Kyra O’Connor ’23 to attend SPJ’s Student Leadership Institute

The Elon junior and Elon News Network executive director will be one of 24 students to participate in the Society of Professional Journalists’ program focusing on student leadership and enhancing journalistic skills.

In high school, one of Kyra O’Connor’s fondest memories was attending journalism conferences. From the Journalism Education Association Conference to local forums, the Elon junior relished the sessions dedicated to honing her journalistic craft and making connections with other student journalists.

Kyra O’Connor ’23

The Elon News Network executive director said these memories are what prompted her to apply for the 2021 Student Leadership Institute (SLI) hosted by the Society of Professional Journalists.

“I remember my first conference as a sophomore in high school and being in awe of all of the people I met there,” O’Connor said. “It’s an incredible opportunity to not only better ourselves as student journalists, but to celebrate our hard work after a difficult year.”

O’Connor will be one of 24 journalists from across the country participating in the weekend institute July 16-18 at Jameson Camp in Indianapolis. The SLI was designed to help collegiate journalists build their confidence for leading and contributing to a team, and make the students members of SPJ credible, ethical and values-based leaders.

Colin Donohue, instructor in journalism and mentor to O’Connor, said he was not surprised to see she was chosen for the institute. In her two years on campus, O’Connor has proven herself to be a thoughtful and dedicated leader, he said.

“I’m happy that SPJ sees in Kyra what so many of us already have, and I know she’ll only continue to grow as a leader and as a journalist,” Donohue said. “I’m excited for her to take advantage of the opportunity.”

As the top student leader of Elon News Network, O’Connor said she looks forward to growing her leadership skills and taking them back to the student-run news network in the fall.

“Being a leader is something you can always get better at,” O’Connor said. “I’m excited to learn from other student leaders across the country and take those skills back to ENN.”

The SLI, created with the support of the Scripps Howard Foundation, allows the small cohort of college students to learn about leadership concepts and enhance their skills with the help of expert facilitators. Attendees will also be mentored by young professional journalists.

“At more than 110 years old, SPJ is more than a figurehead of objectivity, free speech and ethics. It also provides real-time, required tools for journalists — critical resources in this era of acrimony against journalism from our top leaders and their followers,” said Yvette Walker, chair of SPJ’s Journalism Education Committee. “We’re happy to support our up-and-coming leaders in SPJ through the SLI.”

The students will also be given an opportunity to strengthen their skills at SPJ’s 2021 national conference, held Sept. 2-4 in New Orleans.