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Merrill College

Get the Inside Scoop: Meet Our Faculty and Discover Merrill College!

At the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism, we are all about connecting with our students! Get the inside scoop on everything we have to offer by scheduling a one-on-one meeting with our nationally recognized faculty! This is your chance to ask questions, explore your interests and connect with experienced mentors who are passionate about helping you succeed!

It’s not formal. It’s not a college interview. It’s a laidback, fun way to connect! Our faculty members are incredibly eager to speak with you, so don’t miss out on your opportunity to chat with the best of the best!

Check out the bios below for our faculty members who have enthusiastically offered their time! To arrange a one-on-one virtual meeting, please email the faculty member with the subject line “Admitted Student One-on-One Request,” and the two of you can communicate to schedule a time for you to learn more about Merrill College!

Kathy BestKathy Best 
Director, Howard Center for Investigative Journalism

Kathy Best is director of the award-winning Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, which gives students the opportunity to work with news organizations across the country to report stories of national or international importance to the public. As executive editor and managing editor for digital news at the Seattle Times, Best helped lead the newsroom to two Pulitzer Prizes. She has put together a decorated journalism career that includes three decades of newsroom leadership.

Tom BettagTom Bettag 

Tom Bettag, best known as the executive producer for ABC News "Nightline" with Ted Koppel, is a broadcast journalism lecturer at Merrill College. Bettag is the winner of 30 Emmy awards, two Peabody awards, six duPont silver batons and the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award. He spent 22 years with CBS News, which included working as a producer for CBS Radio, CBS Morning News, CBS Evening with Walter Cronkite, "60 Minutes" and serving as executive producer of the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.

Ira ChinoyIra Chinoy
Associate Professor

Dr. Ira Chinoy, who has been on the Merrill College faculty since 2001, has 24 years of experience as a journalist. He won a Pulitzer as The Washington Post's director of computer-assisted reporting and another as part of a team at The Providence Journal. His courses include journalism history, researching emerging media in journalism, and news reporting and writing. He served as Merrill’s associate dean for academic affairs from 2012-14, and is director of the UMD's Future of Information Alliance.

Mel CoffeeMel Coffee
Director, Capital News Service Broadcast Bureau

Mel Coffee has split his three-decade journalism career between newsrooms and classrooms. Coffee was a faculty member at the University of Kentucky, Southern Methodist University and Syracuse University before Merrill College. He previously spent 16 years as a reporter, anchor, producer and manager at local television stations in Dallas, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver. He was a writer for CNN and a participant in the international Fulbright Program.

Josh DavidsburgJosh Davidsburg
Senior Lecturer

Josh Davidsburg is an award-winning broadcast journalist, documentary filmmaker and 2001 Merrill College alum. Trained as an on-air broadcast reporter, Davidsburg taught himself cinematography and videography. Davidsburg’s first full-length documentary, “Queen of the Capital,” appeared at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival. He has also directed documentary shorts that have shown at prominent film festivals across the country. He specializes in streaming media and the intersection between cinema and journalism.

Karen DennyKaren Denny
Director, Internships and Career Development

Karen Denny is Merrill College's director of internships and career development. She previously served as the Capital News Service Annapolis bureau director. Denny is a former editor with the McClatchy-Tribune News Service, The Washington Times and at the suburban Journal Newspapers. She also served as a professor at Sang Ji University in Won Ju, South Korea. She has both master’s (2002) and bachelor’s (1991) degrees from Merrill College.

Mark FeldsteinMark Feldstein
Richard Eaton Chair of Broadcast Journalism

Dr. Mark Feldstein spent 20 years as an award-winning on-air investigative correspondent at CNN, ABC News and various local television stations. His exposés made a difference and led to more than 50 journalism awards, including two Peabody Awards, the Columbia-DuPont baton, the national Edward R. Murrow broadcasting prize and nine regional Emmys. As a scholar, Feldstein has been published in numerous peer-reviewed journals and is regularly quoted as a media analyst by leading outlets.

Mark HymanMark Hyman
Director, The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism

Mark Hyman, a veteran journalist, professor, author and lawyer, is Merrill College’s inaugural George Solomon Endowed Chair in Sports Journalism. He directs the college’s Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism and teaches sports journalism classes. Hyman joined Merrill College in July 2020 after more than four decades as a sports journalist and seven years serving as a Professor of Sport Management at The George Washington University School of Business.

Timothy JacobsenTimothy Jacobsen

Timothy Jacobsen started his professional photography career with the Yuma (Arizona) Daily News. He joined the staff of The Frederick News-Post in 1989 and spent 12 years as a photojournalist on the newspaper’s award-winning photo staff. In 2001, he embarked on a freelance photography career, booking work with regional and national outlets. Jacobsen teaches photojournalism classes at Merrill College and oversees Hood College's studios, multimedia visual production classes and radio station.

