Welcome our 2019 Media Innovation Fellows

The Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media would like to welcome Reese News Lab’s Media Innovation Fellows for summer 2019.

The fellows will work on projects ranging from augmented and virtual reality to diversifying legacy newspaper revenue, while partnering with organizations such as Time magazine, the UNC System, Curtis Media and more.

The fellowship provides fellows with immersive learning experiences developing products and ideas to help media organizations remain robust and viable in today’s changing media climate.

Several of the 2019 Media Innovation Fellows— all current UNC students or recent grads—have previously worked or studied under Steven King, Reese Lab’s Chief Innovation Officer, an assistant professor in the Hussman School who will lead the overall direction of the lab and provide insights to the fellows’ projects this summer.

Reese News Lab’s Innovation Project Manager Alexis Barnes, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Technical Director Lee Trout and Hussman School lecturer Josh Carlton will also aid in the project’s leadership.

Meet the Fellows

A final year master’s student in the Hussman School, Christi Fenison will work on a virtual reality training experience and Reese News Lab’s GEAR UP VR project. She believes that immersive technologies have the potential to become key tools to drive engagement about critical societal issues.

“I believe that mixed reality technologies will be a key tool for driving meaningful public engagement, making distant experiences and learning opportunities more accessible and immersive.” — Christi Fenison


Aaron Hougui, a recent UNC computer science grad, will work as a developer on the Lab’s robotic journalist project “RoboJ.” This endeavor builds off a previous project in which King partnered with the Star-News in Wilmington to develop the robotic journalist.

“It interests me to be able to work on a tough challenging project that could very well advance the field of journalism.” — Aaron Hougui


An Hussman School rising senior, Gabri Mannino will work with The Alamance News as a market researcher. Her career goal is to work as a creative strategist in an advertising agency.

“I am passionate about this project because not only do I get real world experience, but I also get the opportunity to help a local business.” — Gabri Mannino


A first year’s master’s student in computer science, Duy Nguyen will work on the RoboJ project, which enables journalists to conduct interviews remotely, allowing them access to wider audiences.

“Innovation and technology enable journalism to be more widespread and inclusive by revolutionizing the way journalists conduct interviews and disseminate information.” — Duy Nguyen


A rising UNC senior studying computer science, Husam Shaik took King’s MEJO 588 “Emerging Technologies” class, which increased his interest in immersive technologies such as augmented and virtual realities. During his fellowship, Shaik will work on augmented reality research and building a website for the Hussman School’s Emerging Technologies Lab.

“The fellowship is very open ended, so you can pursue your passion.” —Husam Shaik


Sivonne Ward will be working with the RoboJ project as a front-end developer and user interface/experience designer. She recently graduated from the Hussman School and is excited about the opportunity to work with artificial technology.

“Journalism is all about communication of information. Now, with all the tools and technologies at our disposal, we have the ability to share information in a way never before possible.” — Sivonne Ward


Madelyn Welch, a rising Hussman School senior, will work with The Alamance News on ways to diversify revenue and hopes the fellowship will help focus her career path. Welch is another former MEJO 588 student and thought the fellowship would sharpen and add to the skills she learned under King during that course.

“[Technology and innovation] are important because they allow us to to create different and interesting ways to communicate with people who might not have been reached otherwise.” — Madelyn Welch


Another recent Hussman School grad, Brett Zeck studied graphic design during his time at the Hussman School. The large majority of his fellowship work will include creating a library of icons and illustrations for the Kenan-Flagler School of Business’ online courses.

“Technology, as with all areas of life, has the potential to progress journalism for the good of the nation.” — Brett Zeck