Extracurricular activity funding creates bold opportunities for ambitious undergrads

The 2017-18 academic year was a strong one for the UNC School of Media and Journalism's Don and Barbara Curtis Excellence Fund for Extracurricular Activities, with 48 awards distributed to 43 students — the highest number of funding recipients since the award's inception in 2003. 

"Students often learn as much outside the classroom as inside. Clearly the Don and Barbara Curtis awards give students the chance to learn from the pros, to explore and network, and to accelerate their careers," said Susan King, dean of the MJ-school. "Without such flexible funding, students would never have such opportunities."

Activities eligible for funding include registration and travel expenses for media- and journalism-related workshops, conferences, competitions, etc.; working on a major story, documentary or multimedia project that requires travel; participating in the MJ-school’s networking trips to major U.S. cities to meet and gain insights from alumni; internships in a media- or journalism-related field; and non-operating expenses for MJ-school student organizations.

Here are just a few of the 2017-18 Curtis Fund recipients:

Rachel Horowitz '18Crash Campaign (Rachel Horowitz '18)

Crash Campaign is an annual student competition that takes place over a 24-hour span each fall semester. Students compete in teams to solve local business and nonprofit marketing problems using learned skills. Because non-operating expenses for student organizations housed in the MJ-school are eligible for Curtis Fund support, Crash Campaign President Rachel Horowitz '18 was able to apply for the organization's Fall 2017 event.

"When I first became president of Crash Campaign, I was worried that we wouldn’t be able to raise enough money to create a satisfying and engaging experience for our participants," said Horowitz. "When I heard about the Curtis Fund, I applied on behalf of our organization. Because of [Don and Barbara Curtis'] generosity, we were able to successfully accommodate around 100 students in Carroll Hall over the course of a weekend."

Katy Dettmer '19Katy Dettmer '19

Katy Dettmer '19 is a rising senior studying strategic communication. Her funding supported a Summer 2018 communications internship with Curiology at Levy in Chicago. Curiology is an experience design agency developing high-touch guest experiences across the sports, entertainment and hospitality worlds.

"My internship has allowed me to think critically, develop creative solutions and explore the field of media and communications. I would highly recommend applying for the Curtis Fund and exploring new opportunities.."

Alex Kormann '19Alex Kormann '19

Alex Kormann '19 is a rising senior studying photojournalism. He received funding in both Fall 2017 and Spring 2018, allowing him to attend the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar from Nov. 10-11 and intern with the Minneapolis Star Tribune in Summer 2018.

"The Curtis Fund helped me cover a great deal of my living expenses that allowed me to come out to Minnesota and have this amazing experience," said Kormann. "It's only been three weeks thus far, but this internship has already been life changing. I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most talented photographers in the country, including the 2018 [National Press Photographers Association] photographer of the year. They already have me covering some major news events, and I can feel myself improving both as a photographer and storyteller."

Gwendolyn Renee Smith '18Gwendolyn Renee Smith '18

Gwendolyn Renee Smith '18 is a recent graduate who studied strategic communication while attending the MJ-school. Because of the Curtis Fund, Smith was able to afford housing and transportation for her internship in New York City with Viacom (BET’s Corporate Communications Department) in Summer 2017; participate in the MJ-school’s annual Fall Break networking trip to New York City in October 2017; and attend the Black Women in Media conference in New York City in March 2018.

"At first, I was really hesitant to apply for the Curtis Fund," said Smith. "Being surrounded by such talented students at UNC can be intimidating, and I was nervous that other students’ applications were better than mine. Thank goodness I didn’t let that stop me. My internship with BET’s corporate communications department completely changed the trajectory of my career. I was able to pitch press ideas and social media campaigns to network executives and flew out to L.A. to provide support during the 2017 BET Awards. During that summer, I discovered my love for entertainment public relations and contributing to large events’ communications efforts. In addition to gaining valuable experience, I was also able to connect with other interns and UNC alumni that were a huge help during my last year at UNC. Both opportunities allowed me to learn more about public relations and allowed me to build incredibly valuable relationships. 

I think that one of the greatest aspects of the Curtis Fund is that it allows students to go into the real world and explore what they’re passionate about — and bring it right back to campus. I’ve been able to share so much information with students because of my internship with BET, and it’s such a great feeling knowing that your experience can help others find their path as well."


Check out the 2017-18 scholarships and awards roundup to see all 43 recipients of the Don and Barbara Curtis Excellence Fund for Extracurricular Activities.