Members of the VCU Student Media Center were recognized for their outstanding work this fall at the ACP/CMA National College Media Convention in Washington, D.C., and the National Student Electronic Media Convention in St. Louis. Students garnered 16 national awards for their work on the Commonwealth Times, Pwatem, Amendment Literary and Arts Journal, Ink Magazine, The Compass and WVCW Radio. Six of the award recipients are students or graduates of VCUarts, including alumni Hallie Chametzky (BFA ’19) from dance, Tina Dickey (BA ’19) from fashion merchandising, Erin Edgerton (BFA ’19) from photography, Ryan Rich (BFA ’19) from graphic design, as well as graphic design major Andy Caress and communication arts senior Karly Andersen.
For the first time, the Commonwealth Times was named a Newspaper Pacemaker Award winner by the Associated Collegiate Press—considered the Pulitzer Prize for college media. The prestigious award was given to staff members for their work on issues from the 2018–19 academic year. That team was led by executive editors Zach Joachim and Georgia Geen, and managing editor Saffeya Ahmed, and advised by Allison Bennett Dyche, director of student media, and Mark Jeffries, creative media manager.
“What we do is we take the content and we make it look pretty, and the fact that we have such strong stories makes our jobs easy,” says Ryan Rich, who served as a graphic designer on the Commonwealth Times, as well as for Amendment Literary and Ink Magazine. “[This award] is really a testament to the ability of young journalists and their passion for putting out a paper.”
Rich won second place for Best Newspaper Front Page, fifth place for the 2019 Design of the Year Award for his work on the fall 2018 Amendment cover, and also earned an honorable mention for his designs in the Commonwealth Times sports section. Rich graduated in May and is now the assistant art director for Virginia Living magazine.
The literary journal Pwatem also won a Magazine Pacemaker Award, while Amendment was nominated as a finalist. Pwatem was honored for its spring 2019 print issue, led by editor-in-chief Emily Furlich, and advised by Dyche and Jeffries.
“Being a part of Pwatem has been a great learning opportunity for me,” says Karly Andersen, who works on the magazine’s illustration committee. “I was able to see how art directing in a publication works and got to be a part of more collaborative work.” She personally received an honorable mention for her work with Pwatem, and won third place in Best Editorial Illustration for her Commonwealth Times contributions.
“This award is a really special acknowledgement,” says Hallie Chametzky, former editor-in-chief of Amendment, who was recognized alongside current editor-in-chief Emily Henderson and their staff. “It proves that through caring deeply about uplifting the creative voices of those in our community and prioritizing honest work about social issues, we created a powerful, poignant book which resonated beyond our community.”
The national awards granted to VCUarts students, alumni and their peers cement the value of their work to the wider university and among student publications around the country. For many staff members, their experiences at the Student Media Center changed the trajectory of their careers.
“One of the most remarkable things about my tenure with Amendment was how much I deepened my relationship to art and literature,” says Chametzky, who is a choreographer and writer.
“It’s nice seeing that my work is being recognized,” says Andersen. “It gives me more confidence that I’ll be able to navigate the professional world once I’m finished with school.