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‘Black On Campus’ Aims for National Impact

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Lauren Lumpkin

Black on Campus, a recently launched investigative journalism reporting program for black college students, has a strong presence at American University (AU).

AU School of Communication (SOC) professor, journalist and researcher Dr. Sherri Williams co-directs the project, and senior Lauren Lumpkin is one of the 10 students in the program. Williams' co-director is Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair and a professor at Wake Forest University. The program is run by the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University and The Nation magazine.

Sherri Williams, PhD

Black On Campus stemmed from a project produced by the Elle Media Scholar program that Dr. Perry and Dr. Williams ran together.

"Melissa Harris-Perry and I both wanted to continue that writing program. But I wanted our theme to be something that was more concrete and tangible," Williams said, "and because there have been so many important seismic shifts on college campuses that have affected black students, I wanted us to cover what it's like to be a black student on campus, right now in this particular social and political moment."

The selection process was highly competitive, with applicants from across the country. Williams said that the 10 selected students all want to pursue journalism, media or communications as a career and will be able to "sharpen and hone their journalism skills which will include interviewing, storytelling, and social media strategy."

The students will each use their own campus as a home base to report on national issues that are affecting black college students across the U.S. All of the student-produced content will appear on The Nation's website.

Lauren Lumpkin, a senior in the journalism program at AU, is one of the students chosen for the program, and she is hoping to gain investigative reporting skills.

"That's something I haven't really tackled in any of my classes or internships," she said.

She is excited to form relationships with other young journalists and collaborate.

She added, "I think it will give me access to a lot of opportunities that I wouldn't have otherwise. Just last week, I networked with education reporters like Nikole Hannah-Jones and I sat in on a podcast at the Center for American Progress. I'm honestly trying to be a sponge and soak in as much information as I can. I am excited to grow as an individual and as a young professional."

The students will attend a formal one-day workshop during the program. This training will be conducted by the Ida B. Wells Society, an investigative journalism group started by black journalists who work at some of the top media outlets in the country, including the New York Times, ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine. This workshop will allow the students to strengthen their general journalism skills, as well as build on and acquire investigative journalism skills.

"I hope that these 10 students can tell stories about their peers that the rest of the country either doesn't know about or has not necessarily paid a lot of attention to in the past," Williams added, "I'm hoping that this project will bring a lot of awareness and maybe even change some policies, practices and programing to fit the needs of black college students across the country. Our goal is to affect America at large."