Southern Cal Undergrad Wins Column Scholarship

2014 Jeff Zaslow College Columnist Award Winners

By Suzette Martinez Standring
2004-06 NSNC President

Maya Richard-Craven
Maya Richard-Craven

Maya Richard-Craven, a campus columnist at the University of Southern California, is the winner of the 2014 Jeff Zaslow College Columnist Award and its $1,000 scholarship prize.

Senior judge Nikki Schwab, the “Washington Whispers” blogger of U.S. News and World Report, said, “She has a really edgy voice, and she’s tackling some pretty big issues for someone of her age. (And she’s even done radio hits to promote her work, which I find especially impressive).”

Richard-Craven’s two-column entry dealt with the lack of racial awareness among her fellow millennials on the Los Angeles campus.

“I usually focus on racial issues and gender and sexual orientation inequality in a private university setting,” said Richard-Craven, 19. “Within my generation, a lack of race consciousness is defined as colorblind racism and so it’s not necessarily that individuals are intentionally trying to oppress people of color, but it’s a lack of awareness of minority culture that ends up hurting people of color.”

Anna Sterling (right) interviews Maya Richard-Craven on Neon Tommy Radio of the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.
Anna Sterling (right) interviews Maya Richard-Craven on Neon Tommy Radio of the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. Richard-Craven is the 2014 winner of NSNC’s Jeff Zaslow College Columnist Award. Both women are USC students. 3:15 video at YouTube.

The 19-year-old columnist for USC’s Neon Tommy added, “I hope to incorporate my passion for storytelling and race studies to promote awareness about my generation. In addition, because we’re in this age of social media, I want to use social media and broadcasting to bring about social change.”

NSNC past presidents Ben Pollock and Suzette Martinez Standring served in the preliminary round of judging before final winners were chosen by Schwab.

Second place, the Laurence Cohen Presidential Award, and $500 will be awarded to Annie Johnson of Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

“Johnson’s columns exhibit candor and forthright intelligence. She has a gift for the lead paragraph, which draws the reader in on troubling issues of campus life,” said Standring, in the preliminary round of judging.

“Johnson’s columns are extensively reported, approaching explanatory or even investigative journalism in their detail,” Pollock said. “In her entry, she tackled prescription drug abuse, ‘e-cigarettes’ and campus drinking, all citing local sources.”

Third place and $250 will be awarded to Danny Huizinga of Baylor University in Texas. “Huizinga tackles education reform, government shutdowns, and the morning-after pill with well-crafted arguments,” said Standring.

“Huizinga’s op-ed pieces are closely argued, yet conversational in tone,” Pollock said.

As an additional prize, Richard-Craven will be flown to Washington, D.C., to attend the annual NSNC conference at the Washington Plaza Hotel, June 26-29, 2014. The NSNC Education Foundation sponsors her transportation, lodging and related expenses.

The NSNC Education Foundation sponsors the annual the Jeff Zaslow College Columnist Award, which holds the competition among colleges and universities to recognize and promote excellence among student columnists. This is the contest’s 16th year. A list of previous scholarship winners is at this link.

Syndicated foreign affairs columnist Joel Brinkley as NSNC scholarship chair ran the award contest until his March 11, 2014, death. NSNC President Eric Heyl supervised the conclusion of this year’s scholarship program.

The foundation’s scholarship — and its first-place prize — was renamed following the February 2012 death of Jeffrey Zaslow, the best-selling author, Wall Street Journal columnist and longtime NSNC member. The second-place honor was named the Laurence Cohen Presidential Award, following Larry’s death in August 2012, months after being elected NSNC president. Larry was a longtime Hartford Courant columnist.


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