Bianca Cseke | The DePaulia
A student chapter of the National Association for Black Journalists (NABJ) is set to launch at DePaul in the spring quarter.
NABJ is a nonprofit organization advocating for Black journalists and media professionals nationally and worldwide.
The chapter — tentatively titled the DePaul University Association of Black Journalists — will be led by adjunct faculty member Judith McCray.
“NABJ is open to not just African American students, but Latinx students and biracial students,” McCray said. “It is not limited to students in journalism or communications. People who are in history or any other major can also become members, it’s just two-thirds of the membership has to be students with majors in journalism or communications.”
An NABJ chapter at DePaul offers students unique networking opportunities they likely wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere.
“The chapter will expose its members to the professional network of Black journalists and other media professionals in the nation’s third-largest media market, allow them to have space to share their experiences with one another and deepen their connection our Black faculty members who get involved with the chapter,” DePaul journalism department Chair Jason Martin said in an email to The DePaulia.
Martin said establishing a chapter of NABJ at DePaul has been a goal since he joined the university five years ago.
“As a College and Journalism Program, we always want to create extracurricular opportunities for our students who identify opportunities they’d like to pursue that we can support,” he said. “…Acting Dean [Alexandra] Murphy and I had been working on the idea of an NABJ chapter, and trying to navigate the DePaul student organization policies for several years.”
Martin added that while forming the chapter has been a priority for years, the renewed discourse around racial equity in this country made the group feel all the more necessary.
“The protests and the issues that caused them underlined the need across many areas of DePaul for more spaces where our students from marginalized communities could feel more connected with one another, get more exposure with their faculty that are representative of their backgrounds and get access to professional networks to further support them,” Martin said.
Martin and Murphy appointed McCray to serve as faculty advisor after naming her inaugural diversity fellow in the new College of Communication Center for Communication Engagement this past fall.
Martin said prior to the creation of the fellowship program, the department was limited by a university policy that makes part-time faculty members ineligible to serve as advisors for student organizations.
“We have several Black part-time faculty members who expressed interest in serving as adviser of an NABJ chapter and even held some informal organizational meetings,” Martin said. “But we weren’t able to find a way to make it happen until we were able to get Judith in the fellowship category that expands her responsibilities and ensures we can fairly compensate her for that additional work.
McCray has many goals for the chapter but said she is most excited to give students a community on campus.
“There’s not a large population of people of color at DePaul and certainly not in the communication college,” McCray said. “So this is a way for everybody to have a way to form a community [and] be a support network, but also to come together to learn about different communications and journalism careers, network within the Chicago area community [and] also the larger community.”
McCray added there has been support for the chapter’s creation from both the administration and other faculty members in the College of Communication.
“There’s funding support with a grant that Robin Hoecker wrote last year to provide pay for the first-year membership fees for students who were enrolled before becoming members of NAHJ [National Association of Hispanic Journalists] and NABJ,” McCray said.
DePaul’s chapter of NAHJ has been working closely with McCray to get the NABJ chapter started and have a joint event scheduled for late February.
“NABJ offers a variety of professional development resources, events, internship and job opportunities, and the ability to be recognized with awards for their student journalism work,” Martin said.
Martin added the structure of NABJ will also allow students to work closely with Chicago’s professional chapter.
Interested students are encouraged to contact McCray at [email protected] ahead of the March 1 application deadline.