Alumni Notes May 2012 - July 2012

Alumni Notes are now online!

Continue to send us your news on job changes, promotions, schooling and families. We will update these notes every few months. Check the date at the top so you can stay current.



Karen Despain is the managing editor of Prescott (Ariz.) Daily Courier.


Ford Burkhart had a research article published in the 2012 issue of Health, Risk & Society. Read it here.  He also has been re-appointed as "Honorary Professor” in the Journalism and Media Studies Centre at the University of Hong Kong.  It will be his third term and will run through 2014.  The university is ranked 34th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and in second place in Asia after the University of Tokyo.



Carolyn Niethammer’s ninth book, Cooking the Wild Southwest: Delicious Recipes for Desert Plants, has been published by UA Press.  Her blog on Southwest cooking is at 



Melissa Vito is the vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at the UA. Her two sons are now both journalism majors “and having wonderful time!” says Melissa.



Connie Buell Hinton teaches advanced placement language and composition and is the yearbook adviser at Magnolia High School in Magnolia, Ark. In November, Connie won an iPad from the Arkansas Advanced Initiative for Math and Science for increasing the number of students passing the AP Language test in Arkansas over the past two years. In addition, the yearbook for which she is adviser, consistently wins excellent and superior ratings.



Florence Graves, founding director of the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, is featured in the newly released project “Investigating Power.” Investigating Power is an online, multimedia presentation that includes oral history interviews with journalists, including some of the most important national journalists since 1950. Florence and 25 other journalists —including Christiane Amanpour, Seymour Hersh, and Bob Woodward—describe their investigations into corporate and government uses and abuses of power.View it here. 

Miriam Morgan is the food editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Walt Nett passes along what he calls his bizarre moment in photography from last fall. “I occasionally fill in as a photographer, and AP picked up my shot of the haboob that hit downtown Lubbock. Looked like something out of life on Mars...showed up in the Washington Post, LA Times, Christian Science Monitor. My favorite, though, was in the Chinese language edition of the Wall Street Journal.” Walt, who was a business writer at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, has just moved from covering business to covering courts. Walt also shared that he was part of the team that won the Star Breaking News Report of the year for a story on the arrest of a 20-year-old Saudi student who had set up a bomb factory in an apartment near the Texas Tech campus. 



Steve Hirsch is an attorney and partner with Bryan Cave LLP in Phoenix. He’s also one of the newest members of the School of Journalism’s Advisory Council.

Elisa Kaplan Miller was honored in May 2011 by the Society for Technical Communication as an associate fellow. She also has been elected to the board of directors for the Usability Professionals Association for a three-year term as director of professional development, starting in January. Elisa also completed a graduate certificate in applied statistics from Penn State in December.

Stephen Yozwiak is in his fourth year as a senior science writer at Translational Genomics Research Institute in Phoenix.



Kathleen Donaghy is a usability analyst with SAGE. She lives in Fairfax, Va.



Alan Fischer is a public information officer with the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson.

Jim Gullo is a freelance magazine writer, novelist and author of non-fiction books based in Oregon. His latest book isTrading Manny: How a Father & Son Learned to Love Baseball Again, which he wrote after his son asked him about the baseball steroids scandal. Jim worked for many years in public relations and as a travel writer. Visit his website.



John D’Anna is an editor with the Mesa Republic, one of the community editions of The Arizona Republic. He’s also one of the newest members of the School of Journalism’s Advisory Council.



Michael Downs is an assistant professor at Towson University in Baltimore. Louisiana State University Press will publish his second book, a short story collection titled The Greatest Show, in March as part of its Yellow Shoe Fiction Series.



Elena Chabolla Stauffer has joined the School of Journalism as a program coordinator. She will be assisting with course scheduling, assessment and serve as graduate coordinator.



Glenn Cook, Las Vegas Review Journal, took first place in the 2012 “Best of the West” journalism contest. Best of the West was founded in 1987 to reward journalistic excellence and promote freedom of information. Cook won for the editorial “RTC bus contract goes round and round,” criticizing the extended process of negotiating the Las Vegas bus contract.



