Wednesday, July 8, 2020

EPSCoR Summer Science Journalism Internship Expansion

In an effort to better support science journalism in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, the EPSCoR science journalism initiative was expanded to give more support to newspaper journalists and this year’s University of Wyoming summer science journalism interns.

EPSCoR stands for Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research and is designed to fulfill the mandate of the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote scientific progress nationwide. Wyoming EPSCoR received a 5-year grant in 2017 from NSF, and a significant amount of the grant has been dedicated to science journalism initiatives intended to help the Wyoming journalism community through internships, awards for best science reporting, and workshops at the Wyoming Press Association (WPA) conventions.

The University of Wyoming COJO (communication and journalism department) Associate Professor Kristen Landreville, director of the summer science journalism internships along with Emily Stewart Verco, Education, Outreach and Diversity Coordinator reached out to the WPA in early April regarding ideas on how to expand the program and grant funding to support Wyoming journalists.  The main goal was to stay within the scope of the NSF grant to resource Wyoming newspaper journalists. This collaboration process resulted in the new mentorship program.

The WPA sought out partnerships with journalists to offer the science communication interns additional expertise and support during their summer placement at newspapers across the state. By making recourses available to any news outlet with science-minded reporters willing to mentor, the objective of expanding the student learning experience would combine with the goal of supporting Wyoming's journalists.  

The three Wyoming newspapers that have journalists participating in the EPSCoR mentorship program include The Sundance Times, The Sheridan Press and Casper Star-Tribune. The Sundance Times has been paired with the intern at the Jackson Hole News&Guide, Jillian Bissell. The Sheridan Press will be mentoring Logan Stefanich interning with the Laramie Boomerang, and journalists with the Casper Star-Tribune will mentor the Rock Springs Rocket-Miner intern Chase Galley. Mentors will work to improve the interns’ understanding of the profession and facilitate professional development in science journalism.

Sarah Pridgeon is a reporter at the Sundance Times and had this to say about her experience mentoring, “The program has been as much of a positive experience for me as I hope it has been for the student I am mentoring. Brainstorming is always a great way to expand one's horizons and helping her talk through ideas and work through potential sticking points has so far been both rewarding and a learning opportunity for both of us.”

Last year The Sheridan Press worked with an EPSCoR science journalist intern and the paper was extremely excited to be a part of the new mentorship program. Ashleigh Snoozy, managing editor of The Sheridan Press commented about their experience participating in both EPSCoR summer science journalism programs.

The Sheridan Press has found great success with the EPSCoR internship and mentorship programs for the past two years. In our first year, Sheridan native Kiley Carroll came back [after] the summer to work full time for us. To say the internship was a success is surely an understatement — we offered a job to Carroll following the internship because of her incredible work throughout the summer. She opted to finish her education, which we fully support.

In this year’s mentor program, our collective relationship with Logan as news staff has been mutually rewarding. As an editor, I’ve been able to coach Logan along with his internship, answering questions I know I couldn’t have had as much time to answer as an intern mentor last summer. Logan has been able to speak with our crime reporter and photojournalist so far, and we anticipate sharing our knowledge with the aspiring journalist throughout the rest of the summer. We all enjoy our interactions with Logan over Zoom. I personally find his approach to stories refreshing and appreciate being able to answer questions that many students don’t have the experience to ask without time in a real-world newsroom.

As Logan told me yesterday in our weekly meeting, he’s grateful to learn through his internship that he actually likes journalism and being a journalist. As an employer, it’s really nice to have a group of students coming from the University of Wyoming that can get a taste for the job on a daily basis, closing the gap between college newspaper experience and a daily newsroom.

Overall, The Sheridan Press staff has found great success in both programs and hopes to continue the positive partnership with the University of Wyoming.


At the Casper Star-Tribune health/education reporter Seth Klamann, energy and natural
resources reporter Caille Erickson, photojournalist Cayla Nimmo and Brandon Foster managing editor have been working remotely with EPSCoR mentee Chase Galley. Foster had this to say about working with Chase.

Each week, the four of us hold a Zoom call with Chase where we’ve discussed a variety of journalism-related topics — from writing techniques to tips on working from home.

While Chase obviously has his home paper at the Rocket Miner, we hope to provide any help and context we can from Casper. In between our weekly Zoom calls, we’ve rotated in taking the lead on communicating with Chase on subjects more specific to our individual roles at the Star-Tribune. For instance, last week Camille reviewed a story he wrote that touched on energy, which is her beat. We’re looking forward to continuing to work with Chase over the course of the summer and are excited to see where his journalism career takes him.

What began as a collaboration to offer support to local Wyoming journalists has developed into a full-fledged mentorship program.  Both Wyoming EPSCoR and the WPA look forward to making this a more permanent program to continue supporting local journalists as well as the summer science journalism interns.  

Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as we highlight the 2020 summer science journalism interns and the stories they are sharing with the guidance of their mentors.

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