Staff & Contributors

Executive Director-Editor
Additional Staff
Reporter/Digital Analyst
Contributing Consultants
Radio Show Host/Producer
Former Staffers
Board of Directors
TOP 10 COLLABORATIONS OF 2020 TWO-TIME CO-HONOREE
(The Center for Cooperative Media)
THE BEST SOLUTIONS JOURNALISM OF 2019 CO-HONOREE
(Solutions Journalism Network)
CITIZEN DIPLOMAT AWARD 2018 RECIPIENT
(Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities, CIVIC)
EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM 2014 RECIPIENT
(Iowa Association for Justice)

Executive Director-Editor

Suzanne Behnke joined IowaWatch in August 2019 and guides the center’s business and editorial operations. She previously served as editor of the Des Moines Business Record. She has been an editor and contributor since May 2017. She also is a journalism and communications instructor at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, and Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Behnke, a native Iowan, has a long and rich news reporting and editing history in Iowa. She was a reporter, copy editor and page designer at The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier from 1997 to 2000 before joining The Des Moines Register staff. In two stints, from 2000 to 2008 and again from 2012 to 2017, Behnke served The Register in vital management roles, including as front page editor, state editor and an online editor. Behnke earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Wartburg College in 1997 and a master’s degree in public administration from Drake University in 2010. E-mail: suzanne-behnke@iowawatch.org. Phone: 515-556-7892.

Reporters

Olivia Allen is a summer 2021 news intern, focusing on Iowa’s State Parks, an ongoing series of stories about the state’s outdoor recreational system of parks that is supported by the Iowa Newspaper Foundation and IowaWatch. Allen will be a senior at Simpson College in the fall. She is pursuing studies in multimedia journalism and political science. Allen has worked in student media organizations and is a member of the Simpson softball team..

Silvia Oakland, a 2021 Wartburg College graduate and recipient of the Pat Pisarik Journalist of the Year award, joined IowaWatch to focus coverage on social justice issues. She says she wants to gain new skills for her love of investigative journalism. She was editor-in-chief of The Trumpet, Wartburg’s student-run newspaper and a multiple Iowa College Media Association news contest winner during the 2020-21 school year. She also participated in the college’s student-run livestream network, Knight Vision.

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Danielle Gehr is a freelance photographer, reporter and writer for IowaWatch. Gehr is also a beat reporter at the Ames Tribune. She worked as a summer reporting intern for IowaWatch in 2020, covering topics such as implicit bias training for Iowa law enforcement and the June primary and access to voting amid a pandemic. She previously worked as a breaking news reporting intern at The Des Moines Register. Gehr is a 2020 graduate of Iowa State University.

Andy Kopsa is an award winning journalist who does freelance reporting for IowaWatch. Raised on a farm in Grundy County, Iowa, she is based in New York City. She has written for The New York Times, The Nation, Al Jazeera, The Atlantic, The Guardian, TIME and others. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Award for Reporting Events of Public Importance and was a fellow at University of Southern California Annenberg’s Center Knight Grant for Reporting on Religion in American Public Life.

Rick Jost is a freelance reporter and writer for IowaWatch. He previously worked as the editor of Our Iowa magazine, a copy editor and business editor for The Des Moines Register, and a senior editor at Meredith Corp. He also was a reporter at the Quad City Times. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Iowa State University.

John Naughton is a former Des Moines Register reporter. He served as a sportswriter for 31 years, winning a number of Iowa writing awards. He lives in the Des Moines area, where he does freelance writing, shovels snow and collects hats.

Kate Hayden is a freelance reporter and writer for IowaWatch. She is the tech and innovation reporter for the Des Moines Business Record and its magazine and newsletter, InnovationIowa. Hayden previously worked as a reporter at the Charles City Press. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Simpson College.

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Emery Styron is a freelance photographer, reporter and writer for IowaWatch. He has previously worked as an editor and publisher for several publications. He earned a journalism degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and an MBA from St. Ambrose University.

