He has dreams of rising in the ranks as a national sports reporter and becoming an attorney.
The sky is the limit for A.J. Norwood, a Batesville native whose desire and ability to achieve excellence left a memorable impression on University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media leaders. He is just one of the school’s 2022 graduates who shared his Journey to Commencement.
“I came into college knowing that I wanted to be a broadcast journalist,” said Norwood. “More specifically, I knew I wanted to be a sports broadcaster.”
The broadcast journalism major with a minor in legal studies has worked for NewsWatch – UM’s live, student-run news broadcast, since his freshmen year.
“Auditioning for NewsWatch Ole Miss and getting hired there was pretty much how I got my start doing that,” he said. “It opened up a lot of opportunities for me due to the work that I put in, and I was blessed to be able to make things happen as a result of it.”
Norwood started out as a sports anchor with NewsWatch, then worked his way up to sports director, overseeing sports reporters and anchors.
He also served as a school ambassador, leadership and engagement ambassador, a Luckyday team leader and media specialist, and president of the University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists during his college career.
“Sports journalism was my first goal,” he said. “Being in college now and getting real-world experience, I know I can do news and sports.”
Norwood said he was drawn to UM because of its journalism program, and his older sister, Taylor, graduated from UM in 2020.
He became interested in law during his sophomore year while taking JOUR 371 Communications Law, and decided to pursue legal studies as a minor. He said he’ll most likely pursue journalism first after graduating.
Assistant Dean Patricia Thompson, who leads the Student Media Center, said she has worked extensively with Norwood in her role as student media director and faculty adviser for the UMABJ.
“I recognized A.J.’s strengths as a young sports journalist and his leadership potential and helped recruit him for NewsWatch and UMABJ,” she said. “He’s here with NewsWatch five afternoons a week.
“Like many of our top high-achieving, hard-working students, he runs the risk of being tapped by different departments for too many campus activities. He rarely says no to any opportunity, and he still manages to excel in his work at the (Student Media Center), with UMABJ and in his internships.
“He was one of the students we sent to cover the Sugar Bowl for the SMC. I have no doubt he is going to have an awesome career. Any TV station in the nation would be lucky to land him.”
LaReeca Rucker, adjunct instructional assistant professor of journalism, said Norwood showed great promise early on in a beginning journalism course.
“Some people stand out because they demand attention, and some stand out because they demonstrate a quiet excellence,” she said. “A.J. always knocked every assignment out of the ballpark. His work spoke for itself, and he took home the top honor in my class.”
Assistant Dean Jennifer Simmons said Norwood has the drive and determination for the goals he sets for himself.
“A.J. has the talent, skills, and personality to be a phenomenal broadcast journalist,” she said.
Interim Dean Debora Wenger said Norwood is a gifted communicator.
“I know he is going to be a success,” she said. “He has many talents, but he remains humble and willing to learn from everyone he encounters. No matter where he goes, he will be an asset to the organization as he was to our school — a good student, a good journalist, a good person.”
Norwood believes hands-on experience has given him the tools he needs for success.
“I think I am pretty prepared for whatever I need to do after college,” he said.
He also enjoys photography and has worked as a media specialist for Luckyday Residential College.
“I kind of do photography for both work and fun,” he said. “I figured out that it was something that I can be really good at if I just put in the time to do it.”
Norwood encourages students to pursue their interests in college.
“If there is something you are passionate about, believe in yourself and take that step,” he said. “Do it. You want to always be able to look back and say, ‘I had no regrets while I was here,’ but obviously make good decisions.”
When he’s not reporting, shooting photos, or attending classes, he enjoys spending time with friends. Some of his best memories are late-night runs to Insomnia Cookies on the Oxford Square.
Norwood, one of four children, graduated from South Panola High School, where he played football and soccer while participating in organizations and honor societies.
“Following graduation, I plan to either attend law school or pursue a career as a professional journalist,” he said. “I have a few job offers, but it’s a matter of figuring out the best decision to make for myself right now.”
His advice to students: “Do something (you’re) happy doing in college, in terms of a major. Regardless of how difficult the course load is … if you have a dream job, pursue it. Nothing is going to come easy, but the payoff will be greater in the end.
“I would also tell younger students to make the most of their time in undergrad. I understand that we are all here to get a degree, but these are supposed to be some of the best years of your life. Don’t take it for granted.”
Jena Stallings contributed to this story.