2006 Knight Fellow in Community Journalism Markeshia Ricks

2006 Knight Fellow in Community Journalism Markeshia Ricks

In 2004, the University of Alabama established the Knight Fellowship in Community Journalism to create an academic and experiential Master’s program in journalism similar to a teaching hospital. Made possible by a $1.5 million gift to UA from Knight Foundation and $750,000 from Consolidated Publishing, the parent company of The Anniston Star, the fellowship chose promising journalists annually through a highly competitive, national selection process. Knight Fellows received full tuition scholarships and a stipend for the one-year, three-semester program. According to the UA News, fellows would attend classes and problem-solving seminars called “grand rounds” – and also work as interns during their third semester. Markeshia Ricks, a 2006 Knight Fellow in Community Journalism, discussed her unique fellowship opportunity at the University of Alabama.

1. What inspired you to apply for the Knight Fellowship in Community Journalism?

I was inspired to apply for the Knight Fellowship in Community Journalism for a few reasons. First, it was an exciting venture. The Community Journalism (COM-J) program was born out of a partnership between the University of Alabama and The Anniston Star, and it was being watched very closely by the news industry for its potential as a new business model and its potential for enhancing the teaching, learning and practice of journalism. I wanted to be a part of that first class. Second, I was in my fifth year as a reporter and I was asking myself some very tough questions about whether I wanted to continue in the field, and if I did, what I wanted my journalism practice to look like. The COM-J program promised to be a place to study journalism’s role in shaping, influencing and even creating community and that was very appealing to me. The fellowship also provided tuition and living expenses for a year so that I could earn a master’s degree without incurring debt. Last, since I was coming from a newsroom, I was concerned that a traditional classroom setting would breed more theory and very little practice. The COM-J program was just the opposite because classes were held in a newsroom, and that was appealing to me.

2. What is a typical week like for a Knight Fellow?

From classes taught by Rick Bragg to delivering the newspaper, there was no such thing as a typical week for a Knight Fellow in Community Journalism. In addition to a weekly format of classes and paper writing, the first class produced an award winning news series about the Alabama National Guard. The program married the best of both worlds for a group of news junkies of varying backgrounds who were interested in thinking deeply about journalism and practicing it.

3. What tips would you give applicants to the Knight Fellowship in Community Journalism?

Unfortunately, the Knight Fellowship portion of the Community Journalism graduate program at the University of Alabama is no longer offered, but admitted students can apply for graduate assistantships and paid summer internships. The Community Journalism graduate program is open to journalism professionals and recent college graduates. While the program is still a 1-year program, students can also expect to spend more time at the University of Alabama’s main campus in Tuscaloosa, where they complete two semesters of coursework and spend three months in experiential work placements at The Anniston Star. I would encourage applicants to demonstrate they have a passion for journalism and community. An applicant’s professional samples and personal statements should reflect that the applicant understands that journalism is more than being a passive observer, but that it has a role to play in maintaining our democracy and shaping our communities.

Markeshia Ricks is an award-winning journalist who has written for The Tuscaloosa News, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, The Anniston Star, The Montgomery Advertiser and Air Force Times. She is currently a freelance writer and editor living in Alexandria, VA.

© Victoria Johnson 2014, all rights reserved.

Anna, 2012-13 Cooney Center Fellow

Recently we discovered one of the coolest digital media fellowships on the market – the Cooney Center Fellows Program at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop in the heart of New York City. The Cooney Center was named after Joan Ganz Cooney, one of the creators of Sesame Street, which is now the single largest informal educator in the world, reaching some 100 million children and families in more than 140 countries. Founded in 2007, the Cooney Center serves as an independent research and innovation lab that develops original research on emerging technologies that can support children’s learning. The Cooney Center Fellows Program offers a year-long fellowship that attracts a wide range of applicants with expertise in digital media and/or in the fields of communication, child development, education, learning sciences, psychology, computer science, design, and public policy. Fellows participate in the day-to-day operations of the Center including publication production, annual leadership forum planning, and contributions to the website and newsletter. Fellows also have the opportunity to undertake an independent research project.

Anna Ly, a current Cooney Center Fellow, recently completed a Master’s degree at Stanford University’s Learning, Design and Technology program. At Stanford, her work focused on User Experience Research and Design, educational Tangible User Interfaces, and socio-emotional learning for children with autism spectrum disorders. We caught up with Anna to learn more about the fellowship and get her tips for the application process.

