University students dominate at SPJ awards

Kendra Craighead
Staff Writer

Nine University of La Verne students and recent alumni were recognized in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards competition Saturday for stories and photos produced for the Campus Times, La Verne Magazine and LVTV in 2015.

The students were honored by SPJ’s Region 11 chapter, which covers California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii.

“It feels really good to have my work recognized,” said 2015 alumna and former Campus Times editor Kellie Galentine, whose story “Tuition to rise 4.9 percent,” published in the Campus Times last spring and won the general news category, and whose senior project “Fixing The Mirror: Peering Into Body Image Issues,” also published last spring in the Campus Times, was a finalist in the in-depth news category.

“I am really proud to have represented La Verne in such an outstanding way,” said Galentine, who now works for KPCC Southern California Public Radio in Pasadena.

“Getting that validation makes everything worthwhile,” added 2015 alumna Elizabeth Ortiz, a former Campus Times editor whose senior project, “Mental Health Matters: Disorders to Think About,” published in the Campus Times last spring, was also a finalist in the in-depth news category.

“That project specifically was a passion project for me, and being recognized for it is awesome,” said Ortiz, who now works for Pasadena Magazine.

January  2016 graduate and former Campus Times photography editor Helen Arase won in the sports photography category for “Football team breaks La Verne records on way to historic season, 2nd series.”

Arase attended the SPJ conference and awards event in Pheonix last weekend, and brought home all the awards.

“This is the second year in a row that I got the award for photography,” Arase said. “It is nice to know that what you do still means something to somebody.”

Arase said the communications department was a big part of her success, especially her fellow students, professors and friends.

“It is nice to be a part of a group of people who care about what they are doing and who are driven,” Arase said.

Senior journalism major Kristina Bugante, who is currently serving as Campus Times online editor and La Verne Magazine editor in chief added:

“It is a big deal, and I do feel honored, because we are a small school with not many resources but we all work so hard.”

Bugante won in the feature photography category for “Nathan Gonzalez Portrait” and was a finalist in feature photography for “Mourners honor attack victims.”

Current Campus Times editor in chief, senior journalism major Karla Rendon, won two awards – in breaking news photography for “Pomona fire” and in general news photography for “Arrest for public intoxication.”  She was also a finalist in the breaking news photography category for “Pilot crashes at Brackett Field.”

Jolene Nacapuy and Cody Luk were winners in the breaking news reporting category for “Flames engulf Pomona building.” Nacapuy also was named a finalist twice in the feature photography category, for “The beast is flamed” and “Phis get pied,” and twice in the sports photography category, for “Kingsmen splash past Leopards in overtime” and “Be Perfect volleyball tournament.”

“We’re a small newspaper and a small college, but we’re really getting a name in journalism so that’s exciting,” said Elizabeth Zwerling, professor of journalism and Campus Times faculty adviser. “I think it’s a reflection of a strong team, and a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of passion for journalism.”

Also among the finalists was the La Verne Magazine staff, honored in the “Best Student Magazine” category for the Summer 2015 issue. The issue was edited by Ortiz and advised by Visiting Assistant Professor of Journalism Brice Nixon.

The LVTV team of Bianca Zapata, Crystal Villegas and Monica Oroz were finalists in the television breaking news reporting category for “Mikano Dance Studio.”

In all, ULV journalism students won six of the SPJ awards categories in the small college division, and were named finalists 10 times. Winners advance to the national contest in the fall.

Founded in 1902, “SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry through the daily work of its nearly 7,500 members; works to inspire and educate current and future journalists through professional development; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press through its advocacy efforts,” according to the SPJ mission statement.

Kendra Craighead can be reached at

Kendra Craighead

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