Ph.D. Cohort Entering 2017

  • Bobbi Foster - Ph.D. Cohort of 2017.Bobbie Foster’s research lies at the intersection between politics and digital culture, with a focus on Internet memes. Her publications include two book chapters and an award winning paper titled The Divide between Journalists and the Audience: Perceptions of Journalism Credibility at a Statewide Level. Her interests range from examining social and biological theories of human behavior, the ethical practices of gathering and sharing information by digital natives, and the use of memes to build digital communities.  After completing her master’s at the University of Arkansas, Foster was the assistant director for the Center for Ethics in Journalism at the University of Arkansas and taught courses including the Fundamentals of Journalism. Professionally, Foster worked as a freelance copywriter for local magazines and businesses in Northwest Arkansas.
  • Hazel Feigenblatt - Ph.D. cohort of 2017.Hazel Feigenblatt‘s interests include how watchdog journalism is evolving in new media ecosystems; the uses of investigative techniques, data and multimedia storytelling, and dissemination by civic media seeking policy change. She also explores how publications interact with democratic accountability mechanisms and what that means for the public’s ability to monitor and keep power accountable in an increasingly uncertain media landscape. For 10 years, Hazel covered politics and government contracts in Costa Rica’s leading newspaper and later moved to the investigation unit where she won several awards for investigations and a popular blog. Inspired by an interest in how watchdog journalism impacts and interacts with accountability institutions, Hazel moved to Washington to work with Global Integrity and research projects with the Center for Public Integrity and the World Wide Web Foundation.
  • Sholpan Kozhamkulova - Ph.D. cohort of 2017.Sholpan Kozhamkulova joins the 2017 Ph.D. cohort in the Philip Merrill College of Journalism with a background in agenda-setting and framing studies in broadcast and print news media of Kazakhstan. Prior to coming to continue her research at the University of Maryland, Sholpan worked as Chair and Assistant Professor of the Media and Communications department at KIMEP University in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Her most recent research focuses on the language of persuasion online. In addition, Sholpan is interested in exploring “glocal” diffusion of information/innovations in news media and social networks in today’s multimedia environment. She can be reached via E-mail at
  • Andrew Otis - Ph.D. cohort of 2017.Andrew Otis was a 2013-14 Fulbright Fellow in Kolkata where he researched journalism in early India. His findings have been featured in India’s Business Economics Magazine. Andrew was also a 2011 Joseph P. O’Hern Scholar researching early British South African and Indian colonial newspapers in London. Andrew is now writing a book on Hicky’s Bengal Gazette, the first newspaper printed in India. He became fascinated with Hicky’s story when he came across the memoirs of Hicky’s lawyer. His fascination has carried him through five years of research in the U.S., the U.K., Germany and India to write his book. Andrew is now pursuing research on the impact of investigative journalism on corruption worldwide. You’ll find more inforrmation at
  • Sohana Nasrin - Ph.D. cohort of 2017.Completing her master’s in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma, Sohana Nasrin’s research tapped into the media management scenario in Bangladesh and South Asia. A 2013 professional fellowship award from the U.S. State Department supported Sohana’s to travel to the U.S. to learn the best practices in journalism and to complete a textual analysis of audience perceptions on humanitarian issues, public diplomacy through social media in Western Hemisphere countries, and critical cultural analyses of popular media. Sohana is now focusing on the social psychological aspects of online activism and users’ motivation behind slacktivism. Prior to her graduate career, Sohana worked in print media, public relations, event management, and digital media management in Bangladesh.