1. What inspired you to apply for the Cooney Center Fellows Program? 

While I was in graduate school, Lori Takeuchi (Director of Research at the Cooney Center) came to speak to my class about her work. She talked about various Cooney Center initiatives including a project called Story Visit, a research collaboration between Nokia Research Center and the Cooney Center. The project examined the role that technology can play to support family communication and foster children’s literacy development. When I saw this project, I knew immediately that I wanted to learn more about the Center. It touched upon my passion for tangible user interfaces, well-researched product design and education innovation. After doing some due diligence, I realized that the Center was (and still is) the perfect combination of child education, media and technology. I found it extremely appealing that advancing children’s learning through digital media is the primary focus.  Moreover, the Cooney Center is housed in Sesame Workshop, a leader in educational media for young children! Who wouldn’t want to work alongside such creative minds?

Cookie Monster with current Cooney Center Fellows Christina Hinton and Anna Ly

2. What is a typical day like at the Cooney Center? 

Since I work on both industry and research initiatives, I usually have a packed schedule that starts right when I come in. What fills my schedule also changes every day. I sometimes have status update meetings with different industry project teams to discuss what needs to be done. For example, I am working on the National STEM Video Game Challenge, which is a video game design competition for middle school and high school students inspired by Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign. For that project, I helped launch the challenge and the challenge’s website so I have meetings with the web team and our partners on a daily basis. I get pulled into partnership development meetings as well to figure out if they are good fit and what potential projects we could do with them. I have research meetings with the research team to plan out our studies. On some days, I am interviewing kids about their media use and other topics. This past week, I was at two conferences (SXSW Interactive and the Digital Media and Learning Conference) to attend relevant sessions, track trends and develop business relationships. Each day is different from the other, which is what makes this job so exciting.

3. What is the application process like, and what do you think made your application standout?

There is a written application that includes submitting a resume/cv, a personal statement describing your background and why you would be a good fit, a writing sample, and references. There is a first round interview that happens in April. Finalists then go on to interview again in May and the final selection is announced in June. It is a fairly organized and straight-forward process. For both interviews, there are usually several Cooney Center members present including the Executive Director, Michael Levine and the Director of Research, Lori Takeuchi. I had the opportunity to talk to the current and past fellows during my interview process.

I think what made my application stand out was my industry and design experience. On the website, they mentioned they were looking for scholars in Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), and related fields. I fall in that HCI category. I’m also familiar with the educational technology trends and have built my own educational applications with the help of my graduate education and past work experiences. What also helped was my ability to independently manage projects. I have a business and finance background so I enjoy managing workstreams and regularly communicating with partners and stakeholders.

The next deadline for the Cooney Center Fellows Program is April 1, 2013! Learn more and apply now.

Anna Ly is an industry and research fellow at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop where she supports their efforts in areas such as “Games and Learning” and “Learning Together.” During her time at Stanford, Anna worked for Intel as a User Experience Specialist in the PC Experience Planning Group where she focused on design in education. She has previously worked for IBM in the Global Business Services sector as a strategy consultant. Anna completed her undergraduate degree at Carnegie Mellon in Business and Human-Computer Interaction. 

© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.

José G. González, 2012-13 Butler Koshland Fellow (Photo by Carrie Anne Castillo)

In 2013, the Butler Koshland Fellowships program is offering a new fellowship opportunity for one emerging leader to be paired with and mentored by the esteemed Dr. Gloria Duffy, President and CEO of the Commonwealth Club of California. The Butler Koshland Fellowships program, based in San Francisco, is an exceptional fellowship that pairs accomplished leaders with an emerging leader for one year to work closely together on a project. The aim of the program is to identify and mentor the next generation of public service leaders. Previous mentor-fellow pairs include: Lucy Blake, a visionary conservationist and winner of the MacArthur “Genius” Award, paired with fellow Paul Burrow; Dr. Sandra Hernández, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, paired with fellow Shannon Malone; and Malcolm Margolin, founder and Executive Director of Heyday, paired with fellow Kate Brumage, who is now Executive Director of the Butler Koshland Fellowships organization. In general, the program seeks emerging leaders who have at least a few years of professional work experience, a demonstrated dedication to public service, a good work ethic, a strong desire to learn, and a unique perspective to share with the program. We sought to learn about the fellowship and application process from José G. González, a current Butler Koshland Fellow who is being mentored by Hugo Morales, Executive Director and Founder of Radio Bilingüe.

