For the third year in a row, one Flagler College student will have the opportunity to travel almost anywhere in the world to report on an issue that has been largely ignored.
In 2017, Flagler College announced its partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit journalism organization aimed at supporting coverage of global issues.
The organization sponsors a student fellowship program known as the Campus Consortium. Thirty-five partner universities participate, including University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University.
The first grantee from Flagler College was Jessie Rowan, who traveled to Costa Rica to report on juvenile diabetes. In 2018, Jared Olson received the grant to report on a former guerilla group, known as the Zapatistas, in Chiapas, Mexico.
“I had happened upon the Zapatistas while looking through the internet,” Olson said. “I had always been fascinated by the struggles of indigenous people by nonviolent forms of resistance and by people who organized to fight for better lives, despite coming from nothing.”
To be eligible for the grant, students must enroll in a three-credit course in the spring semester. Dr. Brenda Kauffman teaches the class. Students come up with an idea, find sources related to the story, and at the end of the semester, pitch their projects. Professors select finalists, whose projects are passed onto the Pulitzer Center, and one winner is then selected. In October, the selected student fellow also travels to Washington, D.C. where they meet other students, as well as professionals in the field.
“We have students in these really, really amazing environments going around like ‘I’m from Flagler College,’” Kauffman said. “So to me, that’s another really great perk for it. Folks learn our name, they know who we are, and they see the quality of work that we have and the amazing students that we have. And they’re like, ‘yeah, that Flagler College is pretty cool.’”
The class draws students from majors throughout the college, which Kauffman said is one of the many benefits of having the program on campus.
“It gives students a chance to come together in a room who have different backgrounds and interests,” she said. “We have journalism and communication majors in there with political science or international studies or coastal environmental science majors. Students can come in and learn from each other. So I loved that idea. They can sort of inspire each other and share their skill sets, which I think is really important.”
For both the students and Kauffman, the program has been a learning experience. Many of the students in the class don’t have a background in journalism. Along the way, they learn not only about journalism, but also the topics they research.
“They had been studying these issues for years,” Kauffman said, “then to help them see there’s a way that you can actually get out into the world and look at these things up close that you’ve been studying all these years, but now you have a responsibility to tell the story too. You’re not just writing a paper to turn into professor for a grade, but you have a greater responsibility to get this story out there in a completely different format.”
For Olson, who plans on pursuing foreign reporting in the future, the student fellowship program at Flagler was the perfect opportunity.
“The whole experience boosted my confidence and my ability to carry out foreign reporting,” Olson said.”And it gave me innumerable fascinating and eye opening experiences that I imagine many people my age haven’t had the luck to have.”