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Asian American Journalists Association looks to engage Northwestern students

Photo courtesy of AAJA Chicago

Ameet Sachdev (far left), co-president of Asian American Journalists Association Chicago, holds a raffle prize at the chapter’s 2011 scholarship fund. He is pictured with co-president Susanna Song (center) and Robert Feder, the media critic at Time Out Chicago (far right). AAJA is increasing its presence on NU’s campus with the assistance of new Medill professor and longtime member Mei-Ling Hopgood.

Zack Harris, Reporter

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With the arrival of a new Medill professor last winter, the Asian American Journalists Association is revitalizing its presence at Northwestern.

Medill Prof. Mei-Ling Hopgood has been an active AAJA member since the 1990s. Since becoming a Medill professor in February, Hopgood has been working with the organization’s Chicago chapter to increase its presence on campus.

Hopgood said she is working with chapter presidents to get NU students involved.

“I want to get the conversation started and have the students determine their involvement with AAJA,” Hopgood said.

Established in 1981, the AAJA works to advance the careers of Asian American and Pacific Islander journalists and support them in the United States and around the world. AAJA also works to ensure “accuracy and fairness in the coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders,” according to its website. The association has 21 chapters across the U.S. and Asia and comprises more than 1500 members.

A group of about 20 students have started to work with Prof. Hopgood and AAJA Chicago and hope to eventually created an AAJA-affiliated group on campus.

Ameet Sachdev, AAJA’s Chicago chapter co-president, said he is optimistic about the effects of an AAJA faculty member on the group’s recruitment of NU students.

“Recently, we have not had an AAJA member as a full-time professor at Medill, so we are looking to Prof. Hopgood to be our Chapter Board’s liaison on campus,” Sachdev (Medill ’93) said.

Sachdev said the Chicago chapter has a fairly even split of professional and student individuals among its about 100 members. He said AAJA does not have chapters at individual universities in an effort to create bigger associations.

“We  want students to join our larger city chapters,” Sachdev said.

Sachdev said becoming an AAJA member can have benefits for journalists both before and after college graduation.

“In addition to scholarships and internships for students in Chicago, we also provide an opportunity to network with professionals from around the city,” he said.

Sachdev said the chapter’s networking programs help recent graduates who are beginning to look for work.

Medill senior Dan Hill has been involved with AAJA since high school and stressed the power of its networking events.

“It’s a great way to meet people with similar backgrounds and interests,” he said.

Sachdev said he believes AAJA’s Chicago chapter can help NU students advance their careers in journalism by providing career guidance and mentoring, hosting networking events and operating other programs, including scholarships and internships. AAJA’s membership and events are open to all students, he said.