For a half-century, the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter, has been awarding fellowships and scholarships to deserving college students. Here is a list of the recipients, including short bios of some of them. (If you are on this list and we don’t have your bio, please fill out this short survey.)
Financial support from the foundation has helped more than 90 people launch careers in journalism and other communication fields. Want to help? You can make a donation by mailing a check (payable to Va. SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation) to:
2701 River Oaks Dr.
Midlothian, VA 23113
Donations are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of donations go toward the foundation’s journalism education programs.
Deborah Lynn Brown, Virginia Tech
Harriet Lari Stanley, William & Mary
Steve Bates, William & Mary
Steve Bates is a fiction writer now self-described as “semi-retired.”
Before he turned to fiction, Steve’s journalism career spanned 45 years including stints as a freelancer for the Richmond News-Leader, several community newspapers in Northern Virginia and 14 years as a reporter and editor at The Washington Post. He won numerous awards for news and feature writing, including a Jesse H. Neal award for business journalism in 2009 and an investigative reporting award in 1990 for team coverage of rioting in Virginia Beach.
Steve credits the SPJ, SDX Educational Foundation’s scholarship for giving him the confidence he needed to pursue a permanent career in journalism. More than just a check, Bates said the award gave a much-needed sense of recognition.
His first novel, “Back to You,” was released on Jan. 5. It’s available on Amazon and from White Bird Publications. More of Bates’ work can be found on his website, stevebateswriter.com.
Carole Roper, Virginia Commonwealth University
Richard Joseph Conroy, University of Richmond
A hometown editor gave Richard Conroy the nudge that brought him to Richmond College with the help of an SPJ scholarship. He was focused on sportswriting, and he signed up to major in journalism and physical education.
What happened, though, was that after graduation in 1977, he became a detective, a suburban police chief and eventually a college professor teaching leadership and criminal justice at Dallas Baptist University. A stop along the way was a six-year stretch in Richmond as an investigator and licensing overseer for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Richard credits Rob Hurst of the Manhasset Mail/Press for seeding his passion for writing, and the University of Richmond experience for affirming it. This paid off bigtime years later. “Doing doctoral research was one thing,” he wrote to us, “but success was being able to write a 275-page dissertation that was committee approved.”
Janet Lynn Tennyson, Longwood
Alice Talmadge, Virginia Commonwealth University
Alice interned as a photographer with the Metropolitan Richmond Chamber of Commerce. The following year, in 1975, she graduated magna cum laude from VCU with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and a specialization in magazines.
After graduation, Alice sold advertising for a Richmond magazine, served as the assistant sports information director and then as a television script writer at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, co-founded a monthly women’s newsletter, and worked as a public information officer in Pennsylvania and then as a public information specialist at Reynolds Metals in Richmond.
At that point, Alice took a position with the corporation then known as VEPCO (now Dominion). She worked there for 32 years until retiring in 2014.
“I quickly learned that this very technical company run by engineers did not consider my ‘artsy’ job of audio-visual coordinator/photographer as essential,” Alice recalled. So she expanded her toolbox of skills to include expertise in public speaking and computing. Alice then worked for her company’s information technology department in a succession of positions: providing customer support, developing local area networks, installing routers and providing strategic planning.
She completed a master’s certificate in project management and, among other responsibilities, managed Dominion’s Year 2000 (Y2K) project to secure all power stations fueled by fossil and hydro sources. Alice finished her Dominion career as a technical writer documenting infrastructure security compliance for the federal government.
“Every experience from my internship I applied throughout my 40-year career,” she said. “That first job demonstrated to me how I could adapt my mass communication education and internship to prepare me for future positions and other professions. In every situation, you use communication skills, just with different audiences. The principles are universal.”
Alice’s advice for students and professionals: “Always look for opportunities to add to your ‘toolbox.’ My most expanding experience was Toastmasters where, for the cost of your lunch, you learn public speaking and leadership skills.”
You can contact Alice at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paul J. Lancaster, Washington & Lee
Aubrey P. Jones, Virginia Union
Constance Ober, Virginia Commonwealth University
Constance Ober received her scholarship in 1975. She graduated from VCU with a degree in mass communications in 1976.
