Meet our current grad students

Here are bios on some of our current M.A. students and why they chose the UA School of Journalism's graduate program.

Emily Ellis

  • Program: Dual M.A. in Journalism and Latin American Studies
  • Areas of interest: Human rights reporting, social justice, indigenous peoples’ rights
  • Undergrad degree: English Literature/Spanish Language
  • Hometown: Asheville, North Carolina
  • Background/goals:  I worked as an ESL teacher for several years after finishing up my undergrad education, and held jobs in Vietnam, Ecuador, Nicaragua and the United States. In 2014, I spent about a year interning for an independent human rights publication based in Guatemala. My experiences there made me decide to stop teaching and pursue a career in journalism. I hope to return to Central America as a more skilled and knowledgeable reporter upon the completion of my degree.
  • Why UA: The University of Arizona is one of the few universities in the country that could offer me the exact education I wanted: professional journalism skills combined with an intensive academic study of Latin American politics and history.

Jennifer Hijazi

  • Program: Dual Masters program in Journalism and Middle Eastern and North African Studies (MENAS)
  • Areas of Interest: Multimedia storytelling, culture, art, society, travel, international reporting
  • Undergrad degree: BFA Musical Theatre, BA Art History (University of Arizona)
  • Hometown: Tucson
  • Background/goals: I love telling people’s stories, and I want to tell as many of them as I can in new and exciting ways. I started my career as an actor and found my passion in journalism, multimedia specifically. I am an avid traveller and am currently working on an immersive journalism project focusing on physical and psychological borders in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Egypt. 
  • Why UA?: I knew I wanted to pursue journalism and reporting, so I moved from New York back to Tucson to pursue a higher degree closer to home. The UA School of Journalism has completely transformed my skill sets and introduced me to a veritable wealth of mentors and friends.

April Lanuza

  • Program: Dual M.A. in Journalism and Latin American Studies
  • Areas of interest: International Reporting, Multimedia, Travel, Food, Immigration, Documentary
  • Undergrad degree: Telecommunications, University of Florida
  • Hometown: St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Background/goals:  As a first-generation child, I have always been curious about what the Hispanic-American experience has been like for other kids with similar backgrounds. I grew up in a bubble surrounded by other Caribbeans, and after spending time studying and backpacking in South America, I finally witnessed the diversity and culture Latin America has to offer, outside of what I grew up with. I realized all I really want to do is travel and share the stories of Hispanics with the world. 
  •  Why UA: Location and opportunities. I was skeptical of moving to a "boring" state, having come from the land of theme parks, beaches, and Miami, but after visiting the school and meeting faculty to discuss courses, I realized this was the perfect place. The program offers classes across the border and faculty with experience in my area of interest that can give me EXACTLY what I have been looking for since finishing undergrad.

Mikayla Mace

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: Science communication, especially physics, astronomy, and the environment; Visuals, specifically infographics.
  • Undergrad degree: B.S. in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, minor in Astronomy from the University of Arizona
  • Hometown: Tucson
  • Background/goals: I believe that helping the public understand science is vital to a society that is so dependent on science and technology. I hope to someday research the intersection of science and society in my career or in a PhD program. As an undergrad, I created medical illustrations for a neuroscience company, MSDx Inc. I hope to continue doing work that blends art and science. I’d like to start a podcast, write books, and create visuals, such as infographics and videos. I’m also a teaching assistant at Steward Observatory and would love to teach a class on science and society one day.
  • Why UA? I took a science journalism class in my undergrad with Carol Schwalbe and fell in love with communicating science to the public.

Ashley Mikelonis

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of Interest: Broadcast Journalism, Sports Journalism, Television/Film, Media Studies
  • Undergrad degree: B.A. in Communication Arts, Washington & Jefferson College
  • Hometown: Pittsburgh
  • Background/goals: Sports have always been a huge passion of mine, and I would love to have the chance to write about them. I also have a strong interest in television and film, and I would like to eventually write and produce my own television show in the future. After I receive my Master’s I plan to work in the journalism field before returning to school to pursue a Ph.D. in Media Studies.
  • Why UA: I really wanted to leave my hometown and see what else was out there. The UA School of Journalism offers a diverse program as well as an experienced faculty and staff that are willing to help in any way they can. I also appreciate the small class sizes.

