The Eric Von Fellowship Has Launched the Careers of Six Journalists. Applications Open in Spring

The Man of The Hour

Eric Von stumbled into the radio business by accident. He was working as a business manager and disc jockey at a radio station owned by Cathy Hughes. One day Hughes could not make an interview that was meant to be on air and gave the responsibility to Von to ask one question and not to worry about the rest. From that point, it was all he wanted to do in life and it launched a lifelong career on the air. Since his passing in 2016, Von’s legacy has continued to work towards the advocacy for diversity in the media industry. 

The Eric Von Fellowship was started after Faithe Colas, Von’s Widow, and Milwaukee PR agency Athena Communications were approached by the WUWM 89.7 production team of Von’s series “Precious Lives” with the idea to start a fellowship to honor the journalist and continue his legacy of community advocacy. The year-long program allows Black, Brown, and journalists of color to learn by experience while also ensuring they are being paid for their work. 

The funds supporting the fellowship come directly from donations. It also has an endowment fund that was established by Helen Ambuel. In 2023, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation received a gift of $100,000 from the Henry and Emily Baldwin Donor Advised Fund.

(L-R) Helen Ambuel, current Eric Von Fellow Nadya Kelly,and Faithe Colas. (Picture by Maria Peralta-Arellano/ Carvd N Stone)
(L-R) Helen Ambuel, current Eric Von Fellow Nadya Kelly, and Faithe Colas. (Picture by Maria Peralta-Arellano/Carvd N Stone)

The Sixth Eric Von Fellow

The 2023-2024 Eric Von Fellow is Nadya Kelly, a 2023 graduate of the School of the Art Institute in Chicago with a master’s in arts journalism. Kelly developed a love for audio journalism and hoped to find a position that allowed her to explore that medium more. She discovered the fellowship through a deep dive on the web for jobs. It was the prospect of being able to contribute to such a large organization that gave Kelly the motivation to go through an intense application process that included two rounds of interviews, a skills test, a resume, and a cover letter submission.

“It really resonated with me. I was able to hear the voices of people that most represented me,” said Kelly. “I wanted to take part in that.”

Kelly recalled the moment she received the phone call announcing that she was the next Eric Von Fellow. After getting over the shock, she had to plan to move to Milwaukee from Chicago.

As a self-proclaimed “student of sound”, Kelly has been able to explore different stories ranging from education, politics, and the arts. After the fellowship, Kelly plans on remaining in the audio journalism field to continue to create stories that connect with people through sound. 

“I love how audio journalism in general brings people together. It gives you accessible points to very long historical narratives…and it’s something I really want to contribute to one way or another. I feel really honored that I’m able to have this title and learn about Eric Von and get to explore the city and develop my own sense of what I want to contribute when I’m done with this fellowship.”

– Nadya Kelly

The Past and Future of the Fellowship 

The Eric Von Fellowship started in 2018 with the first fellow being Teran Powell, the current race and ethnicity reporter for WUWM. Altogether there have been six fellows, some of whom have come and gone, reaching local, national, and international positions. 

The fellowship has recently created a curriculum that details the responsibilities and the expectations fellows can expect to learn including a new capstone project that is expected to be published before the 12-month mark of the fellowship. 

“I believe the Von Fellowship is one of the most important things that we do,said Colas. “And if we become known as the training ground for the next generation of diverse journalists in public media and beyond, then it will be an incredible legacy for us and for Eric’s legacy as well.” 

Colas expressed that by year 10, she would like to start a branch of the fellowship based in D.C., Von’s hometown, to further honor his legacy and his beginnings in broadcast journalism. 

Applications will be opening in early Spring 2024. To find more information click here.

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