Sage Scholarship gives Watjen opportunity to study in Laos

July 7, 2008

Laos is a poor, landlocked country in Southeast Asia with a per-capita income in 2007 of $710. Most of its population lives on subsistence farming, and it has a tropical monsoon climate, according to a U.S. State Department report.

It’s worlds apart from Paris, London and Rome, the more familiar destinations for travel abroad. Download Full Image

But ASU’s Meg Watjen was overjoyed when she learned that she was the winner of the 2008 Sage Family Southeast Asian Studies Scholarship, which provides for a six-week summer study in Laos.

Watjen, an anthropology major, plans to study the diffusion of chili peppers from South America and Central America to Southeast Asia. She’ll use her research from Laos – and from Indonesia in previous trips – to write an honors thesis.

“It’s only in the last 500 years that chilies have arrived, yet they are a central part of Southeast Asian cuisines,” she says. “They are used differently in different countries, so this is one thing I will look at. Another is how they arrived in each country. I will compare the island of Indonesia, influenced by thousands of years of sea trade, to landlocked Laos, which received influences via land and river routes.”

Watjen will conduct her study by going to cooking schools and markets.

“I’ll spend approximately two weeks in both Vientiane and Luang Prabang,” she says. “Both have cooking schools – though these are for the most part just informal restaurants that teach you to cook your own food, and then you sit down and eat it.”

She also hopes to study with a well-respected cook in Laos named Vandara Amphayphone, whom she read about in Trippin’Mag.

Watjen says she applied for the Sage Family Scholarship because “I am working on a Southeast Asian (SEA) studies certificate through the Center for Asian Research, and I am focusing on SEA for my honors thesis project.”

“Though I have spent a little time in SEA, I have never been to Laos but have heard fantastic things about it and the people there,” she says.

“I am very excited about the opportunity and most grateful that Mr. Bill Sage has continued to support ASU students who wish to travel to Laos.”

Last year’s winner, Rebecca Townsend, says she wanted to study in Laos because she was considering a career path involving Southeast Asia.

“I was particularly intrigued by Laos because it isn’t as well known in the United States compared with Thailand or Vietnam,” Townsend says.

“A lot of people thought I was a bit crazy for wanting to go, but it wasn’t at all the experience many people imagine when they think of less-developed countries.

“The Lao people were, of course, very friendly, but one of the things that struck me the most was the pride they had in their country and culture. I think Americans, myself included, tend to view the world through Western eyes.”

Townsend will begin the master’s of Southeast Asia program at the University of Michigan in the fall.

James Rush, a professor of history who oversees the Sage Scholarship, says that the most important thing about the scholarship is that “it provides an opportunity for an ASU student to gain an in-depth exposure to Laos during an extended study tour.”

“Although recipients do execute a specific project in Laos, the larger value of the experience lies in traveling throughout the country and being exposed to its variety and beauty, becoming acclimatized to Laos’s tropical climate and human habitat, meeting and living with Lao families, and being exposed to aspects of Lao culture – including language, food, religion and social customs,” Rush says. “Travel like this can be transformative.”

Sage, who endowed the scholarship four years ago, received a degree in political science from ASU. He worked for the Agency for International Development in Laos, building new schools and putting Lao youth into Ministry of Education training programs in preparation for teaching in rural areas of northwest Laos.

When he returned to the United States in 1975, he began working with Lao refugees in California.

The Sage Family scholarship is a tribute to Sage’s parents, Lloyd G. and Twyla M. Sage, “who gave me the opportunity of going to ASU,” he says.

Expansion of Carnegie-Knight initiative seeks to transform journalism education

July 7, 2008

Seeking to change the way journalism is taught in the United States, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation are investing more than $11 million in the expansion of a national initiative to adapt journalism education to the challenges of a struggling news industry. Three new journalism schools are joining the effort of redefining journalism education and training a new generation of journalists capable of reshaping the news industry.

The expansion will deepen and extend: Download Full Image

• News21 (an experimental, online news incubator);

• Curriculum enhancement;

• and a journalism education policy task force.

Each foundation will contribute half of the new funding, and allocate it among each of the initiative’s three distinct efforts.

With the addition of the three schools, the initiative now funds curriculum enhancement and student fellowships at 11 journalism schools and one research center. The three new schools, Arizona State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, join schools currently supported by the initiative at: University of Southern California; University of Texas at Austin; University of Maryland; Northwestern University; Columbia University; University of Missouri; Syracuse University; and University of California at Berkeley. A research center, the Joan Shorenstein Center for Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is also supported by the initiative.

In announcing the initiative’s expansion, Carnegie Corporation president Vartan Gregorian spoke about the centrality to a fully-functioning democracy of well-informed, bold journalists. “Today’s journalists must be steeped in experience and deeply knowledgeable about the subjects they report on.” Gregorian continued, “To understand the underlying ideas and possible ramifications of import, even truly transformative events, requires that journalists be trained and informed enough to deal with complex, nuanced information with a richness and depth.”

