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New director of The Walrus helps crowdfund two $7,000 scholarships

The alumna gives a huge boost to media-savvy women and non-binary students
March 19, 2020
By Molly Hamilton

The Walrus Live 15th anniversary Jennifer Hollett (second from left) with Media Girlfriends founder Nana aba Duncan at The Walrus Live 15th anniversary celebration in June 2018. | Photo: Transmedia Zone

Jennifer Hollett, BA 97, has built quite the career since she graduated from Concordia, with stints at Sony Music Canada, CTV News, MuchMusic, CBC, Plan Canada and Twitter on her resumé. This June, Hollett will begin a new role as executive director of The Walrus.

Recently, Hollett and Media Girlfriends — a diverse network of women employed in media — created the Media Girlfriends College or University Scholarship. Announced last February, the two crowdfunded $7,000 scholarships will go to young women or non-binary people based in Canada who are interested in journalism, communications, media or tech careers.

We spoke with the Concordia alumna to find out more.

How did you get involved with Media Girlfriends?

Jennifer Hollett: I’m good friends with journalist Nana aba Duncan. Back in 2016, she created a podcast called Media Girlfriends and the idea, initially, was to interview women working in the media about their jobs and aspirations. I was one of the first ‘girlfriends’ interviewed. From there, it grew into a collective of people who believe that Canada’s media is stronger with a diversity of voices.

What was the inspiration behind creating the scholarship?

JH: I was reflecting back on the scholarships and awards I had received during my own journey in media. For example, I was very fortunate to receive a scholarship while I was at Concordia. It was money that I could use to help with my expenses. But also, it was a vote of confidence, it encouraged me, and I felt seen. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could create a scholarship for young women and non-binary people coming up in media? Especially because it’s so hard to get a job in media these days, at a time when we need greater diversity.

What do you hope the scholarship will offer?

We chose to give one scholarship to someone in high school and one scholarship to someone in college or university because those are two very different but important stages. If you’re currently in college or university, you’re stressed with bills and and the pressures of staying in school. But, in that high school stage, you’re applying to lots of different schools, lots of different programs, with lots of different interests. We want to make sure that anyone who is thinking about journalism has this as an incentive.

Shelley Ambrose and Jennifer Hollett Jennifer Hollett (right) with outgoing Executive Director of The Walrus Shelley Ambrose | Photo: Banga Studios

The other thing we’re offering the winners, aside from the award, is the opportunity to tap into the Media Girlfriends network — whether that’s making a connection with someone at a specific company or organization, or even sharing our contacts.

Why focus on women and non-binary people?

Part of the Media Girlfriends mission is that we believe media in Canada is stronger with a diversity of voices. We still see an underrepresentation of women and non-binary people in the media, especially in certain beats. Also, we know our newsrooms are extremely white. It’s something, I believe, that most people in media know has to change. But you can’t just wish or hope it will change.

What advice do you have for current journalism students?

My advice is to be in the mix. It’s not enough to just study journalism. At Concordia, there’s the opportunity to practice it, to create, to network, to make mistakes. That’s really how I built up my resumé and my networks. All my extracurricular work at Concordia is where I was really able to take the theory and put it into practice.

How has your experience at Concordia contributed to your success?

I did my BA with a specialization in journalism and communication studies. Being able to study more than one thing has equipped me for the changing media landscape and I’ve been able to zig and zag. The fact that I knew how to shoot a camera, edit audio, as well as write and report made me very versatile. That’s why I think I was able to work in so many different environments.

Find out more about the Media Girlfriends scholarship initiative.

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