Stories about UCIJAM

By Christine Schmidt, AB'17. Photo by Bill Healy.

Summer Fields is not afraid of change.

As a second-year, Fields was a linguistics major working for the physical sciences’ graphic arts department. By her fourth year, she was a sociology major leading her own podcasting group, landing a job at a media startup, and living out her passion in an ethnography study during the College’s O-Week.

Thanks to her internships and treks with the Office of Career Advancement, self-made opportunities on campus like the Quad podcast, and networking through interviews for her B.A. thesis, Fields built her own path. “I followed my passion in a way that came from sincere curiosity about knowing other radio people and producers and actually doing the craft instead of fantasizing about it,” she said.

Her original interest in people-watching and human and social behavior convinced her to switch majors the spring of her second year. She felt even more sure about her choice after taking sociology associate professor Kristen Schilt’s “Sociology of Deviant Behavior” course.

“[Taking the course] was validating for a passion that I never felt when I was pursuing other stuff,” Fields explained. She’s maintained a close relationship with Schilt since then and even assisted with the Orientation Week ethnography project this past summer and fall.

Driven by her radio speaking and speech extracurricular experiences in high school, Fields set out to build a podcast community here at UChicago. She soon founded her own podcast collective, called the Quad, which she used as a training ground to help students learn how to make audio stories. From storyboarding to final edits, Fields helped created 30 different pieces ranging from oral essays on racial discrimination to an interview with an insect specialist on campus about the mating habits of bugs for Valentine’s Day.

“We’re trying to collaborate with the other audio groups on campus to make it a sort of productive ecosystem for people interested in going into that,” she said.

The Quad was just one stepping stone in Fields’ path to a career in radio and media: “That was my springboard to going to conferences and introducing myself as a podcaster and audio editor. I got involved in various projects and basically launched my career through that,” she said.

But the path to public radio was not a direct one. The summer after her second year, Fields ended up with a Metcalf internship at the Center for the Study of Presidency and Congress in Washington, D.C.

Fields called it a “weird choice” in that she accepted it on a whim and it wasn’t really related to her podcasting interests. But also, “it was a very good choice that led down a path insofar as I got kind of a sense of political things and I worked on a policy report that I’m published on and I got to meet some politicians,” she noted.

This internship helped launch her onto another springboard, however. After continuing her sociology studies and work with the Quad during her third year, she secured an internship at the ABC News Political Unit in D.C. again for the next summer.

She combined her newfound experience in politics with her passion for the media and spent the internship reporting on the 17 candidates in the primary race for president. This new field only further confirmed her aspirations.

“I knew I wanted to focus in on my passion for public radio, specifically my passion for storytelling and more creative work,” she said.

Back on campus for her final year, Fields devoted her time to the Quad, her sociology B.A. thesis, and building a professional and social network of public radio experts.

Her thesis focused on a question that frequently popped up in her work and podcasting experiences: “I wrote about the whiteness and homogeneity of public radio and the opinions of producers of color on the discourse around that,” Fields said. “[Public radio] is something that’s for the public and should be representative of the public.”

Using her contacts in the audio storytelling world, Fields interviewed 20 people of color in the industry about their career experiences and perspectives on the racial and sociocultural homogeneity. During the interviewing process, Fields met several new leaders in radio and media, and even visited with some of Buzzfeed New York’s all-female pod squad last summer.

“This converged into being super connected in this world…. That was a great move and I was passionate about writing about it,” she added.

Her connections brought her to Ellen Mayer, community manager at Hearken, a media startup. Founded by former WBEZ public radio reporter, Jennifer Brandel, who pioneered an audience-first model to incorporate more listener participation and personal investment, Hearken provides online tools and strategies to newsrooms for how to engage their audiences. Mayer encouraged her to apply for an internship at Hearken that spring quarter and Fields finished the application within the day.

That internship soon blossomed into a summer job as well, complementing the work that Fields did with Professor Schilt for the O-Week ethnography study. Now, Fields works full time at Hearken as an assistant community manager and engagement coach.

As an assistant community manager, she provides individualized consulting and daily support to newsrooms and journalists utilizing the Hearken toolset to help them develop audience-first engagement.

