Academy for Alternative Journalism 2005 Fellows Selected

Ten fellows have been chosen from among 556 applicants to attend the Academy of Alternative Journalism summer residency program at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Each fellow will receive a stipend of $3,000. Students live in dorms on Lake Shore Drive and work in a newsroom in Chicago’s Loop.

The academy, now in its sixth year, trains and recruits minority journalists to work at AAN papers. Through classroom instruction by Medill faculty and guest lectures by professionals from the alternative press, Academy students focus on the long-form journalism characteristic of most alternative weeklies.

Founded in 2000 with seed money from the Chicago Reader and New Times, the Academy is now underwritten by the Alternative Newsweekly Foundation, which receives funding from AAN and several of its member papers.

Academy Director Charles Whitaker says he is looking for AAN editors to visit Chicago to work with students for a day or two this summer. Volunteers — as well as AAN editors who would like a short list of Academy finalists for staffing purposes — should contact Whitaker at

These are the 2005 fellows:

Erika Beras of Bayside, N.Y., is a 2002 graduate of SUNY Purchase College, where she majored in writing and political science. She has been a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala and an editorial intern at Ms. Magazine. Currently, she works as an English as a second language (ESL) teacher for the New York City Board of Education.

Caroline Bermudez of Chicago graduated in December from Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pa. She has done internships at Pitchfork Media, WXRT radio (Chicago) and the online division of the Washington Post. Currently, she is an ESL tutor at Mather High School in Chicago.

Vernal Coleman is a freelance writer from Plano, Texas. He earned bachelor’s degrees in political science and mass communications from the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., in 2004. Right after graduation, he worked as deputy press secretary for the Oklahoma Democratic Party until the November election. He also was an editorial intern for Urban Tulsa Weekly.

Jonathan Cunningham is from Detroit, Mich. He earned a bachelor’s degree in organizational studies from the University of Michigan in 2003. He has been an editorial intern at Metro Times, an AAN member paper, and a staff writer for the Michigan Citizen newspaper. He has worked as an English teacher in Cuenca, Ecuador, and currently is a translator for a Detroit health agency.

Emily Hagedorn of Florence, Ky., will earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Ky., in May. In addition to serving as editor-in-chief of the Kentucky Kernal, she has held internships with numerous newspapers, including The Lexington Herald-Leader, The Detroit News, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Virginian-Pilot and The Kentucky Post.

Jessica Lussenhop of St. Paul, Minn., will receive a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania in May. She has been a columnist for the Daily Pennsylvanian and served as an intern/assistant for a number of established journalists, including Paul Hendrickson and Stephen Fried. She has also been a contributor to Le Paris Kiosque, a guide for English-speaking residents and visitors to Paris, France.

Kevin Kim of Stanford, Calif., is currently working on a master’s degree in history at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. He earned a bachelor’s degree in U.S. history from Columbia University in New York in 2001. A former Fulbright Fellow, Kevin has done internships at The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Mass., the Columbia Journalism Review and The Nation. He also served as a senior editor for The Blue and White, a monthly magazine written and directed by students at Columbia.

Tasneem Paghdiwala is from Philadelphia, Pa.. She earned a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Bryn Mawr College in 2004 and is currently is a staff writer for P.A.W Print Magazine, a quarterly devoted to covering Philadelphia culture. She has served as an editorial assistant for the Pennsylvania Law Journal and as arts and entertainment editor for the Bryn Mawr/Haverford College newspaper.

Derek Schleenein lives in Ithaca, N.Y., where he does freelance work for Ithaca Times, the Ithaca Journal, Buzz Magazine and Detroit Metro News. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Oberlin College in 2003.

Isaiah Thompson of Madison, Wis., earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin in 2004. A freelance writer, he has contributed articles to the Capitol Hill Times and Queen Anne Times in Seattle, and the Pioneer Press newspapers in Chicago.

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