By Hui Wang
Washington, D.C. (May 13, 2009) — It was an unforgettable night for five Missouri School of Journalism graduate students who were recognized at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner for receiving the Association’s scholarship.
Before the dinner, the students were invited to a private VIP reception where they met President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. As the guests eagerly awaited their arrival, the students, being journalists, quickly moved to spots very close to the side door, trying to grab a good position. The door opened, Barack and Michelle Obama walked through the short aisle, and immediately, they were flooded by crowds. Everyone was trying to talk with them. President Obama was smiling and looked engaged in every conversation.
One of the students got the president’s attention and introduced the entire Missouri Journalism group. Obama looked excited when he heard they were scholarship winners and master’s students from the Missouri School of Journalism. They received a very warm congratulation and a great group picture. The group also talked with first lady Michelle Obama.
At the reception, the students met with several WHCA board members, politicians and celebrities, including Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary; Helen Thomas, considered the dean of the White House Press Corps and a regular seminar leader for the School’s Washington Program; and Brian Williams, anchor for NBC Nightly News. Whoopi Goldberg and Amy Poehler were among the television and movie stars in attendance.
The students then attended the WHCA dinner, attended by approximately 3,000 guests.
WHCA board member Steve Scully announced the scholarship recipients’ names. Before they were introduced, he said, “We want to give back and help these young journalists. We are writing a check to help the next generation of reporters at a time, we well know, that this industry is facing so many challenges. We want to serve as mentors to them as well.”
The students were called to the stage and again congratulated by the president and first lady.
“I think Missouri Journalism had a remarkable spot in the sun this past weekend,” noted Wes Pippert, head of the Washington Program.
The students also were feted at a WHCA’s luncheon for them the day before the dinner at which a panel of former White House press secretaries Mike McCurry and Dana Perino, NBC bureau chief Mark Whittaker and New York Times‘ Jackie Calmes discussed White House coverage.
With the financial support of the scholarship, the students are able to finish their professional projects at distinguished news organizations in Washington, D.C. Each of them received a $2,500 fellowship while participating in the School’s Washington Program. All tuition costs and fees also were waived for the fellowship.
The graduate internships were as follows:
- 2008 Fall Semester: Liz Langton worked at WashingtonPost.com. Ferdous “Danny” Al-Faruque interned at the political and digital unit of ABC News.
- 2009 Spring Semester: Fan Bu worked at The Washington Post Web site. Hui Wang and Yang Wang both did their professional projects at NBC News Washington Bureau, Investigative Unit. Mu Li worked on economic reporting while interning for Marketplace, Washington bureau. Jessica Nunez completed her computer-assisted reporting project at Scripps Howard News Service.
The WHCA scholarship program has assigned $132,000 in scholarship money this year, five times more than two years ago. It has benefited 16 students, and five universities, including the Missouri School of Journalism, participated the program. The others are Columbia University, Howard University, University of Maryland and Northwestern University.
The School’s Washington Program is for graduate students and top-flight undergraduate seniors. During their semester in the nation’s capital, students work 30 hours a week for prominent media and government agencies, develop a research project and attend a weekly seminar in which Washington insiders help them better understand the federal establishment. The program’s office is located in the National Press Club building.
Updated: May 4, 2020