She worked as a reporter and news editor for WRVA Radio, was director of teleconferencing for the Virginia Department of Telecommunications, then on the staff for Virginia Gov. Gerald Baliles’ Virginia-Israel Commission. Later she served as press secretary and speechwriter for Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder.
After leaving journalism, Constance started her own business and worked with the Irish government’s peat board to introduce in the U.S. a peat septic system that used material left from peat-burning Irish electricity plants. With her husband, Carlton Brooks, also a VCU Mass Comm graduate, she purchased a farm in Cumberland County and raised grass-fed organic beef. Two years ago, they retired from raising cattle and now lease some of their land to a Virginia pure-bred Angus breeder while they grow hardwood trees on the rest of the property.
“One of the best and most useful programs as a part of my VCU News Writing class was to be the General Assembly ‘stringer’ for a small radio station in Front Royal,” she said. “It gave me incredible real-life writing and broadcasting experience and led directly to my job at WRVA.”
Marguerite Hargreaves, Virginia Commonwealth University
David E. Howard, University of Richmond
David died of a brain aneurysm shortly after graduating in 1977. His family and friends have established a scholarship in his memory at the University of Richmond. It is awarded annually to an outstanding journalism major who has demonstrated the passion, curiosity and journalistic integrity for which David was known.
Robert Evans Jr., William & Mary
Dan Shorter, Virginia Commonwealth University
Dan Shorter received a fellowship to intern as a copy editor at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He graduated from VCU with a degree in mass communications in 1978.
His journalism and communications career included serving as executive business editor and general manager for digital at the Palm Beach Post, president/digital at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, vice president/digital with the New York Times Regional Media Co., and vice president of editorial operations for Digital First Media.
“Professors like Bill Turpin and George Crutchfield encouraged and goaded me to serve my community as a journalist to the highest ideals of the profession. They went out of their way to get me internships and part-time jobs and even made sure I had food to eat – and occasionally a beer – and clothes to wear for job interviews,” Dan recalled.
“Going to VCU’s j-school in the ‘70s was like being in a close-knit family. We left with the tools to earn a living and to tell stories to illuminate the world. A VCU education gave me a leg up wherever I went to work.”
Teresa Lucia Lazzazzera, University of Virginia
Nancy Kent Smith, Virginia Commonwealth University
Nancy, who received scholarship from the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation, worked full-time while earning her bachelor’s degree from VCU. She later returned to VCU and received her master’s degree in Digital Communication and Media/Multimedia in 2021.
Over the years, Nancy has held numerous high-level positions with media companies, including vice president for news with Jefferson-Pilot Communications, vice president for news with Lincoln Financial Media, regional news director for Raycom Media, and news director for WWBT/NBC12.
Nancy is currently executive vice president of Media Solutions, LLC, and an adjunct instructor at VCU, where she trains news producers and multimedia journalists. She serves on the advisory board of VCU’s Robertson School of Media and Culture.
Sherry Lynn Wood, Virginia Tech
Darren Trigonoplos, Washington & Lee
Donna May Nowald, Virginia Commonwealth University
Geneva Kay Seneker, Virginia Commonwealth University
Catherine J. Cash, Virginia Commonwealth University
Wendy Carol Walker, Virginia Wesleyan
Noel Renee King, Eastern Mennonite
Amy Ann Simmons, Sweet Briar
Sheila Karen Hill, George Mason
Jodi Mailander, Virginia Commonwealth University
An SPJ/SDX internship supported Jodi Mailander Farrell for a summer as a reporter at the Palm Beach Post in 1986, launching a 27-year run of daily newspaper work.
“The Post hired me after I graduated from VCU,” Jodi told us. “I packed up my Ford LTD with all of my belongings and my orange tabby cat, Prudence, and drove from Richmond to West Palm Beach. I am forever indebted to Dan Shorter, who was the Post’s business editor at the time and also a former Virginia SPJ, SDX scholar. He gave me a chance.”
Jodi made the most of it. She moved south in 1991 to The Miami Herald, soon reporting on the sprawling Miami-Dade County school system and leading a team of education reporters.
