Meet grad students

Learn about the current cohorts of Reynolds School of Journalism students.

Current student cohorts

2021 cohort

Ojaala Ahmad

Ojaala Ahmad

Ojaala Ahmad was born and raised in Southern California. She attained her undergraduate degree from California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and a minor in communications studies. Ojaala most recently has been working for a civil rights non-profit in LA as their media spokesperson and communications manager. In this work, she engaged with news outlets to generate dynamic coverage of topics including: access to higher education, advancement of women, religious freedoms and racial equality among other subjects. Her work with the media has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera, NPR KPFK, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Buzzfeed among many others. Ojaala’s passions include teaching and inspiring others around her to contribute to building positive social change in whatever way they can. She wants her pupils to take this knowledge and to contribute to making the world a more harmonious and prosperous place for the lives of all people. Her dream job would be to teach others and tell stories through mediums such as video, film, radio and podcasting. Ojaala wants to use her graduate degree to master the mediums of mass communication. In her recreational time, Ojaala loves aquatics, enjoying the outdoors i.e. hiking trails, waterfronts and spending time with friends and family.

Hannah Alfaro

Hannah Alfaro

Hannah Alfaro was born and raised right here in Reno, Nevada. She earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Nevada Reno in communications. Hannah has worked at Truckee Meadows Community College as an English tutor, did a brief stint in real estate and also worked in communications for UNR. She is currently working for the agriculture college at the University in communications. Hannah’s passions are art, reading and her dogs. She especially enjoys going on runs and hikes with her 4-legged friends. While she does not know what her dream job is yet, she is hopeful that this degree will help her to figure that out. In her recreational time, Hannah enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs, hiking and walking.

Richie Bednarski

Richie Bedarski

Richie Bednarski is originally from Quincy, California, but has been in Reno for the past 18 years. Richie got his undergrad degree from the University of Nevada Reno in anthropology. Richie has a diverse work experience including working in archeology, in Nevada wilderness conservation, as well as his most important role of raising his daughter. Richie’s passions include photography, baking and getting out into nature and adventuring/exploring. His dream job would be to cover climate change and humanitarian stories for publications such as National Geographic amongst other well-known publications. Richie especially wants to use his degree to cover climate change in all of its complexity as well as humanitarian stories. In his recreational time, you can find Richie hanging out with his family, going hiking and camping, listening to music, baking and reading.

Christie Betker

Christie Betker

Christie Betker is originally from Southern California and now lives in Reno, Nevada. Christie has also lived in Oklahoma and Kansas where she went to university. Christie received her undergraduate degree from McPherson College where she majored in English with minors in communications as well as Spanish. Some of Christie’s passions include writing, photography, softball (which she played at the collegiate level), as well as being active in the outdoors. Her dream job would be to write and do photography for a publication such as National Geographic. Christie hopes to use her graduate degree to start a career in the field of journalism. In her recreational time, Christie likes to go hiking, take photos and watch various types of sporting events.

David Calvert

David Calvert

David Calvert grew up in the Bay Area along the coast, but he considers Reno his home. He got his undergraduate degree at University of Nevada, Reno in journalism. David has worked mainly as a freelance photographer. He has had lots of clients including The Nevada Independent, the Reno Aces and Reno 1868 among others. Some of David’s passions include Nevada, visual storytelling, community building, pedagogy and minor league baseball. When asked what his dream job is, David says that he is currently doing it. He is a visual storyteller and he loves teaching. David hopes to use his graduate degree to become a full-time professor. In his recreational time, David likes to camp and to cook, he has 3 dogs (Aurora, Teddy and Kit), and he may spend an arguably unhealthy amount of time on Twitter.

Veronica Cooper-Tucker

Veronica Cooper-Tucker

Veronica Cooper-Tucker was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. She has also lived in Petersburg, Virginia, for four years. Veronica received her bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Virginia State University. Past work experience included working in the conference industry for tech companies in Las Vegas and as a ticket operator in the box office at the multipurpose facility at Virginia State University. Veronica is passionate about human rights, civil rights and bettering the community. Her dream job is to become a published writer. She also has the desire to write for television. Lastly, she would like to launch a media platform that she herself owns, where she can produce different forms of content, in collaboration with other contributors. Veronica hopes to use her degree by applying the skills she has to become a more established writer in the hopes of one day starting her own media company. Veronica spends most of her recreational time reading; however, she also loves watching television, movies and especially documentaries. Swimming is also a sport that she enjoys.