Ph.D. Cohort Entering 2016

  • Brook Auxier is a Ph.D. student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, UMD.Brooke Auxier (M.J. ’12) discovered her passion for social media and social journalism as a graduate student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism. During her graduate studies, she held a social media internship at a cable television channel, developed a social media strategy for Capital News Service and tapped into her interests in both social media and education to conduct research and write her master’s thesis on how schools and colleges of journalism and mass communication in the United States teach and use social media. Since graduating from Merrill, Brooke has become increasingly interested in social media, audience engagement and digital analytics, and the role these technologies play in the news industry. Because of those interests, her skill set and her education in multiplatform journalism, she has had opportunities to work in a variety of roles: social media strategist and engagement coordinator for a leading cable network, social media journalist for a content marketing agency, digital media teacher at a public charter school and a freelance social media strategist/consultant for several businesses and organizations in D.C. She is interested in researching how social media—and the digital landscape as a whole—is changing the journalism industry and effecting how citizens consume, understand and evaluate news. She is especially interested in how social media and social journalism have impacted crisis reporting.
  • Alison BurnsAfter working for more than twenty years as a television and radio news reporter, Alison Burns is thrilled to be back at the University of Maryland as a teacher and Ph.D. student. Alison is entering the doctoral program to research ways to improve and expand journalism education. While she’s teaching broadcast news writing and reporting at Merrill College, one of her anticipated projects as a student is to create a journalism curriculum that helps young people develop empathy and community awareness by teaching them to be reporters. Alison spent most of her career as a Washington correspondent for Cox Media Group’s nationwide network of TV and radio stations. Reporting from Capitol Hill, the White House and the Pentagon, Alison delivered daily live reports and covered major breaking news and historic events. She continues to freelance at Cox as a producer.
  • Hoa Nguyen is a Ph.D. student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism, UMD.Hoa Nguyen was a professional in television, an award-wining journalist from Vietnam before he came to the U.S. as a Humphrey Fellow in 2007. His school year in the States has given him a great chance to acquire new insights into social media, television newsroom management and communication theories during the media shift to digital formats. The experience he absorbed from the Philip Merrill College of Journalism has been so fruitful that when he returned to Vietnam, he was promoted to deputy, and then director for news, of Ho Chi Minh City Television. He is in charge of both the domestic news and foreign affairs news sections of the station. With 17 years working in television, he contributed mostly to the news section of HTV9, one of the leading television channels in Vietnam. During his career, Hoa Nguyen has reported from various countries in the world. He has acquired an MSc. degree in Media and Communications Management from the University of Stirling, Scotland. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities and a B.A in journalism from the Academy of Journalism and Communication, Vietnam. His research interests include media literacy, social media, data journalism, communication strategies for climate change and mega-events, user-generated-content for TV, and viewer engagement.

Ph.D. Cohort Entering 2015

  • A native of Germany, Karin Assmann has made Washington her home since she first arrived here to study at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. With a Bachelor’s Degree in hand, she found a job at Der Spiegel’s Washington office and worked there as a researcher and as a freelance journalist for German print and radio news outlets. She earned her Master’s Degree in Political Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science and returned to the Spiegel Group in Hamburg where her career has since focused on television. She has been Spiegel TV’s Washington correspondent and owner of a media production company and has won numerous awards and commendations for her documentaries and short features. She is stepping away from her journalistic endeavors to pursue a Ph.D. at the Philip Merrill School of Journalism. Karin’s research interests lie in the study of news values and selection and newsroom practices as well as audience participation and its impact.
  • BhatPrashanth Bhat has worked for leading international media organizations including China Central Television-America, National Geographic Channel, and Voice of America. He began his career as a junior reporter at TV9, a local television station in Hyderabad, India. He then went on to work for Deccan Chronicle, South India’s largest circulated English daily and freelanced for The Times of India. Prashanth was also visiting faculty at Centum-U Institute of Management and Creative Studies. In 2015, he worked as a short-term consultant with the World Bank. Bhat holds a bachelor’s degree in communication and journalism from Osmania University in India and an MA from American University in Washington, D.C. His research interests are comparative media systems, millennials and news consumption, social media and news credibility, as well as media and journalism in India.
  • Oray EginOray Egin born in Istanbul in 1979, is a newspaper columnist and a popular journalist in Turkey. Between 2004 and 2011, he wrote a column focusing on current affairs, media, and popular culture for the Turkish daily Aksam. He is also the author of four books in Turkey, including a novel. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations from Istanbul Bilgi University and an MA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Throughout his career, he has traveled all around the world and reported from different countries, including conflict zones. In Turkey, he has written extensively about a wide range of topics including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, life in Bosnia after the collapse of Yugoslavia, religion and tourism in Cambodia, and underground culture in Tokyo. Oray’s latest book, Imha Plani (Plan of Destruction) is an account of how in the recent decade Turkish media has lost its independence and transformed into a pro-government mouthpiece through political pressure and censorship.
  • Alex QuinonesAlex Quiñones has been a professional journalist since 2005. He has worked in TV, print, online, and abroad in the United Kingdom. He has worked in two TV news stations and was the editor of a newspaper. In the United Kingdom, he helped companies launch online news websites. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a B.A. in English and a minor in Writing Seminars, having made the Dean’s List twice. He has a Master of Journalism from the University of Maryland. He is a strong advocate of data journalism and open government. He believes in always continuing to learn and is interested in the impact of technology on journalism.
  • Originally from Bulgaria, Denitsa Yotova is a first-generation college student who began pursuing higher education in the United States at the age of 26.  She received her bachelor’s in Journalism and Media Studies 1201ad8with a minor in Film Studies in 2009 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and in 2014, earned her master’s in JMS from UNLV as well.  While at UNLV, Yotova wrote for the student newspaper (The Rebel Yell) and the online news site for the Hank Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies (Virtual Rebel), along with contributions to local and state publications.  In her last year as a master’s student, she gave guest lectures and served as a graduate assistant, teaching an introductory course on the development of journalism and mass media.  She was the recipient of several scholarships and more recently also recognition from UNLV and nationally for her work on 19th century social documentary photography (which culminated in her master’s thesis).  Yotova, an avid photographer, studies primarily visual media.  She is fascinated with the psychological elements of photographic images and film, their historical development, as well as the social effects they produce across continents and cultures.