“My writing was recognized nationally for spurring systemic change in special education funding and racial inclusion,” she said.
“I was a writer on the launch team for the Herald’s website, miami.com, and worked as assistant travel editor and special sections editor until about 2013 while raising two girls with my husband, Patrick Farrell, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer with the Herald.”
As her career shifted into fundraising, through her freelance grant-writing, she joined the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Last November she moved to the Everglades Foundation as vice president for development. She has been a prolific freelancer and teaches writing as an adjunct professor at the University of Miami’s School of Communication.
You may follow her @JodiMailander.
Margaret M. Pimblett, Washington & Lee
Pauline Uhrain Clay, Virginia Commonwealth University
Pauline received a scholarship that helped cover educational expenses. She graduated from VCU in 1988 with a degree in mass communications.
She spent nearly 30 years of her journalism career at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, where she had a variety of editing positions before becoming features editor. Currently, she works part time at her alma mater as a copy editor for University Public Affairs.
Christina Nuckols, Randolph-Macon College
Christina Nuckols’ scholarship led her to an internship at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but it was a conversation that sealed the deal on her pursuit of a journalism career.
“I met Frosty Landon of the Roanoke Times at the awards dinner, and he made a significant impression on me. He was so passionate about journalism as an important form of public service, and our conversation deepened my commitment to pursue journalism as a career. I later worked at the Roanoke Times twice during my career, first as a reporter – including my first gig as a state Capitol correspondent – and later as editorial page editor.”
In addition, her career has taken her from Randolph-Macon College to Ohio University, where she earned a master’s degree, and from her RTD internship, through other reporting and editing positions, to her current job as director of strategic communications for the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services.
Stephen Dorsey Rountree, James Madison University
Sarah Stephanie Swaim, James Madison University
Charlyne H. McWilliams, Virginia Commonwealth University
Charlyne received a scholarship from the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation that helped her graduate from VCU in 1991 with a degree in mass communications. VCU in 1991 with a degree in mass communications.
She worked at several newspapers and was the editor of a business newsletter before moving to public relations. Charlyne is now senior director at the William Mills Agency in Silver Spring, Md. The firm specializes in public relations and content marketing for the financial industry.
You can follow Charlyne on Twitter at @chopemc.
Wendy K. Warren, James Madison University
Wendy Warren interned at The Charlotte Observer during the summer of 1990 and graduated from JMU two years later as an English major.
“I’ve worked in journalism ever since college,” said Wendy, who was a reporter and editor at such newspapers as The State in Columbia, S.C.; the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.; and the Philadelphia Daily News.
“I then moved into digital work and was the editor and vice president of Philly.com in Philadelphia before moving into television and becoming the digital lead for NBC 4 in Washington, D.C.,” she said.
Wendy currently is at NBC10 in Philadelphia as digital lead.
“I’m a couple of years from celebrating 30 years in journalism, and SPJ helped get it all started!” she said.
“I always say that I learned most of what I needed about how to work and manage in a newsroom in college, thanks to my work on the college paper and my internships. I learned how to report and write, but I also learned how to work with reporters, how to handle editors, how to keep digging, how to have fun with a story.
“I’ll never forget coming back from a fire scene while I was an intern at The Virginian-Pilot between my junior and senior year. I thought I had such great detail for the story – including the fact that the family’s pet turtle was left swimming in a puddle of water from the fire hoses. My editor, Marvin Leon Lake, listened to me patiently then asked, ‘But what was the name of the turtle?’
“I quote that constantly when I coach other journalists to keep finding descriptive detail. And that is just one example of the skills my education – which benefited so much from SPJ – gave me.”
You can follow Wendy at @WendyWarren.
Laurel Ann Wissinger, James Madison University
Robyn Davis Sekula, James Madison University
Robyn Davis received her scholarship in 1991 and graduated from James Madison University in 1993 with a degree in communications.
“My scholarship was not connected to an internship, though I did internships both summers that I attended the dinner and received the scholarship award,” she explained. “I interned in The News & Advance in Lynchburg – my hometown – and The Virginian-Pilot in the summer of 1992 and The Baltimore Sun in the summer of 1993.