1. What inspired you to apply to the Butler Koshland Fellowship?

I applied to the Butler Koshland Fellowship because the concept of it seems so simple yet so powerful: find great people who are working to change the world and partner each with a talented younger person.

Specifically it provides a mentoring opportunity different than what I see as a “standard” fellowship. It was not just about gaining new skills and acquiring new knowledge. It was about having the support, the feedback, the insights, and the experience of working closely together with a talented Executive Director.

I was looking for an opportunity like this to “re-pivot” in the work I wanted to do. I wanted to benefit from a mentoring experience to see how I could take my professional development “to the next level” and see what I needed for the next steps. I was not just looking for another job, or another position at which to simply work. I wanted a growing and learning opportunity.

My current fellowship position exemplifies much of that. I am working with Hugo Morales, Executive Director and Founder of Radio Bilingüe. It is Latino public radio, serving as an example of needed diversity in the field of public radio, but also crucially delivering news and information to underserved communities. For example, our key audiences are Spanish-speaking immigrants and farmworkers.

I have helped Radio Bilingüe with a service expansion into new communities in the Southwest and I am working to develop their online presence. Yet, beyond such skills, from Hugo I learn everything from the “radio side” to insights of being an Executive Director: responsibilities of having and being on a board, strategic thinking, fund development, management, and networking.

Lastly I would mention the opportunity to connect with the other fellows and their mentors. Though we are under the same Fellowship, each of our positions is unique and I really value that diversity and the opportunity to share and learn from others in the Fellowship.

2. What was the application process like?

I can say there is no “right way” to “get the Fellowship.” The best advice I could give is to be confident in who you are and what you have done, taking pride in the experiences that have defined you and helped guide you to what you want to do. You are not just meeting a checklist of requirements, you are presenting yourself so as to show that you are ready to learn and engage, but that you also have knowledge and experience to share. You will be a Fellow and a mentee, but it will also be a two-way experience in which your mentor will learn from you—and you will contribute to the success of their organization.

“Recycling Por La Causa” (2013) by José G. González. The title refers to a common phrase in Chicano history “por la causa, for the cause” as taking actions for the dignity and rights of the community.

For me the application process started by submitting the initial application via email as noted in the posting info. This consists of your resume, cover letter, references and possibly writing samples. If selected, then you have an opportunity to meet with the mentor for an interview. This may include other people depending on the organization and their processes. It may also include multiple interviews. For me this included submitting additional writing samples and doing a follow-up interview that included other Radio Bilingüe staff. In the end, Hugo called me personally to let me know I was accepted as a Fellow.

From then on, defining “what you do” is key since there may be no specific job description you are fulfilling, but there are a lot of opportunities. For me it was important to define what I wanted “being a Fellow” to mean since you are not just another staff member for the organization—you have a unique role, and with the support of your mentor, it can really provide opportunities to learn and grow.

3. What would you like to do next?

The future and next steps are full of potential and opportunity. When others ask me “where do you see yourself in five years?”, I have come to realize that the answer can be full of surprises. Five years ago I could not really describe what I am doing now and the wonderful people I have met. But the goals I have in mind are fairly straightforward:

  • Be a solution to the “diversity problem” in conservation and provide leadership and actionable items in diversifying the conservation movement.
  • Be a resource, advocate, and “bridge” for Latinos and environmental/conservation organizations.
  • Be an educator for Latino perspectives on environmental/conservation issues through presentations, media, and on-the-ground work.

For that I ask others to reach out to me, take a risk on the work I want to do, and provide opportunities to make this happen as I work to leverage and nurture cultura and comunidad for conservation. Whether I will be doing this by starting my own non-profit, finding a sponsoring organization, working where I am now or within a mainstream conservation organization—that is to be seen.

I tend to use the word “opportunity” a lot. Part of that is because I am a proverbial optimist. But what I have also come to discover is that while some opportunities may seem easy or given, they can also be defined as challenges to overcome. What matters is how one chooses to handle it and align it to the goals you have in mind. It requires your actions, not just waiting for them. That is something I work to keep in mind as I think about where I will be next—and what I have learned in this Fellowship.

