Department of Journalism offers paid summer internships for students

Journalism student interns at ASMP
Interns for the American Society of Media Photographers meet on Zoom; three are University of Illinois journalism students who were awarded part-time remote internships by the Department of Journalism. (Top row: Chantal Vaca and Taylor Chism. Bottom row: Julie Kang and Samantha St. Leger.) Photo by Charles "Stretch" Ledford, associate professor of journalism, and ASMP ex officio board member.


In the aftermath of COVID-19, many students found themselves without summer internships or summer jobs. Some had internships that were canceled, while others were still searching for any available opportunities.

So when Mariah Guzman, a journalism master’s student, saw a list of internship opportunities sent out by Professor Stephanie Craft, head of the Department of Journalism, she was beyond excited. She ended up landing a position with Illini Inquirer.

“Illini Inquirer seemed like the perfect place for me to grow and improve my sports writing and reporting skills, and it has. I covered everything from Illinois Football, Baseball, Golf, and more,” Guzman said. “I improved my interview skills with respected coaches and athletes. I grew stronger in this field professionally. I still continue to write for Illini Inquirer and am only optimistic that I'll improve in this field. I'm thankful that Illinois was able to provide opportunities like this for its students during this uncertain time."

Twelve students were awarded part-time remote internships with American Society of Media Photographers, CU-CitizenAccess, Illini Inquirer, Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, Uni High, and WILL.

The department already receives gifts for internship help, but this is usually used for students who need financial support for internships that are unpaid or are located in expensive places. But because only three students needed this stipend this summer, Craft said the department was able to use these funds to offer internships through the Department of Journalism.

“When the pandemic hit, so many people’s internships were falling through,” Craft said, “that we decided, well, we’ve got this internship money—maybe we can try to create some experiences for students whose internships fell apart. The internship and job landscape was just looking grim.”

The internships were an opportunity for students to build their resumes and network with people in the news media community. But it was also a chance for the College of Media to promote its students, Craft added.

She said this was not only beneficial to the students who received the internships, but also for the organizations because several of them normally wouldn’t be able to offer these opportunities.

“It turned out to be a pretty great win-win because we focused on mostly providing opportunities at nonprofit places that also wouldn’t necessarily be able to offer an internship if it weren’t for our ability to pay,” Craft said.

As part of the new internship support program, students received a stipend of $1,500; Craft said the department decided to make the internships part-time so more students could take advantage of the opportunity. The three students who were able to secure internships on their own received a stipend of $1,000 for financial support.

Each student had to go through an application process. While the college offered the internships, the organizations were able to choose their interns.

“We created the positions, but we still wanted it to be closer to what an intern would normally do, like you have to apply and then the organizations would choose,” Craft said.

ASMP expressed their gratitude to Craft in an email recently, stating that their interns, Samantha St. Leger, Chantal Vaca, and Julie Kang, are all “first-rate talents.”

“The students are working out fabulously for us and enabling us to meet demands driven by our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and the issue of the effects of systemic racism that have become so evident of late,” wrote Thomas Kennedy of ASMP.

Vaca was the webinar assistant producer intern for ASMP. For the job, she scheduled, hosted, and broadcasted Zoom webinars for ASMP National each week. She said that these tasks were very useful, especially now that many are continuing to work from home.

“I also learned a lot about photography and got to work with well-respected super talented photographers,” Vaca said.

Peyton Wesner, intern for CU-CitizenAccess, said he was also able to improve on new skills.

"My time at CU-CitizenAccess was extremely enriching. To be able to work with Professor Brant Houston and the entire team helped further my understanding of data journalism," said Wesner. "I am extremely appreciative for the opportunity."

Because the internships were so successful this summer, Craft said the department hopes to be able to offer them again in upcoming summers, but it’s dependent on the job situation.

“If a lot of students identify their own internship next summer, we’ll still want to support them,” Craft said. “But I do think that we will definitely have an eye on trying to continue to create at least some of these positions as much as our funds allow.”

The program was made possible by gifts from the Daniel and Nancy Balz Endowed Fund, Gerald Robert Bland Scholarship, Harold R. Bruno Jr. Fund for Journalism, John R. Foreman Endowment Fund, Nancy and Ronald Hartshorn Internship Fund, Charla Krupp Scholarship for Internships in Journalism Fund, and Schlueter Family Endowed Fund for Internships in Journalism.

“In the Department of Journalism, we’re really fortunate to have a lot of generous donors who have specifically given money to support internships for students,” Craft said.


Students who received internships:

American Society of Media Photographers

  • Julie Kang
  • Samantha St. Leger
  • Chantal Vaca


  • Samantha Boyle
  • Claire O’Brien
  • Peyton Wesner

Illini Inquirer

  • Taylor Castro
  • Mariah Guzman

Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

  • Marissa Plescia

Uni High

  • Leah President


  • Zainab Qureshi
  • Jose Zepeda


—Marissa Plescia, Communications and Marketing Intern