Students document stories on immigration, poverty

March 9, 2010

Photojournalism students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication are documenting immigration and poverty under a grant from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.

The semester-long project will take students throughout Arizona, to the U.S.-Mexico border and into Mexico to tell stories about people struggling to overcome poverty, hunger, conflict, disease and other issues. Download Full Image

The students are working under the direction of award-winning photojournalist Brad Armstrong, a visiting professional at the Cronkite School. Each of the six students will produce a photo documentary as well as contribute photos to a depth reporting class taught by Carnegie Professor of Journalism Rick Rodriguez.

Armstrong said students are focusing on the inequalities that develop as a result of differences in education, services, opportunity, location or ethnicity, with a special emphasis on Latino or border issues. In the process, they are learning the skills they’ll need to be professional journalists.

“They are going to have to do their own reporting, find contacts and dig to find the issues,” he said. “Then they’ll go to where the story is and do a documentary project.”

For instance, one student is researching a story about a Navajo elder who recently had electricity installed in his home after trying to get power for 30 years. Another is working on a project about Mexican immigrants dying in the desert as they try to cross into the United States.

Branden Eastwood, a junior journalism major, is focusing on commercial overfishing in Mexico and “how that has led to depleted local economies, which in turn, leads to immigration,” he said. “I want to tell the story through an older individual who is still trying to sustain themselves through fishing.”

Eastwood said the project allows him to be a working photojournalist while still in school.

Other students working on the project are Michael Duarte, Joseph Fraska, Jasper Henry, Jennifer Martin and Ryan Wolf. All are Cronkite undergraduates with a special interest in photojournalism.

Armstrong was director of photography at the East Valley Tribune, where he led a team of photographers and video journalists on the “Reasonable Doubt” project about the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office that won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Humanitarian Award from the National Press Photographers Association, Arizona Picture of the Year and nearly three dozen other awards from Best of the West, The Associated Press, the Arizona Press Club and the Arizona Newspapers Association.

This semester’s photojournalism project is part of a $1 million Howard G. Buffett Foundation Photojournalism Endowment made to the school last year. Buffett, an international photojournalist, author and philanthropist, has funded three other photojournalism projects at the Cronkite School since 2006 as part of his commitment to educate student photojournalists and provide them with opportunities to practice journalism in other countries.

For economics major, university pays dividends

March 9, 2010

Two excelling schools – Brown University and Arizona State University – were among Benjamin Sanchez's top college choices. Sanchez ultimately chose ASU and has never looked back.

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“There’s nothing that I feel I’m missing at ASU," Sanchez said. "There are things that I never thought I would love – like PAC-10 athletics.”


As a Barrett Honors College freshman, Sanchez chose ASU because of the university’s programs. Currently an economics major, he is planning on expanding his academic studies in future years to encompass a double major and graduate school.


He also is grateful to be attending a school where academic advising and an emphasis on interdisciplinary studies makes a double major both possible and easily accessible.


“The opportunities here are far more than I expected,” Sanchez said. Included in that assessment are professors throughout ASU who are “immensely passionate” about what they do and the students they teach.


From brilliant students to dedicated professors, Sanchez counts himself lucky to be attending a school where so many people genuinely care about him. He cites his admissions officer, Amanda Dale, as his inspiration to join the Student Admissions Relations Team that focuses on ASU recruiting events and services.


“She really helped me through the process,” Sanchez said. “I want to make sure that other students look at ASU, because I had such a good experience.”


Sanchez ultimately plans to become involved in politics by advocating for private citizens when he finishes his studies, including a year abroad when he will study in South Korea and Spain.


“There are a lot of people advocating on the behalf of corporations and not a lot on the part of regular citizens,” he said.


When he’s not going to class, studying or running for exercise, Sanchez participates in seven student organizations. Besides the work and fun that go into the organizations, he enjoys benefits such as attending W. P. Carey School of Business faculty mixers where he chats about economics with Nobel laureate and ASU Regents' Professor Edward Prescott. He also recently organized a walk-a-thon to benefit brain tumor research through the Students Supporting Brain Tumor Research group.


“It’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of fun,” he said.


Being involved in so many groups gives him the opportunity to meet new people at the university, a place where he always runs into friends on campus.


“I feel like I’m in a place that I know, that feels comfortable,” Sanchez said.


Growing up in Phoenix gave Sanchez an appreciation for the area and for ASU. His mother attended the university, but ASU is definitely not the same school that his mother attended, Sanchez said.


From expanded research opportunities for students brought in by ASU President Michael Crow in recent years to the establishment of Barrett, the Honors College, ASU offers a great education while the university works on addressing some of the world’s largest problems, Sanchez added.


“ASU has exceeded my expectations,” he said.