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Pulitzer Center Update May 25, 2017

Pulitzer Center 2017 Student Fellows Announced

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Pulitzer Center Student Fellows

The Pulitzer Center and its Campus Consortium partners are proud to announce the 38 students selected to receive international reporting fellowships in 2017. Our fellows will report on stories of communities facing complex issues across the globe—from refugees seeking asylum and migrants looking for work to marginalized people fighting for equity. Still others will document the experiences of people battling public health concerns and adapting to shifting climates and contaminated environments.

Fellows will be mentored by Pulitzer Center-supported journalists and staff throughout their projects. These reporting fellowships are awarded to students who attend colleges and universities that are part of the Pulitzer Center's Campus Consortium educational initiative.


Amid conflict and fragile economies, citizens flee their countries to seek refuge and work in neighboring states. Fellows travel to regions that have become epicenters of rising tensions as well as countries that offer asylum–sharing stories of the lives of families and unaccompanied youth living on the move.

Amy Russo, a recent media studies graduate of Hunter College, shares the stories of unaccompanied child refugees as they seek asylum in Sweden.

Two journalism students of Northwestern University in Qatar, Ifath Sayed and Jueun Choi, report on the experience of child refugees who are refused the right to education due to their unchanging illegal status.

Esohe Osabuohien, a recent graduate of Spanish and communications studies from the University of Michigan, travels to Cuba to document marginalized communities in the country.

WWII marks a critical point in the history of Israel for those Polish-Jews who immigrated prior to the conflict and those who came after to the country. Tomek Cebrat, a political science student at Washington University in St. Louis, explores the evolution of a diaspora community of Jews of Polish ancestry and their experiences pre and post WWII. 

South Dakota State University journalism and political science student Palak Barmaiya ventures into the northernmost state of India, Ladakh–a mountain desert with a small population working in agriculture. Lack of an established education system in Ladakh led to an educational reform in the 1990s–and a campus where students are involved in finding sustainable solutions.


The need for work forces many to make sacrifices to support their communities; whether by embarking as migrant workers in foreign lands or entering into dangerous occupations closer to home.

Southern Illinois University, Carbondale student Ryan Michalesko documents the lives of migrant workers in Mexico.

Bruno Beidacki, multimedia journalism and political science student at Kent State University, embarks on a trip to Macau, China, to investigate the impact of the gambling industry on the local community, as legalization of gambling has led to development of casinos for the past two decades.

While stories of the black market trade that results from rhino poaching in South Africa have been brought to light, accounts of the people who fight to protect the endangered species have gone under-reported. Kelsey Emery, a recent biology studies graduate of Texas Christian University, travels to South Africa to document the lives of veterinarians who work to save the lives of rhinos who are attacked.

As extractives industries build networks in resource-rich regions, land rights of residents come under threat, perpetuating sustained economic injustice. Lila Franco, a Wake Forest University student of communications and psychology, documents the experiences of 19 indigenous groups–in her native Venezuela–who are being driven from their lands by mining corporations.

In Colombia, landmines still lie on the surface of regions like Bogota. Westchester Community College communications and media arts student Viridiana Vidales Coyt travels to Bogota to report on a group called "Sports for Social Change" that educates children about mine risk through soccer drills, helping protect them while also addressing social issues such as homelessness, poverty and violence.

University of Chicago student Patrick Reilly makes a trip to Tijuana, Mexico, to investigate the effects of public transportation systems and new rapid transit routes on the residents of the urban areas they serve.


As people who are pushed to the margins of society seek to define their identity, human rights abuses continue to threaten progression. Fellows document these injustices and, alternatively, the efforts some organizations are making to close these gaps in equity.

Pakistan is unique in the treatment of transgender people. They're viewed as being good fortune, yet they are also discarded with contempt. The word "transgender" in Pakistan is commonly used to refer to individuals born with both female and male parts. Harry S Truman College student Rubab Anwar travels to Pakistan to learn where the transgender community stands socially, politically, and religiously in the developing country—especially in light of government shifts such as including a third option under gender on identification cards and within the census.

University of Pennsylvania student Siyona Ravi reports on a shift in human rights after the repeal of India's anti-sodomy law.

Davidson College student Aman Madan travels to Jordan to report on identity issues, asking, "Can the country's ethnically heterogenous composition be its downfall?"

Southern Illinois University, Carbondale student Morgan Timms reports on the experiences of indigenous youth in Australia.

As Praveena Somasundaram, a student from Guilford College, reports, "The patriarchal notion of women's inferiority to men follows Indian women from a young age, contributing to the severe gender inequality in the country." In India, Somasundaram illuminates the experience of women who seek educational and occupational opportunities.

In a project that turns toward the U.S., Columbia University students Sarah Bellingham and Max Toomey continue reporting for a documentary about "People 4 Trump" as they follow people they met during the country's 2017 presidential election campaign.

