A 2013 graduate of the University of Louisville has earned a prominent Fulbright Award to study journalism at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom. The competitive placement is awarded to only 3 percent of U.S. Fulbright applicants.
As a Fulbright winner, Rae Hodge will embark in September on a year-long study at the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media & Cultural Studies, enrolled in the university’s MSc Computational Journalism program. Designed to prepare early-career journalists to lead data-driven news start-ups, the program allows students take rigorous coding classes while learning advanced investigative techniques and business management practices.
Hodge’s academic trajectory and path to journalism has been unique. After graduating from Nelson County High School in 2003, Hodge took a 6-year hiatus, traveling the country with an educational non-profit organization before starting classes at Jefferson Community College in 2009, earning a competitive internship with the Kentucky state government in Frankfort. She transferred to UofL in 2011 and worked with faculty to craft a specialized liberal studies degree in political journalism, the first of its kind at the school.
During her time at UofL, Hodge bolstered the student newspaper, giving The Louisville Cardinal its first capital correspondent as she reported on higher education issues from Frankfort in 2012. She swiftly rose to editor of the Cardinal where she worked with Professor Ralph Merkel of the university’s communication department in 2013 to help new students receive course credit for their work in the newsroom.
Hodge likens her journalism education to that of an early field medic. “I was equipped with rudimentary training and whatever tools I could scavenge, dashing from subject to subject, learning as I went and trying not to hurt anyone. Most of my articles would have ended up looking like Frankenstein’s monster, were it not for ‘Saint Merkel.’ He truly embodies the innovative, D.I.Y. spirit that UofL’s Arts and Science faculty has come to be known for.”
According to Hodge, Merkel was crucial to her academic and professional career, overseeing her customized practicums as she combined them with online coursework and grew the Cardinal.
“Everything about my journalism education has been academically unorthodox but wholly traditional to the history of the trade. What read as internships on my resume were actually apprenticeships under Kentucky’s best reporters. I was chasing politicians across the campaign trail, teaching the News Pyramid to freshmen writers in the evening, and finishing my biology homework from a laptop on the Senate floor,” Hodge said.