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Timms selected for prestigious reporting fellowship

By Pete Rosenbery

For Southern Illinois University Carbondale senior Morgan Timms, photojournalism blends adventure, creativity and research, and is the perfect vehicle to reach and inspire people.

Timms was selected by the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts to receive a 2017 Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting International Reporting Fellowship. Once she graduates in May with a double major in psychology and photojournalism, Timms will return to her native Australia for several weeks to document the role of cultural identity in the health and well-being of Aboriginal youth.

Timms, who is from Brisbane, Australia, will stay in a community that has one of the highest rates of youth suicide in the world, and document her experiences there over two weeks.

“That really broke my heart a bit when I heard that (suicide rates), so I was really motivated to let people know about it. I think it is a global issue and something that needs an international audience,” she said.

She is excited and happy, but admits being “extremely stressed because of the hard work I have ahead of me.”

“I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the support of SIU and the Pulitzer Center. I’m so lucky to be afforded this opportunity,” said Timms, the daughter of Melissa Donaldson and Geoff Timms of Brisbane, Australia.

The partnership with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting gives students the opportunity to report on global issues through reporting fellowships. The university’s School of Journalism has been part of the center’s Campus Consortium since the launch in January 2009, but the relationship between the center and SIU students goes back farther with William Freivogel, a journalism professor and a member of the center’s advisory committee. There are 30 universities and community colleges in the consortium, and Timms will be the 10th SIU student to participate. Another student, Ryan Michalesko, a junior from Carbondale majoring in photojournalism, will use his fellowship to spend time in Mexico telling the story of migrants who travel to the United States for seasonal work.

A three-time Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete as a swimmer in the backstroke, Timms also found time to work as the photo and video editor at the Daily Egyptian, the student newspaper on campus. Since her NCAA eligibility ran out in February 2016, she is helping with the swim team this season.

Timms said at SIU she found a family through the swim team and her passion in visual storytelling. She was initially a psychology major, but became hooked after taking her first basic photojournalism class with Phil Greer, a senior lecturer in the School of Journalism.

Timms said being recruited to swim for the Salukis opened up many doors -- being able to see the world, and her love of photojournalism. She still enjoys psychology and finds it interesting, so she is continuing with those studies.

“I wanted to help people but I felt that therapy was a very slow way of going about doing that in comparison to journalism,” Timms said. “You are reaching so many people and unraveling assumptions, inspiring people and changing people’s lives on a much greater scale than psychology. When I started to read about journalism I took my first introduction to photojournalism with Professor Greer. Ever since then it has been photojournalism for me.”

While he describes her as “low-key,” Greer points to Timms’ passion for work. She interned last summer for a suburban Chicago newspaper and they were sufficiently impressed that they want to open up similar opportunities for other students, Greer said.

“She is an exceptional person. She’s very involved and very committed to whatever project she takes on,” he said. “The university will hear great things about her in the future. She’s a cut above the average student. Nothing is good enough. She can be running at a straight A average and she will ask for extra credit.”

Freivogel said Timms is an “elegant writer, a deep thinker, and a terrific photographer.”

“Morgan is an understated, respectful person who listens to what you have to say, thinks about it and responds intelligently,” he said. “My dictionary doesn’t have enough superlatives to describe this promising young journalist.”