From linguistics to think tanks to media engagement, Fields made the most of what UChicago had to offer—and even created her own opportunities in the process. She’s happy at Hearken and excited about delving further into the world of engagement journalism.

“Pursue things from a place of where your curiosity actually takes you and it will end up lining up,” she said. “Experiences that you don’t enjoy or that aren’t your passion are really valuable also…. That will tell you when you really do hit upon something that’s great for you. You know what that will feel like as opposed to the opposite. That’s what happened to me.”

Listen to Summer's work.

 

 

UChicago alumna Sydney Combs, AB’15, and graduating fourth year Dake Kang, AB’16, have both won prestigious student journalism awards. Sydney received the Society of Professional Journalists Regional Mark of Excellence in the feature photography category and placed as a finalist in the National Mark of Excellence competition. Dake has won the 2016 Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholar Award.

Sydney Combs Wins the Society of Professional Journalists Regional Mark of Excellence Award

View Sydney’s project

When Sydney Combs entered her first year at UChicago, little did she know that an O-Week hunch would launch her on the career path of her dreams. Today, she is the winner of the Society of Professional Journalists Regional Mark of Excellence Award and placed as a finalist in the National Mark of Excellence competition. She is now more motivated than ever to tell the stories no one else is telling.

“I walked into the Chicago Maroon’s open house with a suspicion that I might enjoy journalism even though I had no previous experience,” Sydney remembers. “I joined as a news contributor, but after a couple of articles I noticed that my heart was in the photography.” Working on the Maroon gave Sydney critical experience as well as exposure to many other passionate people with whom she could discuss journalistic and photographic technique. Her growing passion for the craft, along with support from peers and mentors, prompted her to apply for her first photojournalism Metcalf. This went so well that the following year she applied for a second Metcalf, this time with Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. “Needless to say, if it hadn’t been for student publications and organizations like UChicago Careers in Journalism, Arts, and Media, the Institute of Politics, and the “The World: Beyond the Headlines” series at the Center for International Studies (where I met so many gracious journalists), I wouldn’t be doing journalism today.”

It was through Sydney’s fellowship with the Pulitzer Center that she was able to explore a subject near to her heart: entrepreneurialism among Maasai women in Tanzania. For Sydney, this topic combined her love of anthropology and her treasured study abroad experience from two years prior in Tanzania, where she first came across a community of local businesswomen selling their wares despite overwhelming opposition to women operating independently in the marketplace. “Two weeks after graduating from UChicago, I set off for Oltukai village in northern Tanzania. During study abroad, I had worked in the same village on an ethnographic project looking at Maasai perceptions on female entrepreneurship. At the time, most men disapproved of women selling anything more than milk at the market but yet there was a steady increase of Maasai businesswomen. For this trip, I returned as a journalist to note how Maasai women were supporting each other in order to overcome and change stigmas against businesswomen in their patriarchal society.” Her goal was to approach this topic in a multimedia report, combining video along with her normal photojournalistic approach.

The task in front of her was anything but simple. “Operating as a one-woman crew, in three different languages (English, Swahili, and Maa), in such a rural area proved rather difficult at times. Luckily, I was able to work with my translator from two years earlier, Sion Paul. With her help, I received a warm welcome into the community and made contact with the project’s featured family, the Kelele’s, in a matter of days. Between the power outages, daily five kilometer treks, and heckling from local men, the Kelele’s and Sion got me through it all.”

In addition to the satisfaction of winning an award for her project, Sydney has emerged from this experience with a newfound love of documentary filmmaking. “Capturing live footage up to photojournalistic standards combined my favorite parts of photography, film, and journalism,” shares Sydney. “In short, I fell in love with documentary filmmaking. After Tanzania, it’s hard to imagine going forward without including multimedia.” Sydney has found her favorite medium for telling stories, which, as she puts it, are best when they capture the voice of those who otherwise couldn’t tell their stories. “I tend to admire journalism that tells stories that otherwise wouldn’t have been told or heard. In my opinion, it is journalism’s duty to step in when individuals lack the resources and/or power to tell their own stories. Although not all journalists can (or arguably should) focus solely on these individuals, I have found the experience deeply rewarding.”