Jonathan Deutschman

Jonathan Deutschman

Jonathan Deutschman is originally from Florida, but he has also lived in LA as well as Las Vegas. Jonathan received his undergraduate degree from the University of Tampa in creative writing and English. Jonathan has previous experience in journalism, having worked for daily newspapers in the past as well as in automotive sales. Jonathan’s passions include fitness and health, hiking, watching classical films and music. His dream job would be to work for The Smithsonian or an international publication. Jonathan would like to use his graduate degree to help enhance his future career. In his recreational time, Jonathan likes going to the gym, reading and watching films.

Brooke Hess

Brooke Hess

Brooke Hess is from Missoula, Montana, but she has also lived in Philadelphia and has traveled often the last 5 years including places such as Ontario, Canada and New Zealand. Brooke got her undergraduate degree in geoscience specializing in fluvial geo-morphology. Brooke has worked at a high school for elite outdoor athletes, for the US Freestyle Kayaking team, as a staff writer for an outdoor journal, as well as doing freelance work. Brooke’s passions include kayaking white water, rock climbing and backcountry skiing. Her dream job would be to work for National Geographic, covering science journalism. Brooke hopes to use her graduate degree to research more into the gender bias in outdoor adventure sports. In her recreational time, Brooke loves to focus on her passion of white-water kayaking.

Mark Maynard

Mark Maynard

Mark Maynard grew up in Incline Village on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. He has also lived in Austria, San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He got his undergraduate degree in English from the University of San Diego and has an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles. He has worked for Electronic Arts, Looksmart, Tahoe-Carson area newspapers and has taught at Sierra Nevada University and the University of Nevada, Reno. Mark teaches English and creative writing at Truckee Meadows Community College. He enjoys spending time in the Sierra year-round including skiing, snowshoeing, paddle boarding, hiking and kayaking. His dream job is to be a full-time writer. After earning his degree, Mark hopes to publish long-form nonfiction and to teach journalism to community college students.

Carley Olson

Carley Olson

Carley Olson is originally from Pine Grove, California, but she has also lived in Italy. Carley got her undergraduate degree from University of Nevada, Reno in journalism. Carly has worked at the University of Nevada, Reno College of Business, as well as done work in photography. Carley’s passions include photography, as well as a strong desire to live her life in the best way possible. Her dream job would be to work as a freelance photographer for a publication such as National Geographic. Carley would like to use her graduate degree to contribute to bettering her future career. In her recreational time, Carley likes to hang out with friends, and she often finds herself at Lake Tahoe due to the incredible scenery.

Carly Sauvageau

Carly Sauvageau

Carly Sauvageau is from Tonopah, Nevada, but she has also lived here in Reno. Carly got her undergraduate degree from the University of Nevada Reno in journalism with minors in political science and anthropology. Carly has worked with the Center for Basque Studies while a student here at the University. Carly’s passions include reading, writing, audio-work, film, walking and swimming. Her dream job would be to work for a public radio program such as This American Life. Carly hopes to use her graduate degree to get a well-paying job in which she enjoys the work. In her recreational time, Carly likes to spend time with friends and listen to music.

Bailey Shepard

Bailey Shepard

Bailey Shepard is originally from Uniontown, Kansas, but has lived in several parts of the U.S. and also spent time in Central America and more recently West Africa with the Peace Corps. Bailey received his undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas in history and also studied French and Spanish as foreign languages. Bailey has worked in several different occupations including farming/ranching, Americorps NCCC, migrant farmworker education, Peace Corps, Active travel industry, and environmental conservation. His passions are learning about new cultures and languages, history and being active outdoors. His dream job would be to work for an international organization that shares quality stories from around the globe. Bailey would like to use his journalism degree to learn modern storytelling techniques and to bounce this into a successful career. In his recreational time, Bailey likes learning new languages, staying active and keeping up on politics/news.

