Introducing the SJI Class of 2014


The Sports Journalism Institute, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, is set to welcome a new group of students to the family as we prepare for class this summer in Columbia, Mo.

A group of six women and six men (including 5 African-Americans, four Hispanics, 1Asian-American and 1 Caucasian female) make up the Class of 2014, which will be in residence at the University of Missouri School of Journalism from May 30-June 7, with students moving on to internships around the country.

The work experience that awaits them is as diverse as the class, with interns placed at APSE-member newspapers from coast to coast, and This year, the Knoxville News-Sentinel and South Florida SunSentinel will host an intern chosen through APSE’s partnership with Scripps Howard, which provides students with a stipend that pays their summer expenses.

“Students selected for the Scripps Howard Foundation internship have the added benefit of being part of the SJI class,” said Phil Kaplan, former APSE president. “This would not be possible without the help of the leadership of SJI. Students from Scripps Howard journalism schools go through an intense boot camp before starting their 10-week assignment at a newspaper that is a member of APSE. Many of the interns have been able to use SJI and the internship as a springboard to media jobs after graduating and I look forward to watching the progress of the next group.”
In 2012, SJI and Missouri began a partnership in which SJI students will work out of the Missouri print and digital newsroom for their boot camp, and the university will nominate a Missouri Scholar to the institute each year. This year the Missouri scholar is Anne Dankleson.

“This partnership has been a blast. The SJI class sends a jolt through our newsroom,” said Columbia Missorian sports editor and Missouri faculty member Greg Bowers.  “The relationship has matured from joining in with our newsroom budget meetings to adding to the newspaper’s Special Olympics Coverage. We’re more excited about the third year of this relationship than we were about the first.”

SJI also has a partnership with the Association for Women in Sports Media. This year’s AWSM scholar is Alexandria Valdez of the University of Montana.

Once again, SJI thanks its partners at the Asian-American Journalists Association (which selects one member of the class each year), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (which promotes our program in email newsletters to student members educators nationwide) and the National Association of Black Journalists (whose immediate past president is Gregory Lee Jr. a 1994 SJI alum, and which faithfully promotes and works with SJI). SJI also thanks its sponsors, including ESPN, APSE,, USA Today and the National Football League. These sponsors helped make our 20th anniversary celebration last summer at NABJ’s convention a rousing success.

We would like to welcome APSE second vice president Mary Byrne, of USA Today to the family. Byrne will participate in the weeklong boot camp in Missouri.

And SJI welcomes back longtime host paper the Houston Chronicle, which will host an intern again this summer.

“We are beyond thrilled to re-establish our long-standing relationship  with the APSE Sports Journalism Institute after a one-year absence,” said Dan Cunningham, senior editor/news at Houston Chronicle Media Group.  “The interns they have sent us over the years have been a definite asset to our sports department — not only well-prepared but also very professional and eager to learn.  As an APSE member since 1983, I can say without hesitation this is APSE’s proudest legacy.”

As SJI turns 21, we thank our funders and partners (old and new). With their help, we’ve added roughly 275 women and minorities to the staffs of the nation’s sports media.

“This year’s class is very special to me because they represent what I experienced 20 years ago in 1994,” Lee said. “These students are the best of the best and we believe 20 years from now they will be running their own sports operation.”


The Class of 2014

Chris Chavez, Marquette University, junior

Anne Dankleson, University of Missouri, junior

Sebastian Herrera, University of Texas at Austin, junior

Avery Jennings, Ohio University, junior

Scripps Howard Scholar

Knoxville News-Sentinel

Thuc Nhi Nguyen, University of Washington, junior

Los Angeles News Group

Katie O’Keefe, Colorado State University, senior

Kansas City Star

Chris Shelton, University of Houston, junior

South Florida SunSentinel

Tierra Smith, Grambling State University, junior

Salt Lake Tribune

Keith Turner, Ohio University, senior

Scripps Howard Scholar

South Florida SunSentinel

Alexandria Valdez, University of Montana, junior

Association of Women in Sports Media Scholar

Denver Post

Rhiannon Walker, University of Maryland, College Park, junior

Houston Chronicle

Alex Valdez

Chris Chavez

Avery Jennings

Chris Shelton

Anne Dankelson

Kaitie O'Keefe

Keith Turner

Sebastian Herrera

Rhiannon Walker

Thuc Nhi Nguyen

Tierra Smith