Dake Kang (AB '16) Wins the 2016 Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholar Award

“It started with a rumor, as most good stories do,” Dake Kang says, remembering the story behind the article that won him the 2016 Overseas Press Club Foundation Scholar Award.

Dake was interning abroad with the Times of India in New Delhi when he heard that there were North Korean students studying under the radar at a private American school. “In the process of reporting on another story,” remembers Dake, “I heard from someone that there was a North Korean embassy in New Delhi, and I thought, ‘Huh, that's interesting, I wonder what the North Koreans are doing here?’ So I trawled through the internet on a whim, and I discovered sporadic articles that talked about ties between India and North Korea back in the 1970s.”

Dake, with ample natural inquisitiveness and perseverance, decided to dig deeper. He uncovered an article alleging that there were dozens of North Korean students studying in India, but when he followed up with the author he was told not to waste his time. In spite of this apparent dead-end, the story idea stuck with him. “Weeks later,” he remembers, “I was interviewing a South Korean for a different story - and on a hunch, I asked him if he heard of these North Korean students. He hesitated, and I could see immediately there was something there. After reassuring him I'd keep him anonymous, he told me where to go, and there, in the lobby of the college he sent me to, were North Korean flags fluttering next to a dozen others. I was nervous, but I figured I didn't have anything to lose, so I walked in and asked to speak to the International Student's Office. To my utter surprise, not only did she agree to speak with me, she openly talked about the North Korean students there, and even arranged an interview!”

The resulting article proved a crowning achievement for Dake, on top of the many other accomplishments he has achieved in his early career as a journalist. Dake has completed three internships: one with CNN, another with the Times of India, and the last with Fox News. Upon graduation he will go on to work with the Associated Press out of Philadelphia and for Forbes from the Philippines.

Dake’s interest in journalism began, as he puts it, on a whim. Still not sure where his interests lay in his second year of school, he applied for his first internship with CNN and was surprised when he was offered the position. “I found myself in the control room of the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, watching the second Egyptian Revolution unfold live before my eyes. I was hooked instantly. I thought, ‘Whoa, this is what I should be doing.’”

This first burst of excitement continued to motivate Dake throughout his internship. “At CNN I was on a news producing team, which meant I spent most of my time cutting footage, writing TV script, and putting together show cues. It was great - I was learning tons about how the news business worked - but every time I saw a crew go out, or a reporter go live on air, or watched the latest coming in from China or Italy or wherever, I felt this itch. I just knew that I wasn't meant to be sitting in this office. I was meant to be out there, finding stories. Digging in. Illuminating what was going on. Chasing these bits of truths that were supposed to be told.”

To continue honing in on the aspects of journalism he most wanted to pursue, Dake took up his second internship with the Times of India. There he experienced unexpected freedom, and relished the opportunity to seek out his own story ideas. “The first day on the job, my editor took me aside to chat in his office. I asked him what kind of stories I should look for, and he said, ‘I don't know, just look for anything you might find interesting and come back to me.’ I walked out of the office and, with his prompt, the world opened up. Delhi suddenly appeared to me as this huge, crazy place with so much stuff going on that had to be told. That's how I got hooked again. I spent days chatting up everyone I knew, meeting hundreds of people from all walks of life. I spent nights tinkering with data sets and mining algorithms. I spent weekends going on trips into the countryside to chase stories about rural education, or hunting down professors and politicians to interview. The work was so compelling, it sucked me right in. And that's when I knew that this was what I had been looking for.”

As Dake recalls the story of his award winning article, he doesn’t overlook the difficulties involved. His biggest obstacle was the ethical challenges raised by reporting on a group of people who wanted to remain out of the public eye. He queried other journalists for advice and received mixed messages. “I went ahead with the interview anyways—and interviewed them rather clumsily. Being pretty new to the craft of journalism, I hadn't quite mastered the art of interviewing for a potentially sensitive story yet, another difficulty I encountered. But I managed to get some good quotes, and that was the story. I never published the piece because the ethical questions still nagged at me, but the whole project was a great experience and I'm much better prepared now to tackle complex, sensitive stories.”

