One of the best things we do with our students is get them into professional settings during the summer so they can hone the skills that will land jobs after they graduate.

We established our Student Publications Fellowships program in 2012 with a single fellowship at the Messenger-Inquirer in Owensboro, Kentucky. For Summer 2024, we will have nine students in fellowships in a diverse array of news organizations and a leading strategic communications firm.

Our program was born out of a bequest from Charles Mason Ralph, a former staffer on the College Heights Herald who died in 2009 and left an endowment of $100,000 to the Herald. The first year the endowment matured, Bob Adams — then the director of Student Publications — used it to create a fellowship at Ralph’s hometown newspaper.

Then we asked our alumni for help expanding the program, and they have continued to answer that call through annual donations to our Student Publications Fellowship Fund, which we launched in 2014.

Under our program, students awarded a fellowship receive a stipend of between $3,500 and $6,000, depending on location, to cover their expenses during the 10-week fellowship. The cost of that stipend is split between WKU Student Publications and the partnering organization. All costs are covered by donations.

In 2015, Mason Ralph’s family members inquired about how the Ralph endowment was being used, and we explained that it became the seed money to launch our fellowship program. The family was so impressed that an additional donation of $125,000 was made to the Ralph endowment.

This has enabled us to expand the program to the point that we have had 71 students serve in fellowships since it was launched through Summer 2023.

Partners for the following summer are lined up during the fall semester, and students apply for the fellowships in late October and early November each year. Our partners interview applicants and rank their preferences, and the professional staff at Student Publications then selects the fellows and assigns them to the partnering organizations.

To apply, a student must be on the staff of the College Heights Herald, the Talisman, Student Publications Advertising or Cherry Creative, and agree to return to work at Student Publications for the full year after the fellowship is completed.

We work to match our most promising students with fellowships that will help them develop essential skills, including practical experience in their area of work and leadership and teamwork skills that are applicable across disciplines.

Our partners and the fellowships for Summer 2024 are:

  • Messenger-Inquirer, Charles Mason Ralph Fellowship.
  • Lexington Herald-Leader, Tom Caudill Fellowship.
  • The Courier Journal, Paul and Ellen Schuhmann Fellowship.
  • Bowling Green Daily News, Judy Wildman Hughes Fellowship.
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Charles Mason Ralph Fellowship.
  • The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, Charles Mason Ralph Fellowship.
  • C2 Strategic Communications, Carla and Chad Carlton Fellowship.
  • Evansville Living/Tucker Publishing, Talisman Magazine Fellowship.
  • College Heights Herald, Dr. Barbara Burch Fellowship.