Farrell Shine

Farrell Shine

Farrell Shine is from Pearl River, New York, about 20 minutes north of New York City. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in mass communication with a concentration in broadcasting at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. While in college, she interned for the NBC Sports Group in Stamford, Connecticut, as well as the MLB Network and CBS Sports in New York. Farrell also worked as an athletic communications assistant for the Iona College Athletics Department. She currently works for the University of Nevada, Reno Wolfpack Athletics as a digital and communication assistant. Farrell likes sports (including college basketball and hockey), traveling and working with the Adobe Creative Suite of software. In college, she had a chance to study abroad, spending five weeks each in Ireland, Paris and Rome. Her dream job would be working in digital or media relations for a professional sports team. She hopes to use her graduate degree to expand her personal and professional horizons and learn about new technologies being used in media. She recently moved to Reno and enjoys spending her time outdoors, including at Lake Tahoe. She hopes to visit as many national parks as she can.

Dina Wood

Dina Wood

Dina Wood- Dina Wood is originally from Ohio but Colorado is her more permanent home. In addition to living in various other places in the U.S., Dina has spent a considerable amount of time in Eastern Europe, especially during her two-year service in Peace Corps Ukraine. After studying history and literature from Marlboro College in Vermont, Dina finished her degree in nursing from San Francisco State. Dina has worked in HIV healthcare/education in cities such as San Francisco during the AIDs epidemic of the 1980s. Dina is passionate about political activism on topics such as healthcare-for-all and on immigration issues; she also is deeply passionate about her two daughters and the lives they lead. Her dream job would be to help the underrepresented to find their own voice working with a non-profit. She hopes to update her technology skills to be able to continue teaching and helping others. In her recreational time, Dina likes getting out into the backcountry to explore old abandoned towns, cooking and both appreciating and making art.

2020 cohort

Janice Baker

Woman poses outdoors.

Janice Baker is from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and has also lived in Ogden, Utah, North Lake Tahoe, Reno, and spent four months living in Thailand. She received her undergraduate degree in visual communication/design from Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Janice has worked for Quantum Loyalty Systems, BBC Advertising, The Bauserman Group and is now self-employed in freelance design. She hopes to get into the education side of design, using her graduate degree. Her dream job is to do anything that has a positive impact on others. In her free time, Janice enjoys snowboarding, traveling, Jiu Jitsu, kittens and anything outdoors.

David Branby

Man poses outdoors.

David Branby is from “all over the world,” as he grew up an Air Force brat. He has lived in Reno since 1987. David received his undergraduate degree in English literature from the University of Washington in Seattle. He spent 25 years working in advertising agencies and for the last seven years has worked at as creative director in University Marketing and Communications. His dream job is to be a successful novelist, and he hopes to use his graduate degree to teach creative marketing and advertising. In his free time, David enjoys creating branded communications, reading historical novels, playing guitar and sailing at Lake Tahoe.

Scott King

Man poses outdoors.

Scott King is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but has also lived in Columbus, Ohio, and Grenada. His undergraduate degree is in professional writing with a minor in marketing from Capital University. Scott recently returned from Grenada, where he taught literacy as a Peace Corps volunteer for two years. He hopes to use his graduate degree to find a job that he enjoys and aligns with his passions. In his free time, Scott enjoys hiking, reading and writing.

Trina Kleist

Woman poses outdoors.

Trina Kleist is from Sunnyvale, California, and has also lived in Mexico. She got her undergraduate degree in political science from Santa Clara University. Trina has worked in California, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Mexico for various newspapers, magazines and the Associated Press. She is open to possibilities for her dream job and hopes to use her graduate degree to update her skills to communicate on digital platforms. In her free time, Trina enjoys hiking and being outdoors.

Sarmat Misikov

Man poses outdoors.

Sarmat Misikov is a Fulbright Scholar from Vladikavkaz, Russia. Sarmat received his undergraduate degree in journalism from North Ossetian State University in Russia. He has worked as a news editor for several web media and as a reporter and host on a national television company. Sarmat wants to be an entrepreneurial journalist and content creator; he hopes to use his graduate degree to develop an expertise in digital communications and multimedia. In his free time, Sarmat enjoys visual art, filmmaking, writing lyrics, reading magazines and listening to music.

Tianna Morimoto

Woman poses outdoors.