Melissa Reeves is a media specialist with Jeffco Public Schools in Golden, Colo. She had been with KUSA-9News in Denver.



Jennifer Levario Cieslak, formerly of The Arizona Republic, won first place in the Page Design category of the 2012 “Best of the West” journalism contest. She won for a front page package that used stark, black-and-white photos to illustrate a look back at the shooting that wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and a dozen others and killed six at a political event outside a Safeway store in Tucson. Jen left the Republic in August and is now freelancing in Phoenix.

Rebecca Missel started April 25 as the manager of grants administration for the Union of Reform Judaism, based in midtown Manhattan. For the past two-and-a- half years, she has worked at Jewish Family Service of MetroWest.

Maggie Burnett Whiting lives in Minneapolis with her spouse, Ike, and 17-month-old daughter Ruth. Maggie manages the packaging copywriting team for Target Corp.



Laura Rillos started reporting at KPTV in Portland, Ore., about a year ago. She does a fair amount of fill-in anchoring for the morning show. Laura has been married for three years to Cameron Wood ‘04, who was in her Reporting Public Affairs class. He's working as a corporate trainer.



Travis Burns is a property manager with Michelson Realty in Dallas.

Joe Ferguson and Hillary Davis ’06 joined UA student Matthew Casey on April 21 in winning Sunshine Awards from the SPJ Valley of the Sun Chapter for their work forcing open public documents. Joe and Hillary are reporters at the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff.



Ryan Casey, who is on the sports desk of the Denver Post, took third place in the 2012 “Best of the West” journalism contest in the project reporting category with their three-part package on the increasingly intense world of high school athletics. Best of the West was founded in 1987 to reward journalistic excellence and promote freedom of information.

Ashley Wynn began work April 2 at a talent agency in Century City, Calif.



Paloma Boykin is an admissions counselor in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at the UA, as she says, “helping to bring in future Wildcats!”

Nathan Olivarez-Giles has left the Los Angeles Times for a job with Wired magazine in the Bay area.

Gabriela Renteria-Poepsel and her spouse, Mark, announce the birth of their son Sammy, born Feb. 22, 2012. They live in New Orleans.



Chelsea Hodson was awarded a PEN Center Emerging Voices Fellowship. She’s living in Los Angeles and wrote a “chapbook” in 2010 called Beach Camp. She’s currently writing an essay collection. 

Jay Mark Sternberg got a job as the official photographer for Fiat of Santa Monica and McLaren of Beverly Hills. He also plans to keep writing in his spare time.



Katie Pavlich, news editor for and a contributing editor for Townhall Magazine, based in Washington D.C., has written a book titled Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and its Shameless Cover-Up.



Marisa Gerber, who graduated in May 2011, won a prestigious Metpro fellowship at the Los Angeles Times. This marks the fifth year in a row that UA School of Journalism graduates have landed in the diversity program, which is designed to help beginning journalists launch careers in Tribune newsrooms.

Samantha Sais arrived in Nairobi on Feb. 23. She’s working on a number of story ideas and projects.



Derrick Fazendin landed a job in media relations with the Los Angeles Angels. He starts right after graduation.

Melanie Huonker starts May 16 as a general assignment reporter for KSNF, the NBC affiliate in Joplin, Mo.

Rebecca Rillos earned a Pulliam Fellowship to do design at the Indianapolis Star this summer. Once the fellowship is completed, she begins a full-time job in design with The Arizona Republic in Phoenix.


In Memoriam

Virginia Fraps Hodge ’84 — Feb. 22, 2012. Worked as a reporter for the Bisbee Daily Review/Sierra Vista Herald covering city hall and schools; also served as public information officer for Cochise College in Douglas, Ariz.

Timothy Koncki (also spelled Konski) — Feb. 28, 2012. Former assistant city editor at the Arizona Daily Star who taught as an adjunct instructor in the UA journalism program from approximately 1999 to 2005. He most recently worked as the assistant city editor for the Wilmington News Journal in Wilmington, Del.


Past Alumni Notes

December 2011 - May 2012

August 2011 - December 2011

April 2011 - August 2011

December 2010 - April 2011

July 2010 - December 2010

April 2010 - July 2010

October 2009 - March 2010

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