These Scholarship Recipients Received VIP Treatment, Including Personal Congratulations from President and Mrs. Obama
Washington, D.C. (May 5, 2016) — Eight Missouri School of Journalism graduate students attended President Obama’s last White House Correspondents’ Association dinner on April 30. The lucky eight were honored guests as recipients of scholarships funded by the proceeds of the annual dinner.
Tickets to what has been nicknamed “Nerd Prom” are in high demand. More than 2,600 journalists, politicians and celebrities crowded the ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel, where the event is held every spring.
The Missouri students were given VIP treatment that included meeting President Barack and Michelle Obama at an exclusive reception before the dinner. During the dinner program, each scholarship winner was announced by name and crossed the stage to shake hands with the president and receive a hug from the first lady.
The students are Josh Benson, Shih-Wei Chou, Karol Ilagan, Andrew Kreighbaum, Ailin Li, May Ma, Caleb O’Brien and Yizhu Wang. The scholarships enabled them to participate in the School of Journalism’s Washington Program and complete their professional projects during the 2015-16 academic year.
Nine students from other universities also received scholarships. The other universities were Howard, Northwestern, Maryland, Berkeley and George Washington University. Missouri had the largest number of scholarship winners.
During their semester in Washington, the students worked in internships at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, Shanghai Media Group, Voice of America, TV Asahi America, Resolve and Scoop News Group. They also met journalists and policy experts and visited the newsrooms of the Washington Post, NPR, Bloomberg and the set of CBS’s Face the Nation. The Washington Program is directed by Barbara Cochran, the Curtis B. Hurley Chair in Public Affairs Journalism.
With a ballroom full of major political figures and Hollywood stars, the students snapped lots of selfies with famous people. Benson managed to get photos with actors Morgan Freeman and Bryan Cranston as well as Secretary of State John Kerry and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.
“Meeting the Obamas was surreal,” said Ilagan, who is returning to her home in the Philippines after graduation. “So special and more than I imagined.”
Updated: January 13, 2020