 

Lindsey Darland is a freelance graphic designer for IowaWatch. She is the creative director for Atlas Community Studios and previously worked for Alchemy Community Design and as a creative associate at Business Publications Corp. in Des Moines. Darland earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising, event management, marketing and psychology from Iowa State University.

Pat Kinney is a freelance reporter, writer and photographer for IowaWatch. He works as the director of institutional advancement for the Grout Museum in Waterloo, Iowa, where he worked for several decades as an editor and reporter at the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. He earned a degree in journalism from Iowa State University.

Nicole Grundmeier is a freelance reporter and writer for IowaWatch. She previously worked as a reporter and copy editor at The Des Moines Register. Grundmeier graduated with a degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University and earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.

 Board of Directors

Erin Jordan_MugErin Jordan is the board’s president. She is an award-winning investigative reporter for The Gazette in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa, where she covers topics that include tax breaks, business incentives, state bonuses and food waste. She was a 2018-19 O’Brien Fellow In Public Service Journalism at Marquette University. Her other honors included being a recipient of the Iowa Newspaper Foundation’s Harrison “Skip” Weber Investigative Reporting Award. Before joining The Gazette, Erin was the Iowa City Bureau reporter for the Des Moines Register from 2003 to 2009. She has also taught at the University of Iowa’s Summer Journalism Workshop and Iowa Young Writer’s Studio. Erin has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication from Iowa State University. Her term as director ends in 2023.

Andy Hall is founder and executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, WisconsinWatch.org, in Madison, Wisconsin. A former Investigative Reporters and Editors board member, he has won dozens of awards for his reporting over the past 26 years at the Wisconsin State Journal and The Arizona Republic. He began his career in 1982 as a copyboy at The New York Times. At The Republic, Andy helped break the “Keating Five” scandal involving Sen. John McCain. At the State Journal, Hall’s stories held government and the powerful accountable and protected the vulnerable through coverage that addressed the racial achievement gap in public schools and helped spark the creation of the nationally noted Schools of Hope volunteer tutoring program, revealed NCAA violations by University of Wisconsin athletes, and exposed appalling conditions in neglected neighborhoods such as Allied Drive and Worthington Park. Andy won a first-place award in 2008 for beat reporting from the Education Writers Association. He also has received National Headliner, Gerald Loeb, James K. Batten and Inland Press Association awards for investigative, financial, deadline and civic journalism coverage. Hall has served for nine years as a mentor to the staff of La Comunidad, a Spanish-language newspaper in Madison. He has taught numerous courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. His term as director ends in 2021.

DANIEL LATHROPDaniel Lathrop is an investigative reporter at The Des Moines Register. His previous work includes teaching as assistant professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Iowa, doing computer assisted reporting at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and co-founding the non-profit news organization Investigate West. He also was news applications editor and then projects data editor at the Dallas Morning News before moving to Iowa in fall 2015, database editor at the Center for Public Integrity, where he worked on several award-winning projects, and a reporter at the Daytona Beach News-Journal and Ames Tribune. He has advised and assisted IowaWatch with data-based reporting. His term ends in 2021.

JimJim Malewitz is the investigations editor at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Reporting, where he edits, managing fellows and interns, and facilitates cross-newsroom collaborations and investigative reporting. Here formerly was an environmental reporter at Bridge Magazine in Michigan. He is a founding IowaWatch staff member and former assistant editor who graduated from the University of Iowa with a master of arts-professional in journalism degree in May 2011. His May 29, 2010, investigation “When Students Go Missing”, was IowaWatch’s first published story and was instrumental in building IowaWatch’s reputation as a trusted investigative news source. Jim earned his undergraduate degree from Grinnell College in 2009, where he majored in political science with a concentration in global development studies. He also served stints as an energy reporter at The Texas Tribune and energy and environmental issues reporter at Stateline, in Washington, D.C. His term as director ends in 2022.

Katelynn McCollough is a litigation attorney at the Davis Brown Law Firm. She works with companies defending against labor and employment, business and commercial litigation matters and also advises employers on how changing marijuana laws impact their businesses. During her undergraduate studies at Iowa State University, Katelynn interned with IowaWatch as a reporter and was Editor-in-Chief of the Iowa State Daily. She was also Senior Associate Editor of the Journal of Corporation Law at the University of Iowa Law School. Her term ends in 2022.

