On an unusually warm day in October, some 30 prospective students stepped into North Gate Hall, home of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. They were greeted by Dean Ed Wasserman before sitting in on classes. They ended the day sampling samosas from a local eatery and enjoying the early evening air in the North Gate courtyard, chatting with each other, current students, and faculty about why journalism is important right now and how the School can help them sharpen their game.

(From left to right): Bryce Oselen, Randy Vazquez, Ashlea Brown, Esohe Osabuohien, Fabiola Terrazas Duarte, Lauryn Hill, Autumn Calica, Andrea Torres. Photo: Walker Dawson (’19)

Eight of these visitors were Rodgers Fellows, prospective Berkeley Journalism students from communities that have historically been under-represented in the program.

The fellowship is funded by Berkeley Journalism alum Johnathan Rodgers, who graduated in 1967 and went on to write for publications like Sports Illustrated and Newsweek before becoming one of the country’s top television executives, working at CBS for 20 years and then overseeing the launch of shows at Discovery Networks.

Since 2000 Rodgers has been funding the fellowships, which were launched to attack the lack of diversification of America’s newsrooms where it begins–in America’s classrooms, says Dean Wasserman. “We’re all acutely aware of the lack of representation of people of color in journalism, and I’ve joined colleagues in the industry in seeking ways to fix that. But it’s not an intractable problem. Funders can help facilitate outreach and travel to identify and recruit new voices. Then schools like ours can give them our unwavering support once they’re here. We’ve made tremendous inroads with Johnathan’s loyal support but still have much more work to do, and it’s getting more expensive,” Wasserman says.

Another cohort of fellows will be funded for the upcoming annual Spring Welcome Week in March, which encourages newly-admitted students to make Berkeley their top choice.

Camille Koué, Berkeley Journalism’s admissions director, says the fellowships are “important and useful,” noting in the last Spring Welcome visit, 13 of 19 Rodgers Fellows ended up attending Berkeley, a 68 percent success rate. Watching Jonathan Rodas, Jessica Alvarenga, Betty Marquez Rosales, Ravleen Kaur, Ashvini Malshe, Carla Williams and Annette Choi succeed as first-year students this semester is proof that the program works and the fellowships play a pivotal part in recruiting talented students, says Koue.

One recent Fellow, Brad Bailey (’17) of Georgia, whose thesis film “Hale” was awarded the Student Academy Award last year, says receiving the Rodgers funding was critical in his choosing Berkeley Journalism over rival schools. “I came here as a Rodgers Fellow in 2015, was accepted into the class of 2017, I learned to shoot and edit and found my real voice.”

By Mara Kardas-Nelson (‘20)


2018 Rodgers Fellows Bios

Ashlea Brown is a senior English major at Spelman College. For the past four years, she has worked as a writer, copy editor, and editor of the school’s newspaper The BluePrint. Brown wants to educate people about issues happening in the world. She’s also keen to bring diversity to journalism and change the narrative of how some stories are written. When not working on The BluePrint, Brown is interested in community service and volunteers with Jumpstart, which helps children with reading, writing, and language development to prepare them for kindergarten. Some of her proudest accomplishments are being inducted into Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society, joining the National Association of Black Journalists, and being named a National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation Ford Scholar, as well as a Jonathan Rodgers Fellow.

Autumn Calica is a senior at New York University, where she double-majors in Broadcast Journalism and Social & Cultural Analysis with a focus on sports, race and crime. A Bay Area native and the first in her immediate family to pursue a post-secondary degree, Calica has been a lifetime sports fan, suiting up to play on an array of fields and courts, including Pop Warner football as a middle-schooler. Her curiosity led her to pursue broadcast journalism, along with social & cultural analysis. She is interested in sports broadcasting as well as breaking news and crime, and she is part of the “NYU Tonight” newscast that airs live every Tuesday. She is working to strengthen her skills both in front of and behind the camera, in hopes of a career in broadcast journalism. When she isn’t studying, she loves to exercise, watch the ‘49ers and explore New York City.

Lauryn Hill has devoted her college career to journalism and making sure people of different ethnic backgrounds are represented appropriately. Hill moved from Birmingham, Ala., to Washington, D.C., where she attends the George Washington University. She is currently editor of ACE Magazine, which highlights ethnic diversity around her campus. She is also president of the university’s Association of Black Journalists. Hill has curated her college career to focus on campus groups that have lacked a platform to express their opinions and voice their concerns.  During summer 2017, she interned for the Washington Afro-American Newspaper, and worked closely with ACE to further develop their website. During summer 2018, she interned with the Washington Informer Newspaper where she interviewed Mayor Muriel Bowser during the D.C. primary election. She is expected to graduate in May 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication.

Esohe Osabuohien, a Detroit native, is a recent University of Michigan graduate with a dual concentration in Spanish and Communication Studies. She is also a 2017 Pulitzer Center on International Reporting fellow. This fellowship allowed her to cover race, culture, and artistic-activism in Havana, Cuba. Osabuohien is passionate about exploring the intersectionality of race and culture in society, whether that be through food, politics, or entertainment media. Through her journalism, she aspires to serve as a conduit for stories from underrepresented communities that often go untold.

Bryce Oselen is a journalism major at Tennessee State University in Nashville. He is a member of Collegiate 100, Golden Key International Honor Society, and a news anchor for TSU’s radio and television station. Oselen’s passion for journalism started when he was a young boy. He is driven by his desire to investigate, ask questions, and dig deeper. He mentors and speaks to youth of all demographics concerning character and self-esteem, and believes that everyone has a story to tell.

Fabiola Terrazas was born and raised in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. She says she comes from a humble family of hard workers. She and her sister were the first in their family to attend college. Currently, Terrazas is working towards her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism at The University of Texas at El Paso. Her goal is to work in digital media in the United States.

Andrea Echandy Torres is an undergraduate student of information and journalism at the University of Puerto Rico, Pulso Estudiantil. She is vice president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalism, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras campus chapter, and is interested in covering topics of ethnicity, which she believes is vital to our society’s wellness.

Randy Vazquez has been a visual journalist with The San Jose Mercury News and The East Bay Times since September 2018. Previously, he worked for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he also interned. Vazquez is an alumnus of The New York Times Student Journalism Institute and a graduate of San Jose State University.