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Young alumni recognized with Elon's Top 10 Under 10 Awards

The annual awards celebrate alumni from the past decade who have achieved major professional success, serve as difference-makers in their communities and loyally support Elon.

The 2019 Top 10 Under 10 Alumni Award recipients from left: (back row) Sam Slaughter ’09, Barrett Wilbert Weed ’11, Zora Stephenson ’15, Emily Favret ’09 and Wyn Ferrell, Jr. ’09; (front row) Jasmine Gregory ’12, Alanna Vagianos ’13 Hannah Lane ’11 and Josh Norris ’11.

Surrounded by their family, friends and Elon mentors, 10 young alumni were honored April 13 with the 2019 Top 10 Under 10 Alumni Awards.

The annual ceremony, which was held in the Snow Family Grand Atrium of the Dwight C. Schar Hall, recognizes 10 alumni who have graduated between 2018 and 2009 and who have achieved major professional success, serve as difference-makers in their communities and loyally support Elon.

During his welcoming remarks, Webb Bond ’08, president of the Elon University Young Alumni Council, said alumni make a difference where they are, whether they realize it or not. “After you leave here tonight, I hope you take a lot of personal pride when you go back to your communities because we are the graduates the world needs,” he said.

President Connie Ledoux Book echoed that sentiment. She said the recipients of this year’s awards personified the school’s motto, Numen Lumen, Latin words meaning “spiritual light” and “intellectual light” that signify the highest purpose of an Elon education.“As you spoke this evening, it’s evident that your Elon education is living inside you,” Book said. “You each took your education and you’re taking your light and bringing it into the world. That’s leadership.” 

Honored with the 2019 Top 10 Under 10 Alumni Awards were:

Emily Favret ’09
Director of global communications, Nike

Portland, Oregon

A life-long athlete and sports fan, Emily Favret has built a career in sports communications that has spanned the globe. For nine years she worked at top global lifestyle and communications agencies in New York and London, where she specialized in sports marketing and media and influencer relations.

Throughout her career, Emily has led global communications campaigns across five continents in more than 100 markets. This includes working on global brand campaigns for the Olympics, World Cup, UEFA Champions League, Formula 1, various other endurance events and all major U.S. sports leagues for top brands.

In 2017, Emily joined the Nike Global Communications team as a director of global employee communications. In this role, she leads a team that looks after the experiences, editorial and communications that keep Nike’s global employee base of 73,000 team members engaged in the brand, the products, the athletes and sport moments they love.

During her time at Elon, Emily majored in strategic communications and was actively involved in various campus organizations, including the Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows Program, Phoenix Phanatics, New Student Orientation and First-Year Summer Experience. She participated in club and intramural sports and also served as an admissions tour guide. Following graduation, she was an active member of the New York City Alumni Chapter and helped start the first international alumni chapter in London.

In addition to her professional work in sports, Emily is an endurance athlete and yoga enthusiast. She lives in Portland, Oregon, and is most frequently found training for her next Ironman or marathon.

Wyn Ferrell, Jr. ’09
Owner, Mile High Spirits Distillery and Tasting Bar

Denver, Colorado

Wyn Ferrell worked in the finance industry while attending and after graduating from Elon University, but soon realized his career path was going to be different.

Shortly after moving to Denver in 2009, Wyn started his first business as a “sweat equity” partner selling indoor gardening supplies. Three years later he sold his portion of the company to focus on the growing distillery business he had started in 2011. Since then, and with a passion for quality, value and community in an exciting and growing industry, Wyn and his partners have grown Mile High Spirits into a household name in Colorado and have already expanded to 18 states from coast to coast.

More importantly, the business has given Wyn the opportunity to do much more than produce award-winning bourbon. He has built one of the most popular bars and music venues in the city of Denver, where he produces and hosts an annual music festival for more than 5,000 attendees, and he manages 50-plus employees with leadership, teamwork and respect.

