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A life-changing opportunity

Image by Vanessa Gezari, Afghanistan, 2010

Stories of human agency in international war zones, unstable governments, and areas of poverty around the globe often go untold.  The voices of resilient men, women, and children who live their day-to-day lives in areas of conflict all over the world are silenced by lack of funding, differing ideologies about what is newsworthy, and the relentless 24-hour media cycle. Bringing their stories to the forefront of news coverage is a daunting task for those who are passionate about social justice.  However, with the help of a new scholarship program at Loyola, students will be given a chance to report on international struggles first hand and a platform to illuminate dark places around the globe.

Loyola University Chicago is partnering with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting (PCCR) to sponsor a student fellow to travel to an area of conflict overseas to focus on under-reported, un-reported, or misreported issues that are often not given attention in mainstream media.

Don Wycliff, distinguished journalist in residence for the School of Communication is the faculty adviser for the new program. He says that starting summer of 2013, a student fellow will be selected to receive $2,000 to go out on their own and report on a topic of his or her choosing under the aegis of the Pulitzer Center for their website and with their mentorship.

This joint collaboration will involve the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, School of Social Work, and the School of Communication. The PCCR only allows for one student each year to be selected for an international reporting project. Each of the four colleges will take turns each year recommending a student from their particular college to apply for the stipend.

Kathleen Maas-Weigert, PhD, professor of women and leadership and assistant to the provost for social justice initiatives, initially brought forth the idea. She had come across the student fellowship program at the PCCR when she was teaching at Georgetown University in Washington DC and believes the scholarship is an excellent resource for students to broaden their own understanding of their own challenges in the world.

Maas-Weigert is enthusiastic about students being able to partake in the PCCR fellowship but does warn that the process is rigorous and not everyone is cut out for the fellowship. Part of the vetting process will be to ensure the right student is chosen and he or she is able to handle the responsibility of going into the field alone.

“Someone who’s committed to global justice issues, who’s a certain risk-taker, who’s mature and understands challenges and thinks about how resources are essential to meet those challenges is what we’re looking for,” says Maas-Weigert.

Another major component of Loyola’s partnership with PCCR is welcoming journalists from the Pulitzer Center to Loyola to share their experiences reporting across the globe with students. This fall, Anna Badkhen and Vanessa M. Gezari, who have both extensively reported on conflict in Afghanistan under the aegis of the Pulitzer Center, held a panel discussion and visited some classrooms around Loyola to share stories about the difficulties they faced, and more importantly the issues of human conflict and turmoil they saw.

“The point is to give that student a great opportunity but also to help Loyola get more access to understanding crises in our global community that we would not normally hear about or would hear about very superficially,” says Maas-Weigert. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to have a network, a web effect that will broaden here at Loyola, that will make more and more people aware of these really crying needs for justice.”

The first Loyola student fellow will be selected from a pool of applications from the School of Communication for summer 2013.

For more information on the student fellow and the PCCR visit www.pulitzercenter.org.

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