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.

Claude Akins

  • Program: M.A. Journalism, Global Reporting
  • Areas of interest: Multimedia, U.S. foreign policy
  • Undergrad Degree: English, Portland State University
  • Hometown: Portland, Oregon
  • Background/goals: I worked as a reporter in St. Helens, Oregon, and before that I earned a B.A. in English from Portland State University. My goal is to one day work abroad, offering a global perspective to American audiences.
  • Why UA: I wanted to come to the desert, and UA was a perfect opportunity for me to learn and grow as a reporter.

Samantha Bishop

  • Program: Journalism M.A., Digital Emphasis
  • Areas of interest: Multimedia, photojournalism, food, travel, sports journalism
  • Undergrad Degree: Business Management, University of Arizona
  • Hometown: Albany, N.Y.
  • Background/goals: Currently I work in events and communications for the UA Foundation. With my background in business management, I would like to combine both degrees and my experiences to get more into PR, Communications, and Media. I would love in the future to work in the sports or entertainment industry, working PR events or creating content for their media platforms.
  • Why UA: I chose UA for my undergrad because I love the campus and the big sports school atmosphere. As an employee of the university and an alum now, I am also pretty biased in thinking that this is one of the best institutions to get a degree, especially in journalism.

Matt Brockman

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: Style, international journalism, journalism history
  • Undergrad degree: B.A. Philosophy, University of Arizona, 2010
  • Hometown: Thompson, North Dakota
  • Background/goals: Former US Army HUMINT Collector. Focusing on differences and similarities in how news is framed across different organizations. Newest pet peeve: typos.
  • Why UA: I watched an episode of Futurama and thought it would be awesome to see the sun setting over the Rincon Mountains from the city.

Katelyn (Katie) Caldwell

  • Program: Journalism MA
  • Areas of interest: Social media, broadcast.
  • Undergrad degree: University of Arizona Accelerated Master's Program (AMP student). Expected to graduate with bachelor's degree in May 2018 & with master's May 2019.
  • Hometown: Seattle, Washington.
  • Background/goals: Daily Wildcat News Reporter, Daily Wildcat Arts & Life Reporter, intern at KVOA. 
  • Why UA: I continued to pursue my master's degree at UA because I wanted the opportunity to graduate in 5 years. I love the journalism program here at UA and have continued to receive endless support from all the amazing faculty and staff.

Monika Damron

  • Program: One-year M.A. in Journalism
  • Areas of interest: Multimedia, photojournalism, culture and arts
  • Undergrad Degree: B.A. Mathematics, minor Psychology, Portland State University
  • Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
  • Background/goals: I’ve spent the past five years working in public health for the Northwest tribes as a researcher and statistician. I aim to provide more media coverage on Native American issues, especially in health, wellness and cultural revitalization. 
  • Why UA: After living in Portland, Oregon, for the last 10 year, I chose the UA in order to return to my home and to work with the community that means the most to me — my family.

Laura Fuchs

  • Program: Journalism M.A., science specialization
  • Areas of interest: Biology, genetics, ecology, climate change, feature writing, swimming
  • Undergrad Degree: B.S. Biology, M.S. Genetics, University of Arizona
  • Hometown: New Providence, N.J.
  • Background/goals: Strong background in science, specifically genetics and research in cancer genetics. Supervised a CLIA certified clinical lab in Cytogenetics with 36 years in UMC’s pathology department. Post-graduate coursework at UA included cancer genetics, molecular and medical genetics, recent advances in genetics, history of genetics and basic human pathology. Mentor high school students for UA-sponsored summer internship in cytogenetics; wrote and taught curriculum as teaching assistant for cytogenetics independent study. Taught medical students/fellows through departments of pathology and clinical genetics. I am also a tutor in science and writing. My goal is to become a science journalist and break down the jargon. There are 1 x 1014 cells in the adult human body. I plan to use the ones that haven’t yet mutated.     
  • Why UA: I chose UA because Tucson is my home. I have swum about 10,000 miles in this beautiful city, where one can do laps outside during the winter and watch a red-purple sunset in the evening. And the School of Journalism has a faculty who cares about student success.

Dominika Heusinkveld

  • Program: Dual Degree in Journalism and Environmental Sciences
  • Areas of interest: Communicating science to the public, especially environmental and health issues
  • Undergrad degree: BS in biology, Emory University; also MD from Vanderbilt University and MPH from University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
  • Hometown: Tucson
  • Background/goals: I've worked for 15 years as a physician and public health professional. I am interested in science journalism, science communication, and how science information travels through media channels.
  • Why UA: The dual degree program with SWES and the faculty members interested in science communication--Carol Schwalbe and Susan Swanberg.It was the perfect combination for me.