Lyle Muller was the center’s first full-time executive director-editor from May 2012 until retiring from that position in August 2019. He continues to help the center with education programming and reporting. Before joining IowaWatch, he held several reporting and editing positions during 25 years at The Gazette, (Cedar Rapids, IA), among them being editor of the Iowa City Gazette in 1999-2003 and The Gazette in 2009-12, but also leading investigative and special projects, and serving as a senior editor on a team of editors that directed coverage of an Iowa flooding disaster, which won The Gazette the Society of Professional Journalists’ national Sigma Delta Chi award for deadline reporting in 2008. A 1992 Council for the Advancement of Science Writing national fellow, his focus as a reporter was on health, science and higher education. He is the reporting coach for The Daily Iowan’s Ethics and Politics Initiative journalism project; professional adviser for Grinnell College’s student-run Scarlet & Black newspaper; Iowa editor for PolitiFact; and a member of the Iowa High School Press Association Board of Directors. He is a former member of the Iowa Newspaper Foundation board of directors. He has taught political reporting and editing at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication as an adjunct faculty member and served on Pulitzer Prize juries that selected finalists for investigative reporting for 2017 and commentary for 2018. His reporting experience included working as a staff reporter at the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Daily Iowan and in radio and television news. He is a University of Iowa graduate with a major in communication studies. His term as director ends in 2022.

Gunnar Olson has built on his background as an experienced journalist to earn a reputation as an engaging, trusted and articulate spokesperson and leader for causes important to Greater Des Moines. As the Des Moines Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) Communications and Strategy Manager, he strives to make the MPO, its expert staff and valuable research more accessible to the media, community leaders and other organizations — and ultimately elevate community conversations about the region’s future. Prior to joining the MPO, he was the public affairs manager for the Des Moines Area Regional Transit Authority (DART) and a staff writer with The Des Moines Register. He lives in Windsor Heights with his wife, Dr. Sara Olson of Wolfe Eye Clinic, and their two children. His term as director ends in 2023.

Rose Rennekamp is a retired marketing and communications professional who now serves as a community volunteer. The first half of her career was in the major appliance industry. With bachelors and masters degrees in textiles from Iowa State University she began her career designing laundry equipment with Whirlpool Corporation. She then earned her MBA from The University of Iowa and became product manager for Radarange® microwave ovens for Amana/Raytheon. She was the first Raytheon female vice president when she was became Vice President of Product Marketing and Planning. She subsequently served as Vice President of Corporate Strategy and then Vice President and General Manager of the Industrial Microwave Division. The second half of Rennekamp’s career focused on higher education. She taught marketing, new product development and strategy classes in the Executive MBA program at The University of Iowa. She also marketed the research assets of the university. In 1997, ACT recruited her to become its vice president of communications. Responsible for the Publications, Media Relations, Information Resources and Web teams, she led ACT’s first ventures into Internet marketing, its first website and its first online apps. She also developed a syndicated newspaper column, College and Career Corner, which appeared in more than 250 of the country’s leading newspapers. In retirement, Rennekamp focuses on the intersection of three vectors: strategic planning, higher education, and communication. She spent three years researching and writing Cut College Costs: How to Get Your Degree without Drowning in Debt. She also served as a director and president of the Iowa College Access Network. She now serves on the boards of directors for the Kirkwood Community College Foundation, The Heritage Center on Aging, Kirkwood Community College and The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism. Her term ends in 2023.

