JSU senior selected as HBCU Journalism fellow aspires to restore and strengthen the power of black storytelling

By Kyle Kidd

Jackson State University (JSU) senior Alivia Welch was recently selected as one of six student fellows from historically Black colleges and universities across the country to be part of the first class of the new Open Campus HBCU Student Journalism Network. Through the paid reporting fellowship, these students will cover their campuses for regional and national audiences while exploring the trends affecting the entire sector. They also will participate in professional training and networking.

“I’m extremely excited for this upcoming semester because this fellowship is all about exposure and sharpening my skills by engaging me in the field of journalism,” said Welch. “This is how we invite people into the world of HBCUs and provide a different perspective to the rest of the country on what goes on at our universities.”

A native of Terry, Welch views the fellowship as an opportunity to level the playing field by emphasizing the unique skill sets and industry knowledge attained at HBCUs – showing corporate companies and those alike that top talent often lies in the overlooked and historically underserved spaces.

“I believe that this will bring a lot of opportunities to universities, but HBCUs in particular, we are often underfunded and not adequately televised, so it is important that black communication practitioners speak on these topics and be a voice in these spaces in order to tell our own story,” she said.

The fellows will report on all aspects of historically Black colleges and universities. Among the topics they said they are most excited to cover are funding and enrollment trends, campus arts and sports cultures, and students’ and colleges’ roles in social justice.

As part of the fellowship kickoff, Open Campus will be hosting a free public webinar to discuss key issues and trends facing Historically Black colleges and universities with college leaders, education experts, and national journalists serving as guest panelists. Additionally, the inaugural class of fellows will also contribute greatly to the webinar underlying the misconceptions of HBCUs and exploring the on-the-ground realities on their campuses.

“Historically Black colleges play critical roles in students’ lives and in American society, but few journalists focus on how well these important players are fulfilling their public missions,” said Sara Hebel, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Open Campus. “We’re excited to work with student fellows to provide knowing, on-the-ground coverage that can help inform and advance the national conversation.”

Open Campus is partnering with Jarrett Carter Sr., a veteran journalist and the founder of HBCU Digest, to create the HBCU Student Journalism Network. He serves as the network’s editorial director. Wesley Wright, assistant director of student media at Florida Atlantic University and a former education journalist, is the assistant editor.

The project is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and the Scripps Howard Fund.