As Dake continues his career after graduation, he looks forward to telling stories that exhibit the complexity of the subjects at hand. “I really love digging into deeply complex stories and illuminating all the different sides and perspectives of the people involved…At the end of the day, I seek to inform, to illuminate. I want to investigate the truth, and the truth is very complex and multifaceted, and it's deeply human and very broad and grand in scale at the same time. I don't want to push just one worldview or one narrative, but to capture and bring to my audience an appreciation of all that's going on in a compelling way.”

Started in 1948, the 57th Street Art Fair is a Hyde Park institution. Over 200 exhibitors take over the area during the first weekend of every June. Keeping the Fair as fresh and exciting as it was in 1948 is a continual goal and this year six UChicago students were enlisted to bring a new perspective by serving as consultants.  The partnership culminated in a presentation to the 57th Street Art Fair’s board of trustees in February and several of the student’s recommendations have already being incorporated into the marketing of this year’s event.

Last winter, two of Career Advancement’s pre-professional programs, UChicago Careers in Business (UCIB) and UChicago Careers in Journalism, Arts, and Media (UCIJAM), selected enthusiastic students to weigh in on solutions, in the style of a consulting project, to continue to improve the Fair. UCIJAM’s Sophia Chen (AB’16), UCIB’s Ruchi Mahadeshwar (AB’15), and Jon Lancaster (AB’15), kicked things off with a client meeting to discuss and truly understand relevant issues and areas for development at the 57th Street Art Fair. Using the information gathered at this meeting, the students drafted a professional Statement of Work (SOW) that outlined their project scope, services they could offer, and the deliverables and milestones for the project.

In October, the team added three new UCIB second-year students: Mayukh Sen, Ammar Kalimullah, and Raman Rajakannan. These fresh faces brought new excitement and perspectives to the team, performing primary and second research to support their hypothesis and ultimately to help form the final recommendations.  This research process included attending the 2014 57th Street Art Fair, interviewing visitors and artists, talking with members of the board, conducting a case study of the Hyde Park Jazz Fest, and reaching out to other non-profit boards focused on art. 

After collecting all of this research, the team formed their final recommendations – a 45 minute presentation and extensive Q&A session with the entire board of the 57th Street Art Fair. Measures from the presentation have already begun to be put in place, with the launch of a social media campaign highlighting the developments that the students recommended. Alexia Tyzna, Lead Coordinator for the Fair said that the board was, “very impressed with (the students’) work, thoughtfulness, and presentations.” The project also proved to be an excellent experience for students; Raman noted “I really enjoyed working on this project and working with the rest of the team.”

For more information on the UChicago Career in Business or UChicago Careers in Journalism, Arts and Media, please visit their websites. 

Among the many exciting opportunities this summer was UChicago Careers in Journalism, Arts & Media (UCIJAM) trek to London from September 21st through September 24th. Students were given the opportunity to meet with leading figures in journalism, arts, and media at seven different institutions. They were also able to learn more about key differences in the communication and creative industries in Europe and the United States.

Many students arrived early to take in the city and its sights. This gave participants the chance to get to know one another.  Over the first weekend, students visited Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden where many of the Harry Potter movies were filmed. They also visited the Tate Modern, which houses the largest collection of modern art in the United Kingdom.

In the following days students visited five other firms including White Cube, BBC, Roast Beef TV, NBC/Universal News and ITN, British Museum, and American Express. At White Cube, the art gallery of UChicago professor Theaster Gates, students were given a tour of the newest show, Gilbert and George’s “Scapegoating” by the gallery’s PR editor, Honey Luard. Honey discussed White Cube’s trajectory, its place in the art scene, and answered many of the questions students had about the gallery and their artists.  

The next stop was the BBC’s new headquarters. Students met Focus on Africa radio reporter Alexis Akwagyiram. Alexis spoke to students at length about his career at the BBC and how his personal experiences paved the way for his current role at the firm.  The students were joined by Rachel Akidi, the editor of the BBC’s Focus on Africa who discussed the nuances of shaping media and radio coverage for the BBC across the African continent and its diaspora worldwide.  Students learned about the use of drones in video reporting and were given a tour of the BBC radio’s flagship show Live Lounge, a main stop for many global pop stars.

