UVI Student Paper Brings Home Awards from National Conference


Mar. 3, 2008 — The University of the Virgin Islands' student newspaper, The UVI Voice, recently competed with the big boys and brought home five awards.
The February competition of the 10th National Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Student Newspaper Conference was hosted by Morgan State University in Baltimore.
"Our students were competing directly with students from all of the HBCUs — there are no 'big school/small school' categories," said Robin Sterns, Voice faculty advisor. "So our first-place and third-place awards are major accomplishments."
Carl Christopher won a first-place award in the Best Editorial Cartoon category. His "smoke signal" cartoon appeared in the Voice's technology edition. The cartoon depicts a professor sending smoke signals to UVI students on St. Thomas. Christopher got the idea last year when the university was having difficulties with its website.
"I am quite proud of the award my cartoon won," Christopher said. The award came as a surprise because he didn't know it was being entered into any competition.
"What amazes me about this, and what impresses me, is that there are schools that do a cartoon editorial five days a week all year long," Sterns said.
UVI Voice is published about four times a semester, she added: "It is absolutely phenomenal that he (Christopher) would win."
A third-place prize was awarded in a joint effort for the category Best News Series, Investigation or In-Depth Story. It was for the coverage of the university's portrayal in the fourth season of the Black Entertainment Television series "College Hill."
The writers were Shannon Burton, Vanessa Hamilton, Aslin Leger, Toreifa Alexander and Miriam Welderufael.
"Coming from a small university, it's a wonderful feeling to know that your work can be recognized nationally," Leger said. She is the St Thomas campus managing editor, and an occasional contributor to the Source.
Welderufael serves as managing editor for the St. Croix campus.
"I am very excited about the wins," Welderufael said. "It is nice getting recognition for doing what I already love to do."
Welderufael also recieved an honorable mention in the Best Informational Graphic category for "The Freshman 15: Myth or Fact." The piece was on weight gain in students when they go off to college. She did surveys and interviews on campus to find out if students actually gain or loose weight. The surveys showed there was weight gain, but not as high as 15 pounds.
Winning an honorable mention was Jane Meade in the Best Feature Writing category for her article "Celebrated Journalist Discusses 'Winds of Change' in the New Africa," which profiled Charlayne Hunter-Gault.
The UVI Voice won third place in the Best Special Section or Theme Edition for the Technology Issue.
The UVI Voice Technology Issue that took two wins was published in October 2007. It focused on problems that plagued the school as results of a lightning strike and UVI's conversion to a new information system. That issue featured eight news stories, editorials and opinion pieces about the technology problems. Five UVI students and one UVI administrator contributed to the articles, Sterns said.
When asked about being a part of the UVI Voice, Leger said it has become a part of her life, and she loves being in the know.
Attending the conference were Welderufael, Leger, reporter and copy editor Sana Hamed, reporter Andrea Soto and Sterns.
Welderufael and Leger selected and entered the content for competition. In considering what stories to enter in the competition they looked at the stories that generated the most feedback from the UVI community, Leger said.
Leger described the conference as "phenomenal," with its networking opportunities and informative workshops.
"It feels like it's not a competition," she said. "We all learn from each other."
Impressed by the UVI group, several organizations have shown interest in the students. An editor of the Detroit News has offered a paid internship to one student, and two graduate journalism program directors are recruiting the students for their graduate programs, said Sterns, who is also a UVI English professor.
Leger definitely wants to pursue a career in journalism.
"I can't see myself doing anything else," she said. "This is what I want to do."
Welderufael is majoring in communication with an emphasis in journalism.
"Writing is my passion," she said. "I, without a doubt, will pursue a career in journalism."
Christopher wants to pursue journalism in graduate school. But he said he is really interested in the multimedia industry.
This is the second consecutive year the UVI Voice has won awards at the conference. Last year the paper won second place in the News Series category and second place in the Editorials category. UVI is a charter member of the Black College Communication Association, which sponsors the conference.
Monique Guillory, executive administrator of the St. Croix campus, has essentially set up a budget for the bi-campus paper. The students utilized the funds for the trip to Baltimore.
Leger said she would like to see the paper come out more than four times a year, but it has a hard time recruiting students.
"Being a part of the body that informs students about issues is fun," she said.
Christopher thinks so, too.
"I like seeing people's reactions when they read my cartoons," he said. "I feed off that, knowing that there's someone always looking forward to the next one."
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