Kailan Dixon graduates from Summer Fellow to full-time master’s student at Missouri School of Journalism

Kailan Dixon

By Austin Fitzgerald

Columbia, Mo. (Oct. 4, 2023) — When Kailan Dixon arrived at the Missouri School of Journalism in August to begin her first semester as a master’s student, she already had more experience with the master’s program than many of her peers.

She had already completed a photojournalism piece for KBIA-FM, the School’s NPR-member station, in which she covered local protests following the overturning of Roe v. Wade. She had traveled throughout rural Missouri as a producer for Missouri on Mic, KBIA’s oral history podcast featuring local voices from all over the state.

In the summer of 2022, while still an undergraduate at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, she gained these hands-on experiences and more as part of the School’s nine-week Summer Fellowship Program, which offers students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) the opportunity to sample the graduate student experience. Now, as a master’s student studying strategic communications at the School of Journalism, she credits the flexibility of the fellowship for sparking a desire to continue her education.

“I value having a lot of autonomy in my education — being able to take the reins of what I want to do,” Dixon said. “[Working on the KBIA piece] was one of the first moments when I thought, ‘hey, this might be somewhere I want to go for grad school.’”

Before I came to Missouri, I thought that for a story to be newsworthy, it needed to have this sensational aspect. But from Missouri on Mic, I learned that ordinary people have some of the best stories to tell.

Kailan Dixon

In some ways, Dixon coming to Mizzou seems like destiny. Her mother, Brenda Watson, earned a degree in occupational therapy from Mizzou in 1998, and Dixon remembers hearing about the university throughout her early life. And North Carolina A&T, from which she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication earlier this year, is no stranger to the fellowship program. The HBCU has been an important focus for Earnest Perry, creator of the Summer Fellowship and associate dean for graduate studies and research, in his efforts to recruit master’s students who might not otherwise consider graduate school in Missouri to be an option.

“We want to provide an opportunity for students who might not normally look outside their own state or aren’t aware that graduate school would be a good fit for them,” Perry said of the fellowship in 2021, not long after Fairriona Magee, another alum of A&T and the fellowship, began her master’s studies at the School. Magee is now a public health reporter at nonprofit news outlet The Trace. “The fellowship allows HBCU students to see what graduate school is like at a major university and could help ease apprehensions they might have about moving or paying for school.”

Indeed, despite her mother’s connection to Mizzou, graduate school wasn’t necessarily on Dixon’s radar until the fellowship opened her up to new possibilities.

Some of those possibilities extended beyond the academic realm: namely, the “fellowship” she cultivated with fellow participants and her mentor, A&T alum and then-doctoral student Tiffany Jones.

“The girls and I are still very close,” Dixon said. “We have a group chat that we talk in very often. Definitely, the community that I got to build from the program was a highlight for me.”

Dixon hopes to enter the field of corporate communications upon graduation. While she is only just beginning graduate school, she has already gleaned an important insight from her experiences during the Summer Fellowship that she believes will serve her well wherever her career takes her.

“Before I came to Missouri, I thought that for a story to be newsworthy, it needed to have this sensational aspect,” she said. “But from Missouri on Mic, I learned that ordinary people have some of the best stories to tell. Everybody has a story, no matter how big or how small, and whether we realize it or not, somebody else needs to hear that story.”

About the Summer Fellowship Program

Fellowship participants receive a $4,500 stipend, free housing in a residence hall, one credit hour of research and support for travel to and from Columbia if needed. Students work with a faculty mentor and participate in all aspects of the larger summer program at Mizzou, including orientation, educational programming, social events and the Forum (poster session) at the end of the summer.

Updated: October 4, 2023

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