University of Pennsylvania student Gareth Smail writes, "Morocco's 30-year experiment with teaching exclusively in Arabic may be coming to an end." Smail reports on how students and teachers have navigated linguistic and cultural challenges.


Public health issues can originate from environmental degradation, hereditary medical issues, and traumatic events. Student fellows travel to regions where the after-effects of disease and conflict have presented people with public health and mental health concerns.

Boston University student Erica Andersen reports on global policy surrounding pharmaceutical pollution in water.

Elon University student Juliana Walker travels to London to explore the causes of severe air pollution and the public health concerns associated with the long-term exposure.

Jessica Rowan, a Flagler College journalism student, travels to Costa Rica to learn how people living in remote regions address their type 1 diabetes health concerns, amid restricted access to healthcare education and medical supplies.

Women's health continues to be a neglected issue in developing countries. Breast and cervical cancer are two such diseases that are emerging as a crisis in many underdeveloped nations, none more so than Haiti, a country with the highest mortality rate of cervical cancer in the world. The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health students Katie Corrigan and Anna Russell report from Haiti, sharing stories of the women who fight against the odds, working to secure funding for the treatment of their cancers.

Ambar Castillo, a LaGuardia Community College student, travels to India to report on organizations that use the arts to combat social justice issues that threaten people who live with chronic diseases.

Advances in genetics are testing the bounds of medical ethics. The "right not to know" is viewed as extremely important by the medical community, but to the general public the term may feel in direct opposition to the Hippocratic oath. Anna Clausen, a graduate student in journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, brings a unique story about genetic research to light, as she reports from Iceland, a country at the forefront of genetic research, where a biopharmaceutical company has discovered that 0.7 percent of the nation likely carries the BRCA2 mutation which increases the odds of getting breast cancer.

In February 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Brazil, the epicenter of the Zika outbreak, caught global attention with a surge in newborn babies born with a birth defect called microcephaly, now known to be only one of many neurodevelopmental abnormalities that fall under congenital Zika virus syndrome (CZVS). From Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Poonam Daryani explores the lives of those caring for and raising children with CZVS.

Lauryn Claassen, a Boston University student, travels to El Salvador to report on the effects of restrictive reproductive policies on women and families after the wake of the Zika virus, which prompted El Salvador's deputy health minister to instruct women to "hold off" on becoming pregnant.

As mental health issues have gone under-reported, four fellows commit to voicing the experiences of those who live with mental illnesses and presenting the solutions some organizations are trying to implement. Boston University students Madeline Bishop and Campbell Rawlins cover the high suicide rate in Guyana. Sawsan Morrar, a University of California, Berkeley, journalism graduate student with a background in international relations studies, reports on the mental health of refugees who seek asylum in Jordan. Northwestern University Medill student Pat Nabong reports on trauma associated with mental illness in the Philippines.


Climate change increasingly threatens livelihoods of communities around the world who rely on fragile land for their food, income, and spiritual traditions. Fellows travel to islands, coastal communities, forests, and factory-side towns, to share stories of resilience as people adapt to shifting landscapes.

India's Loktak Lake is one-of-a-kind wetland ecosystem that has been designated a Wetland of International Importance through the Ramsar Convention treaty of 1960. Phumdis, numerous floating islands comprised of vegetation, soil, and other organic matter, cover nearly two-thirds of the lake's 236 square kilometers, changing shape according to the season, and playing a critical role in water cleansing, nutrient absorption, flood control, and carbon sequestration. Neeta Satam, a University of Missouri School of Journalism student, documents the clash of development against more than 100 indigenous families that live on these islands.

Gorilla tourism contributes significantly to the Rwandan economy, in addition to benefits through distribution of income from national parks to local people. Elham Shabahat, a student at Yale School of Forestry, learns how climate change impacts mountain gorillas in Rwanda, as people venture into gorilla habitat, and gorillas are pushed higher into the mountains with limited access to their usual food sources and vegetation.

Chile is a nation that deeply feels the effects of a changing climate. High Point University student Taylor Lord travels to Casablanca, Chile, to document the effects of climate change on the community that relies on vineyards as its key source of income.

Graduating from American University this summer, with a degree in international journalism and public affairs, Natalie Hutchinson travels to Patagonia, Chile, to share stories of the lives of Mapuche people, identified as "sea people," who rely on the waters of Patagonia for their food and spiritual identity.

Erin McGoff, also from American University, travels to Laos to follow a team of Laotian UXO (unexploded ordnance) clearers who work tediously to dig up live bombs and destroy them. These unexploded ordnance continue to terrorize Laotians today, especially the majority of whom are subsistence farmers.

Congratulations to all our 2017 student fellows!