October 30, 2021

Alumna plays crucial role in media company's inclusion efforts

black alumni

By: Mykayla Capeles

For two-time alumna Marva Smalls, taking a chance on a job led to a long-term career.

Smalls majored in political science. After college, she had great opportunities working as chief of staff for U.S Congressman Robin Tallin, South Carolina Gov. Dick Riley and in the lieutenant governor’s office. Before her graduation, Smalls had been a State House page for Sen. Tom Smith. However, when cable television executive Geraldine Laybourne lured Small to Nickelodeon, she couldn’t pass it up. In 1993, youth-oriented cable networks were on the rise and cable was king. 

“Geri Laybourne had recruited me, and she personally sold me on taking a chance to join Nickelodeon”. Small said, “Geri said, ‘If you help teach us about the broader world, we’ll teach you about entertainment and cable.’ I said I would do it for a year and then go back to politics.”

Twenty-seven years later, Smalls is still there and works as an executive vice president for the global head of inclusion at Nickelodeon’s parent company, ViacomCBS.

“Diversity without inclusion is tokenism, and inclusion without a sense of belonging is a missed opportunity,” Smalls explains. “At Viacom, we like for all of our employees to bring their whole self to work. There’s no part of who they are that they need to check at the door in order to survive and thrive at our company.”

Read the full story, written by Craig Brandhorst, on the university website.


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