“Receiving the SPJ scholarship was an unexpected boost that propelled me towards journalism,” she added. “I was so astounded and delighted to receive it.
From 2003 to 2019, Robyn was a consultant in the Louisville, Ky., area working with law firms, nonprofits and educational institutions.
Robyn has been vice president of communications and marketing for the Presbyterian Foundation since 2019. She helps communicate with the two million members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Her work has taken her to Pakistan, Colombia and Mexico and across the U.S.
“Journalism taught me many essential skills that I’ve used far beyond the newsroom. Most notably, I can write fast and well; I know how to ask good questions; I know how to step back, sit in silence for a bit and l listen for answers. Those skills have served me well in in my career, in volunteer work, in friendships and even in parenting.
“The scholarship also cemented my ongoing membership in SPJ, which is responsible for many of the friendships I have today as well as members who have helped forge my path. In particular, I’m grateful for two Richmond journalism folks and longtime SPJ members who have become friends through the years in my journalism career.
“First, Greg Gilligan was one of my first mentors and friends in the business. He helped shepherd me through my internships, my first jobs and everything in between.
“The second person I met later in life: Paul Fletcher. I became involved with SPJ at the national level and became especially interested in bolstering membership in the national organization,” she recalled. “I served as chair of the Membership Committee before Paul served as SPJ president, during and after. Paul was always supportive, encouraging and a stalwart friend and colleague, and still is. I’m grateful for his thoughtful yet enthusiastic leadership as well as his friendship.
Parker Holmes, University of Richmond
Lisa Katherine Biggs, University of Richmond
Marian B. Lumpkin, Virginia Commonwealth University
An SPJ, SDX Educational Foundation scholarship landed Marian Lumpkin in the Richmond Times-Dispatch newsroom as a general assignment reporter.
As an intern at RTD, Lumpkin was given regular reporting assignments and was assigned photographers for stories that allowed her to influence visual input. She worked the obituary desk – a good experience for anyone starting out, she said.
That internship in turn prepared Lumpkin for her first general assignment reporting job which had her covering planning commission court cars and features. After working for Richmond Suburban Newspapers and freelancing for Style Weekly, Lumpkin went on to work for the Virginia House of Delegates in IT, using skills she learned at the newspaper to design newsletters for delegates.
She went on to become an IT consultant for a few years before landing at Overnite Transportation, now UPS. Lumpkin then joined Allianz as a business systems analyst and now works for Virginia ABC.
Donna W. Ragsdale, James Madison University
Donna Ragsdale received her scholarship in 1993. She graduated from James Madison University in 1994 with a degree in mass communication. She later earned a master’s in public administration at JMU.
The SPJ scholarship helped her complete her education and, she thinks, bolstered her application when she interned at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in 1994.
Donna is a communications consultant with Rhudy & Co. Strategic Communications in Forest, Va. Previously she was assistant managing editor at the Northern Virginia Daily. She also worked in the School of Media Arts at JMU, where she advised the student newspaper and taught newspaper and magazine production.
In addition to her work with Rhudy & Co., she also coordinates the nonprofit Bedford Area Educational Foundation.
“Neither of my parents graduated from college and financing college was quite a challenge,” Donna recalled. “The scholarship was incredibly meaningful for us financially.
“I believe its prestige also was instrumental in helping me apply for internships and jobs during and after college.”
Jason B. Roop, University of Richmond
Carla J. Schmitt, Virginia Commonwealth University
Rebecca M. Crow, Washington & Lee
Tracey Marie Grau, Lynchburg College
Tracey Grau’s academic scholarship from the Virginia SPJ/SDX Educational Foundation helped her graduate in 1995 with a B.A. in communication and minors in business and environmental science.
She landed a job as reporter and anchor at WSET, the ABC affiliate serving Lynchburg and Roanoke.
“This job created a wonderful foundation for my incredible job currently,” said Grau, who runs Lynchburg Daily Bread, a charitable soup kitchen serving more than 100,000 meals a year.
“I am confident and well-versed in handling news media [and] interviews and remain eco-conscious today. Thank you for supporting my roots!”
