. Thomas, Scalia has embraced Cincinnati as home. In addition to online media work, she is also business development manager for Cincinnati Profile, a TV personality for STAR64 WSTR-TV, and a blogger for Cincinnati.com.

Her major life accomplishments include: being a 2010 "40 Under 40" recipient from the Cincinnati Business Courier, winning the "Best New Product/Service of the Year" Award from the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, and national Web-writing and national feature writing awards from ASBPE.

In addition to running her media businesses, Scalia can be found running Flying Pig Marathons.

Lynn Smith

Lynn Smith

Lynn (Berry) Smith is the host of HLN’s Weekend Express based in the CNN Worldwide headquarters in Atlanta. She is a 2001 magna cum laude graduate from Miami University who majored in mass communication and got her start in broadcasting as a reporter for the university newspaper and anchor/reporter at its television station.

Following graduation, Smith was awarded a prestigious internship with the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, and served in the NBC Page Program before moving East to pursue her passion for news.

Before joining HLN, she served as the anchor of NBC-TV’s Early Today and MSNBC’s First. During that time, she was also a fill-in newsreader on Weekend Today and covered overnight breaking news at MSNBC.

Smith has been a general assignment reporter and fill-in anchor at WNBC’s local station News 4, New York, and general assignment reporter at NBC-owned WCAU in Philadelphia. She has been co-anchor of NBC 10 Weekend Today and worked behind the camera at NBC-TV’s Today as an associate producer and producer. As an online correspondent for todayshow.com, several of her pieces were featured on Today. She was also a freelance general assignment reporter for NBC-owned station WVIT in Hartford, Connecticut.