Professional headshot of Clarence SanonClarence Sanon, ’22, demonstrated excellent communication skills early on. At age 12, he was already a door-to-door salesman, “selling Black Pages (think Yellow Pages, but just black-owned businesses).”

Fast forward to his time as an M.A. student in Communication Studies at CSU, where Clarence enjoyed further honing those skills.

Bridging gaps and communicating differences

Clarence found our graduate program’s one-on-one mentoring and teaching opportunities particularly meaningful. While teaching public speaking to undergraduates, he was “impressed by how students spoke and showed their interest in the classroom and out.” They reminded him of himself as an undergraduate at Ripon College.

It wasn’t a straightforward trajectory through graduate school for Clarence, but our Department of Communication Studies was flexible in working with him on his master’s thesis.

“I took some time from CSU to enter the job market before graduation,” Clarence says. “Dr. Nick Marx, Dr. Hye Seung Chung, and the Department… were kind enough to help me wrap up my thesis years later,” in the spring of 2022.

Photo inside an open office space of several dozen people standing and sitting together in a group, all wearing a black T-shirt that says "FAIRE"Between coursework and graduation, Clarence first took a job at Yelp, selling advertisements to small businesses. He then went on to join a small, four-person startup as an account manager. That startup—now called Faire—has grown significantly, and today Clarence is their Global Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Lead.

“In my role now, I ensure equitable and fair practices for employees, customers, and our communities. I work on recruitment, policy, operations, community outreach, strategy, etc.” Clarence explains. “The team here has been extraordinarily supportive and challenges themselves to uphold our values of justice and fairness.”

Throughout his work, Clarence has had to gain the trust of many different kinds of people with many different motivations and concerns. His M.A. in Communication Studies, he feels, has been key to those efforts. “DEIB work is about communicating differences and bridging gaps in knowledge and understanding,” he says. “I have used my degree to connect people and their ideas.”

No path is a straight line

Continual learning is critical for Clarence. As he’s moved from student to teacher, then salesman to DEIB professional, Clarence has realized that “no path is a straight line. The backward and sideways moves often are the best and most educational experiences. Lean into them,” he advises.

When asked what other advice he has for current Communication Studies students, Clarence adds, “Take risks. At all points of your education, take a chance on yourself and try to explore ideas and concepts that interest you. School is intended to help you expand your mind and to catapult you into your next journey. Don’t get bogged down on the thing itself—think bigger (beyond the grade). It’s your education; use it as you see fit.”