Recent J-School Alums Win UURAF Grand Prize

A documentary series titled Faces of Flint from ComArtSci journalism alumni, Maria Braganini and Kelley Waterfall, has won the 2016 University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF) Grand Prize award for the Humanities, Social Sciences and Arts division.

A collaborative project between WKAR and ComArtSci, the documentary consists of five radio pieces with corresponding short video documentaries which capture the life of Flint residents dealing with water contamination. The two students worked alongside Geri Alumit Zeldes, associate professor of journalism, on the project.

"I put out a call early spring semester for videographers and photojournalists to work on a project Flint-water crisis centric. Kelley and Maria - two students in my JRN 306 course - responded," said Zeldes. "It was serendipitous. They joined other students and recent grads who were already on the crew from previous projects and infused the team with energy."

Working together with Braganini and Waterfall, Zeldes guided the students with story ideas, proofed scripts, and assisted in interviewing and filming. Ultimately, helping the students produce a winning documentary series.

"I believe they won the UURAF Grand Prize because judges took note during their presentation of their passion for journalism and found their visuals and audio compelling," said Zeldes. "Kelley and Maria traveled to Flint - territory unknown to them - to cover a super complicated issue in a town supersaturated with international news reporters. Instead of cowering, Kelley and Maria stood tall and reported like the journalism professionals they are."

Approximately 850 undergraduate students submitted their work to be considered for the UURAF grand prize in two categories: 1. Engineering and Natural Sciences and 2. Humanities, Business, Social Sciences, and Communication Arts and Sciences.

According to Devin McAuley, managing editor of ReCUR (the undergraduate research journal of the honors college), honors faculty fellow, professor of psychology and director of the interdisciplinary cognitive program, the submitted works were evaluated according to established review criteria and winners for each category were selected according to those criteria.

"The strength of Faces of Flint that led to its selection in the UURAF…. included its focus on a highly relevant issue, novel perspective, powerful interviews, and high artistic quality," said McAuley.

Braganini and Waterfall are excited about their win, with Waterfall stating, "It feels incredible to win this award. It shows our hard work has paid off but it also shows people were impacted by the documentary series, which was what we wanted."

The young women also intend to continue bringing attention to the city of Flint with their journalism.

"With the 2015-2016 UURAF Grand Prize award, I hope to bring more attention to the city of Flint and address the many problems still prevalent in the everyday lives of Flint citizens," said Braganini.

By Nikki W. O'Meara