Updated: Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2022 at 12:03 p.m.
Three alumni cracked the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for 2023.
The annual Forbes list, which the magazine published Tuesday, recognizes about 600 young professionals under the age of 30 for their accomplishments across 20 career fields. The alumni included in the 2023 list were honored for their achievements in education, media, retail and e-commerce.
Eight alumni landed a spot on the list for 2022, in categories spanning consumer technology, entertainment, finance, marketing, media and sports. Three alumni claimed spots on the 2020 list for media, games and health care.
NBC senior producer Yara Bishara, political economist Chinemelu Okafor and entrepreneur Gabriella Tegen made the 2023 list. Here’s how their careers have taken off since their time at GW:
Bishara graduated from GW in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and she currently serves as a senior producer for NBC News, where she oversees a team of video journalists and produces 30-minute documentaries. Among her recent work at NBC, Bishara produced a documentary that examined social media’s impact on the trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard and “Dear Noah: Pages From A Family Diary,” a November documentary on a Texas family and the decisions they make for their transgender son’s safety.
Before NBC, Bishara was a part of the New Yorker’s video team producing documentaries and docu-series, later contributing to the magazine’s most popular news videos, drawing 19 million views on YouTube and helping to double its YouTube subscriber base in two years.
Before graduating from GW, Bishara worked on The Hatchet’s video team from 2013 to 2015, serving as a senior staff videographer in 2014. Bishara said her work on The Hatchet was the first time she had the opportunity to work with a video camera or use editing software like Final Cut Pro.
“The hands-on experience at The Hatchet allowed me to experiment, fail and iterate so I can apply those skills and teachings at my various internships while also giving me space to better understand the role I wanted to play in media,” she said in an email.
After graduating from GW, Bishara worked at the New York Times for more than a year as a video journalist on the breaking news team.
After immigrating to the U.S. at 10 years old, she said her earning a spot on the Forbes 30 under 30 list represents and validates her and her family’s hard work and sacrifice starting “from scratch.”
“As someone who immigrated to this country when I was 10 years old and hardly knew any English, my family and I have worked incredibly hard to make something for ourselves here,” Bishara said. “As a Palestinian, I was acutely aware of the lack of representation in leadership roles in media.”
Bishara said she had always wanted to attend GW after watching her father receive his master’s degree from the University when she was three years old in the nation’s capital, a destination she saw as unparalleled and advantageous.
“As a student, GWU’s faculty, coursework, extracurriculars and location equipped me with all the right skills, knowledge and opportunity to explore my interests and passions,” she said. “The proximity to the White House and Capitol Hill opened a door of opportunity and experience I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten elsewhere.”
Bishara said students should have confidence in their abilities and pursuits. Bishara said young people’s perspectives are vital in shaping the future of the media industry.
“Never second guess yourself because of how young you might be or feel in a conference room with editors twice your age,” she said. “Your voice matters, your opinion matters. Walk in with confidence and remember that kindness always goes a long way.”
Bishara is currently pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at New York University.
Okafor graduated from GW with a master’s degree in applied economics in 2018. As a political economist, Okafor founded the nonprofit organization Research in Color Foundation in 2019, which provides aspiring economic scholars of color with a mentor who carries a Ph.D. in economics or an economics-adjacent discipline to partner on an eight-monthlong research project.
Before coming to GW, Okafor received a bachelor’s degree in economics and international studies at University of Michigan. She is currently a doctoral candidate at Harvard University and serves as the president of the foundation.
Okafor did not return requests for comment.
Tegen graduated from the University with a bachelor’s degree in international business and marketing in 2016. She is currently the CEO of Smartrr, a subscription platform that partners with a diverse group of companies to make the customer memberships and subscriptions more user-friendly.
During her time on campus, Tegen was a member of GW’s chapter of the Alpha Phi sorority.
Smartrr offers companies a platform to allow their consumers to easily update product subscriptions month to month through options like item swaps and delivery delays. Tegen said the gross merchandise value of Smartrr’s clients has increased by a 318 percent average after 60 days of switching to Smartrr.
She said Smartrr has built relationships with other brands, like actress Cameron Diaz’s wine company Avaline and skin care company Starface, to include them in their subscription service and attract more customers.
“In business, the relationships you have, the network you create – those are incredibly important and often are critical,” Tegen said in an email. “Choose who you surround yourself with wisely and remember, good people build good products and successful companies.”
Tegen said her time at GW helped prepare her with courses that encouraged her to use critical thinking and problem solving about real-world scenarios like business ethical dilemmas.
“While you may not be faced with, for example, cases of ethical or legal breaches, the use of critical thought with some of the courses I took gives you the confidence to think similarly in the outside world,” Tegen said.
Tegen said she encourages all students, especially those interested in a business career, to build a network and take advantage of professional connections because of the advantages it can offer a resume.
“Your network will prove significant for your career, regardless of your career path,” Tegen said. “And while you may feel guilty asking for someone to review your resume, pass it along to their network, help prep for an interview, etc. People really want to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.”
Faith Wardwell, Olivia Emerson and Ingrid Hofmann contributed reporting.
This post has been updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Bishara is a senior producer at NBCUniversal. She is a senior producer at NBC News. The Hatchet also incorrectly reported that Bishara began at The Hatchet in 2010. She began in 2013. We regret these errors. This post has also been updated to clarify Bishara’s role as a producer of the documentary about the Depp and Heard trial.