“Although traditional models of newspaper, radio and local television news dissemination are severely challenged,” said Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of Knight Foundation, “every community in this democracy continues to have a core need for reliable information, news that informs and news that helps build the common language that builds community. That need will not go away and provide hope for future journalists. They will tell those stories with traditional, verification-journalism values but on multiple platforms and structures influenced by new technology. Journalism can train them to do that and, in that sense, journalism schools have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the industry. Carnegie and Knight want them to succeed.”

The initiative’s credo—to accelerate change at universities educating tomorrow’s journalists—has begun to have an impact on the news business as the pipeline of young and innovative reporters from initiative-supported schools bring their skills to newsrooms around the country and across all media platforms.

Curriculum enhancement

Journalism schools participating in the initiative have received funding from the two foundations to expand the intellectual horizons of journalism students, in large part by harnessing the tremendous subject-matter expertise that resides in each of the universities. In addition to an emphasis on the fundamentals of the journalism craft, initiative-funded schools are encouraged to draw on the resources of the larger university to help reporters-in-training build specialized expertise to enhance their coverage of complex beats from international affairs and economics to health care and education. Exposure to experts on their own campus helps students to gain first-hand knowledge of the societies, languages, religions and cultures of other parts of the world.

Deans at newly funded schools are supporting enhancements ranging from a multidisciplinary seminar on Latino life in the United States at Arizona State and a series of courses at Nebraska focusing on issues related to Native Americans to new interdisciplinary courses at North Carolina on various manifestations of globalization jointly offered by the university’s professional schools of business, law, public health and social science.

Columbia University’s renewed support allows the school to attract leading scholars from outside the realm of journalism to the school. At USC’s Annenberg School, collaboration with the campus’s arts schools is underway which will create a program for students focusing on journalism and music, theatre dance and film. Northwestern’s Medill School will leverage its on-campus expertise to focus on immigrant-related reporting. And, the graduate school of journalism at UC Berkeley will strengthen a course, initiated with the 2005 grant, to develop reporting specialties with the graduate schools of health and business.

News for the 21st Century: Incubators of New Ideas

Experimental reporting on little-covered issues generated during the summer by students participating in the News21 incubator has been published or broadcast by news organizations including the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Miami Herald, L.A. Weekly,, the Associated Press, Canadian Broadcast Corporation and CNN. This summer student-produced reports will be published on, the incubator’s current national news partner, as well as at">">

The News21 journalism incubator will grow from four to eight campuses, increasing the number of competitive, paid summer fellowships to 93 from 44. The summer fellowships, open to students at each of the 12 initiative supported schools, are preceded by a semester of self-guided research and intensive seminar work with professors who are acknowledged experts in the student’s field of inquiry. During the summer, students report their stories and produce their material for publication or broadcast across a number of platforms.

Christopher Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU, which will spearhead the News21 project from its new Phoenix campus, believes the new storytelling techniques and “convergence” journalism practiced by News21 fellows is precisely what today’s newsrooms are demanding. “This type of journalism prepares students for the newsroom of the future where the person who shoots the piece may also write it and edit it. And, the following day will be expected to produce a story for the web or something altogether different.”

Journalism Task Force

The Carnegie-Knight Task Force joins together one-time competitors in journalism education to work toward addressing and adapting to the sea-change taking place in the news business. Renewed funding for the Task Force, housed at Harvard University's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, will allow it to produce policy-oriented research for the deans of the 12 participating institutions.

The Task Force allows the schools to speak out in a single, authoritative voice about the importance of upholding the highest standards and ideals of journalism. It has taken public stands on issues of importance to practicing journalists as it did in a July 2006 op-ed published in the Washington Post on privacy, security and state secrets. The piece, signed by deans at five of the initiative-funded schools, is thought to be the first time a group of deans has spoken out on an issue of importance to working journalists. And, a December 2007 New York Times op-ed focused on the FCC and proposed changes that could affect local journalism.

A 2007 Task Force survey titled The Internet and the Threat It Poses to Local Media: Lessons from News in the Schools offered evidence of a strong movement in America’s classrooms toward the use of Internet-based news and away from the use of newspapers and television news, a trend that the survey’s authors said was virtually certain to continue. This and other Task Force products have served as a catalyst for the industry—presenting solid research, an element of urgency and a sense of mission.

The Task Force will continue to take public stands and issue public statements pertaining to the rights and responsibilities of media companies, journalists, educators, government and American citizens. It will stand in opposition to institutional, structural, and commercial threats to the integrity of the profession and will work to improve the quality of the journalism industry and journalism education.

About Carnegie Corporation of New York

Carnegie Corporation of New York was created by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote "the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding." For more than 95 years the Corporation has carried out Carnegie's vision of philanthropy by building on his two major concerns: international peace and advancing education and knowledge. As a private grant-making foundation, the Corporation will invest more than $100 million this year in nonprofits to fulfill Mr. Carnegie's mission, "to do real and permanent good in this world." The Corporation's capital fund, originally donated at a value of about $135 million, had a market value of $3 billion on Sept. 30, 2007.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes journalism excellence worldwide and invests in the vitality of the U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Since 1950 the foundation has granted more than $300 million to advance journalism quality and freedom of expression. Knight Foundation focuses on ideas and projects that create transformational change. To learn more, visit">">

Lisa Robbins

Editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications