Student Media Staffers Win National Awards for Work at UT Dallas

Dec. 5, 2012

Three UT Dallas students have been nationally recognized for their writing, illustration and photography work in campus media.

ACP Awards 2012 in Chicago

From left: UT Dallas student media staffers Akshay Harshe, Becky Aguilar, Nieves Reyes, Sheila Dang, Anwesha Bhattacharjee, Shawn Cho, Nada Alasmi, Bobby Karalla, Joseph Mancuso and Cathryn Ploehn attended a convention in Chicago for student journalists. (Photo by Akshay Harshe)

Staff members Cathryn Ploehn, Paul Dang and Akshay Harshe of the UTD Mercury student newspaper received their awards at the National College Media Convention for college journalists and advisors, held Nov. 1-4 in Chicago.

The convention, sponsored by Associated Collegiate Press (ACP) and College Media Association (CMA), drew more than 2,500 attendees from 370 schools across the country this year.

Chad Thomas, director of student media, said he was proud of UT Dallas students because they competed individually with students from institutions with renowned journalism and mass communication programs. The recognition was especially gratifying, he added, because the University does not have a traditional journalism program.

“I'm obviously very happy for them. They're a bright and talented group,” Thomas said. “I think our students do a good job of embracing the fundamentals of the craft while looking at new ways to tell stories that are important to the campus community.”

Ploehn, a sophomore emerging media and communication major who is the Mercury’s graphics editor, won first place for her editorial cartoon, “Out of Touch, Short on Sense.” The cartoon was published on March 19, 2012.

“I'm obviously very happy for them. They're a bright and talented group. I think our students do a good job of embracing the fundamentals of the craft while looking at new ways to tell stories that are important to the campus community.”

Chad Thomas,
director of
student media

Dang, a former staff writer who graduated in August with a degree in arts and humanities, earned third place in diversity reporting for his Sept. 19, 2011, feature “Fighting for the Forgotten,” about graduate student Saurabh Misra’s efforts to protect the civil rights of oppressed tribes in Northern India.

Harshe, the Mercury’s photo editor and a graduate student in geospatial information sciences, received an honorable mention for feature photography. His picture of a UT Dallas student working before dawn to launch his own weather balloon was published Oct. 3, 2011.

"It feels really nice to be recognized at a national conference,” Harshe said. “I really think if it hadn't been for the Mercury, I wouldn't have ever taken photography as seriously as I do now."

The Mercury placed seventh in Best of Show in the four-year, non-weekly category. Editor Bobby Karalla said the staff is motivated to continue to improve and grow as a news team.

“We hope to use the momentum from gaining national recognition to improve our staff and approach news from a different angle,” Karalla said. “It's always important to identify what matters most to students, and using some tools of the trade from advisors from across the country should help us to do just that."

Eighteen students, the most ever from UT Dallas, attended the convention, including staff from the student opinion publication A Modest Proposal, UTD TV and the Mercury. They participated in workshops, critique sessions, networking opportunities and on-site contests.

Nieves Reyes, a junior arts and performance major and news director of UTD TV, said she picked up plenty of tips on managing a news organization.

"I enjoyed learning how to run an organization smoothly—how to run meetings, how to get people to meet deadlines—things that will make us better workers and work together well,” Reyes said. “It will help us in future careers in pretty much anything we do.”

Thomas said all the students will benefit from the workshops they attended at the convention. “I'm looking forward to seeing what they will do with the ideas picked up from other students and media professionals from around the country," he said.

Founded in 1921, ACP is the oldest and largest national membership organization for college student journalists. More than 20,000 students are staffers at ACP member publications.

CMA has been working since 1954 to help student media advisers improve their media operations. It has a membership of more than 800 in the U.S. and Canada.


Media Contact: Robin Russell, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4431, robin.russell@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu.
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