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Students Explore Journalism's Role in Democracy to Land Scholarships

Three AU SOC journalism students have been awarded Gridiron Club and Foundation of D.C. scholarships totaling $10,000.

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Gridiron Club and Foundation Scholarship Recipients

Three American University School of Communication (SOC) journalism students have been awarded Gridiron Club and Foundation of D.C. scholarships totaling $10,000. Faculty judges selected Mina Allen, community health beat repoter and former features editor at The Eagle, and Syedah Asghar, a campus and breaking news writer for The BlackPrint, to receive the undergraduate honors and awards of $2,500 each. A graduate student in Journalism and Digital Storytelling, Bibars Nakhesh, a Social Media Producer at Alhurra News, also received an award for $5,000. To apply, students wrote essays regarding the role of journalism in a democracy.

In part, these student scholarships were made possible by the widow and estate of B.J. Cutler, a longtime Gridiron member. Cutler had an illustrious 50-year career as a journalist for the Pittsburgh Press, the New York Herald Tribune and Scripps Howard. Founded in 1885, the Gridiron Club and Foundation is one of the oldest and most prestigious journalism institutions in D.C. SOC is proud to partner with the organization to provide financial aid to our rising star journalism students.

Mina AllenMina Allen

On receiving the honor: “This award not only reminded me of my roots and why I want to become a journalist, but also validated me that I chose the right path, that I am creating positive changes in journalism. I had promised myself a while ago that once I become a journalist, I would give back to my community through reporting…It reminds me that I am doing this for my community not only back home in Japan, where I was born and raised, but also for my Asian American community here in the US.”

From the essay: “We like to talk about newsroom diversity, but I never saw it actually put into effect until I realized it was because I was being passive. I expected those in power, who were not PoC student journalists, to understand my frustrations and diversify the newsroom. After coming to that realization, I decided that if there was going to be change, I needed to advocate for myself.

Syedah AsgharSyedah Asghar 

On receiving the honor: “Being awarded the scholarship demonstrates the confidence that SOC and the Gridiron Club and Foundation of D.C has for me to succeed in this profession and as a result, reassures my decision to pursue a journalism career. I am honored to be a recipient of this award and will use the funds to further enrichen my education at AU.”  

From the essay: “News deserts prevent strong civically engaged societies given that political engagement relies on journalism as a catalyst for increased voter turnout and encouraging candidate competition across elections. The accessibility of news through local coverage is a critical contemporary issue that addresses journalism's role in democracy as outlets are responsible for informing readers on the most pressing challenges across their communities.” 

Bibars Nakhesh 2Bibars Nakhesh 

On receiving the honor: “The Gridiron Scholarship adds great value to my career and makes my education more accessible. Furthermore, it validates that pursuing a graduate degree in journalism at American University was a step in the right direction.” 

From the essay: "It is unfair to put the hefty weight of democracy on a journalist's shoulders. However, America’s founding fathers did put their faith in free speech as the first amendment to face tyranny. Free speech is primarily led by ethical journalism."