AJO Mentoring Program
Our Mentoring Program connects aspiring journalists with top media professionals across a wide range of specialties.
The main focus of my mentorship with Raegan has been helping her transition to science journalism, a beat she’s passionate about. I’ve been impressed how driven and focused Raegan is in achieving this goal. We decided that her first mission is to get experience as a freelance writer in this arena, and after several months of pitching and refining her strategy, she got her first assignment with a major science journalism publication! Mentorships can be successful with or without tangible results, of course, but it’s wonderful to see her reach a concrete objective that she’d set for herself.
From first meeting my mentee to seeing my mentee’s skills continue to develop and grow, being a mentor for the AJO Program has been a great experience all around. My mentee and I met at the beginning of the semester and continued to have regular calls every few weeks. Between the calls, she would send me her updated drafts, after she incorporated my feedback and her professors’. In addition to editorial feedback, we also discussed roadblocks she was facing, questions related to sources, and some of the key differences between cultural criticism and cultural journalism.
Independent Culture Writer & Editor
The truth is a mentor gets back more than they give. Talking with Shirley, takes me back to the beginning of my own career. It reminds me how lost and “green” and unprepared I was. If I can do anything to spare her or anyone else from that, I will. I learn just as much from talking with her as she learns from me.
The San Diego Union-Tribune
It was a delight to work with Sarah and watch her grow over the course of our time together. She was so receptive to feedback and so full of good ideas that I ended up hiring her to do a few freelance pieces for me and look forward to continuing to work with her. This was a great opportunity to discover an enthusiastic young writer whom I wouldn’t have otherwise met.
Well + Good
Working with my mentee Jennifer Taylor has been an incredibly rewarding experience. During our twice-monthly Zoom sessions, I was able to offer her guidance that supplemented the work she was doing at AJO. We were also able to collaborate on an in-depth writing and video project for CBSNews.com, where I was working as a reporter at the time, that originated from Jen’s original reporting for The Click. I was thrilled to be able to help Jen achieve one of her goals of publishing a national clip, and Jen was kind enough to share her reporting that resulted in a compelling story we both believed in.
In These Times
It’s not a cliché to say mentoring is a two-way street.
While each of the students I mentored came from different backgrounds, they shared a common goal of mastering journalism skills to cover people in our complex world. It was my pleasure sharing each one’s journey and watching them grow reporting and writing skills as they tackled class assignments that expanded their approaches to stories.
Capital and Climate Media
It’s an interesting space that the mentor fills. Alex gets her assignments from professors, and we talk about ways to do the research, the reporting, what to look for, and how to go about getting the story. We’ve reviewed how to organize a complicated piece and how to stay safe reporting. Looking forward to seeing where she will land her first professional assignment and staying in touch with her as she launches her career.
Independent Editor & Writer
I was matched with Stephanie Slifer, producer for 48 Hours and I couldn’t contain my excitement. We met via Zoom and hit it off instantly! A few months after initially meeting Stephanie, she reached out to let me know of a project her colleague needed extra hands with. I submitted my resume, and two interviews later I was hired at CBS News working as a Broadcast Associate for 48 Hours! I never expected to have found my true calling in broadcast journalism, but it feels like home. I have NYU, the mentorship program and Stephanie to thank for that!
Lindsay Ray Hicks
With a background in dance and an interest in writing about the arts, I was fortunate to have Jennifer Stahl as my mentor. She answered any random questions I had about the journalism industry, reviewed, and offered suggestions on my school pieces, and provided constant guidance throughout my time at NYU. Since our introduction, she commissioned four pieces from me for Dance Magazine and played an integral role in my entrance to the world of professional journalism. I am incredibly thankful for the network NYU’s AJO has set up.
My mentor Donna held me accountable as a mentee, a student of journalism, and an advocate for myself. Her consistency and presence showed me how much she cared. She was supportive of my goals, encouraged me to enter NYU’s Threesis competition, and wrote an incredible letter of recommendation for a grant application.
My first semester I was paired with Erin Donaghue of In These Times and former crime and justice reporter for CBSNews.com. Under Erin’s mentorship, I received the supportive, nurturing, and honest feedback I desired as a trained journalist looking to reboot a career as a freelance reporter.
My mentor for my first semester was Tonya Garcia and we clicked right away. Tonya’s background in english literature and her skills as an editor and reporter helped me tighten my writing. She also taught me to think about my pieces from different angles. This led to better reporting and writing. Tonya was always eager to sit down with me and brainstorm, work on pitches or go through line edits. I’m happy we worked together.