Rafael LorenteRafael Lorente
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs

Rafael Lorente is the associate dean for academic affairs and the director of the master’s program. Previously, he served as director of Merrill College's Capital News Service Washington, D.C., and Annapolis bureaus. Lorente, a 1998 Merrill master's alum, is a former reporter with the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. As a reporter in Washington for the Sun Sentinel, Lorente covered the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, the attacks of Sept. 11 and U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America, particularly Cuba.

Adam MartonAdam Marton
Director, Capital News Service Digital Bureau

Adam Marton is an award-winning journalist and graphic designer who spent 13 years at The Baltimore Sun. Marton is focused on quality storytelling across media, using design and technology to tell rich, human stories. He is a visual journalist and designer specializing in the presentation of the news, including data visualization, front-end development and information graphics. Marton oversees Merrill's Capital News Service digital bureau, and teaches design, coding and data skills with real-world newsroom applications.

Christoph MergersonChristoph Mergerson
Assistant Professor in Race and Media

Dr. Christoph Mergerson, who completed his Ph.D. in Communication, Information and Media at Rutgers University, is a Washington, D.C., area native whose research and teaching interests include race, journalism and democracy; journalism history; and journalism and social equity. Mergerson arrived at Merrill with ongoing research examining whether news media in the Southern U.S. are producing racially inclusive, public-service journalism. He brings award-winning teaching experience from Rutgers.

Deborah NelsonDeborah Nelson
Professor of Investigative Journalism

Deborah Nelson won or edited three Pulitzer Prize-winning series before joining the Merrill College faculty in 2006 after five years as the Washington investigations editor for the Los Angeles Times. Before that, she reported for The Washington Post, The Seattle Times and the Chicago Sun-Times. Since joining Merrill College, she has continued to produce award-winning investigative journalism. Students in her investigative reporting course have produced their own award-winning work for Capital News Service and the Howard Center.

Alexander PylesAlexander Pyles
Director, Capital News Service Audience Engagement Bureau

Alexander Pyles directs the audience engagement bureau for Capital News Service. He helps student journalists use metrics, social media and other digital storytelling tools to maximize the audience for projects published by CNS and the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism. He also teaches related courses on interactive design and social media strategy. An award-winning journalist and teacher, Pyles was a reporter and editor for several news organizations including The Baltimore Sun. He earned his master's degree at Merrill.

Nathan StevensNathan Stevens
Broadcast Production Lecturer

Nathan Stevens is an experienced broadcast journalism professional and educator. He oversees the college’s production operations, and teaches television production and streaming courses in conjunction with the Capital News Service broadcast bureau. Stevens came to Merrill after filling multiple positions at the University of Kentucky, including lecturer in the School of Journalism and Media. He has taught courses on field production, videography, website design, strategic communications and the video-game industry.

Krishnan VasudevanKrishnan Vasudevan
Assistant Professor in Visual Communication

Dr. Krishnan Vasudevan is a critical scholar and filmmaker whose work examines the intersections of media, cultural, journalism and design studies. He employs filmmaking, ethnographic methods such as field research and collaboration as well as textual analyses methods to understand how and why members of different social groups such as taxi drivers and artists produce media. Vasudevan was a multimedia journalist and published extensively with The New York Times and Slate.

Rob WellsRob Wells
Director of Ph.D. Studies; Associate Professor

Dr. Rob Wells, a 2016 Ph.D. alum of Merrill College, returned to the university in 2022 after more than five years at the University of Arkansas, where he rose to the rank of associate professor and led Arkansas' journalism graduate program. Wells has more than two decades of business journalism experience at The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal. While at Arkansas, Wells ran, a statewide daily data and news website reporting on the pandemic. 

Derek WillisDerek Willis
Lecturer in Data and Computational Journalism

Derek Willis, one of the nation’s leading data journalists and an experienced educator, joined the Merrill College faculty in Fall 2021. Willis spent 25 years winning awards at some of the top news outlets in the country. His latest stop was ProPublica, where he served as a news applications developer since 2015. He held interactive journalism roles with The New York Times and The Washington Post, after working as a database reporter for The Washington Post, The Center for Public Integrity, Congressional Quarterly and The Palm Beach Post.

Jerry ZremskiJerry Zremski
Lecturer; Local News Network Leader

Jerry Zremski became the first leader of Merrill College's Local News Network in July 2022. He had been Washington bureau chief of The Buffalo News since 2007 and upon being hired at Merrill, became a part-time enterprise reporter at the publication. A professional journalist since 1982, Zremski joined The Buffalo News in 1984 as a business reporter and has been a Washington reporter for the News since 1989. He focuses his coverage on federal issues that are particularly important to readers in Buffalo.

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