Ty Hudson

  • Program: M.A. Journalism
  • Areas of interest: print journalism; international journalism; photojournalism; journalism focused on art, culture, and music
  • Undergrad degree: B.A. in Art, English, & Communication from the University of New Mexico
  • Hometown: Eastern Agency, Navajo Nation (N.M.)
  • Background: I worked for two years at a community college newspaper as a student.  The journalism classes were challenging, and I enjoyed that period in my life very much.  Even though I landed a great job at an academic library, I was still drawn toward journalism.  I missed writing about music, people, concerts and film.  I got to write about a Blondie show at the Santa Fe Opera!  In that short time, journalism took me to interesting places.  After years of wandering the Southwest, I finally realized I want a career in journalism.  So, in December, I planned my escape from Stalag 505.
  • Why UA: While doing my research of journalism schools, I read the C.V.s of the faculty here.  They have the experience and knowledge to teach me the skills I need to succeed.  The support staff has also been tremendous in helping me get acquainted with the program.  Tucson itself is a laidback small city.  I used to live here during my wayward days, and I’ve always enjoyed the people, the music and record stores.  I also like the fact that Tucson sits near the Yaqui Nation, Tohono O’odham Nation and San Carlos/White Mountain Apache Nation, so there’s a lot of interaction with other indigenous cultures on campus.  

Alisa Ivanitskaya

  • Program: Journalism M.A. with emphasis on Science and Environmental Journalism 
  • Areas of interest: Long-form journalism, multimedia storytelling, video shooting and video editing, podcasting, content-creation for social networks as the tools for the education of the general public.
  • Undergrad degree/Other degrees: Diploma (BA+MA) in International Journalism from Moscow State Institute of International Relations
  • Hometown: Moscow, Russia
  • Background/goals: My first articles appeared in a local newspaper when I was 15 years old. Two years later, in 2006 while still at school I started to work as a freelance reporter for a leading Russian newspaper of that time — the Kommersant. I covered the street political movements and social politics. After graduation, I worked as an editor and reporter for online publishers, magazines and News Agency TASS. Through my career, I covered regional and federal politics, protest movements, and State Duma, Winter Olympics in Sochi and legal cases such as the Pussy Riot trial. As Marion Doenhoff Program’s scholar, I worked as a trainee at Deutsche Welle, where I became engaged in video reporting. I also became attracted to science and environmental issues. In 2017 I started to work as an editor and a script-writer for Open Media project where I created short videos for social networks on science, tech, and medicine. Through a Masters Degree in Science Journalism, I intend to develop my storytelling skills for science popularization in Russia.
  • Why UA: As the University of Arizona is an R1— Research University, I inferred that studying science journalism in a place full of great scholars can be a very enriching experience. 

Nina Kolodij

  • Program: M.A. in Science and Environmental Journalism
  • Areas of Interest: science journalism and communication, historical journalism, geology, environment and conservation, photojournalism, travel
  • Undergrad Degree: B.S. Geology and minor in Planetary Science from the University of Arizona.
  • Hometown: Harleysville, Pennsylvania
  • Background/goals: I have always been a science person, and it has become evident that communication between the scientific community and the public is suffering. I took one journalism class in my senior year and was immediately hooked. I want to work on translating tricky nuances of science and research to the world while merging my two biggest passions — science and writing. If I can pick up a few more skills and do some traveling along the way, even better.
  • Why UA: I initially chose the U of A for a number of reasons, including gorgeous views, excellent geology and even better programs. After four years, I fell in love and just didn't want to leave. I was lucky that the place I wanted to stay also had the perfect graduate school for me!


Meredith O'Neil

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: Radio, podcasting, writing, language, photography
  • Undergrad degree: French, teaching license from University of Vermont
  • Hometown: Burlington, Vermont.
  • Background/goals: I taught French for five years in Vermont, and decided it was time for a change. I traveled a lot to see where I'd like to end up next, and was drawn to Tucson because of the cycling culture, the people, and the desert. I have been living here for two years with my dog, George, and ride Mount Lemmon every weekend.
  • Why UA: I chose the U of A because I like the campus, the school of journalism is excellent, the professors are friendly and very willing to support you, and simply because it's here in Tucson.

Tony Perkins

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: Broadcast journalism, sports journalism
  • Undergrad degree: 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.

