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Inaugural SOC ESPN Journalism Fellow Announced

The fellowship in enterprise and investigative journalism will join SOC’s impressive portfolio of journalism fellowship programs.

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Shwetha Surendran

Five prestigious journalism fellowships have been awarded to American University School of Communication (AU SOC) journalism graduate students starting in Fall 2022.

In each, students attend graduate school for a master’s degree in journalism while working at prestigious media organizations.

For the first time, SOC and ESPN have launched a funded fellowship in enterprise and investigative journalism, to join SOC’s impressive portfolio of journalism fellowship programs.

Shwetha Surendran has been named the first SOC ESPN fellow in a program that embeds Surendran alongside ESPN’s investigative and enterprise journalists – reporters, producers and managers. She comes to SOC after working with Blue Wire, a hyperlocal sports podcasting network and following a master’s degree from Boston University. She will be mentored by journalists in areas including sourcing, reporting, data journalism, freedom of information requests and more. Surendran will split time between AU’s campus and local ESPN offices.

Olivia DiazOlivia Diaz, a former Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellow covering food insecurity in Detroit, has been named the The Washington Post/AU fellow. As fellows before her, Diaz will help cover greater Washington and topics including government, politics, crime, social issues, transportation, development and education. Diaz is currently a Crime, Courts, and Breaking News reporter at the Post and Courier, which covers South Carolina out of Charleston.

Ileana GarnandIleana Garnand will be working as the fellow for the Center for Public Integrity, focusing on data-driven journalism and reporting on issues of inequality. They will build on their experience as News Editor at the North Texas Daily, the student newspaper of the University of North Texas.


Savannah KucharSavannah Kuchar, a recent graduate of Rice University where she was Editor-in-Chief for the Rice Thresher, will be the Washington Watchdog Fellow at USA TODAY. She will work in USA TODAY’s Washington, D.C., bureau for the political team one semester and the investigative team the next, mining public records, reporting and practicing data-driven journalism.


Emily SeymourEmily Seymour, who received her BA in journalism from SOC, will be joining SOC’s Investigative Reporting Workshop (IRW) as a graduate fellow. Editors at IRW, an editorially independent, nonprofit newsroom, pair students with professional reporters and editors to research and report — all with a focus on government and corporate accountability. Recent IRW stories looked at the environment, immigration, and police use of force. IRW has several partnerships, including with The Washington Post and Public Health Watch.

Below, the fellows share their thoughts about the opportunities that await.

Shwetha Surendran (ESPN)
"Now more than ever, we’re seeing some of the biggest societal questions — gender pay gaps, transgender rights, toxic workplace cultures, sexual abuse — being wrestled with in the sports world. Learning how to report on and investigate these intersections responsibly, holistically, and geared towards social impact is a challenge I’ve set for myself as a young journalist. I see no better opportunity to push myself, grow and contribute than through the ESPN Fellowship, alongside their team of exceptional sports storytellers."  Surendran's LinkedIn profile 

Olivia Diaz (Washington Post)
“I am thrilled to soon be The Washington Post's AU fellow and join a newsroom that doggedly covers important issues. The fellowship is an opportunity to improve my reporting skills under the guidance of SOC faculty while working alongside Post reporters. I am looking forward to the work.” Diaz's LinkedIn profile

Ileana Garnand (CPI)
"I am very excited to work in a nonprofit, investigative newsroom that focuses on inequality and intersectionality. There is so much I can and will learn from the journalists at CPI, as well as the faculty at AU. With this opportunity, I'll continue to follow my passion for investigative work that gives a voice to those previously ignored." Garnand's LinkedIn profile

Savannah Kuchar (USA TODAY)
"I've always been interested in political and investigative journalism, so I'm really looking forward to this fellowship where I will be able to work with and learn from both teams. I'm also excited to have the chance to apply what I'm learning in the classroom as I'm learning it to the role with USA TODAY. Kuchar's LinkedIn profile

Emily Seymour (IRW)
“I hope to gain meaningful reporting experience working with talented journalists, honing my investigative skills and producing impactful stories.” Seymour's LinkedIn profile