José G. González is an educator with classroom and outdoor experience across all age levels, from elementary school to college. Currently he is a Butler Koshland Fellow with Radio Bilingüe and has served as an adjunct faculty member with the National Hispanic University in their Teacher Education Department, as well as Program Coordinator for the California Mini-Corps Program. José was also the recipient of the prestigious Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship. He is interested in the intersection of Latinos and environmental/conservation issues. Mexicano by birth, Chicano/Latino by identity, illustrator by practice, and conservationist by pursuit, he grew up in the California’s Central Valley. Contact him for ideas, thoughts, workshops, collaborations, etc. on Twitter @green_chicano and @JoseBilingue. Check out his blog and his other work, including his artwork, at www.greenchicano.com.

2012-13 Butler Koshland Fellow Jose Gonzalez with his mentor Hugo Morales, founder and executive director of Radio Bilingüe, the National Latino Public Radio Network (Photo by Butler Koshland Fellow Ben Fash: www.benfash.com)

© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.

Butler Koshland FellowshipsButler Koshland Fellowships based in San Francisco, CA is looking for an independent, intelligent, and highly-motivated person to serve as a fellow to Dr. Gloria Duffy, President and CEO of The Commonwealth Club of California.

The Commonwealth Club of California is the nation’s oldest and largest public affairs forum. A nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization, they bring over 400 annual events on topics ranging across politics, culture, society and the economy to 16,000 members. Their mission is to be the leading national forum open to all for the impartial discussion of public issues important to the membership, community and nation.

Butler Koshland Fellowships is a unique program designed to pass on public service leadership skills and legacy. Our model is simple and personal—we ask extraordinary leaders to mentor an emerging leader. Each mentor and fellow pair work closely together on a project for one year, during which time we fund the fellow’s salary. The fellow is also integrated into and supported by a community of Butler Koshland fellows and mentors—past, current, and future—doing important work for the common good.

Beginning in mid-April, 2013, the fellow would work under the direction and guidance of Dr. Duffy as a Butler Koshland Fellow. In this role, the fellow would support the executive-level goals of The Commonwealth Club of California. The fellow will experience the array of duties and responsibilities required to successfully lead a nonprofit organization in today’s world. This is an exceptional opportunity for someone to participate at the management level of a major nonprofit organization during an especially exciting period of expansion and possibility.

Representative projects and learning opportunities may include:

  • Development: Currently The Commonwealth Club has a successful $14.5M capital campaign underway, the purpose of which is to fund the purchase and renovation of a historic building at 110 Embarcadero to serve as its new headquarters. Working closely with Dr. Duffy to fundraise from individuals, foundations, and corporations, the fellow will have the opportunity to support the campaign, learning first-hand from a team of expert fundraisers.
  • Content creation: In order to more fully realize its mission to be a public forum for the benefit of all, The Commonwealth Club is looking for new ways to share its live programming content with a broader audience. In support of this effort, the fellow will be responsible for acting as an in-house journalist—reporting on key events at the Club, selecting the most important ideas from hundreds programs and panels presented during their tenure with an eye towards the content’s newsworthiness, potential for informing public policy, and capacity to create positive social change. The fellow will also work with the PR and Media Department to place and disseminate these multimedia reports via internal and external channels, in both traditional and new media formats.
  • Content management: As the terrain under traditional news media outlets continues to shift and in some cases disappear, The Commonwealth Club is interested in exploring its potential to fill some of this space. To this end, the fellow will be tasked with supporting efforts to organize and broadcast the Club’s rich repository of content—both historical and contemporary—across its many internal channels (e.g. magazine, radio program, website) as well as to external outlets. One especially exciting possibility is the opportunity to work with the design and preparation of the architecturally-based multimedia elements for the new state-of-the-art headquarters building, which will include inset wall screens and other means of broadcasting archival and live content within the building.

The fellow will work from the downtown San Francisco office of The Commonwealth Club of California. Fellow compensation will be $40,000 per year plus employer provided health and other benefits. The fellow will work a standard 40-hour work-week and should be available to attend evening programs as needed.

Read more about the experience and application process in our interview with Butler Koshland Fellow,  José González.


Candidates must have a demonstrated commitment to public service.

Candidates should have at least 3 years of work experience. Relevant experience could include: experience in communications and marketing such as academic or work experience in a communications, community outreach, media or public affairs position; experience with social media as a tool for communications, stakeholder development, feedback, and business goals; experience in public and nonprofit administration such as academic or work experience in public administration, program management, business development and analysis, or nonprofit management; academic or work experience in related fields related to the position such as journalism, information science, or public policy.

