The head of development at FBE was recognized for her contributions to the television industry, as well as Elon University initiatives, during an Oct. 13 virtual ceremony held in conjunction with Homecoming & Reunion Week.
As J McMerty ’00 recalls, Nneka Enurah ’11 was pretty insistent as a student that she study in the Elon in Los Angeles program. And the media arts & entertainment major convinced the program director to make it happen. Yet, Enurah’s tone and enthusiasm were starkly different in her early correspondence to then-faculty member Connie Book once she arrived on the West Coast.
More than a decade later, Book, now Elon University’s president, has the electronic messages saved in a convenient folder, readily accessible. Why? The student-faculty emails emphasize the importance of placing aspiring professionals in a position to chase their dreams.
“Whenever I need inspiration, these are the emails that I read,” said Book at the Oct. 13 virtual ceremony honoring Enurah as the School of Communications alumna of the year.
In Book’s recollection, Enurah’s first email, penned just days into the program, expressed a dislike for Los Angeles. The nerves of trying something new were getting to the then-Elon student.
A couple of weeks later, Enurah wrote again, highlighting what she was learning and who she was meeting. “In her words, you could see her confidence (was) growing,” Book said. “By the third email, it was, ‘I’m definitely moving back to Los Angeles after graduation.’”
The digital words were proof that Enurah had once again found where she needed to be.
“(The emails) are very special to me,” Book said. “… and I’m so proud to be a part of your academic journey and where it’s taken you.”
More than 30 friends, faculty and staff members joined Book and McMerty this week to celebrate Enurah, acknowledging the Elon alumna’s impressive young career. Today, she serves as the head of development and partnerships for FBE, leading branded and premium content development and packaging for television and platforms.
Prior to that, Enurah was director of digital development and production at Emmy Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine, where she oversaw the production of social video and branded content for several corporate partners.
While climbing the career ladder, Enurah has kept Elon close, becoming an active member of the Elon in LA alumni chapter, supporting the Elon in LA program, and spearheading the Women of Elon Entertainment Empire initiative.
In her introduction of Enurah, Communications Dean Rochelle Ford commended the alumna and compared her to Alexander Hamilton, the American founding father who’s legacy rose to prominence thanks to a critically acclaimed musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“She, like Hamilton, speaks out boldly for others and wants other women and Black, indigenous and people of color to have a shot at success, and she doesn’t back down,” Ford said. “She is an award-winning creative who focuses on developing and producing multi-platform content. As she describes herself, she is obsessed with figuring out strategies to better target today’s diverse audiences.”
After the award presentation, Enurah screened two digital packages she helped create to promote “Little Fires Everywhere,” a Hello Sunshine-produced hourlong drama, and answered questions about her work and career.
The alumna talked at length about the importance and value that come from “Little Fires Everywhere” and its storyline – a frank conversation about Black women and white women. According to Enurah, the honesty of the series allowed for a valuable look at race, class, gender roles, accountability and responsibility.
“For me, I’m on a personal mission to go into spaces … with intentionality,” Enurah said. “Determine how we can leverage these platforms for good. How can we not only entertain, but educate and uplift? And shift a variety of narratives.”
It is why in her new role with FBE that she is deliberate in her decision making. It is not a coincidence that her upcoming programming highlights underrepresented individuals and unheard voices.
“Historically, other worthy stories haven’t had their shot,” Enurah said. “I’m focusing my entire development department’s efforts on minority groups, people of color, people who have innovative stories that you just haven’t see a lot on TV. It’s interesting and it’s exciting to explore how you might tell those stories.”
According to Ford, the School of Communications is fortunate to have Enurah apply that same intentionality and passion to WEEE and other LA-based initiatives. The dean pointed out that earlier this semester Enurah moderated a WEEE panel about the intersectionality of race, ethnicity and gender in entertainment. “And can I say she kept it real, sharing enough for audience members to understand the challenges, and to understand how to endure them, how to be seen, heard and not walked over,” Ford said.
Ford and Book were not the only ones to share compliments and anecdotes of Enurah during the 50-minute Zoom call. McMerty called Enurah “the perfect role model,” and thanked her for her partnership and advocacy for Elon students and alumni. Maggie Mullikin, manager of graduate and global programs, echoed McMerty’s thoughts and praised Enurah for “setting high standards.”
Likewise, several of Enurah’s sisters in Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., spoke, including Janay Tyson ’19. Like the award recipient, Tyson said she initially struggled in the Elon in LA program, but found strength through Enurah’s support. And that support hasn’t wavered in the years since.
During her acceptance speech, Enurah thanked her many long-time friends, whom she said, “have become like family.” She also recognized her alma mater, the faculty and staff who made Elon her home, and the opportunities she found in Los Angeles.
“The Elon in LA experience totally shifted my trajectory. I am a firm advocate and believer in that program,” she said. “I have loved Elon since I stepped foot on the campus in 2006. And I continue to remain committed to our beloved institution and it means so much to me to be receiving this honor and to be celebrating it with you all.”