7 Students Attend White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner

The Scholarship Winners Met President and Mrs. Obama, Notable Journalists and Celebrities at the Star-Studded Event

By Abby Johnston

Missouri Graduate Students with Major Garrett, BJ '84
Missouri Journalism graduate students pose for a photo with Major Garrett, BJ ’84, chief White House correspondent for CBS News. From left, Meredith Turk, Liz Scheltens, John O’Connor, Laurn Langille, Major Garrett, Abby Johnston, Cameron Dodd and Travis Hartman.

Washington (April 30, 2015) — On April 25, seven Missouri School of Journalism graduate students got to hug first lady Michelle Obama. Oh, yeah, and the president was there, too.

In addition to being wrapped in FLOTUS’ (First Lady Of The United States) comforting embrace, the seven were among 17 recipients of the White House Correspondents’ Association scholarships who attended the annual correspondents dinner, affectionately known in Washington as “Nerd Prom.” Other notable “nerds” in attendance included actor Bradley Cooper, model Chrissy Teigen and event host Cecily Strong of “Saturday Night Live.”

Missouri students Cameron Dodd, Travis Hartman, Abby Johnston, Lauren Langille, John O’Connor, Liz Scheltens and Meredith Turk also were invited to a private reception with the Obamas before the dinner started. The scholarships helped support the students during their semester in the School of Journalism’s Washington program, in which they worked in newsrooms such as Scripps Howard, Bloomberg, NBC, CNN and Al Jazeera English. The students also attended a weekly seminar on public affairs journalism.

After shaking hands with the Missouri crew and other scholarship winners from Howard, Columbia, Northwestern, George Washington, California and Maryland universities, President Barack Obama used his speech to rip on Ted Cruz, the Secret Service, and, well, himself. Even Obama couldn’t resist a little celebrity plug, bringing up comedian Keegan-Michael Key for some help.

Missouri Journalism Students with President and Mrs. Obama
Missouri Journalism students pose for photos with President and Mrs. Obama. Top photo, from left: Meredith Turk, Elizabeth Scheltens, Abby Johnston and John O’Connor. Bottom photo, from left: Cameron Dodd, Lauren Langille and Travis Hartman.

So the star-studded event isn’t exactly what it used to be: It’s not entirely clear what the cast of “Modern Family” does to serve journalism’s wider purpose. But at its core, the night still celebrated the journalists who serve as White House watchdogs.

The White House Correspondents’ Dinner was the culmination of a weekend of events for the scholars. The Missouri School of Journalism honorees also attended a luncheon hosted by the National Journal. The afternoon included a private meeting with the WHCA board members, including chief White House correspondent for CBS News Major Garrett, BJ ’84, and a panel discussion with the recipients of the association’s awards for outstanding reporting.

Joining in the weekend’s festivities was the School’s Washington program director Barbara Cochran, who holds the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism. Cochran was a judge for one of the association’s awards, the Aldo Beckman Award.

Updated: September 4, 2020

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