Tianna Morimoto was born and raised in Kona, Hawaii. She completed her undergraduate degree in communication studies with a minor in broadcast journalism from Chapman University in Orange, California. Tianna has previously interned for Hawaii New Now on Oahu and West Hawaii Today in Kona and worked as a resident advisor and wellness peer educator at Chapman. She is currently a graduate assistant for the School of Arts. Her dream job is to be a successful writer or reporter, and she hopes to use her graduate degree to utilize her creative side for a career where she can use media and journalism to benefit society. In her free time, Tianna enjoys spending time with her family, friends and dog, traveling, giving back to the community and dancing hula- which she has been doing since she was five years old.

Benjamin Payne

Man poses outdoors.

Benjamin Payne is from Rock Island, Illinois, and has also lived in Chicago. He obtained his undergraduate degree in multimedia journalism & mass communication from Augustana College in Rock Island. Before coming to the Reynolds School, Benjamin worked as the local Morning Edition host and a reporter for NPR member station WVIK, which is based in Rock Island and serves the Quad Cities community of western Illinois and eastern Iowa. Before that, he served a reporting internship for NPR member station WBEZ in Chicago. Benjamin hopes to use his graduate degree to build his in-depth reporting and long-form writing skills and also to improve his skills in photojournalism. Upon graduation, he intends to work as a print, digital or radio reporter in the Reno area. In his free time, Benjamin enjoys bicycling, tennis and taking his girlfriend’s cat outside on a leash. He is a big fan of the Chicago Cubs (including before they won the World Series).

Brooke Ruhl

Woman poses outdoors.

Brooke Ruhl is originally from Lake Tahoe and obtained her undergraduate degree in journalism from the Reynolds School of Journalism. She has worked at The Potlatch as a social media and marketing coordinator, and she also does freelance web and graphic design. Brooke hopes to use her graduate degree for campaign management; her dream job is to work on a campaign doing management or speech writing or possibly become a prosecutor. Brooke enjoys horseback riding, design, politics and law.

Scarlett Spangler

Woman poses outdoors.

Scarlett Spangler is from Fremont, California, and lived in various places around the San Francisco Bay Area before moving to Reno in 2016. She obtained her undergraduate degree in media studies/journalism from the University of San Francisco (USF). After graduating from USF in 2011, Scarlett worked in the sports industry and spent time working for the Oakland Raiders, the Oakland A’s and the Stanford University Athletic Department. After moving to Reno, she transitioned to working in the education field for the Washoe County School District and the Nevada Department of Education. She always knew she wanted to find a way back to journalism and is excited to further her education at the University of Nevada, Reno. She hopes to use her graduate degree to gain updated writing and content creation skills that she can bring into the workforce. As someone who is passionate about mental health, she hopes to find a way to bring that into her graduate work. Scarlett enjoys staying busy with her two 1-year-old black labs, spending time with her husband and family, enjoying the outdoors and learning about health, wellness and nutrition.

Kylene Yumul

Woman poses outdoors.

Kylene Yumul was born in San Diego, California, and grew up in the Philippines. She has also lived in the states of Washington and Oregon; deployed to Mosul, Iraq, while in the military; and resided in Cienfuegos, Cuba, and Okinawa, Japan, for school and special job assignments. She obtained her undergraduate degree in interdisciplinary arts and sciences with concentration in arts, media and culture and minors in global honors and Hispanic studies from the University of Washington, Tacoma. Kylene served in the U.S. Army in Fort Lewis, Washington, and most recently worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Portland, Oregon. While Kylene loves traveling and learning foreign languages and secretly wants to work for the Travel Channel, her passion for women who served--servicemembers and veterans alike--led her to the Reynolds School in hopes of identifying avenues where she could highlight stories like hers and cultivating the artistic streak that has always been within her. In her free time, Kylene enjoys yoga, Pilates and kickboxing, as well as spending time with family and indulging in Japanese anime and Korean pop culture.

2019 cohort

Woman poses indoorsJenna DeLaurentis

Though she was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, Jenna DeLaurentis has lived all over the world, including Brazil, Chile and Thailand. She graduated from Youngstown State University with a degree in political science, double minoring in telecommunications and Italian. She says that half of her undergrad was spent studying abroad. At YSU, she worked in the marketing and communications department as their videographer and photographer. She has also interned for USAC Study Abroad while in Thailand. Currently, she’s a graduate assistant at the Reynolds School of Journalism as well as a video editor for USAC Study Abroad. Jenna is passionate about traveling and storytelling, especially through videography and photography. She hopes to combine her love for international relations and politics with her visual work. Jenna loves learning new languages and being outside as much as possible.

