Alumni Update

September 21, 2020

  • 2020 |
  • Knight-Wallace Fellowships |
  • news |

Staying Connected with Knight-Wallace Fellows

A favorite feature of our Wallace House Journal, our Knight-Wallace alumni updates can now be found on our website.

The Knight-Wallace Fellowship extends beyond a year of study and exploration in Ann Arbor. Fellows remain part of the Wallace House family, gathering for reunions, collaborating on post-fellowship projects and being a source of support for each other. As Associate Director of Wallace House, Robert Yoon will reach out to alumni to find more ways to keep connected and engaged with the program and fellow Fellows.

Do you have updates about a new position, award or honor, or special project or books? Alumni can complete this form and we’ll share your news here. Spouses and partners who participated as affiliates during the fellowship, we want to hear from you too.




New Jobs and Positions

Ana Avila

Ana Avila ’20

Appointed the Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Michigan.  She is teaching courses on minority and gender misrepresentation in journalism and covering justice struggles this semester.

Niala Boodho

Niala Boodhoo ‘20

Named host of Axios Today, a new podcast from Axios. Each weekday morning, Boodhoo and her team cover topics ranging from the White House, Congress, the economy and insights to trends shaping the world.

Janet H. Cho

Janet H. Cho ‘20

Received an AARP AAJA Coronavirus Response Grant. Cho plans to write about how immigrant-owned small businesses navigate the pandemic and profile the Asian American immigrant families behind some favorite Ann Arbor shops, restaurants and small businesses.

Patrick Coolican

Patrick Coolican ’14

Named editor-in-chief of The Minnesota Reformer, an independent start-up news organization and part of the nonprofit States Newsroom. For Coolican the opportunity to execute a new vision of a local news outlet and collaborate with talented young journalists was impossible to pass up. Their mission to do investigations, analysis and storytelling, and write about people whose stories are rarely told is “exhausting and exhilarating,” he said.

Hayes Ferguson

Hayes Ferguson ’99

Named director of Northwestern Engineering’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and clinical associate professor in the McCormick School of Engineering.

Steve Friess and his son, Nevada Ebbess Friess

Steve Friess ’12

Named News/Features Editor at Hour Detroit magazine and contributing writer for Newsweek.

Suzette Hackney with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi photo credit Kelly Wilkinson/IndyStar

Suzette Hackney ‘13

Became a national columnist for USA TODAY and the USA TODAY Network, where she will travel the country to “give voice to the voiceless through vivid and raw storytelling.” Her first USA TODAY column appeared on September 15. Previously, she was a columnist and the director of Opinion & Community Engagement for The Indianapolis Star.

Amy Haimerl

Amy Haimerl ’13

Joined the advisory board of the Mississippi Free Press, a new non-profit project dedicated to reporting and investigating issues facing the complex and complicated state. The news team is focused on getting to truth and solutions.

Sonya Green Ayears

Sonya Green Ayears ‘17

Named executive director of Making Contact, a weekly podcast and radio program on social justice issues and grassroots solutions to inform and inspire audiences to take action. “I feel destined to be here at this moment, in this time,” Green told us. “My values of economic equity, racial and gender justice align with Making Contact.” She also recently earned an M.S. degree in Organizational Leadership from Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

Amy Maestas

Amy Maestas ’17

Joined the Solutions Journalism Network as region collaborative manager, where she will oversee collaborations among news and community organizations in parts of the Midwest and the West. The solutions-oriented partnerships aim to strengthen local media ecosystems and use community engagement as a tool to build conversations and trust in communities. Maestas’ new role allows her to build on the research and work she did as a Knight-Wallace Fellow, during which she focused on the future of local media.

Maurício Meireles

Maurício Meireles ’20

Became a reporter-at-large at Folha de São Paulo and host of the weekday podcast “Café da Manhã,” a Spotify and Folha de São Paulo project covering current events in Brazil and the world. Rodrigo Vizeu, who participated in the Fellowship as a spouse affiliate in 2017-2018, created the podcast upon returning to Folha de São Paulo from Ann Arbor. The morning show is now Spotify’s most downloaded podcast in Brazil. Previously, Meireles was a literature reporter and columnist at Folha de São Paulo.

John Shields

John Shields ’18

Joined The Economist in January 2020 to launch “Checks and Balance,” a weekly podcast on American politics. It is now their best-performing podcast in terms of listener and subscription metrics. Shields joined The Economist after 15 years with the BBC. He devoted his fellowship year in 2018 to developing and pitching what became the BBC’s first daily podcast

Luis Trelles

Luis Trelles ‘19

Joined Latino USA as a senior editor. In his new position, he develops long-form stories about the issues affecting diverse Latinx communities across the country. He was previously an editor and producer with Radio Ambulante. Last December, Luis organized and led an unforgettable Knight-Wallace Fellowship trip to his beloved Puerto Rico.

