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.

Vivan Colter

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of Interest: social media, multimedia, media relations
  • Undergrad degree: B.A. in Communication with a minor in Spanish from University of Arizona
  • Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
  • Background/goals: During my senior year of my undergrad I interned for the Tucson Unified School District Department of Communications & Media Relations. I covered district events, wrote stories, took photos and updated social media. I eventually began working full-time for the district. I absolutely love my job. I returned to school to learn more about reporting, multimedia and just journalism as a whole. I believe there’s never enough you can learn in this world!
  • Why UA: This is my home.

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.

Jasmine Demers

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: International reporting, human rights reporting, journalism ethics, freedom of the press
  • Undergrad degree: B.A. in Communication from California State University San Marcos
  • Hometown: Tucson
  • Background/goals: I dabbled in journalism in high school and always had this innate curiosity and love for writing. It wasn't until I got to college that I really decided to pursue a career in journalism, and by my senior year, I was the Managing Editor for the school paper. Journalism is such a powerful tool and can have such a powerful influence over society. Using the skills I learn through my program, I want to become a journalist who is capable of giving people a voice, acting as a government watchdog and creating social change. 
  • Why UA: The U of A has been my second home for as long as I can remember. Wildcat Pride has been a long standing tradition in my family, so it felt only natural to return. I also knew how great the journalism program was and how many opportunities and support there would be for someone looking to enter the field. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

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 Soil, Water, 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!

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.

David Martinez

  • Program: M.A. in Journalism
  • Areas of interest: Multimedia reporting, videography, photography, documentaries
  • Undergrad degree: Psychology/English, University of Arizona
  • Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
  • Background/goals: My previously career field was in academic and market research. Currently, I work in post-production at Arizona Public Media. My goals are to develop skills in journalism and produce multimedia content that tells engaging stories. I hope to have a career that allows me to travel and explore the world.
  • Why UA: Having attended the University of Arizona for my undergraduate degree, I know this program has a great faculty that can help me achieve my career goals.

Kristan "Krissy" Obeng

  • Program: M.A. in Journalism
  • Areas of interest: Data journalism, investigative reporting and multimedia
  • Undergrad degree: Journalism and Media Studies
  • Hometown: I moved around a lot. I lived in Las Vegas for nearly 13 years, but I’m from the Midwest.
  • Background/Goals: In a time when so many people distrust the media, data journalism seems to be a good way to build the public’s trust. I hope to report on issues that affect communities and give voice to people who wouldn’t normally have one. My main goal is to gain data journalism and multimedia skills.
  • Why UA: The opportunities I have already received from the University of Arizona made it worth going to school out of state. I love that the school only focuses on journalism, including specialized reporting classes I couldn’t get in Nevada. Additionally, when I decided to go to graduate school, I knew I wanted to be challenged to be my best, and I think U of A does that.

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.

Dalal Radwan

  • Program: Journalism M.A.
  • Areas of interest: international reporting; investigative reporting; freedom of the press; Middle East, Palestinian cause 
  • Undergrad degree: B.A. English Language and Literature, An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine
  • Hometown: Nabi Ilyas, West Bank, Palestine
  • Background/goals: I worked for about 3.5 years at the Office of International Development and External Affairs in my home university. During my time there, I processed and facilitated communications between my office, departments and centers across campus and institutions locally and internationally. I also worked on co-coordinating the Arabic for the non-native speakers program where An-Najah hosts international students and individuals interested in learning Arabic. In addition, I worked on event management, as well as Arabic and English translation. And now that I am making this shift in my life and realizing how misinformed some people are about Palestine, I want to take this opportunity and acquaint myself with the skills and techniques that can help me be another voice for Palestine. I want to explore new areas in life, learn about “the others” and establish myself in a career where I can meet people from different walks of life and share their stories with the world.
  • Why UA: I chose UA for the excellent reputation of the journalism school and the amazing staff and facilities available. And luckily, I got an offer, through my Fulbright scholarship, to be another Wildcat!

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.

Jessica Suriano

  • Program: Accelerated Master's
  • Areas of Interest: long-form/in-depth reporting, social justice, public policy, multimedia
  • Undergrad degree: B.A. in Journalism from UA in spring 2018
  • Hometown: Chandler, AZ
  • Background/goals: I didn't realize I wanted to be a journalist until I was a freshman at the U of A and saw my first byline in The Daily Wildcat. I quickly fell in love with telling people's stories and seeking the truth in many areas. In the future, I would like to report on the sociocultural issues that impact people of all intersections for an outlet with national or international reach. I'm someone who still believes the free press is one of the most powerful tools for change, transparency and compassion in our communities. Some might try to peg me as a "naive millennial" for that; I just call it being passionate. 
  • Why UA: UA and Tucson are beautiful. I love that I can go on a short hike or get some sunshine whenever I want to, and I love how tight-knit the community is. I've met some of my best friends and mentors here. 

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: Broadcast journalism, sports journalism
  • 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.

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