HBCU graduates interested in sports journalism are being encouraged to apply to Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications for an opportunity at a full-ride scholarship! Get the full story from Charlotte Che at The Daily Northwestern.

A newly launched full-tuition scholarship will fund a graduate student enrolling in the yearlong Sports Media master’s program at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications

The scholarship is hoping to specifically fund an alum from a historically Black college or university. The Simmons Family Scholarship for Sports Journalism was established by Kari and Bill Simmons, CEO and founder of The Ringer, a website and podcast network dedicated to sports and pop culture reporting. The scholarship, which is currently accepting applications, will be Medill’s only financial award offered in its Sports Media specialization. 

Financial accessibility is one of NU’s top priorities, according to Julie Collins, Medill’s director of graduate admissions and financial aid.

“It costs more to go to graduate school,” Collins said. “(They) are making sure graduate students are able to do this program, regardless of their financial situation.”

While Medill awards grants and scholarships, the office of Federal Student Aid only offers a few federal loans to low-income graduate students: Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans.

Undergraduates, however, can receive assistance through the Pell Grants and subsidized Stafford loans, which do not charge interest to students. The Simmons Family Scholarship aims to relieve some of the financial burden, Collins said. 

“I’m always impressed by the commitment of NU alums, their commitment to give,” Collins said. “I think it’s just vitally important that people see us as a good steward of money and a way for us to actualize (students’) goals and passions.”

The Simmons Family Scholarship is the only Medill program specifically aimed toward alumni of historically Black colleges and universities. But the school does also offer a Reuters fellowship for students who are members of the National Association of Black Journalists. NU also has established connections with the Morehouse College Journalism & Sports program, run by Ron Thomas (Medill M.S. ‘73).

In 2019, just 7.59% of Medill graduate students identified themselves as Black or African American. This scholarship intends to improve the diversity of Medill, according to Medill Dean Charles Whitaker.

“Scholarship funding for graduate students is one of our most critical needs at Medill,” Whitaker said in a news release. “This level of support will make a life-changing difference for students who receive it.”

Collins said Medill also hopes to extend scholarships to graduate students in the future so students from diverse regions and academic backgrounds can learn from each other.

Students who come from smaller sports journalism programs across the country and the world enrich learning inside and outside the classroom, she added.

“Making sure we have all those voices present is key — representation is important,” Collins said.

Medill Prof. J.A. Adande, the school’s director of sports journalism, said he hopes this scholarship will further encourage collaboration to diversify NU and the larger field of sports journalism. 

While COVID-19 halted some of the Sports Media specialization’s immersive programs, Adande said this year’s opportunities have been “surprisingly good.” This past May, students reported in-person on the Kentucky Derby as a part of Medill Explores.

Adande said the current class of sports journalism master’s students is the largest group he’s seen since joining Medill.

“We’re really grateful to last year’s students who endured and persevered through the pandemic and didn’t complain and did outstanding work,” Adande said. “We’re thrilled to be back and bigger than ever.”

The Simmons Family Scholarship will offer the opportunity to acquire a foundation in what Adande refers to as a “rapidly changing sports landscape,” citing the rise in popularity of podcasts, social media, television and other forms of multimedia reporting. 

“This could turn into the starting point for someone to have a great, wonderful career in this field,” Adande said.