When Cameron Smith came to the University of Kansas, she had no journalistic experience and had planned on majoring in music education. Four years later, Smith has a degree from the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications and has been accepted into the prestigious Fulbright Berlin Capital Program.
As a part of the program, Smith will travel to Berlin, Germany, to study the reunification of Germany and how that affected the roles of journalists in Western democracies. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though, her departure has been postponed until May 2021. Smith will be researching methods Germany has employed in battling misinformation and disinformation while preserving its democracy.
“I'm a patriot, but I think that we need to be open to how other countries do things and value and respect and replicate it in our own country,” Smith said.
The Fulbright program has international outreach, providing exchanges between the United States and over 160 countries and territories worldwide. Operated by the German-American Fulbright Commission, the Berlin Capital Program invites up to 15 young U.S. journalists and students of journalism to Germany for a weeklong seminar to take a closer look at the German media landscape and gain a deeper awareness of the political, economic and cultural environment in Germany and Europe.
Smith hopes to use this opportunity to assist her goal of aiding political journalists in understanding information and policies presented by the government in order to combat disinformation, increase civic engagement and ultimately benefit the U.S. democracy as a whole.
Smith’s passion for political change began after she connected with young girls from Kabul, Afghanistan, through her father, who was overseas with the U.S. military. She heard stories of girls who were killed while trying to make it to school to receive an education, which she says changed her life.
“Knowing that [those girls] are now dead in the face of just wanting education and equality really fired me up to make changes, both on an international and domestic level,” Smith said.
Smith took that passion and began pursuing degrees in journalism with an emphasis on strategic communication and in political science with an emphasis on public policy. She additionally completed a scholarship in National Security and Intelligence through the Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence and was an active KU Honors Program student, all while holding several internship positions and founding an advocacy group under the organization RESULTS.
Smith noted that it is rewarding that she was accepted into the same program as other graduates of notable prestige and credits the School of Journalism with preparing her for this opportunity.
“That's what the KU journalism school has really provided me with is a foundation to ensure that these opportunities aren't necessarily the exception but the rule,” Smith said.
While Smith moves on to participate in the Fulbright Program and begin her professional career, she says she will continue to be supported by the journalism school throughout it all.
“The world really has a deep place of respect and admiration for KU and the journalism school,” Smith said, “…so many fantastic people have come out of it and that's why I love it so much.”