Students also met with documentary filmmakers Mike Lerner and Martin Herring from Roast Beef TV at the London campus of Chicago Booth School of Business. Mike is an Oscar-nominated director that has been making films for a wide variety of broadcasting platforms and has won a number of industry awards. Mike and Martin spoke to the students about their paths as filmmakers and how they successfully navigated the UK’s media industry.

This was followed up by a visit to NBC, which was particularly illuminating as students arrived just as the several breaking news stories were occurring. Students observed the interaction between on-air anchors and producers, including the choreography necessary to switch between broadcasts in London and New York.  UChicago alumna Adrienne Mong (AB‘90) introduced the students to three of her colleagues. They discussed news gathering, the current competitive media landscape, the intricacies of sending reporters into combat zones, and innovations in digital media.

During the trek, the student also visited American Express to learn about international brand strategy. Fourth year, Tinley Melvin, noted, “The UCIJAM Trek to London provided unparalleled insight into both career prospects in the region and the lifestyle of an American expat in the UK. Interacting with UChicago alumni in my field of interest sparked my desire to potentially pursue a career in London, and what relevant steps are necessary to get there. Our trip to speak with members of AmEx's brand strategy team, in particular, gave me an opportunity to apply my knowledge of the field from internship experiences to really engage in meaningful dialogue about what corporate branding careers entail, and what various paths to success in that space can look like.”

Along with the visits to different media and communication institutions, students had the opportunity to tour the British Museum and the U.S. Embassy where they had a variety of discussions about museum curatorial work and foreign service. Students also interacted with alumni at the Royal Automobile Club and Donor Dinner hosted by Career Advancement and Alumni Relations and Development. They discussed the career experiences of various alumni.

To learn more about the Trek program, including a comprehensive map of trek locations, and hosting opportunities, please visit our website. Interested in hosting students on a trek? Find out how here.

On Monday October 29th, the University of Chicago was honored to welcome two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Salopek for a presentation and discussion on his seven-year "slow journalism" project. Sponsored by the National Geographic Society and in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, he will walk and report from the East African River bed through 39 different countries until his final destination in Patagonia, Chile.

Student from UChicago Careers in Journalism (UCIJ), the Center for International Studies, the Program on the Global Environment and International House sponsored and hosted the event. University Trustee Jack Fuller, a fellow Pulitzer Prize winner and former publisher of the Chicago Tribune, moderated the event.

The evening began with opening remarks from UCIJ Director, Kathy Anderson, who explained the goal of the UChicago Careers in Journalism and touched on some of the important work that the Pulitzer Center has done throughout the world and in junction with University of Chicago students.

Immediately following, Paul Salopek began his talk on the nature of journalism, his history in the field, and where his project will lead him. For thirty minutes, students were able to share in his passion for capturing the human experience by walking through it. "With slow journalism, you get to find connections between stories that you would have missed by driving through them or flying over them," Salopek said. By walking, one also gains a "true understanding in place, without being whetted to place." Salopek encouraged journalism students to make use of their education and surroundings, and keep narratives of what it is like, for them and strangers around them, to be alive in the world today.

After his discussion, Trustee Fuller opened the floor to questions, and during this time students inquired about everything from how "slow journalism" has influenced Salopek's writing to how this project will affect his wife and parents. For many students who came out of interest, witnessing Salopek's articulate fervor helped to kindle a better understanding for the nature of journalism, and an understanding of the wide spectrum of what is available to those willing to venture out into the world and find the real stories. Following the end of the program, students, faculty, and University leaders all enjoyed refreshments and conversation with Paul Salopek.

UChicago Careers in Journalism is a non-selective program that provides specialized advising and resources to those interested in journalism as a profession and as an extracurricular experience. Journalism is an inclusive subject about everything that evolves in the world. Every subject from art and food to -in Salopek's case- poverty and politics is explored, and it is through the University of Chicago's strong liberal arts curriculum that students engage in interdisciplinary realms of knowledge in search of expertise in specific areas of interest. UCIJ provides mentoring, workshops, grants, and help in internship placement for all forms of journalism.

For more information regarding UCIJ please contact Kathy Anderson.

