Webster native Jenn Poggi never dreamed she would have the opportunity to work for the Photo Office of the White House, let alone return to her hometown to teach photojournalism at the college level.
After a four-year position at the White House, where she most recently served as deputy director and White House photo editor, Poggi has joined RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences’ (SPAS) program for a three-year appointment as a visiting assistant professor.
“The talented SPAS faculty members have developed one of the greatest photojournalism programs in this country and there are many photojournalists out there who are alumni,” said Poggi, “so the opportunity to join a team like this was a very attractive proposition.”
In addition to her distinguished reputation in the world of photojournalism, this isn’t Poggi’s first time at the head of the classroom. Several years following her graduation from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Poggi was awarded a Knight Fellowship at Ohio University’s School of Visual Communications, where she taught picture editing and completed her master’s in multimedia and newsroom graphics management.
“The opportunity to work with students again was very appealing to me,” said Poggi. “My goal is to reinforce the importance of developing stellar documentary photojournalistic skills. If a student values and develops those skills, they can apply them in many different directions.”
We caught up with Poggi for more info on her accomplished career and humble beginnings in Rochester.
Hometown: Webster, NY Occupation: Visiting Assistant Professor in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences’ (SPAS) photojournalism program at RIT (three-year appointment) Previous role (s): Deputy Director and Photo Editor at The White House, Deputy Director of Photography at U.S. News & World Report, Picture Editor at U.S. News & World Report, Picture Editor and Photo Assistant at The Associated Press.
How did you acquire an interest in photojournalism? Photography was always important to my family. Someone always had a camera around and we took a lot of pictures — not just at big family events but during the everyday moments, too. I also had a natural interest in news from an early age. We subscribed to the newspaper and I remember always watching the news with my parents. We talked about current events and still do. I was also lucky to have good photography and journalism resources in high school. Those classes and extracurricular activities helped me develop skills and experience in both areas.
What do you love about your chosen career? One of the many reasons I love photojournalism is that it's an outlet for curiosity. It offers both the journalist and the audience an opportunity to learn and connect with people and things they might never otherwise come in contact with.
What was it like to work for the White House? Did you always have aspirations of working there? The White House complex is a true intersection of humanity — a place where so many different kinds of people, from so many different places, who have experienced vastly different circumstances in life, come together. Every day I was amazed by my colleagues — their generosity, dedication and hard work. It’s really not unlike a college campus, and that’s one of the many reasons I’m excited to be here. That being said, I never anticipated I would have an opportunity to work at the White House. It was an amazing experience being able to use my particular set of skills in service to our country.
What are your goals as a professor at RIT? My primary goal is to work hard for the students and be the best teacher I can be. In addition to information, I want to offer students a realistic glimpse into the photojournalism industry so they are equipped to succeed when they leave RIT.
Where do you see yourself in the future? I'm at RIT in a visiting professor capacity so I'm really focused on making the most of each day here on campus and exploring the Rochester area.