2020 Great Immigrants Recipient

Goli Sheikholeslami
President and CEO, New York Public Radio
Born in:
Kuwait

The daughter of an Iranian diplomat, Goli Sheikholeslami was born in Kuwait. When she was 10, her family fled Iran on the eve of the country’s 1979 revolution, arriving in the United States as political refugees.

Sheikholeslami grew up in suburban Washington, D.C., and received her undergraduate degree in international economics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. She started her career as an associate producer at Hillmann & Carr, a Washington, D.C.-based film and video production company, where she worked on documentaries. She went on to earn an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

After holding leadership roles at media giants like Time Warner and Condé Nast in New York City, Sheikholeslami joined the Washington Post in 2002. As senior vice president and general manager for digital, she is credited with leading the legendary newspaper’s transformation from a print-centric news organization to a digitally focused one, most notably through the expansion of washingtonpost.com. After seven years with the Washington Post, she returned to New York City as chief product officer at the digital media company Everyday Health.

Sheikholeslami first joined public radio as CEO of Chicago Public Media (CPM), home to flagship station WBEZ, which produces, in partnership with National Public Radio (NPR), such shows as Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! and This American Life. During her five years at CPM, Sheikholeslami increased its focus on local news coverage by nearly doubling its newsroom, and launched new digital properties and podcasts, including Making Oprah and Public Official A. Sheikholeslami’s success as a fundraiser for CPM, as well as her expansion of programming, resulted in dramatic increases in revenue and listenership.

In October 2019, Sheikholeslami joined New York Public Radio, best known for its flagship station WNYC, as well as for the 24-hour classical music station WQXR and nationally syndicated shows like On the Media and Radiolab. Altogether, New York Public Radio serves more than 23 million listeners. Just months after Sheikholeslami started her new job, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and she has since guided the organization through the logistical challenges of transitioning 400 people to remote work while keeping radio and online programming uninterrupted for listeners “at a time when they need us most.”

Sheikholeslami served on the board of NPR from 2016 to 2019. She currently serves on the board of Patreon, the membership platform for artists and creators, and as a director for DHI Group, Inc., a provider of data for specialized hiring and professional communities.

In spite of the financial pressures on public radio stations nationwide, Sheikholeslami is excited about the innovative programming being produced, and is inspired by the critical role that public radio plays in society. As she recently said, “A well-informed and engaged citizenry is, after all, the bedrock of our democracy.”