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Media Pioneer Laura Walker ’87 Appointed Executive Fellow

Laura Walker

As an executive fellow at Yale SOM, Walker will engage with students and faculty and serve as a resource for all at the school who are interested in the fast-evolving media landscape.

Laura Walker ’87, president and CEO of New York Public Radio, has been appointed as an executive fellow by the Yale School of Management. 

Walker, who has led New York Public Radio for more than 20 years, oversaw the organization’s  growth from a newly private spinoff to a media powerhouse with eight radio stations, an in-house studio producing globally recognized radio programs and podcasts, and a monthly audience of 23 million. She recently announced that she would step down from her role at New York Public Radio at the end of March 2019. As an executive fellow at Yale SOM, Walker will engage with students and faculty and serve as a resource for all at the school who are interested in the fast-evolving media landscape.

Walker will work closely with Yale SOM’s Center for Customer Insights, directed by Professor Ravi Dhar, and its Chief Executive Leadership Institute, led by Professor Jeffrey Sonnenfeld. 

“I am honored to join Yale SOM as an executive fellow, and to work with Ravi Dhar and Jeff Sonnenfeld, two brilliant and innovative thinkers who are at the forefront of their fields,” Walker said. “My time at SOM is one of my most cherished memories and I look forward to sharing my experience leading a mission-based media organization through both exciting and challenging times.”

She added, “SOM’s powerful approach to educating leaders is critically important in the 21st century. I look forward  to the opportunity to be part of this great community, which is dedicated to ethical leadership, innovation,  and a vision of business leaders who have a responsibility to make a positive contribution to the larger world.”

Sonnenfeld, Yale SOM’s senior associate dean for leadership studies and the Lester Crown Professor in the Practice of Management, said, “Laura Walker’s return home to Yale SOM is a gift to faculty, staff, and students, as her entire career portfolio speaks to our school’s core values and educational mission. Laura has been on the frontiers of journalism, entertainment, cultural advancement, technological development, public broadcasting, and education. But beyond her dazzling résumé is her equally sterling character and generous, engaging style as a communicator  even without technology to amplify her message. She will be involved in a wide variety of our programs tapping her professional knowledge, industry network, and reservoir of leadership wisdom.”

Walker took the helm of New York Public Radio (then known as WNYC) in 1996, when it was newly independent after years as a city-owned institution. Under her leadership, New York Public Radio was recognized as being on “innovation overdrive” by Nieman Lab. WNYC Studios launched some of the most popular and influential radio programs and podcasts of recent decades, including Radiolab, 2 Dope Queens, Trump, Inc., The New Yorker Radio Hour, Nancy, and On the Media. Total listenership grew from 1 million to 23 million, and the organization was recognized with journalistic awards, including 10 George Foster Peabody Awards and 5 Alfred I. DuPont Columbia Awards since 2000. 

Walker raised close to $150 million in long-term investments to support New York Public Radio. Under her leadership, the organization’s newsroom grew from 3 people to 70 and the budget went from $1 million to $97.3 million. New York Public Radio acquired other media enterprises, such as WQXR, New Jersey Public Radio, and Gothamist, and launched a broadcast and live event venue that now hosts 150 events per year.

Walker was honored in 2008 with an Edward R. Murrow Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She was named one of New York City’s Most Powerful Women by Crain’s New York Business in 2009 and 2017. 

Walker began her professional career as a print journalist and then a producer at National Public Radio and later held leadership positions at Carnegie Hall and Sesame Workshop. Walker sits on the boards of The Commonwealth Fund, Yale SOM’s Center for Customer Insights, Tribune Media Company, and the Eagle Picher Trust.