Honoring Our 2021 Award Winners

Our 2021 Alumni Awards Ceremony will take place virtually on Friday, April 23 at 6:00 p.m. CDT. With the cancellation of the 2020 event due to the pandemic, we will also honor our 2020 award winners at this year’s event.

View the Event Program (PDF)

This year’s alumni award winners represent a variety of professions, including accomplished researchers and teachers, journalists, writers and communicators. Please join us in honoring this outstanding cohort of winners. The J-School could not be prouder. On Wisconsin!


Each year the School honors outstanding alumni. Faculty select award winners based on their achievements in all fields of journalism and mass communication.

Deborah Blum ’82 is director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT and a New York Times bestselling author. Blum’s work, which is focused on science, has appeared in Wired, New York Times and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for her work surrounding primate research. For more details on Blum’s career, as well as her advice to current J-Schoolers, see this Q&A

Meg Jones ’85 was a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She was Wisconsin through and through, from her time in the UW Marching Band and on the crew team, to her reporting throughout the state and the world on critical topics for Wisconsinites. Sadly, Meg passed away in December 2020. Her former Journal Sentinel colleague Stacy Forster wrote this tribute.

Mary Annette Pember ’85 is a national correspondent for Indian Country Today. Pember was a 2020 recipient of the Ida B. Wells Fellowship, which aims to “create a pipeline of investigative reporters of color who bring diverse backgrounds, experiences and interests to their work”. Read more about Pember and how her time in the J-School influenced her career in this Q&A.


This award is named for the late Ralph O. Nafziger, who was director of the school from 1949 until his retirement in 1966. Nafziger built an international reputation as a leader in journalism education. The honorees receive recognition for showing remarkable professional initiative and promise within 10 years of graduation

Rachel Dickens ’11 is Marketing Communications Manager for Miller Coors Brewing Company. Her background in PR has set her up for success in a number of areas. We asked Rachel three questions about her career, her advice for J-Schoolers and her J-School memories.


This award is given for distinguished contribution to journalism and mass communication education. The award is named for Harold L. Nelson, director of the School of Journalism from 1966 to 1975. Recipients have taught in some of the most distinguished journalism programs in the nation.

Annie Lang ’80, ’87 is a Distinguished Professor of Communication Science and Cognitive Science at Indiana University. She is an ICA fellow and recipient of the ICA Steven H. Chaffee Career Productivity Award and the AEJMC Kreighbaum Under 40 Award. Read more about her career (and her mentors while at UW) in this infographic.


The Sharon Dunwoody Early Career Award recognizes distinguished achievement in teaching and research within 5-10 years of graduation from the PhD program.

Namjin Lee ’03, ’10 is an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the College of Charleston. His research concerns the role that political communication plays in our civic and political lives. Read more about Lee’s research and publications in this infographic.

Kjerstin Thorson is an associate professor in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences at Michigan State University and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Advertising. She is the recipient of the 2020 MSU Teacher-Scholar Award. See more about her research, mentors and favorite places in Madison in this infographic.

Our James L. Baughman Senior Achievement Award Winners and Graduate Student Award Winners are also being honored at the Alumni Awards Ceremony. See the 2021 recipients of these awards.