Over $135,000 Awarded to Students at 2019 SMPA Celebration Night

Students sit at tables smiling with a blue curtain in the background
SMPA Celebration Night attendees look on during a presentation. (Photo Credit: Nicole Radivilov)
April 27, 2019


The School of Media and Public Affairs hosted the second annual SMPA Celebration Night on Thursday, April 25, featuring the announcement of over $135,000 in student prizes and scholarships.

SMPA Director Frank Sesno interviewed donors and special guests throughout the evening including Aaron Kwittken, CCAS B.A. '92, the global chairman and CEO of KWT Global who created the Kwittken Fund for Strategic Communication; Tom and Ellen Hoberman, who created a merit-based prize for SMPA students after their daughter graduated; and Devan Cole, SMPA B.A. '18, a CNN breaking news reporter.

Professors, students, members of the SMPA National Council and friends of SMPA were also on hand to celebrate outstanding students including Char Beales and Paul Wilson from the National Council for Media and Public Affairs and Ninio Fetalvo, B.A. '14, director of strategic communications at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

SMPA Professor Michael Freedman and his wife, Renee, awarded the Freedman Family Scholarship to junior Celine Castronuovo, Professor Steven Roberts awarded the Dorothy and Will Roberts Prize to six students in memory of his parents and the daughters of the late Professor Michael Shanahan, Claire and Tina, honored their father with the J. Michael Shanahan Journalism Internship Fund awarded to Samantha Cookinham, Monica Mercuri, Leah Potter.

Professor Imani M. Cheers was the Staub Faculty Excellence Award recipient, an award that honors the SMPA faculty member of the year with submissions from members of the SMPA community and a review committee with current and former faculty members and students.

Attendees also competed in three rounds of “Stop the SMPA Presses Trivia” including rounds with fun facts about SMPA professors and a trivia round with questions about facts and events in 1997, the birth year for most students in the class of 2019.

A full list of scholarship and prize recipients and student accomplishments recognized during the celebration are listed below.


GW-White House Correspondents' Association Scholarship

Winner: Matthew Ley

The scholarship honors a senior journalism major with an interest in diversity issues and a demonstrated commitment to a career in journalism.

Larry King Scholarships

Winners: Rachel Armany, Samantha Cookinham, Colleen Grablick, Jonny Kandell, Grant Sobetski

The Larry King scholarship was created by the former CNN personality who never attended college. This award goes to rising seniors with superior academic records.

Eaton Foundation Scholarships

Winners: Barbara Alberts, Elizabeth Jessup, Brielle Powers, Jenna Presta

This merit-based scholarship supports SMPA seniors in the combined degree program.

Eaton Service Prize

Winners: Rachel Armany, Samantha Cookinham

This prize is awarded to students who have made a special contribution to the life of SMPA.

Hoberman Prize

Winners: Justine Coleman, Gillian Horn

This prize was created by the family of a recent graduate. This merit-based award is given for original and meaningful journalism.

Freedman Family Scholarship

Winner: Celine Castronuovo

This award was endowed by Michael Freedman, an SMPA professor, former vice president of GW and the father of an SMPA graduate. Preference is given to returning undergraduate students with financial need who aspire to be professional journalists.

Philip L. Graham Fund Scholarship for Diversity

Winner: Anastasia Conley

This scholarship was named for the late publisher of The Washington Post. These awards support students from underrepresented groups.

Schneider-Taylor Scholarship

Winners: Matthew Edwards

This award was established by the parents of a recent graduate. The scholarship provides financial support for SMPA underclassmen.

Dorothy and Will Roberts Prize

First-Prize Winners: Kendrick Chang, Lauryn Hill, Ashley Le 

Honorable Mentions: Caroline Corbett, Tyriana Evans, Felicia Kalkman

This prize was created by Professor Steven Roberts in the name of his parents. The prize honors graduating seniors who have demonstrated academic achievement, professional promise and community service.

Sherman Page Allen Scholarships

Winners: Lena Geller, Lauren Peller, Leah Potter, Sarah Roach, Mychael Schnell, Elizabeth Stricklin

This scholarship supports students with a desire to specialize in the field of journalism. The scholarship was endowed in 1966 through a bequest from the estate of Violet B. Robinson.

Gridiron Foundation Scholarships

Winners: Almaz Abedje, Jessica Baskerville Olivia Deslandes, Taylor Galgano, Matilda Kreider, Ana Little-Saña, Jessica Makler, Kate McCarthy, Max Nelson, Samantha Ross, Aaron Schwartz

Created in 1975 by the Gridiron, a long-standing organization of Washington-based journalists, these merit-based awards support undergraduate SMPA students.

Essary Prize

Winners: Ashley Gallagher

The oldest SMPA prize, created in 1948 to honor the memory of Jesse Frederick Essary, this award goes to a student who has given a promise of sound citizenship and ability in “forthright reporting.”

SMPA Career Action Network Internship Fund Prizes

Winners: Taylor Galgano, Kelly Hooper

This prize supports rising seniors pursuing summer internship experiences.

J. Michael Shanahan Journalism Internship Fund

WinnersSamantha Cookinham, Monica Mercuri, Leah Potter 

This fund is named after a beloved SMPA faculty member and supports rising seniors interning for an established media organization.

Kwittken Fund for Strategic Communication

Winners: Elizabeth Georgakopoulos, Jonny Kandell, Matilda Kreider

This fund provides support for students in the field of strategic communication and media.

The Robert and Christine Staub Faculty Excellence Award

Recipient: Imani M. Cheers

The Robert and Christine Staub Faculty Excellence Award honors a faculty member for outstanding achievement in teaching, effectiveness in advising and mentoring or service roles outside the classroom.

Planet Forward Storyfest Grand Prize

SMPA Awardee: Guy Ginsberg

This award recognizes the best environmental storytelling told by college students. The 2018 grand prize winners will travel on a weeklong storytelling expedition with eco-tourism pioneers Lindblad Expeditions.

News21 Fellowship

Winner: Justine Coleman

The nation’s most talented journalism students come together as part of the News21 initiative to report and produce in-depth multimedia projects for major national media.

GW School of Media and Public Affairs-West Virginia University Student Reporting Partnership

Winners: Arianna Dunham, Shayna Greene, Kelly Hooper, Halle Kendall

In a unique effort to burst long-standing “media bubbles,” students and faculty from SMPA and West Virginia University Reed College of Media are teaming up for a four-week intensive reporting project to assess the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s impact in West Virginia.

Manheim-Sterling Undergraduate Research Prizes

Winners: Jack Nassetta, Grant Sobetski

Named in honor of two legendary SMPA faculty members, the prizes support and encourage outstanding mentored undergraduate research and creative activity.

Char Beales Research Fund

This award supports collaborative research conducted by SMPA faculty members and students.

Student Winner: Stephanie Purwanto

Faculty Winners: Imani M. Cheers, Janet Steele

SMPA 'Picture This' Photo Contest

Winners: Alli Lapps, Grant Sobetski

This ultimate competition for SMPA storytellers challenged students to show off their creativity through photos that capture the dynamism and diversity of the SMPA experience to become a focal point of conversations on display in the Media and Public Affairs building.