From essential marketing, management and critical thinking skills learned in the classroom and during summer internships, to event production and relationship management that he learned through Sigma Pi, Wyn is thankful to Elon for shaping him into a well-rounded person, ready to take on one of the most aggressive industries in the world.

Outside of his work, Wyn is an adventure photographer, guitar builder, woodworker, welder and loving husband.

Sam Slaughter ’09
Food and spirits editor and author, The Manual

Greenville, South Carolina

Sam Slaughter has been publishing fiction, creative nonfiction, critical essays and journalistic pieces since 2009. In that time, he’s written for a variety of outlets, from local newspapers to international magazines.

While at Elon, Sam was the leader of SHARE and spent time playing with puppies as he volunteered with the local animal shelter. He was also a member of Sigma Tau Delta and Alpha Kappa Delta. After graduation, he tried many roles including winemaking, newspaper writing and AmeriCorps before graduating with a master’s degree in English literature from Stetson University in 2013. Since then, he has published short fiction, critical reviews and creative non-fiction in a variety of places, which culminated in two collections of short stories: “When You Cross That Line” and “God in Neon.”

In 2017, Sam moved back to his home of New Jersey to work full-time as a spirits writer at the men’s lifestyle magazine The Manual. He was promoted to spirits editor, then food and drink editor and has traveled the world, drinking and eating widely and interviewing a variety of celebrities including Jonathan Goldsmith (the world’s most interesting man), famous rapper and former chef Action Bronson and his personal idol, the late Anthony Bourdain.

Sam’s spirits work has appeared in Maxim, Bloomberg, The Bitter Southerner, Thirsty, The Bluegrass Situation, Chilled, Supercall and Edible, among others. His first cocktail book, “Are You Afraid of the Dark Rum?: and Other Cocktails for 90s Kids,” is scheduled to be published in June by Andrews McMeel Publishing.

Sam lives in Greenville, South Carolina, with his partner, Amy, and their dog, Tina.

Hannah Lane ’11
Postdoctoral research fellow, University of Maryland School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics

Baltimore, Maryland

As a biochemistry major and Honors Fellow with a public health minor, Hannah Lane cultivated unique interests while at Elon, which led her to pursue a career in public health research.

After graduation, she completed a Master of Public Health degree from George Washington University and a doctoral degree in community and behavioral science from Virginia Tech. She is now finishing a postdoctoral fellowship and preparing to transition to assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

As a researcher, Hannah has partnered with organizations focusing on young people in underserved communities, from a coal town in Appalachian Virginia to the neighborhoods of West Baltimore, to evaluate innovative policies and programs designed to increase access to healthy foods, opportunities for physical activity and health literacy skills among hard-to-reach children. Through her research, she aims to provide all children with opportunities to be healthy, active and free of chronic disease.

Hannah is the youngest member of the founding Board of Directors for IQ Community Solutions Institute, a nonprofit that collaborates with community-based organizations to address health issues in the Washington, D.C. area.

She and her husband, Geoffrey Hall ’11, who is also dedicated to improving the health of children as a pediatric resident, live in Baltimore.

Josh Norris ’11
NFL writer and podcaster, NBC Sports and Rotoworld

Norwalk, Connecticut

Since the Panthers played their first game in 1995 in Charlotte, North Carolina, football has dominated Josh Norris’s interests. He’s gone from being an excited 8-year-old inside Ericsson Stadium (now Bank of America Stadium), to obsessing about random player facts while in high school, to becoming an NFL writer and podcaster.

While pursuing a broadcasting degree at Elon University, Josh and a friend created their own show on Elon’s student-run radio station, WSOE 89.3. A few years later, he was a consistent face in One on One sports, and helped the television show produce their first simulcast of an NFL draft.

Those student media experiences propelled him to land summer internships at WFNZ in Charlotte after his first year, Fox Sports Radio in Los Angeles after his junior year and a scouting assistant role with the St. Louis Rams (now Los Angeles Rams) prior to graduation.

Now working out of NBC Sports headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, Josh focuses on football year-round. What started as a job with a “writer” title has morphed into on-camera work on countless live television shows, hosting and producing NBC Sports’ most successful original podcast and anchoring weekly football shows during football season on NBC digital platforms.

He lives in South Norwalk, Connecticut, with his dog, Zap.

Barrett Wilbert Weed ’11
Broadway actor

New York, New York

Since as far back as she can remember, theater has been an important part of Barrett Wilbert Weed’s life. A native of Cambridge, Massachusetts, she started performing with the Boston Children’s Opera when she was 5. She later attended Walnut School for the Arts, where her passion for the craft was solidified.

But it was at Elon where Barrett gained many technical skills as well as the self-confidence to trust herself and jump into a professional career. After graduating with a musical theatre degree in 2011, she moved to New York City. She soon made her Broadway debut as an understudy for several of the female roles in “Lysistrata Jones.” She played Nadia in the Off-Broadway production of “Bare: The Musical” and later originated the role of Veronica Sawyer in the Los Angeles premiere of “Heathers: The Musical,” a performance that earned her Lucille Lortel Award and Drama Desk Award nominations in 2014 and set the tone for future strong female roles.

Barrett played Denise in the Off-Broadway musical “FOUND The Musical” before playing the role of the vivacious Sally Bowles in the Signature Theatre production of “Cabaret,” which earned her the prestigious Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical in 2016.

She is now playing the rebellious Janis Sarkisian in Tina Fey’s Broadway smash “Mean Girls.” Her performance of “I’d Rather Be Me,” one of the show’s tunes, on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” last spring earned her a standing ovation. If her dreams come true, you can expect to see Barrett playing more young adult characters on TV and in films soon.

Jasmine Gregory ’12
Associate attorney, Payne & Associates, PLLC

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Jasmine Gregory has always had a passion for giving a voice to the voiceless. She earned a degree in strategic communications with minors in African-American studies and history at Elon before pursuing a law degree from Wake Forest University School of Law in 2015.

During her undergraduate years, Jasmine was heavily involved in several campus activities and organizations, including Alpha Kappa Alpha, Lamda Pi Eta, Phi Alpha Theta and the Black Cultural Society. She also served as a tour guide for the Office of Admissions and contributed to the opinions section of The Pendulum, the student-run newspaper.

After graduating, she worked with the United Way of Greater Greensboro, where she became acquainted with the work of Legal Aid of North Carolina, an experience that led her to pursue a law degree with an emphasis on criminal procedure, family law and child advocacy.

While at Wake Forest, Jasmine worked part-time for the Adam Foundation in Winston-Salem, where she served as the foundation development specialist raising money and planning events for LGBTQ initiatives in the area. She also led the school’s robust Pro Bono Project during her final year of law school, managing a board consisting of law students and community projects designed to increase access to justice among low-income populations.

Jasmine graduated from Wake in 2018 and received the North Carolina State Bar Student Pro Bono Service award for outstanding pro bono service in the Winston-Salem area. She is now a member of the Forsyth County Bar Association and serves as a family law attorney at a small private practice specializing in high conflict custody battles, divorce proceedings and domestic abuse cases. In addition to her private practice work, she also does court-appointed work in Stokes County, North Carolina, representing poor parents in juvenile abuse cases. Jasmine lives in Winston-Salem.

Tyler Marenyi ’13 (NGHTMRE) in absentia
DJ and electronic dance music producer
Los Angeles, California 

Tyler Marenyi, a finance graduate better known by his stage name NGHTMRE, ascended to the upper echelons of dance music stardom in what he describes as a dream-like experience. His meticulous production and pulsating performances have cemented him as both a festival mainstay and dance music tastemaker.