Alexis Richardson

  • Program: M.A. in Journalism
  • Areas of interest: Wildlife, conservation, environmental issues, climate change, and cultural studies
  • Undergrad: B.S. in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon
  • Hometown: I'm an Air Force Brat but my most recent home is Tucson. I was born in Bellevue, Nebraska.
  • Background/goals: Growing up, I moved every three years or so, and always found a passion for writing. What started as short stories turned into trying to start a wildlife magazine when I was ten and working on longer fiction projects through high school and college. I love to tell stories and pull at the heartstrings of anyone who reads them. My ultimate goal is to write for National Geographic on wildlife conservation and climate change issues. I have a passion for African elephants and would love to see them for myself one day.
  • Why UA: I chose UA because of the amazing staff and all they have to offer. When I applied, I had never stepped foot in Arizona but I knew this was the program for me. I'm excited to see what the next year has to offer.

Chris Stidley

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: science and environmental writing, data journalism, ethics
  • Degrees: B.A., mathematics, Grinnell College; M.S., statistics, University of Wisconsin; Ph.D., statistics, University of New Mexico
  • Hometown: Tucson (after growing up in the Midwest and working in New Mexico)
  • Background/goals: After a career as a faculty statistician, I am turning to writing. I appreciate journalism’s rigorous methods and its role as a guardian of democracy. As a statistician, I strive for the careful conduct of scientific studies and am a guardian, but of the scientific method. I plan to write about science and the environment.
  • Why UA: I initially looked to the UA journalism program simply as an avenue to develop my writing skills. However, the courses have broadened my perspective about methods of communication and about the role of journalism in our society. The UA School of Journalism also has extremely supportive faculty.

Nick Smallwood

  • Program: Journalism M.A., Digital Emphasis
  • Areas of interest: Documentary Filmmaking, Photojournalism, Multimedia Reporting, Travel Writing, Science and Environmental Reporting.
  • Undergrad Degree: B.A. Journalism, minor in Communication
  • Hometown: Safford, Arizona
  • Background/goals: I have always had a passion for storytelling. Growing up, I remember spending nights listening as my mom would read stories to my brother and me. When I was around 13 years old, my dad introduced me to photography, and I’ve been hooked ever since. During my undergraduate studies at the University of Arizona, I had the opportunity to work as a multimedia intern with the former travel website, Experience Arizona, as an apprentice photographer with the Arizona Daily Star and as a multimedia intern with Reid Park Zoo. I am currently working as a production technician for Arizona Public Media, where I get to help on shows such as Arizona 360 and Arizona Illustrated. In the future, I hope to combine my passions for the outdoors and visual storytelling, and work as a photographer and cinematographer for an organization like Outside Magazine or National Geographic.
  • Why UA: I am a Wildcat by blood.

Lauren Trench

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Area of Interest: Journalism, Multimedia, Photojournalism, International
  • Undergrad degree: Digital Art & Design
  • Hometown: Broadalbin, New York
  • Background/goals: My background and current occupation revolve around photography, which has always been my first love. My goals, in the broadest of explanations, are to learn about people, experience cultures, travel as much as possible, and document the real, the beautiful, and the important stuff.
  • Why UA: I had never been to Arizona before I packed all my things and moved out here for grad school. It was a surprise to me, how much I’d love it at the UofA. The faculty has been nothing but helpful, the campus is gorgeous, the classes are small, and it’s close to outdoor recreation. There are times in life where you find yourself going through the motions, without experiencing what it is you’re doing—like work or school or even just driving on the interstate. Since arriving at the UofA, this has become even more obvious to me, as I find myself living in the here and now, as opposed to going through the motions. The experience here is one you want to be present for.

Ambur Wilkerson

  • Program: M.A. in Journalism
  • Areas of interest: Multimedia, mental health, social justice and entertainment
  • Undergrad degree: B.A. in English with a focus in creative writing from California State University, San Bernardino
  • Hometown: Rialto, California
  • Background/goals: I’ve enjoyed storytelling my whole life, in various forms. My goal is to expand my journalistic skills, and with those skills, I plan to tell stories that explore different aspects of life and highlight marginalized communities whose voices are being ignored. I seek to help stop stigmatization, misrepresentation and underrepresentation of women, people of color, those with mental illnesses and/or disorders, and more.
  • Why UA: The UA has a journalism program filled with highly qualified instructors and a variety of amazing resources and opportunities. The open-mindedness toward diversity and innovation appeals to me as well.

Justin Wylie

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: Sports journalism, broadcast journalism and multimedia journalism
  • Undergrad degree: Interdisciplinary Studies, emphasis in Journalism, Television Film and Media, and Sociology
  • Hometown: Chandler, Arizona
  • Background/goals: I have been a student-athlete in baseball for the entirety of my academic career (first at San Diego State and now UA) and my goal is to pursue my athletics to the professional level. If this were to end, I would then pursue my aspiration of being a sports broadcaster or a sports analyst.
  • Why UA: I chose the University of Arizona because of the proximity to my family. UA is a prestigious university, and getting a master’s degree from an institution in such high regard would look amazing for my future endeavors.