Steve Ridge, chief operating officer of Frank N. Magid Associates Inc., is a leading national media expert who frequently is quoted in publications including The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, TV Guide, Reuters, and Forbes Magazine while appearing on Fox Business News, Bloomberg Television, NBC News and CNBC. His interest in politics and communications led to a diverse career as an early achiever. After interning with former President Dwight Eisenhower at the age of 15, Ridge had his own commercial radio segment while still in high school. He completed his senior year at the University of Iowa as the youngest congressional campaign manager in the country in 1974. After graduating he honed his investigative reporting skills in radio and television in Iowa, becoming a national award-winning investigative television journalist and the youngest president-elect of the Iowa Broadcast News Association after championing numerous Freedom of Information challenges in local government. Ridge was a television news manager in Alabama and New York state until 1983, when he joined Magid, the nation’s leading audience research-based television and radio consulting firm. He co-led a company initiative to successfully acquire one of the country’s leading print media research firms in the mid-1990s and has led the diversification and expansion of the company in media, entertainment, electronic gaming, consumer-packaged goods, retail, financial services, quick-serve restaurants, travel, leisure and hospitality. Ridge and his family continue to make Iowa their home, despite the move of corporate headquarters to Minneapolis and the largest offices being based on Broadway in New York and near Hollywood on the west coast. His term as director ends in 2023.

Heather SpanglerHeather Spangler is the board secretary, and a lecturer and event planning certificate coordinator at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Her interests are helping brands of all types meet their goals through strategic communications, especially through events, social media and written communications. She periodically helps IowaWatch plan and hold events. Heather was a newspaper reporter with the Iowa City Press-Citizen and The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA) before spending a decade working in strategic communications, event planning and alumni relations in higher education. Her roles included serving as external relations writer and director of alumni relations at the University of Iowa College of Education before accepting her current position on the School of Journalism and Mass Communication faculty. She advises and assists IowaWatch with event planning. Her term as director ends in 2021.

Alan Swanson is a Realtor and philanthropist who received an M.A. from the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and who was a Daily Iowan reporter. He was the first marketer for the UI Press’s academic publications of poetry, short fiction and creative nonfiction, and also designed book jackets and the book Samuel Johnson’s Early Biographers. Later, he became the first communications director of the University of Iowa Foundation, where he mentored others on his team, which won numerous regional and national communications awards. Those awards included the top one for publications in U.S. higher education, presented by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. On his 30-year anniversary, then senior vice president, communications and administration, he departed for a second career using his communications and marketing experience, joining real estate firm Blank & McCune in downtown Iowa City. Now co-owner/co-broker of the company, he added CLASSIC to reinforce its image, and enhanced marketing efforts to boost productivity. He has served on many area and state boards, including Iowa Able Foundation, Iowa Architectural Foundation, Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, United Way of SE Iowa, Iowa City Area Association of Realtors, Iowa City Public Library Foundation (president), Summer of the Arts, Riverside Theatre (president), Iowa City Community Theatre, and Englert Theatre. He’s served on various nonprofit development committees, including for Shelter House, Coralville Center for the Performing Arts, the UI Stanley Museum of Art, and the Unitarian Universalist Society. He’s a member of the National Association of Realtors, Public Relations Society of America (APR accredited), and the Congress for New Urbanism. He enjoys keyboard performance, graphic art, interior design, architecture, community involvement and support, and world travel. He admires wordsmiths, and is a news addict. His term ends in 2021.

Our co-founder, retired board member, inspiration

Stephen J. Berry, co-founder, former interim executive director-editor, became a journalism professor emeritus at The University of Iowa after joining the faculty in fall 2003 and retiring in summer 2015. He served on the IowaWatch board until December 2019. In 2009, he published “Watchdog Journalism: The Art of Investigative Reporting” (Oxford, 2009). Drawing on archival research and interviews with Pulitzer Prize winning journalists from across the country, the book reveals the drama of the job and the passion of its practitioners as it tells the back stories of six investigative projects that earned the crafts most coveted honor. Before coming to the UI in August 2003, Steve was a journalist at the Los Angeles Times for seven years, most of which was as an investigative reporter. He has more than 30 years of experience as a journalist. In 1993, while at the Orlando Sentinel, Steve and his reporting partner won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting. The four-part project – “Tainted Cash or Easy Money?” exposed abuses of power and racial targeting by an elite squad of deputies of the sheriff in Volusia County, Florida. Steve holds an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Montevallo in Montevallo, Alabama. His master’s degree is in American history from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He taught introductory, intermediate and investigative reporting and writing to undergraduates while at the University of Iowa.

