Overseas Press Club

Overseas Press Club Foundation
Encouraging the next generation of foreign correspondents

40 West 45 Street, New York NY 10036 USA| 201.493.9087 | foundation@opcofamerica.org

Previous Winners
1992 - 2003

2016 Winners
Left to right: Bridges, Midori, Hammerschlag, Wadekar, Kushkush, Thirani Bagri, Paluch, Vongkiakajorn, Vernon, Khohari, Kang, Greenberg, Coburn, Zhou and Riordan

The 2016 OPC Foundation Scholars

Alissa Greenberg, UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

An ardent traveler, Alissa once spent a year traveling solo around the globe, including a trek on the Trans-Mongolian railroad from Helsinki to Beijing.  Fluent in Spanish and proficient in Mandarin, she wrote about how the spread of palm oil plantations in Malaysia was crowding out other forms of life and livelihood, specifically its impact on the indigenous Mah Meri tribe.  She is a graduate of Wesleyan university.

Neha Wadekar, University of Southern California

After graduating from Tufts University, Neha spent two years as a management consultant acquiring the technical and analytical expertise that will aid her in her career in international journalism, preferably in Eastern or Central Africa.  In her essay, she wrote about complex cultural issues surrounding the beauty industry and skin-lightening products in Kenya.  A multimedia journalist with Spanish language skills, she has an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Nairobi. 

Jesse Coburn, New York University

In his essay, Jessie wrote about how tensions eventually subsided in the historically Protestant city of Hamburg as a Lutheran church underwent conversion into a mosque.  Having lived in Berlin for several years, some as a student and later as a journalist for a German architectural magazine and intern at The New York Times, he is fluent in German and proficient in French.  A graduate of Wesleyan University, he intends to report on Europe for American audiences.

Annika Hammerschlag, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

A photojournalist and endurance athlete, Annika was afflicted with dengue fever while reporting on the story that was the essence of her winning essay.  In the northeast Indian town of Bodh Gaya and elsewhere, she observed how some Dalits, or untouchables, have renounced Hinduism and converted to Buddhism and Christianity as a means of escaping the social trappings of the caste system.  Fluent in French and proficient in Spanish, the UCLA graduate intends to report on India’s social issues and cover health issues in West Africa.

Gabrielle Paluch, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

In her winning essay, Gabrielle told the story of Olive, a former drug dealer, prisoner and survivor, whose story encapsulates Myanmar’s endless civil war.  A graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, she speaks German, Mandarin, Spanish, French, and a bit of Thai and Burmese. While reporting from Myanmar, she broke the story of female genital mutilation in hospitals in Thailand.  A multimedia journalist and stand-up comic, she has an OPC Foundation fellowship in The Associated Press bureau in Bangkok.

Levi Bridges, UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism

Levi’s interest in Russia was piqued by a 6,000 mile bicycle journey from the Sea of Japan to Moscow, a city he will return to as an OPC Foundation fellow in the AP bureau.  Fluent in Spanish, he spent the last decade in Mexico City covering immigration and labor. In his essay, the Alfred University graduate and former Fulbright grantee wrote about the mistreatment of carnival workers from Tlapacoyan on H-2B visas in the U.S., an experience he shared working as an undercover reporter.

Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

A native of Thailand and a graduate of Wesleyan University, Kanyakrit was back in Bangkok last August when a bomb rocked the Erawan shrine.  She wrote about its impact on Thai people living in both Bangkok and New York City.  A multimedia journalist, she is committed to covering the stories of Southeast Asia.  Proficient in French, she has an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Bangkok.
Pete Vernon. Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

As a high school teacher in Gabarone, Botswana, Pete observed firsthand the uncertain future of this modern, relatively wealthy country as its economy and infrastructure struggle with the impact of drought and desertification. Formerly with Teach for America, he taught 8th grade in the Bronx. A graduate of William & Mary, where he captained the baseball team, Pete will return to South Africa with an OPC Foundation fellowship in the Reuters bureau in Johannesburg.

Isma'il Kushkush, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Isma'il’s career began as a four-month visit to his ancestral homeland of Sudan that turned into an eight-year stint in East Africa as a stringer for The New York Times and CNN, among others.  There he covered the Eritrean refugee crisis, the subject of his essay.  Fluent in Arabic and a graduate of UC-Davis, he is interested in covering Africa, the Middle East and diaspora communities. Isma'il has an OPC Foundation fellowship in The Associated Press bureau in Jerusalem.

Katie Riordan, University of Montana-Missoula

After a stint reporting from Yemen, Katie headed to Somaliland where she covered, among other environmental and political stories, the effects of drought on the nomadic tribes in this Horn of Africa nation, the subject of her winning essay.  Her interest lies in reporting the impact of climate change and the growing number of climate refugees.  A graduate of the University of Colorado, Katie has an OPC Foundation fellowship with The Wall Street Journal in London.

Wei Zhou, University of North Carolina

A third-year business journalism student, Wei believes that Western audiences need to better understand today’s China, a country rapidly growing into a capitalist state but where the process of industrialization comes at a price. In her essay, she wrote about how China’s stock market plunge last June affected individual investors.  A native Mandarin speaker, she has an OPC Foundation fellowship in The Wall Street Journal bureau in Shanghai. 

Neha Thirani Bagri, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Neha spent four years as a staff reporter in the South Asia bureau of The New York Times.  Intent on a career in long-form, narrative journalism, she is drawn to stories about marginalized communities.  Fluent in Hindi, she is a graduate of Northwestern. In her essay, she told the story of Agnelo Valdaris, a young man who was tortured and killed while in police custody in Mumbai and his father’s fruitless efforts to exact justice.  She has an OPC Foundation fellowship with the GroundTruth Project.

Alizeh Kohari, New York University

A native of Karachi and currently a Fulbright scholar, Alizeh’s interest lies in documenting lives impacted by environmental change.  In her essay, she wrote about the villages along the Indus River in Pakistan that bore the environmental consequences of the 1967 construction of the Tarbela dam. A graduate of the London School of Economics, she is fluent in English, Urdu/Hindi with some Punjabi, French and Spanish. She has an OPC Foundation fellowship with Reuters in Mexico City.

Russell Midori, Columbia Graduate School of Journalism

Russell learned cinematography as a Marine Corps combat videographer before earning his degree in broadcast journalism from Brooklyn College.  His application contained a compelling short documentary on the security issues surrounding the recent presidential election in Haiti. As field producer and on-camera host, he focused on whether the Haitian National Police had succeeded in establishing safe, fair and violence-free polling stations. 

Dake Kang, University of Chicago

A Korean American raised in China and schooled in the U.S., Dake is fascinated by the contradictions of modernity in Asia, particularly its impact on India and China.  In his essay, he wrote about North Korean students at the for-profit Stratford University in Delhi, a story he first reported for the Times of India.  Proficient in Mandarin, the college senior has a double major in Modern Asia History and Mathematics.  Dake has an OPC Foundation fellowship with Forbes Philippines in Manilla.






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