Students form new chapters of Asian American and Hispanic journalist associations
College of Media students have formed two new chapters of national journalism organizations to support the paths of Asian American and Hispanic journalists. In getting their chapters off the ground, the student presidents have formed a leadership network to get advice from their peers on campus in the National Association of Black Journalists and the Society of Professional Journalists.
Eunice Alpasan, the president of the Asian American Journalists Association chapter at the University, said there have been many points of inspiration for her to begin an AAJA student chapter at Illinois.
“Ever since I knew I wanted to pursue journalism during my senior year of high school, I started to actively seek out Asians in the journalism field,” Alpasan said. “Seeing them definitely inspired and reaffirmed me and my decision to pursue journalism.”
She said the overall lack of Asian American representation in the media also made her very aware of how “incredibly important” and “empowering” it was for her to be exposed to Asian Americans working in the media industry. She learned more at the national AAJA convention in Atlanta this summer.
“The experience was unreal because it showed me what it’s like when Asian American and Pacific Islander journalists from all over the country come together to share their stories, uplift one another and have discussions about how to be better journalists overall,” she said.
AAJA is still in the process of recruiting members; many students who she reached out to so far are glad that a chapter is forming.
Alpasan works as a news reporter for The Daily Illini, and is interning with The 21st, a live radio show hosted by Illinois Public Media at the local NPR station WILL. She also contributes written pieces to The Collective, a free-form arts magazine by students on campus.
Tatiania Perry, president of the National Association of Black Journalists chapter at Illinois, said that it’s important for journalism students to be able to connect with people they’re more comfortable with, and to learn in ways beyond the classroom.
“Making these connections with students of similar interest and of similar backgrounds helps students to fine tune and make connections,” Perry said. “It’s easy to get lost in a sea of students, but when you find your core within your major it makes everything so much easier. It allows for individuality, for students to thrive.”
The leaders of the four journalism chapters have been communicating with one other so the new chapters can learn more about events, fundraising, and organizational positions.
“I think that it’s great that we have such a close-knit community in the College of Media—in the journalism department particularly—that we’re able to meet as leaders of these organizations to better each other,” said Rebecca Wood, vice president of the Society of Professional Journalists. “We really encourage the grounds of learning and we really cultivate an environment where we all can feel comfortable experiencing journalism in the world together.”
Acacia Hernandez, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists chapter, said she found out about the national organization through her mentor, a producer at ABC 7, who told her that it was a “great network” with “great opportunities.”
“I was a freshman and knew that U of I didn’t have a student chapter, so I didn’t think it was possible to still join or be active in the organization,” she said.
Hernandez, who works for Fighting Illini Productions directing student-run broadcasts of Illinois sports aired on BTN2Go, said her mentor connected her with a coworker who happens to be the regional director of NAHJ.
The regional director is “always looking for students to start chapters at universities” and said there was previously a chapter of NAHJ at Illinois.
"We’ve tried to find records of it or any information, but we couldn’t. I think it just didn’t continue when the students graduated,” Hernandez said.
At Meet Media, the College of Media’s welcome event for freshmen, Hernandez said she wanted to see if students would be interested in NAHJ, so she set up a sign next to NABJ. She said students seemed “super excited” about the “idea of a Latino student organization focused on journalism.”
So far this semester, about 10 students have attended an NAHJ meeting and want to be involved.
—Kimberly Belser, Communications and Marketing Intern