By RACHEL LENZI
As the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University developed concentrations for graduate programs, it found that one component was missing when the sports immersion was being formulated: aligning with a professional organization.
And when Eric Esterline joined the faculty at the University of Florida, he found that in curating a list of Twitter accounts to follow of Florida alumni working in sports journalism, more than two-thirds of the accounts belonged to women.
Earlier this month, the Association for Women in Sports Media accepted Northwestern and Florida as its newest student chapters, which brings the organization’s total to 13.
AWSM began its student chapters program in 2011-12; student chapters are called AWSM@(school name) and are official campus organizations that are student-led with guidance from the university’s faculty adviser. Each chapter must have at least 10 members registered with AWSM, must be recognized or in the process of being recognized as an official student organization by the school, and must have short- and long-term plans that align with the overall chapter mission. Once a student chapter is accepted, it is assigned a professional mentor through AWSM.
“This gives them another outlet to be able to connect with professionals that are already in the industry,” said Esterline, a sports journalism lecturer in Florida’s College of Journalism and Communication. “It gives them somebody to bounce ideas and resumes and reels off of, to say, ‘Hey, am I going in the right direction with the jobs I’m applying for?’ It gives everybody that’s involved in the organization a chance for like minds to meet, to talk about different issues that are going on in the sports media world, and it gives them a chance to socialize. There’s so many opportunities here in Florida where we can visit events and venues and talk to other women that are in the industry, whether it’s sports marketing, sports sales, broadcasting, all kinds of different areas.”
At Northwestern, faculty advisor Desiree Hanford also sees the chapter as a way to give its students an opportunity to network with professionals — as well as their peers at other schools, sharing ideas and forming a foundation for a network of professional relationships.
“They get the opportunity to converse, to share ideas,” said Hanford, Medill’s Journalism Residency coordinator and a lecturer. “That’s very important, to share ideas, and to realize that these are going to be their peers when they graduate from school. They should starting forming those networks, sharing ideas and building a support group.”
Esterline said Florida’s chapter currently has 19 members, and there is an initiative to get younger students involved, and to connect with UF alumni in sports journalism.
“To get organized is one of the biggest things,” Esterline said. “Being at UF, it’s such a big university and there’s so many people that want to be involved. It’s getting those people signed up and enrolled in the national membership, and maintaining the amount of involvement.”
At Northwestern, the new AWSM student chapter has similar goals: to organize a solid chapter with both the quality and quantity of members, to promote the organization on campus and to take advantage of what AWSM offers its membership, on a local and on a national level, whether it’s AWSM’s internship/scholarship program, attending regional events or traveling to the national convention.
“We really wanted this to be a support system for women and for students who are interested in sports journalism,” AWSM@Northwestern student chapter president Kirsten Ward said. “We want to be a source of encouragement in their pursuits. We want students to learn more about the industry, and we want there to be that resource on campus, to help people find success and support.”
At Florida, chapter president Kaylee Glyder said a goal of her chapter is to introduce members to different facets of sports journalism and sports media.
“We want to have a better identity for the women who work in our school’s sports departments,” Glyder said. “There’s a lot of different entities, and there may not be a chance for all of them to discuss their experiences. It’s also about encouraging people who can get involved in different things. The cliche dream job seems to be, ‘I want to be Erin Andrews’ or ‘I want to be sideline sports reporter.’ But to be able to open everyone up to different avenues that are in sports media, it’s so important.”
For information on the program, contact VP/student development Gina Mizell (firstname.lastname@example.org) or coordinators Kelli Grashell and Joanne Gerstner (email@example.com).