College of Communication receives $8.3 donation for fellowships

An $8.3 million donation to Marquette’s College of Communication will give the college the opportunity to offer fellowships to three professional journalists each year beginning in fall 2013.

The fellows will pursue a nine-month investigative journalism project with support from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and assistance from students and faculty in the College of Communication.

Peter and Patricia Frechette established the fellowship to honor Patricia’s parents, Perry and Alicia O’Brien, who graduated from Marquette in 1936 and 1935. The formation of the Perry and Alicia O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism  Wednesday was announced in an email to members of the College of Communication.

Recipients of the fellowships will be given an overall stipend of $65,000, along with allowances for travel, moving, technology and residency. College of Communication Dean Lori Bergen said the stipend and allowances are beneficial in attracting candidates from all over the country.

Bergen said one of the most exciting opportunities for students is the chance to obtain one of the three paid internships at the fellows’ home news organizations the following summer. Students will also have the opportunity to assist the fellows in research as they pursue their long-term project.

“It is really exciting to think about how students will be able to see and learn by being involved about the care, the precision, the intellect and the discipline necessary to execute a story that has an impact on the public and the potential to change lives,” said Karen Slattery, professor of journalism and media studies and chair of the journalism department.

Though the fellows are not required to teach courses, they are expected to engage in university events and guest lectures.

Bergen said she expects the journalists to produce stories that examine issues that affect the community and government. Stories relating to problems in health, the environment and education are a few examples of potential projects fellows will pursue. These stories will then be published by the fellows’ home news organizations.

“I expect that stories that will be written will be the kind of stories that really have the potential to change things for the better,” Bergen said. “That’s what being in public service is all about.”

Amid questions regarding student media budget cuts, William Thorn, an associate professor of journalism and media studies and chairman of the university board for student media, emphasized that the student media budget is entirely separate from the College of Communication and the money received from the new fellowship.

“Any linkage between the projected $30,000 to $40,000 deficit in the student media budget and the O’Brien grant ignores the fact that the student media budget is completely separate from the college budget and the fact that the donors specified exactly how their gift would be used for fellowships, projects and initiatives within the college,” Thorn said in an email.

Bergen said the networking opportunities and the hands-on experience the fellows bring to the college will have the most positive effect on students.

“I think the thing that will have the most significant impact (on the students) is the presence of three professional journalists in our midst,” Bergen said. “Literally, here, on a daily basis, participating in the activities of the college, getting to know students well – and students getting to know them.”

The candidates for the fellowship will be announced in May 2013 and chosen by a group of faculty, alumni and professional journalists not affiliated with Marquette.