Awards and Honors

Greg Amante
Mikes Kessler

Greg Amante ’16 and Mike Kessler ’17

Won a 2020 Sports Emmy Award in the category of Outstanding Sports Journalism for their ESPN/Outside The Lines investigation, “The Squad: 44 Years, 41 Allegations.” Amante was producer with Kessler as a reporter on the team. They uncovered a trail of sexual abuse by a former Olympian and current track coach, Conrad Mainwaring. Their story resulted in the arrest of Mainwaring.

The two met when Amante was a Fellow and Kessler came to town for interview weekend. They hit it off. Later they talked casually about working on a project together. Reporting the Mainwaring story and realizing how big it could be, Kessler went straight to Amante with it. “I didn’t expect KWF to serve me in such an overt way, or for the project to happen so soon after my fellowship ended,” said Kesler. “But I guess that’s the point of KWF: Connect disparate but like-minded journalists and see what happens.”

@GregAmante, @mikeskessler

Molly Ball observed the social distance protocol when interviewing Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Molly Ball ‘10

Named Outstanding Print Journalist in this year’sWashingtonian magazine’s Washington Women in Journalism Awards.  Ball also released her first book, “Pelosi,” now a New York Times bestseller. See below

Joanne Gerstner

Joanne Gerstner ’13

Received the 2020 Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award from her alma mater Oakland University.  The award recognizes professional achievement and leadership. Gerstner is the first female sports journalist to win the award. She will be honored in June 2021.

Craig Gilbert

Craig Gilbert ’10

Won a first place National Headliner Award for excellence in political coverage. As Washington Bureau Chief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he was recognized for his analysis of the Wisconsin’s divided electorate. The judges noted he “writes with an authority that provides readers with context, not only of their state’s politics but with an important understanding of how their state fits into the national perspective.”

Delece Smith-Barrow and Josh Krammer met for a walk and socially distanced for a photo op. 
Photo credit Alli Bailey.

Delece Smith-Barrow ‘17 and Josh Kramer ‘17

Recieved the National Headliner Award for Digital Innovation for their Hechinger Report and CalMatters collaboration “A Game of College,” an interactive planning tool and resource for families to prepare for college. This reporting might not have taken such a creative, visual and interactive form if Delece and Josh had not met as Fellows. Here’s their game, with information to help students chart highschool coursework, extracurriculars and SAT/ACT prep,  financial aid and employment in college. Play now and get inspired for your next project.
@DeleceWrites, @jessohackberry

Paul Wilborn

Paul Wilborn ’99

Won the Gold Medal for Fiction in the 2019 Florida Book Awards “Cigar City: Tales From a 1980s Creative Ghetto,” a collection of linked short stories about the young artists, writers, poets, musicians and actors who inhabited Tampa’s Ybor City in the 1980s.


Molly Ball

Molly Ball ’10

Released her first book “Pelosi,” now a New York Times bestseller. The first biography written with the House Speaker’s cooperation, Ball was granted unprecedented access. She first profiled Pelosi in 2018 for a Time cover story, where she is the national political correspondent.

Miles Harvey photo credit Azize Harvey

Miles Harvey ’08

Published “The King of Confidence: A Tale of Utopian Dreamers, Frontier Schemers, True Believers, False Prophets, and the Murder of an American Monarch,” the story of James J. Strang, a con man/prophet from the mid-19th century who led hundreds of followers to a small island in northernmost Lake Michigan, where he declared himself King of Earth and Heaven.

A lot of reviewers have noted that James J. Strang had a lot in common with Donald J. Trump, but Harvey choses to let readers connect those dots for themselves. One of the many things Harvey says he loved about working on the book was spending countless hours in 19th-century newspaper databases. Although most papers were unapologetically partisan during the antebellum era, the quality of the prose was often superb. A huge boom in the number of news outlets, combined with stunning technological advances such as the telegraph, caused a communications revolution that some scholars have compared to the Information Age. Like Trump, Strang was brilliant at exploiting this emerging media to create and spread his own version of the truth.

Donovan Hohn

Donovan Hohn ’13

Published “The Inner Coast,” a collection of ten essays – many of which previously appeared in magazines such as Harper’s and The New York Times Magazine, features physical, historical, and emotional journeys through the American landscape.

More books by Knight-Wallace alumni