Jennifer Anne St. Onge, University of Richmond
With financial help from the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation, Jennifer did an internship with The Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama. She also interned with the CBS affiliate in Richmond.
After graduation, Jennifer went on to work for Gibbs & Soell Public Relations in Raleigh, then moved to The Martin Agency in Richmond. She worked on integrated accounts doing account management and public relations. Jennifer helped open The Martin Agency’s satellite office in Denver and also led the marketing team at a startup called Veripost (which later merged with Return Path).
Since 2007, Jennifer said, she has largely been a stay-at-home mom.
“I absolutely loved working in the newspaper environment,” Jennifer said. “I was pushed to leave my comfort zone, growing as both a beat reporter and feature writer. I still remember many of the experiences I had covering stories with the police, ranging from small crimes to credit card fraud. This is where I learned to humanize even trivial stories, making news more relatable for readers. I was able to use that skill in both PR and marketing, as well.”
You can contact her at email@example.com.
Melanie Asp Alvarez, University of Southern California
Financial assistance from the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation helped Melanie participate in USC’s International Communications Studies program, visiting journalism outlets in London, Paris, Prague and Geneva. She received her bachelor’s degree from USC, majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in business.
After graduation, Melanie worked for 10 years as a newscast producer at broadcast stations in Colorado, Florida and Arizona. In 2007, she joined the faculty of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication at Arizona State University, serving as executive producer of Cronkite News/Arizona PBS.
Melanie currently is an assistant dean of the Cronkite School. You can follow her at @Melanie_ASU.
Sarah Lindenfeld, University of Virginia
Stacey Danzuso, James Madison University
Samantha Levine, William & Mary
John-Henry Doucette, Virginia Wesleyan
Tarah Grant, Washington & Lee
While Tarah Grant chose a career in law, she also had a passion for journalism, and her scholarship enabled her to combine the two.
“The summer after I received the SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter scholarship, I interned at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, a nonprofit organization that provides pro bono legal services and resources to and on behalf of journalists. The following summer, I was the lucky recipient of SPJ’s Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information Internship, and I worked in the offices of SPJ’s legal counsel in Washington, D.C.
“After graduating from Washington and Lee University with a journalism degree in 1999, I went to the University of Virginia School of Law. I was drawn to UVA by the opportunity to take courses taught by Professor Robert M. O’Neil, a renowned First Amendment scholar, and to participate in his First Amendment Clinic at the Thomas Jefferson Center for Protection of Free Expression.”
After graduating from law school in 2002, Tarah joined the firm of Hogan & Hartson LLP, now known as Hogan Lovells. “Initially I dreamed of transitioning to an in-house job in the legal department of a media company, but I stayed at Hogan Lovells where I am a member of the Intellectual Property, Media and Technology practice group. I enjoy working with many different clients on contracts to develop, protect and commercialize intellectual property.
“I am so grateful for the recognition, support, and opportunities the Society of Professional Journalists provided to me as a student. My summer internships enabled me to explore how to pursue a career in law while also fulfilling my passion for the field of journalism. The skills I developed as a journalism major in college and through journalism internships are critical to my practice of law. I learned how to carefully craft sentences, to think about how words could be interpreted and to view issues from different angles.”
Read more about Tarah’s career online.
YooRee Sathyamoorthy, Virginia Commonwealth University
YooRee started writing for the Richmond-Times Dispatch as a teen correspondent in high school. She graduated from VCU in 1999 with degrees in journalism, political science and Asian studies. YooRee went on to earn a master’s degree in teaching from Johns Hopkins University and transitioned to a career in teaching history and English.
Currently, she teaches online graduate courses for educators in history and pedagogy at Primary Source, a nonprofit in Boston.
“I feel so fortunate to have met, collaborated with, and learned from members of the Virginia SPJ,” YooRee said.
Timothy Griggs, Virginia Tech
Juliet Bickford, Washington & Lee
Erin Tate, Virginia Tech
Jennifer J. Kincaid, Roanoke
Gina Montefusco, James Madison University
Ty N. Bowers, Virginia Commonwealth University
Ty Bowers interned as a reporter at the Richmond Times-Dispatch in the summer of 2001. He currently is a digital communications strategist for the Virginia Retirement System.