In the past year alone, Tyler produced a slew of successful music and star-studded collaborations, including his exploratory “Magic Hour” EP with Pell, the trippy “Another Dimension” with Dillon Francis, “Save Yourself” with The Chainsmokers, “Like That” with Big Gigantic, and “TTM” with Whiz Khalifa and PnB Rock. NGHTMRE is a household name at the world’s best clubs and festivals, driving crowds into a frenzy at EDC Las Vegas, Tomorrowland, Creamfields, Coachella, Amnesia Ibiza and more.

Tyler rounded out 2018 with his “NGHTMRE Before Xmas” tour, which sold out shows in both San Francisco and Los Angeles with 8,500 and 6,300 people in attendance, respectively. He also added “label owner” to his resume with the launch of “Gud Vibrations” as an official record imprint alongside best friends Derek and Scott of SLANDER.

The label further heightens the global brand the trio have built around the “Gud Vibrations” live event series, which has included massive shows at the Hollywood Palladium, Red Rocks amphitheater, Miami Music Week and throughout Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Tyler is based in Los Angeles, California.

Alanna Vagianos ’13
Women’s reporter, HuffPost

New York, New York

Alanna Vagianos has always been a champion for women’s rights, but she didn’t realize she could turn her passion into a career until she arrived at Elon University in 2009. With the help of her mentor, Associate Professor of Religious Studies Amy Allocco, Alanna independently majored in women’s and gender studies, graduating in 2013.

During her time at Elon, Alanna was involved with Spectrum, the university’s queer-straight student alliance, and was also part of the Zeta Tau Alpha fraternity. She studied abroad with the Semester at Sea program and traveled to India for a Winter Term course. She concluded her senior year with an internship at Lillian’s List, a political nonprofit supporting pro-choice women in office and writing a 50-page research paper on India’s surrogacy industry. After two short stints at Ms. and BUST magazines, Alanna landed an editorial fellowship at HuffPost and was hired months later as an associate editor. She was later promoted to editor of HuffPost’s women section and wrote and edited daily news pieces.

Today, Alanna is a women’s reporter on HuffPost’s national news desk, with a focus on gender issues, sexual violence and social justice. She has extensively covered sexual assault cases including former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar and comedian Bill Cosby, as well as reporting on the #MeToo movement.

She has also interviewed many powerful thought leaders including feminist Gloria Steinem and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. She was the co-host of a weekly Facebook Live series that discussed the intersections between queer and feminist news and has appeared as an expert on Al Jazeera English, BuzzFeed’s AM to DM and Refinery29.

Alanna lives in New York City with her boyfriend, Brendan, and their dog, Donut.

Zora Stephenson ’15
Anchor and reporter, Fox31’s KDVR TV Station

Denver, Colorado

Zora Stephenson was in high school when she first appeared on camera during a morning show more than 10 years ago, and she hasn’t turned back since.

Zora always had a knack for public speaking. Even in grade school she was often called upon to do the presentations. That continued at Elon University, where she was captain of the women’s basketball team and worked on a number of shows, including what was then Elon Local News and Elon Phoenix Weekly. At football games, you could see her as the in- game host on the big screen. Zora also welcomed visitors to campus as an admissions tour guide.

Now, as a professional journalist, Zora gets to combine her presentation skills with a love for storytelling. She is an anchor and reporter at KDVR TV station, the Fox affiliate in Denver, Colorado. Zora covers everything from breaking news to enterprise stories. Before moving to Denver, Zora was a reporter at WNCT in Greenville, North Carolina. In 2017, she was recognized for her work in eastern North Carolina as the RTDNAC Division 2 News Reporter of the Year.

In addition to her news job, Zora is a sports broadcaster working as an analyst and reporter for various outlets. Always willing to give back, she enjoys helping young journalists and other professionals whenever possible.

When she is not working, Zora enjoys attending various sporting events, spending time with friends and family and trying out new restaurants.

Keren Rivas,
Staff
4/14/2019 3:40 PM