As a first-year student in the AJO program, I had the opportunity to be mentored by award-winning writer, Jack El-Hai. Speaking to a professional writer who worked hard and stuck to his craft day in, and day out proved to be incredibly helpful to me as a young journalist seeking to establish a career in writing. He was calm and collected and delivered wisdom, encouragement and kindness when doubt invariably crept into my writing and reporting process. Overall, it was a pleasure to get to know Jack and work with him.
Christine has been the best mentor I could’ve asked for, in and outside of grad school. Her insight, advice, and commitment to connecting with me has been immensely helpful as a growing journalist. The things I’ve learned from her in just a few short months are things I’ll carry with me throughout the rest of my career. It’s been an amazing and unique experience that I’m so grateful to have.
The first time my mentor Victoria and I met over zoom it felt like a perfect match. I had requested to be paired with a science writer who wrote for smaller publication and did a bit of freelance, and that’s exactly what I got. By sharing her own experiences in the field, Victoria helped me get a sense of what it took to seek out a good science story and interview scientists. Victoria helped me brainstorm ideas for class assignments, used her connections to suggest sources, and provided a listening ear as I sorted through my ideas and thoughts. It’s been an overall joyful experience and I’m thankful to have someone supporting me during my time at AJO.
It has been truly amazing to have such a wonderful mentor as Laura Castaneda – Community Opinion Editor for The San Diego Union Tribune. Laura helped me publish an opinion piece with the Union Tribune entitled “My self-value used to be tied to my weight. I had to learn to love myself for who I was.” I am very grateful for NYU’s mentorship program as it has given me hope to continue pursuing a career as a journalist.
Frequently Asked Questions
Everyone in AJO has access to a mentor if they want one. First year students get a mentor as part of their enrollment in Reporting the News– the introductory journalism class in the program most students take their first semester with AJO. They fill out an interest survey and then connect one-on-one with our mentorship director to assess wants and needs. The mentorship team then works to pair students with mentors based on those needs.
First, congratulations! Next, students get to initiate the contact. We always suggest sending an initial email or Slack message to your mentor. After this, you and your mentor can agree on how you will communicate—whether via Zoom, in-person, or phone call and also the frequency with which you will interact. It is always a good idea to prepare questions before you meet.
Sometimes life happens, situations change, or people just don’t click. Whether it’s a communication issue or a personal one, any time you need to talk about your mentorship situation you can reach out to the mentorship team.
No. Some students already have mentorship support by the time they get to AJO. Additionally, some students are busy with a full-time job and family, so adding school and a mentor might be a bit overwhelming. However, we always encourage participation in the program where possible.
Yes. Some students come into our program as professional journalists looking to advance their education, and some of those already have mentors established before enrollment. Some students don’t want one or don’t have the time for one, and we understand that too. (See above question.) Most students, however, participate in this program and find it a helpful tool to support their journey at AJO.
Mentors are asked to spend a few hours of time every semester with you. You can connect weekly or monthly, or on a schedule that suits you and your mentor best.
Mentors are great resources to help brainstorm story ideas, give you an extra set of eyes on a pitch or assignment, and just give general career advice and feedback.
Why not? You never know who might know who, or who might agree if we ask.
Asking for a mentor like someone you admire or want to model your career on can help us pair you with the right person.
The biggest perk of being part of the mentorship program is the networking aspect. First, we have a LinkedIn group you can join with other AJO students and mentors. Plus, there’s a mentorship Slack channel for all the AJO students. You will also have access to guest speakers, mixers and more!
Frequently Asked Questions
Our mentors are journalists from top media organizations with varying specialties and educational backgrounds. We are always looking for seasoned industry professionals of all types who are willing to volunteer time to our students.
Every student in the AJO program has access to a mentor if they want one. First year students get a mentor as part of their enrollment in Reporting the News — the introductory journalism class in the program most students take their first semester. They fill out interest surveys and then connect one-on-one with our Mentorship Director to assess mentorship wants and needs. The Mentorship team then works to pair students with mentors based on those needs.
Sometimes life happens, situations change, or people just don’t click. Whether it is a communication issue or a personal one, any time you need to talk about your mentorship situation, please reach out to the Mentorship team.
Students are asked to initiate contact. We suggest they reach out via email or Slack, but they may also connect on LinkedIn or Twitter.
Each student is provided with a student guide which helps them navigate the mentorship process. As a mentor you receive a guide also.
All of mentors are volunteers and we are extremely grateful for each one! We understand that some may be able to commit more time than others and schedules may often get in the way. However, the expectation is that mentors and mentees connect at least a few times during the semester.
The biggest perk of being part of the mentorship program is the networking aspect. First, we have a LinkedIn group you can join with AJO students and mentors. Additionally, there is a mentorship Slack channel for all the AJO mentors to connect directly with each other and our staff.