Ty previously worked as a curriculum developer/media specialist for the National White Collar Crime Center; as managing editor for The Explorer in Tucson, Ariz.; and as a reporter for the Fauquier Citizen in Northern Virginia.
“The internship was my first real taste of life in a newsroom. That experience – and those clips – landed me my first full time reporting job,” Ty said.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew B. Michalec, Old Dominion University
Holly Clark, Virginia Commonwealth University
Amy McMullen, University of Richmond
Steven M. Lewis, Virginia Commonwealth University
Portsia Simone Smith, Mary Washington
Talia Buford, Hampton University
Tanja Slatkovic, Virginia Commonwealth University
Jennifer Rowell, Christopher Newport
Tiffany Hoffman, Virginia Tech
Kate Harmon, University of Richmond
Naomi Pearson, Longwood
Lauren Merkel, University of Richmond
Daniel Petty, University of Richmond
During the summer of his SPJ internship at Stateline.org, Dan Petty spent his evenings preparing the website to help his student colleagues of the Richmond Collegian begin their transition from print to online publication.
“My internship gave me crucial experience on state-level issues, specifically the environment and energy,” he recalls. “I learned how to write more concisely, clearly and with more authority.”
From graduation in 2009 (BS in biology and journalism), Petty went straight to the Denver Post, where he worked his way up through a series of web-related positions with the Post and its owner, MediaNews Group. He is currently the company’s digital director of audience development.
“No doubt [the] internship helped me become a reporting intern with the AP in Richmond, and eventually the Denver Post, where I would later spend the first eight years of my journalism career.”
Petty has kept his SPJ connection, teaching digital tools around the country. On a Fulbright fellowship in 2014, he taught digital journalism in Germany, and he’s made multiple trips to Kazakhstan for similar teaching. You can follow him online @danielpetty.
Jaedda Armstrong, Norfolk State
Melissa Caron, Washington & Lee
Tim Chapman, James Madison University
Joel Poelhuis, Washington & Lee
Katie Thisdell, James Madison University
Fred T. Shaia II, University of Richmond
Arielle Retting, Radford
Katherine Mawyer, Virginia Tech
John McAuliff, University of Richmond
Vanessa Remmers, William & Mary
Mark Robinson, Virginia Commonwealth University
When Mark Robinson thinks back to his internship at Richmond BizSense, he thinks of one word: hustle.
After receiving the SPJ, SDX Education Foundation scholarship in 2013, Robinson landed an internship with the small staff that covers a lot of ground for a major audience. What made it a great place to intern was the hands-on experience, Robinson said, as he was expected to pitch, report and write daily like other reporters on staff.
“It was my first taste of breaking news, digging scoops in public records and cultivating sources outside of my college campus,” Robinson said. “Overall, the experience gave me a great respect for reporters who work in the grind that is daily journalism.”
He credits his editor during that internship, Michael Schwartz, for taking him under his wing. Following his internship, Robinson worked as a reporter and assistant editor for Richmond Magazine.
Robinson has been an enterprise reporter covering housing for the Richmond Times-Dispatch since August 2017. Follow his work on Twitter @__MarkRobinson.
Katherine Johnson, Virginia Commonwealth University
Katherine Johnson received her SPJ fellowship in 2013. She graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a bachelor’s degree in print and online journalism in 2014.
The SPJ award supported her when she interned with Bustle.com when it launched as an online women’s magazine in 2013 and also with the CBS6 digital news team in Richmond.
Katherine has been the marketing/communications manager at the School of Business at George Mason University and a social media specialist at Richard Bland College as well as a reporter at the Progress-Index in Petersburg.
Currently she is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology and a teaching assistant at North Carolina State University.
“I credit VCU’s journalism program and instructors, particularly Jeff South and Capital News Service, with setting me up for success after graduation,” Katherine said. “I was able to build a strong portfolio when applying for jobs and accepted a fulltime position with the Progress-Index immediately after graduation.
“Although I’m no longer working in journalism and my career goals have transitioned over the years, I still utilize the skills I learned, only now as a Ph.D. student interested in pursuing qualitative research.”