Ph.D. Cohort Entering 2014

  • k-june-friesenKaty June-Friesen is interested in how news media represent the identity of places and the people who live and work there. She is particularly concerned with how journalistic framing and language choices construct, reproduce, or dismantle dominant ideas about the culture and politics of U.S. regions, cities and neighborhoods, from West Baltimore to small-town Kansas. Her research draws on geography and cultural studies fields and often employs textual and discourse analysis. Her master’s thesis at the Missouri School of Journalism, The Sounds of Red and Blue America: Dissecting Musical References to “Red State” and “Blue State” Identity in Print Media During the 2004 Presidential Campaign, looked at how news media used music to represent regional culture. For ten years, she has reported on media, history, arts, culture and the outdoors for national magazines and newspapers; researched and written for documentaries; and produced content for websites and mobile apps. She received a master’s in cultural studies from Carnegie Mellon University and a bachelor’s in English from Bethel College, Kansas. See
  • April Newton - Oct. 2016.April Newton is a journalism student, professional and teacher. Inspired by the Clinton impeachment trial, she returned to school to study journalism, ultimately finishing a master’s degree at Syracuse University. Since then, she has worked as a local television news producer, winning a regional AP award, and as a freelance journalist for local publications. She has also taught communication and journalism courses at several universities, most notably at Marquette University, where she worked with students to create television news shows that have been nominated for (and sometimes won) regional Emmy awards. April’s research interests are in broadcast journalism, visual journalism, and online and social media and journalism.
  • Allissa Richardson is an award-winning journalist and college professor. She has taught her unique brand of mobile journalism to youth in the United States, Europe and Africa. Students in Prof. Richardson’s global Alissa Richardsonclassroom learn to report news using only smartphones, tablets and MP3 players. She calls her high-tech reporters ‘mobile journalists’ or ‘MOJOs.’ At age 25, Richardson joined the faculty of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland. She served as coordinator of its journalism program, and launched and directed the Morgan MOJO Lab in 2010. Under her leadership, Morgan State became the first and only historically black college in the country to offer mobile journalism courses. By April 2011, Richardson was vetting invitations to expand her MOJO Lab project globally. She traveled to South Africa to teach HIV-positive girls how to report news using only an iPod Touch. In the wake of the Arab Spring revolts, Richardson was invited to Morocco to train Muslim women to become MOJOs too. The National Association of Black Journalists said Richardson empowered her students around the globe “to speak truth to power using new media.” In spring 2012, NABJ recognized her as its Journalism Educator of the Year for her international work. In 2013, Apple, Inc. inducted Richardson into its elite Distinguished Educator program for her innovative uses of its products. In 2014, Harvard University selected her for its prestigious Nieman Foundation Journalism Fellowship. Richardson successfully defended her dissertation in April, 2017 and is an assistant professor at University of Southern California’s Annenberg School For Communication and Journalism.