Exciting, enriching, emboldening: NASW Diversity Summer Fellowship helps trainees access opportunities and experiences

By Ben Young Landis

Exciting. Enriching. Emboldening. Those were the words that Jason Phanliêm Dinh led with when reporting back after his summer training as a AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellow placed with Discover magazine.

“I am so grateful to NASW for facilitating this experience and for helping me build networks that will be invaluable as I start my career,” said Dinh.

Jason Dinh’s summer experience was supported in part by a 2022 NASW Diversity Summer Fellowship. In 2017, NASW created the Diversity Summer Fellowship to provide an extra financial boost for interns from diverse backgrounds, further easing any constraints or burdens that come with a whirlwind summer training. Administered by the NASW Diversity Committee, these $5,000 awards supplement any stipends the trainees already receive from their summer employer. Awardees also receive a one-year complimentary membership to NASW, availing them to mentoring, job listings, and other professional development resources.

“After spending five years as a full-time science researcher, I was nervous about spending the summer as a science journalist,” said Jason Dinh, who now returns to Duke University to continue his doctoral research. “But the skills I learned — and the networks I established — gave me the confidence to pursue a writing career after I complete my PhD.”

California Institute of Technology PhD graduate Krystal Vasquez continued her transition from scientist to journalist this year with the American Chemical Society’s Chemical & Engineering News, leveraging funding from the NASW Diversity Summer Fellowship. For her C&E News editorial fellowship, Vasquez was assigned stories ranging far beyond her technical background in atmospheric chemistry — yet she still needed to work within the cadence and demands of a weekly print magazine.

“As a result, over the past three months I have learned how to streamline my writing process, formulate effective pitches, and quickly adjust to a variety of different editing styles — all of which are needed in order to be successful as a staff reporter or freelancer,” said Vasquez.

Beyond the weekly beat, Vasquez also has eyes towards more in-depth reporting projects. She has since filed a feature looking into the science and public policy around the issue of urban ammonia pollution. Another interest is exploring accessibility accommodations for laboratory researchers in chemistry, especially for student trainees during the pandemic.

Also buoyed by a NASW Summer Diversity Fellowship, Myriam Vidal Valero was able to spend her summer at Inside Climate News, diving into the complexities of climate change reporting from water pollution chemistry to air quality legislation.

But of course, her biggest gains came from growing her reporting instincts and skills.

“The greatest lesson happened through my daily reporting experience,” said Myriam Vidal Valero, whose stories featured interviews south to the Mexico state of Nuevo León and north beyond the 55th parallel with the Kativik Regional Government. “I knew that I had the skills to interview researchers and read papers, but I was afraid to do street reporting. By teaming up with the other interns to write a story on the impact of heat waves on the country, I got to conquer that fear.”

In fact, Vidal Valero parlayed her summer internship into the autumn months, and she also will soon graduate from her M.A. program at the CUNY Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. And smooth transitions like this are truly the intended effect of the NASW Diversity Summer Fellowship: encouraging new talents of diverse identities and lived experiences by helping them focus less on the daily worries of budgets and expenses — and more on their journalistic training and continued career success in science writing.

Ben Young Landis is NASW's assistant executive director and serves as its print and digital content editor.

NASW members interested in supporting the Summer Diversity Fellowship can volunteer to serve on the NASW Diversity Committee. To learn how, visit nasw.org/volunteer for current listings and opportunities.

Learn more about NASW’s growing programs sustaining talented colleagues and untold stories at nasw.org/awards/diversity — including the upcoming call for proposals for the next cycle of our NASW Diversity Summer Fellowship.