Student poses indoors.Aras Diler

Aras Diler is originally from Turkey, where he got his undergraduate degree in anthropology. He’s worked at CNN Turk, Association of the Visually Handicapped, as well as local news agencies in Turkey. His dream job is a hybrid between being an investigative journalist and a social media expert. Ares spends his free time playing soccer and table tennis as well as traveling. He hopes to use his graduate degree to study new media and find new solutions.

Student poses indoors.Temiloluwa Durojaiye

Originally from Lagos, Nigeria, Temiloluwa Durojaiye received his degree in petroleum & gas engineering from the University of Lagos. His work experience includes digital platforms such as PropertyPro.ng, a web-based platform for property rentals and sales, and Vertch Inc., a music sharing and distribution platform. He’s also worked for National Glory Magazine and Markova Creative Ltd., a digital advertising agency. Temiloluwa wants to leverage his degree into a career covering the NBA and college basketball. He enjoys watching basketball, playing video games, and Twitter-surfing.

Student poses indoors.Hugh Tomasello

Hugh Tomasello grew up in San Jose, California, before moving to Reno. An undergrad graduate of the Reynolds School, Hugh hopes his graduate degree will aid him in the sports world, and the storytelling that comes with it. He’s worked with the University of Nevada Athletics department for over three years, as well as interned with the Reno Aces. Hugh’s dream job is to do creative marketing and social media work for a professional football team. His youth spent in the Bay Area gave him a deep appreciation for the sports teams in the area. He also played the drums for eight years and tries to incorporate music in every part of his life.

Student poses outdoors.Issmar Ventura

Issmar Ventura was born in El Salvador but was raised in Washington D.C. He received his degree at George Mason University where she majored in communication and minored in criminology. He’s held internships at BBC News, Telemundo, Voice of America and Univision. Currently, he’s working as a digital journalist at KRNV News 4. Issmar hopes his graduate degree will not only help him rebrand himself in the professional world but also set up his own scholarship for first-generation minority journalism students. A lover of the outdoors, Issmar enjoys spending time with his family and friends and exploring new cities around the world.

Student poses indoors.Mushfique Wadud

Mushfique Wadud is from Dhaka, Bangladesh, and got his undergraduate degree in English from Stamford University Bangladesh. A reporter for nearly ten years, Mushfique has worked for several publications, including The Guardian, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Dhaka Tribune and Prothom Alo, Bangladesh’s largest circulated daily newspaper. He’s also worked as a communications officer for both the International NGO Solidarity Center AFL CIO and International NGO Winrock. A passionate reporter who strives to give voice to the voiceless, Mushfique hopes his time at the Reynolds School will educate him in multimedia storytelling techniques as well as new business models of newspaper ownership and alternative funding. He enjoys reading, writing, browsing Facebook and surfing in his spare time.

Student poses indoors.Leah Wigren

Leah Wigren was born in Minneapolis. She lived in New York City and Albuquerque before moving to Reno in 1998. No stranger to higher education, she holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of St. Thomas, a master’s degree in social work from Hunter College and a law degree from New York Law School. She’s currently a self-employed attorney, though she’s worked at the Covenant House and the Legal Aid Society in New York as well as the Nevada Supreme Court. Leah hopes her graduate degree from the Reynolds School will help her become an investigative journalist, either as a freelancer or employee. She enjoys being outside as much as possible and studying the legal and journalistic issues of the First Amendment.

Student poses indoors.Bree Zender

Currently Reno’s Morning Edition host, Bree Zender is from Deming, Washington, and has also lived in Montana and California. She holds a double major in journalism and theater from the University of Montana. She’s worked at multiple public radio stations, including Montana Public Radio and KCBX before starting at KUNR Public Radio in December 2017. Bree wants to use her experience her at the Reynolds School to find better, innovative ways to tell intimate stories. and hopes to host her own NPR show someday. When not working, she’s usually hiking, camping or hanging out with her cat, Pete and her boyfriend.