Johnathan Rodgers Fellows visit Berkeley Journalism during Spring Welcome Week

March 27, 2019



2019 Rodger Fellows

Clockwise from left: JC Whittington, Ellie Lightfoot, Skyler Glover, Agya Aning, David Sekiranda, Jill Shah, Myles Poydras, Brooke Henderson, Mouhanad Al Nashar Al Rifay and Chloe Reynolds. Photo: Walker Dawson (’19)

Ten recently admitted students to the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism traveled from all over the U.S.–and the world—to visit the School during the 2019 Spring Welcome Week, thanks to a fund created by media executive and Berkeley alum Johnathan Rodgers (’67). The Rodgers Fellowships are designed to increase diversity at the School by covering expenses associated with attending Spring Welcome Week, when selected students make their final decisions about where to pursue their graduate studies.

Rodgers himself studied journalism at Berkeley, and went on to make a name in broadcast journalism, serving as president of CBS Television Stations and Discovery Networks U.S. He was CEO and president of TV One for more than six years and currently serves on the boards of both Nike and Comcast. He has been funding the Rodgers Fellowships since 2000.

“This group was exceptional,” Edward Wasserman, dean of Berkeley Journalism, said. “It was exciting and inspiring for me to gather with a room full of smart, eager students whose intellectual, social and cultural range constitute the diversity we sorely need in American newsrooms. We very much hope we connected with them, and that they join us in Berkeley in August,” Wasserman said.

2019 Rodgers Fellows Bios (Supplied by Applicants)

Mouhanad Al Nashar Al Rifay is an award-winning Syrian-American documentary filmmaker, humanitarian and human rights activist. He’s a 2014 University of Maryland graduate with degrees in Psychology and International Development and Conflict Management. He has led USAID-funded programs at leading international development organizations in Washington, D.C.; co-founded a nonprofit dedicated to the education of Syrian children; and directed a documentary short that exposed the suffering of Syrian refugees forced into child labor. Al Rifay also produced a weekly Arabic-language political program that interviewed U.S. policymakers and wrote articles about human rights violations for Western media years before the uprising. Al Rifay was a political asylee and received U.S. citizenship in 2015.

Agya Aning taught English as a second language in China and Taiwan for seven years. He currently works as an academic coordinator for an English as a Second Language school in Irving, Texas, and hopes to pursue investigative journalism with a focus on severe mental illness. Aning is also interested in how such disorders overlap with the elderly, veteran, inmate/ex-con, and homeless populations.

Skyler Glover calls himself an “NABJ baby,” after having participated in the 2018 National Association of Black Journalists Student Projects in Detroit. He’s soon to graduate from Rutgers University with a double major in Urban Studies and Theater Arts-Filmmaking. Skyler’s journalism experience also includes internships with NBC Bay Area and NBC10 Philadelphia, and the Shingetsu New Agency in Tokyo, Japan.

Brooke Henderson is a senior at the University of Florida, majoring in journalism and minoring in Chinese studies. In her work as a journalist, she is dedicated to telling the stories of the LGBTQ+ community and people of color, as a managing editor for Zion Magazine. She’s also an avid activist, having led the initiative to introduce free menstrual products on UF’s campus, as well as a campus community garden. When she’s not in the field, she might be searching for children’s books for her literacy nonprofit, “Pass that Book.” Her name can be found in The Miami Herald, South Florida Times, The Gainesville Sun, and

Ellie Lightfoot is a writer and audio reporter. She finished her undergraduate degree at Columbia University and immediately went into freelance production, teaching herself how to create narrative radio stories. In 2016, her first feature-length story aired on The Heart podcast, following discrimination against Seattle’s queer, trans and POC population. At Berkeley, she hopes to expand her portfolio, follow more LGBTQ+ stories, and break into the world of audio reporting.

Myles Poydras hails from New Orleans, La., and will graduate this spring from the University of Missouri School of Journalism with an emphasis in magazine writing. His true passion lies in essay writing, where he explores past histories to examine modern cultures, and how that examination intertwines with personal history and experiences, as well as pop culture and the arts.

Chloe Reynolds is a Bay Area Native, calling West Oakland her home. She’s an award-winning journalist, and her passion derives from the lack of representation of her community in media. Chloe is dedicated to fair reporting, a legacy she built as an editor at City on a Hill Press at University of California, Santa Cruz.

David Sekiranda, originally from Uganda, has had an interest in journalism since he was young, and received a bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Kampala University and a diploma in journalism from the Uganda Institute of Business and Media Studies. During his career, he has been a producer, sports analyst and commentator, and a TV and radio broadcaster. Over the last decade, he has also trained a number of broadcasters in his home country before migrating to the U.S. In 2012, he served in the U.S. Army, and later earned an associate’s degree in English from Santa Rosa Junior College.

Jill Shah, originally from Mumbai, India, is a 2013 Northwestern University graduate. Since her graduation, she’s been building data systems for a number of social impact organizations in Mumbai, and supported world-class, open-source software for health workers delivering care in hard-to-reach areas of New York, N.Y. In her career as a journalist, she hopes to continue work in the area of health equity but especially wants to tell the stories of marginalized communities, including immigrants, refugees, minorities and people living in poverty.

JC Whittington is a multimedia editor at WUSA9-TV, in Washington, D.C., who is returning to school. She’s from Bowie, Md., a place she says nurtured her interests in government, politics and journalism. In her tenure as a journalist, she has produced and covered stories all over the country, wrote and pitched for digital platforms, edited video, field-produced and shot video for shows that would eventually air nationally.

By Aiden Strawhun (‘20)


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