Cameron Austin, Virginia Tech
Elizabeth Potter, University of Richmond
Majoring in journalism, Ellie interned at Richmond Magazine in 2014 and graduated from the University of Richmond in December 2015.
She is an energy policy reporter with S&P Global Market Intelligence in Washington, D.C. Previously, Ellie covered the mining sector for S&P and worked as a local news reporter for the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va., and The Dickinson Press in North Dakota.
“The journalism industry has become increasingly competitive over the years, and unfortunately many publications lack the resources to pay their interns,” Ellie said.
“Having some financial support to pursue unpaid or low-pay internships can make all the difference as students seek to set themselves apart early on. Even more importantly, young reporters can learn so much working with experienced journalists and have opportunities that a college newspaper may not be able to offer. These roles can also help students determine whether journalism is the right path for them – or if it’s time to consider another career track.
“I wrote small briefs on community events and fact-checked features at my first internship with Richmond Magazine. That experience helped me springboard into other reporting internships in Richmond and Washington, D.C., which ultimately led me to a job and beat I love.”
You can follow Ellie at @potter_ellie.
Athena Cao, Washington & Lee
Tyler Byrum, George Mason University
Tyler Byrum’s fellowship was the catalyst for an internship in production at WAVY-TV/WVBT that launched him to new opportunities and helped him develop a strong professional network.
“The fellowship allowed me to earn a competitive internship that springboarded me into more opportunities,” he said.
“It bolstered my resume, opening doors for me to apply for more internships and entry-level positions the following year. The biggest impact, though, was the relationships I developed with the producers and other employees that I worked with, allowing me to have strong references and contacts in my back pocket.”
Tyler is now associate editor at NBC Sports Washington and a freelance play-by-play commentator. Follow him on Twitter @theTylerByrum.
Catherine Weidman, Emory & Henry College
Catherine Weidman interned at the Smyth County News & Messenger through her fellowship. Additionally, it allowed her to save for a study abroad trip in 2017 to Cuba, where she helped record a documentary on media under communist rule. She graduated from the nearby Emory & Henry College in 2016.
After graduation, she worked as a communications coordinator for the Fairfax Bar Association and a communications and data assessment manager at George Mason University. Currently, she owns a marketing firm.
“The most practical way my internship helped launch my career was that it gave me an impressive portfolio of bylines to show future employers. More importantly, it gave me a sense of personal responsibility and independence,” Catherine said.
“My stories were my own and had a direct impact on the community I served. My internship gave me a true sense of purpose that has fueled my passion for advocacy and ultimately inspired me to start my own business,” she said.
Faith Pinho, Washington & Lee University
“I used the fellowship to fund a summer of independent journalism in the Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia area – my first strike at freelancing,” recalled Faith Pinho. “Thanks to the support of SPJ, I was able to produce half a dozen feature-length pieces for WMRA, the Harrisonburg, Va., NPR station, and The Washington Times.”
For work she produced that summer, Faith won awards from SPJ, the Virginias Associated Press Broadcaster Association and the Hearst Foundation, as well as the 2018 Omicron Delta Kappa National Leader of the Year Award in Journalism. She also served as a Pulliam Fellow at The IndyStar.
Faith graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2018 with a double major in journalism and politics. She is now a reporter at the Los Angeles Times.
“The foundation’s generous fellowship allowed me to have my first real taste of professional journalism: a summer of freelancing,” Faith said.
“I was responsible for my own work, my own reputation – and my own paycheck. I never would have been able to make it without the support of the fellowship. I’m so grateful to the foundation for giving me a safe place to launch my journalism career.”
You can follow Faith at @faithepinho.
Ester Salguero, Mary Washington
Faith Isbell, Washington & Lee
Sarah Danial, Virginia Commonwealth University
Thanks to her fellowship from the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation, Sarah interned in the summer of 2019 as a production assistant for the CBS News program CBS This Morning in New York City. “I helped coordinate live shots for correspondents all over the world,” she said.
Sarah graduated from VCU in May 2019 as a double major in digital and broadcast journalism. She currently works at WTVR in Richmond, producing the 11 p.m. newscast on weekdays.
