Journalism students win seven Society of Professional Journalists awards

Angie Lopez-Yepes
Staff Writer

Eight students from the University of La Verne won seven Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence awards for work published and broadcast via the University’s student media outlets.

The awards announced last month were for work published and broadcast during 2020. 

The western regional contest was among student media in California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii and Guam. 

ULV winners included alumnae Brianna Estrada and Arianna Rodriguez, and senior communications major Christine Insigne, who won first-place in the podcast category, for their senior project, “DACAmented.”

Additionally, 2020 alumni Andrew Alonzo, won first place for breaking news reporting; 2020 aluma Jocelyn Arceo, was named finalist for breaking news reporting; senior journalism major Alondra Campos was named finalist in general news reporting; senior journalism major Deja Goode was named finalist in column writing; Estrada was also named finalist in in-depth reporting – for stories in published in the Campus Times.

Emily J. Sullivan, 2020 alumna, was named finalist in COVID-19: Newspaper, Magazine and Online category, for her piece in the La Verne Magazine. 

Associate Professor of Broadcast Journalism Valerie Cummings, chair of the journalism and communications program, said she was delighted for the students to be recognized by the SPJ. Cummings advised the winning podcast team. 

The students and 2020 alumnae, who made the podcast “DACAmented,” Estrada, Insigne, and Rodriguez, had originally started a long-form video project for their senior project, Cummings said. However, when COVID-19 hit, they had to suddenly turn the story into an audio story.

“Making it an audio story is more challenging because you have to tell a story – with no pictures – that people are listening to,” Cummings said. “The story has to be strong.” 

The contest offered only one category for all podcast entries, Cummings noted. 

Estrada’s written version of the same story also earned an award in the in-depth newspaper category.

Goode, who is currently Campus Times editor-in-chief,  said she was pleasantly surprised at her award in the column writing category. 

“Column writing is basically the genre of journalism where I feel my most authentic self, where I feel the most comfortable in my voice,” Goode said. “I’m very dedicated, and receiving that recognition (is) a good sign for me to say that I am on the right path.”

Campos said that she was proud to represent the University of La Verne in such a great manner. 

“I’m pretty proud of myself and everyone else who won because we all know how tough it’s been during the pandemic,” Campos said. 

“The Society of Professional Journalists is a great organization,” said Elizabeth Zwerling, professor of journalism and chief advisor of the Campus Times.

She said winning the awards amid the challenges of the pandemic was most meaningful. 

“These awards are a tribute to the resilience of the students and the journalism program (who) were able to rise to the occasion,” Zwerling said.

Keeler, who is the advisor for the La Verne Magazine, was also proud that Sullivan won for her story, “Diaries of a Modern Plague.”

“She beat out schools that we hold in high esteem,” Keeler said. 

“It is a real testament to the strength of our journalism program,” Cummings added.

Angie Lopez-Yepes can be reached at

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