Tony Perkins

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: Broadcast journalism, sports journalism
  • Undergrad: B.A. Telecommunications, Indiana University, 1980.
  • Hometown: Chicago
  • Background: I joined the UA Journalism graduate program in September 2015, following a career in broadcast journalism that's spanned more than 30 years and two continents.  I specialized in covering legal issues and courts, and chronicled the Jeffery Dahmer serial killer trial for ABC Radio News in the 1990s. I also worked as a television news and sports journalist for more than 13 years, and reported on the University of Arizona's national basketball title game in 1997. A continuing interest in teaching college journalism led me to a position as TV news director and adjunct instructor at the Indiana University School of Journalism in 2007.  I then served as an anchor-producer for China Central Television’s English-language coverage of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic games. I lived and worked in China for four years before returning to the U.S. as an international sports television correspondent.

Carson Lee Suggs

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: Journalism history and ethics, Arizona media history
  • Undergrad degree: B.A. in English with Honors, University of Arizona
  • Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Goals: I hope to eventually start my own website covering the intersections of technology, politics, and the humanities. I hope also to return to literature by pursuing a Ph.D. in the near future.
  • Why UA? I chose the School of Journalism per the recommendation of a mentor of mine from the English Department. I knew I wanted to write for a living, but I needed to develop my skills further, and the School of Journalism has been an immeasurable help in that regard.

Riley Versfelt

  • Program: Accelerated Masters (AMP)
  • Areas of interest: Broadcast journalism, sports, food, travel, and community involvement
  • Undergrad degree: B.A. in Journalism, University of Arizona
  • Hometown: Manhattan Beach, California
  • Background/goals: The best part about being a journalist is meeting new people and having the opportunity to tell their stories on a broader spectrum. There are so many amazing happening around the world and to experience them first-hand and deliver a product to others is indescribable. I hope to bring light to the positive news occurring worldwide. This can include anything from sports, food, travel, the community, etc. Currently, I am working on my thesis project, a documentary about the Esperanza Dance Project. This dance company educates and promotes awareness for sexual assault through the use of dance and multimedia performances.  I look forward to helping the organization bring awareness for healthy relationships. After graduation I plan to pursue my dreams of being a broadcast journalist and see where each day takes me.
  • Why UA? I chose the AMP because it was a great opportunity to advance my education in a timely and cost-effective manner. The intimate class sizes make it easy to connect with instructors and classmates. The instructors are always there to help with a smile on their face. The AMP was an irresistible opportunity to challenge and perfect my journalistic skills.  

Bakina Wellars

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: Public opinion and digital media
  • Undergrad degree: Journalism, Institut Catholique de Kabgayi, Rwanda
  • Hometown: Muhanga (located in Southern Province, Rwanda)
  • Background/goals: Born and raised in Rwanda (an African country located in East Africa), my name is Bakina, Wellars, a graduate Fulbright student at the University of Arizona, school of Journalism since fall 2015.  I graduated from the Institut Catholique de Kabgayi – Rwanda. Prior and after my undergraduate graduation, I worked as a Journalist, secondary school teacher and tutorial Assistant. I am interested in the media’s capacity when it comes to shaping the public opinion (agenda setting) and digital media. After graduating, I plan to go back to my home country to resume my job at the Institut Catholique de Kabgayi where I worked as a tutorial Assistant at the faculty of Journalism and communication studies.
  • Why UA? Back in 2013, I attended the conference conducted by a professor from Ohio held in Rwanda. After his conference, I started dreaming about the international journalism which is one of the options available at the University of Arizona, School of Journalism. By coincidence, in the same year, while attending a conference at the University of Oregon, I met a guy who strongly recommend me to go to the University of Arizona, school of Journalism as I told him that I have a dream of pursuing my Master’s in International journalism. That is why the University of Arizona, school of journalism was my first choice in my Fulbright application.

Nathaniel Williams

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: Sports broadcaster/commentator/television
  • Undergrad degree: Communication, with a minor in journalism broadcast news, Humboldt State University
  • Hometown: Los Angeles
  • Background/goals: My goal is to one day have my own talk show. Eithier that, or have my own sports show. I'm very passionate about communicating and connecting with others.
  • Why UA: I chose the U of A because this school believed in my vision, but most importantly it believed in me. The vibe and energy I got felt right.

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