Madison Powers ’24 to explore U.S. immigration with Pulitzer Center grant

As a Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellow, the journalism major and Communication Fellow will travel this summer to El Paso, Texas, to conduct extensive reporting on violence and the dangers of migration, and their impacts on families.

As part of an announcement celebrating its 2023 Reporting Fellows, the Pulitzer Center shared the above graphic on social media highlighting Madison Powers ’24 and her upcoming project, titled “On the Border: Latin American Migrants in Limbo.”

It has been widely said that journalism gives a voice to the voiceless.

This summer, Madison Powers ’24 hopes to accomplish just that, covering the dangers of migration in Latin America. More specifically, her forthcoming project will focus on the drivers behind migration to the U.S. and the violence migrants face along the journey from Central and South America. The journalism major and Communications Fellow will conduct her investigation as a 2023 Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellow, one of 44 journalists selected and financed by the center to report on critical and underreported stories.

During the School of Communications awards ceremony in April, Powers was awarded the James F. Hurley Legacy Scholarship, honoring high achieving students majoring in journalism. The award was presented by Professor Anthony Hatcher.

“I hope that my reporting sheds light on a topic that I think is not covered as much as it should be in the mainstream media,” Powers said. “A lot of times immigration is demonized in the media, and I think that it’s important to humanize people who can be coming here for a variety of reasons, but especially if those reasons are for asylum or they’re seeking better job opportunities or just a better life.”

According to Powers, her interest in the Pulitzer Center and its projects was sparked last fall during her journalism classes when she learned of the center’s in-depth reporting opportunities. Elon University is a partner of the Pulitzer Center’s Campus Consortium network, an educational initiative that brings Pulitzer Center staff and journalists to Elon’s campus twice a year.

With Elon’s membership in the consortium, students have the opportunity to work with the center on developing international reporting projects, which have been featured on the center’s website and can be disseminated through media partners. In 2022, Nyah Phengsitthy ‘23 reported on orphanages in Ghana, producing multimedia stories about how organizations dealt with the pandemic.

“I was just elated to see that email indicating that I was accepted,” Powers said. “When I found out I was so excited, and I didn’t really believe it for a second. I had to read the email over a couple of times.”

During her time at Elon, Powers has been a regular contributor to Elon News Network, the university’s student-run news organization, and the Pulitzer grantee said she is excited to build up her reporting skills in the coming months.

“When I saw that this was an investigative long-form piece, immediately it was like light bulbs – exciting,” Powers said. “That’s not something I’ve ever done to this extent. And, so, it seems like a kind of scary challenge, but also really exciting.”

Associate Professor Glenn Scott, who worked with Powers throughout the 2022-23 academic year, gave her insight and guidance as she refined her Pulitzer Center pitch and worked on her preliminary research. Scott called Powers is a “promising storyteller,” and he said he is confident she will provide readers greater insight into the complex issue.

“Our southern border is a place of hope and despair. Most news stories focus on the overall scene, the big picture, including the failures and inaction,” Scott said. “Madison has a chance to tell more nuanced stories that promote humanitarian responses.”

Following her reporting trip, Powers expects to produce an in-depth feature story, concentrating on the individuals impacted by immigration policy and challenges.

Powers said that her time at Elon have prepared her to take on this new challenge, and she expressed gratitude to the School of Communications, her supportive faculty and staff members, and her experiences in ENN’s newsroom.

“Every single journalism professor I’ve had has told me that they’re always here for me, no matter what. They’re available whenever I need them, which is so comforting to know that I have a lot of people I can count on,” Powers said.

Following her summer fellowship, Powers will return to ENN in a new leadership position, serving as the organization’s news editor.