Katie Perkins, a junior Creative Media Industries student from Brenham, Texas, was named as a Planet Forward Correspondent for the 2022-2023 term.
Planet Forward is an environmental storytelling project based out of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. Founded by Emmy Award-Winning Journalist Frank Sesno, Planet Forward seeks to empower the next generation of storytellers while placing an emphasis on science and environmental communication.
As one of 15 correspondents ranging from Harvard College, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of Arizona, Perkins will represent the Texas Tech College of Media & Communication on a national platform.
“As a beginner journalist, it's a really great way to get experience and be able to say I was published,” said Perkins. “I can use this content for my portfolio, which will be reviewed and critiqued by all the professionals [at Planet Forward].”
Over the course of her appointment, Perkins will craft four multimedia stories focused in areas such as science communication, environmental communication and conservation. Each story has a theme provided by Planet Forward. It is then up to Perkins to explore her local community for a fitting story.
With each story requiring a written article and visual elements, Perkins said she looks forward to practicing her skillset across multiple disciplines.
“I'm more of a visual journalist than a written journalist,” said Perkins, “but it will be nice to stretch my wings and push myself to become better in the written side of storytelling.”
For Perkins's first story, Planet Forward provided the theme of “Food” in response to the approach of International Food Week. Perkins combined her creativity and ecological knowledge to craft an article about the practice of eating invasive species to help quell the harmful populations. For her next story, Perkins will highlight the conservation awareness practiced by one of Lubbock's most popular seasonal attractions, At'l Do Farms.
Although Perkins recognizes the invaluable experience and portfolio-building provided by her role with Planet Forward, her commitment to maintaining nature's fragile balance drives her career decisions. Even if she is not participating in the hard science to cultivate change, she acts as an agent of awareness and dissemination.
“A lot of the time scientific communication is researchers that have PhDs talking to other people with PhDs,” said Perkins. “All these other people who are interested in science get lost in the mix, because they haven't spent 10 years in higher education. That's what I love about being able to create fun little videos about ways that we, as individuals, can implement environmentalism into our everyday lives.”
CoMC's relationship with Planet Forward began in 2018, when Associate Professor of Practice Jerod Foster, Ph.D., was approached by a Planet Forward affiliate, who asked Foster to recommend students for the correspondent program. Foster, who has placed CoMC beneath national spotlights with first-of-its-kind experiential learning programs such as Adventure Media, encounters handfuls of students devoted to communicating science for the good of Mother Nature.
“Katie has a really great balance of interests,” said Foster. “She wants to be a journalist, but she also has a dedicated interest to conservation and the natural world, both from a personal perspective and academic perspective.”
Foster provided application information to multiple students in his current roster, but it was up to them to take the leap and earn a seat. With another accomplishment for her resume—and graduation soon approaching—Perkins looks forward to even greater heights.
“Eventually I'd like to be an environmental photojournalist working for The Nature Conservancy or National Geographic,” said Perkins. “I'm very passionate about trying to save the environment, but also bringing awareness to the tangible ways we can reverse the damages.”
Perkins's appointment has received collective praise from her peers and mentors alike, such as that of Robert Peaslee, Ph.D., associate professor and chairperson, who watched Perkins in action during a two-week study away program known as The Great Plains Project.
“We are very proud to see Katie selected for this important assignment,” said Peaslee. “Her work ethic and capability are through the roof, and her visual storytelling skills are among the best we have to offer. What really sets her apart, though, is that even with all this knowledge and experience, she's still willing to learn and grow, and seeking out a role with Planet Forward is evidence of that.”
Perkins will round out the yearlong position by attending a summit in Washington D.C., where she will have a chance to network with industry leaders while attending panels and discussions about current topics.