Because the duties of the fellow involve strong communication and analytical skills, this position requires someone with a diverse set of abilities and personality traits, including: intellectual agility, friendliness, ability to interface with diplomacy and congeniality while facing multiple deadlines, excellent writing abilities, good presentation and verbal communication skills, ability to maintain calm in public settings, acumen for research, sense of humor, and cultural sensitivity. Applicants also must be adept at organizing both their own work and the work of others, have practical experience in making things happen, and know when to be appropriately discreet with confidential information.

Butler Koshland Fellowships is open to all applicants.  Women and people of color are encouraged to apply.

To Apply 

The application deadline is March 21, 2013. To apply please submit a cover letter and resume addressing your qualifications and interest in this fellowship along with a writing sample of no more than 10 pages. Please be sure to detail any technical skills you may have. We encourage applicants to also include relevant, short samples of their previous work—written reports, links to web-based publications, podcasts, ad copy, pitch letters, press releases, videos, and any other materials demonstrating communication skills are welcome.

Please send all application materials via email to the attention of Butler Koshland Fellowships’ Executive Director, Kate Brumage, at apply [at] bkfellowships.org with the subject line “Duffy Fellowship.” Only those chosen to interview will be contacted.  Do not contact Dr. Duffy or The Commonwealth Club of California directly.

About Butler Koshland Fellowships

Our mission is to identify and mentor the next generation of public service leaders. Our model is simple and personal—we ask extraordinary leaders to mentor an emerging leader. Each mentor and fellow pair works closely together on a project for one year, during which time we fund the fellow’s salary. By directly investing in the individuals who have the greatest potential to influence others, we are accelerating the pace of positive social change.

 Sponsored by Butler Koshland Fellowships

Next in my series on How To Fully Fund Your PhD, I provide a list below of universities that offer full funding to all students admitted to their doctoral programs in communications. 

In the ProFellow database, we list several competitive fellowships for graduate and doctoral study. However, to be successful in fully-funding your studies I recommend seeking out PhD programs that offer full funding to all admitted students. When a university indicates that they provide full funding to their PhD students, in most cases this means they provide each admitted doctoral student full tuition and a stipend for living expenses for the four to six year duration of the student’s doctoral studies. Not all universities provide full funding to their doctoral students, so be sure to research the financial aid offerings of all the potential PhD programs in your academic field, including small and lesser-known schools both in the U.S. and abroad.

Columbia University Journalism School (New York, NY): A full-time Ph.D. student is generally offered a tuition exemption during the years he or she is completing coursework. Stipends are typically awarded for three years and generally require service as a teaching or research assistant.

New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development (New York, NY): The Department of Media, Culture, and Communication offers a complete funding and mentoring program to all admitted doctoral students. 

Northwestern University School of Communication (Evanston, IL): All students who are admitted to our MA/PHD or PHD programs receive financial support packages including both fellowships and teaching assistantships. Regardless of whether applicants are domestic or international, all who are admitted to either our MA/PHD or PHD program receive funding.

Ohio State School of Communication (Columbus, OH): The School of Communication funds nearly every student we admit to our M.A. and Ph.D. programs with either a Graduate Associateship (teaching or research assistant) or some form of Graduate Fellowship (University or Enrichment Fellowship). 

Purdue University Brian Lamb School of Communication (West Lafayette, IN): With few exceptions, graduate students accepted into the program receive funding, contingent on fulfilling degree milestones and requirements.

Simon Fraser University School of Communication (Burnaby, B.C., Canada): PhD students are normally funded for a minimum of six of their first nine semesters.

Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications (Syracuse, NY): Newhouse doctoral students are funded fully for three years and receive financial support from University Fellowships or research or teaching assistantships.

University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information (Lexington, KY): Both teaching and research assistantships are available to students. Typically, all students accepted into the program are fully funded.

University of Maryland Department of Communication (College Park, MD): With rare exemptions, the program currently admits only full-time students who are funded by teaching assistantships, administrative assistantships, and/or university fellowships. The department works with students that we admit to provide these funding opportunities to support their work.  

University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication (Philadelphia, PA): All ASC graduate students are fully funded for up to five years, including tuition and fees, health care, teaching and research fellowships, and dissertation research fellowships.

To view over 460 professional and academic fellowships, including fellowships for graduate and doctoral study and pre- and post-doctoral research, sign up to view ProFellow’s fellowships database.

© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.