“My internship experience inspired me to continue working hard to achieve my goals of working in a newsroom. It also gave me the invaluable experience of working in a high paced newsroom,” Sarah said.
“Working at CBS News taught me to be flexible and ready for anything and to always remain calm even when thigs go wrong. My supervisor there, Matt Shelley, definitely taught me that. I learned that it takes every single person in the newsroom working together to make it happen. It’s more than just the anchors and producers. Every person plays a critical role in putting together a newscast.”
Noah Peterson, William & Mary
Jess Kirby, University of Mary Washington
Jess, a double major in sociology and communication, is from Springfield, Va. With her SPJ,SDX fellowship stipend, she served as an intern reporter for her local newspaper, The Springfield Connection, reporting on community events and the student experience in Fairfax County Public Schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Springfield Connection gave me my first taste of reporting on my local community and really taught me the importance of local journalism. Even though my internship was significantly impacted by COVID-19, I am so thankful I had the opportunity to work under Kemal Kurspahic, a renowned Bosnian journalist and diplomat who served as the managing editor of the Connection during my time there,” Jess said.
Since my time at the Connection, I have served as the editor-in-chief of UMW’s student newspaper, The Weekly Ringer, for two years. I also now work on the publications team for IR Quarterly, the Society of Interventional Radiology’s quarterly magazine.”
Josephine Walker, Virginia Commonwealth University
Josephine, a VCU junior from Centreville, is a mass communication (broadcast concentration) and political science double major. She worked as a writer-reporter with Simplified, an Instagram-based online news outlet, and previously interned at The Globe Post/The Defense Post news websites.
Josephine spent the summer of 2021 as an NBC-Universal Summer Fellow working for “Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.”
Anna Chen, Virginia Commonwealth University
Anna was selected as the 2022 George A. Bowles Jr. Fellow, named for the late Virginia broadcast journalist. It is the top award in the Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation’s annual summer fellowship competition.
“I was a news intern with Gannett/USA TODAY Network at The Progress-Index in Petersburg, Va.,” Anna said. “I attended workshops, meetings, pitched stories, researched, and reported across a variety of different beats in the Tri-Cities area (Hopewell, Colonial Heights and Petersburg).”
Anna is a mass communication major with a concentration in digital journalism and minoring in English and creative writing. She expects to graduate in May 2023.
At VCU, Anna has covered health issues for Capital News Service and served as audience editor for the campus newspaper, The Commonwealth Times. She is a member and officer of the Society of Professional Journalists’ VCU Student Chapter.
Anna said her summer internship “definitely opened my eyes.”
“We as journalists should be elevating people’s voices and advocating for them. Without the media, who is going to hold people in positions of power accountable for their actions?” she said.
“From the little time I’ve spent with the reporters at the Progress-Index, their love for this little town and their passion for their work has kept my own passion for reporting alive and well. Although it may be a very small newsroom, we are mighty!”
You can follow Anna at @annasummerchen.
Josephine Walker, Virginia Commonwealth University
Josephine, who is from Centreville, Va., graduated from VCU in May 2022 with a B.S. in mass communications (broadcast journalism) and B.A. in political science (U.S. government and politics.)
She is the first student to win a second scholarship or fellowship from the foundation. She won the 2021 Bowles Fellowship and, concurrently, was a National Association of Black Journalists Summer News Fellow at NBCUniversal, working for “Meet the Press.”
In the summer of 2022, she interned at Bloomberg News in New York.
As a reporter for VCU Capital News Service, she wrote bylined stories on the Virginia General Assembly that appeared in the Washington Post, Associated Press and Richmond Times-Dispatch. After VCU, she enrolled as a journalism graduate student at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
Natasha Sokoloff, University of Richmond
Natasha, of Huntington Beach, Calif., is a double major in journalism and leadership studies. In addition to her foundation summer fellowship, she previously received the university’s Joseph E. Nettles Scholarship for Journalism.
She has worked for the University of Richmond Capital News Service as a team leader and staff writer covering the Virginia legislature and served as news editor of UR’s student newspaper, The Collegian.
Natasha spent the summer of 2022 as an intern with Magenta Florence, an English-language news and entertainment publication in Florence, Italy.