Written by Lucia Bower, AB’15

Andrew Holzman (AB’16) came to UChicago believing he had his future figured out, “I came in thinking I was going into academia; I figured all I really wanted to do was sit in a library and research things for the rest of my life.” He’ll be one of the first to tell you, “Turns out that's definitely not for me.” Andrew redirected his focus and joined UChicago Careers in Journalism, Arts, and Media (UCIJAM), a program which helps foster students interested in career paths in these fields by giving them access to unique internship opportunities and connecting them with successful UChicago alumni. 

Through regular meetings with his Career Adviser, Andrew began to refocus his long term goals. He had the opportunity to do his first college internship with the Hyde Park Herald. After sending his resume to the editor, he was assigned a small piece which he expanded into a feature article that ran on the front page of the Herald. Andrew was “hooked”.

In addition to his time at the Hyde Park Herald, Andrew has interned at the Chicago Tribune Company’s WGN Radio News. He describes this job as a “fantastic internship that brought [him] into the world of broadcast journalism and taught [him] about city-wide news.” Through his work at both internships, Andrew has learned that “getting into journalism is mostly about being really good at journalism.”

In the summer of 2014, Andrew will be interning at a start-up radio company called Rivet. By utilizing the support of his UCIJAM adviser, Ben Waltzer, Klingensmith Program Director for UCIJAM, Andrew applied for a Headline Club grant to support his work over the summer. While the best in Chicago Journalism were being honored at the Lisagor awards, Andrew was awarded his grant. This summer, at Rivet, Andrew will conduct interviews and write news scripts with the ultimate goal of learning “how to voice stories”, all while being mentored by Sheila Soloman, a former lead recruiter for the Chicago Tribune.

Looking beyond this summer, Andrew says that his future cannot be predicted without looking “first at where journalism is in five years.” No matter where his path may lead, he vows to “do my best to be a good storyteller in every medium I can find, from photography to print. Good reporters who know how to undercut pervasive narratives and find the truth will always be in demand somewhere.”

For more information on the UChicago Careers in Journalism, Arts & Media program, please visit the website. 

On Monday October 29th, the University of Chicago was honored to welcome two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Salopek for a presentation and discussion on his seven-year "slow journalism" project. Sponsored by the National Geographic Society and in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, he will walk and report from the East African River bed through 39 different countries until his final destination in Patagonia, Chile.

Student from UChicago Careers in Journalism (UCIJ), the Center for International Studies, the Program on the Global Environment and International House sponsored and hosted the event. University Trustee Jack Fuller, a fellow Pulitzer Prize winner and former publisher of the Chicago Tribune, moderated the event.

The evening began with opening remarks from UCIJ Director, Kathy Anderson, who explained the goal of the UChicago Careers in Journalism and touched on some of the important work that the Pulitzer Center has done throughout the world and in junction with University of Chicago students.

Immediately following, Paul Salopek began his talk on the nature of journalism, his history in the field, and where his project will lead him. For thirty minutes, students were able to share in his passion for capturing the human experience by walking through it. "With slow journalism, you get to find connections between stories that you would have missed by driving through them or flying over them," Salopek said. By walking, one also gains a "true understanding in place, without being whetted to place." Salopek encouraged journalism students to make use of their education and surroundings, and keep narratives of what it is like, for them and strangers around them, to be alive in the world today.

After his discussion, Trustee Fuller opened the floor to questions, and during this time students inquired about everything from how "slow journalism" has influenced Salopek's writing to how this project will affect his wife and parents. For many students who came out of interest, witnessing Salopek's articulate fervor helped to kindle a better understanding for the nature of journalism, and an understanding of the wide spectrum of what is available to those willing to venture out into the world and find the real stories. Following the end of the program, students, faculty, and University leaders all enjoyed refreshments and conversation with Paul Salopek.

UChicago Careers in Journalism is a non-selective program that provides specialized advising and resources to those interested in journalism as a profession and as an extracurricular experience. Journalism is an inclusive subject about everything that evolves in the world. Every subject from art and food to -in Salopek's case- poverty and politics is explored, and it is through the University of Chicago's strong liberal arts curriculum that students engage in interdisciplinary realms of knowledge in search of expertise in specific areas of interest. UCIJ provides mentoring, workshops, grants, and help in internship placement for all forms of journalism.

For more information regarding UCIJ please contact Kathy Anderson.

Written by Lucia Bower, AB’15