Contributing Consultants and Reporters

Brian Steffen, professor and head of Simpson College’s Department of Multimedia Communication, is working with his students on special reporting projects for IowaWatch. He is a former Associated Press and Ames Daily Tribune reporter and twice the winner of Simpson’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He was named Small Program Teacher of the Year by the national Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2009.

David Fritze, is a nonprofit news consultant for IowaWatch, helping with coaching, grant writing, fundraising and other operational aspects of nonprofit news. He was executive director for Oklahoma Watch from November 2012 to August 2020. Before that, he held various positions at The Arizona Republic for 20 years. They included business, metro and national editor, as well as a senior reporter.

Isaacson & Syverson Consulting, Des Moines, Iowa, assists IowaWatch under contract with fundraising and fund development strategy, and planning.

Former Members of our Team

Robert Gutsche, Jr., co-founder, helped organize IowaWatch, beginning in November 2009 and served on the Board of Directors as Treasurer until 2011. He is in a senior lecturer/associate professor at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom.

laurenLauren Mills Shotwell was IowaWatch’s first full-time, staff data analyst/reporter, and also served as assistant editor during her time with the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism in January 2013-August 2016. She also was among the students who helped establish and grow IowaWatch when she studied at the University of Iowa.

Lauren Wade was an IowaWatch reporter in 2017-19, first as a student intern and then as a staff reporter who also assisted with story presentation at IowaWatch.org/. She was the 2018 IowaWatch/Fotini Perlmutter Undergraduate Student Award recipient.

Linh Ta is a reporter with Axios Iowa. IowaWatch’s first University of Northern Iowa student, she was a reporter in 2013-14 and a board member in 2019.

Mike AndersonMike Anderson is a Rapid City Journal reporter. He was with IowaWatch from fall 2010 through January 2012 and again in August and September 2015.

Rosemary Adams, with IowaWatch in 2016-18, is a North American new business assistant account executive at McCann.


Lily Bohlke
, with IowaWatch in 2018-19, is a reporter for Public News Service.


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Joy (Chia-Yu) Chang, was IowaWatch’s public relations and marketing director in 2012-14. She is senior content strategist with Alibaba Group in China, traveling to various places around the world.

Maria Curi, a spring 2018 intern and IowaWatch/Fotini Perlmutter Undergraduate Student Award winner, is a reporter for Inside U.S. Trade.


Julia Davis,
a spring 2017 IowaWatch intern, works in communications in the admissions office at MIT.

Lindsey Drilling
Lindsey Drilling
, director of marketing and promotions during time at IowaWatch, is a marketing assistant for Drilling Pharmacy in Sioux City, Iowa.

Bailey Doyle is working in marketing and public relations in the Chicago area. She was an IowaWatch marketing and public relations intern in 2017-19.

Sarah HadleySarah Hadley, a two-time winner of the IowaWatch/Fotini Perlmutter Undergraduate Student Award, is a producer for KCTV5 News in Kansas City, Missouri.

Emily HoernerEmily Hoerner is a reporter for Injustice Watch. She was with IowaWatch in 2011 and 2012.


Krista Johnson
is a reporter with the Montgomery Advertiser. She was an IowaWatch reporter from 2015-17.


MacKenzie Elmer,
one of IowaWatch’s first reporters, is a reporter at Voice of San Diego in San Diego, California.

Sarah Fields, director of public relations and marketing during her time with IowaWatch in 2017-18, is in marketing at The Post and Courier in Charleston.

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Stephen Gruber-Miller, with IowaWatch from 2013-15, is a reporter at the Des Moines Register.

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Meghan Horihan
is a freelance video editor and writer at Ruckus Factory Digital Studios in Chicago. She was an IowaWatch public relations specialist and then a reporter in 2012-15.


Guannan Huang
, a native of Jiangxi Province, China, is a reporter and editor at The Week news website.

Molly Hunter an IowaWatch reporter in 2018-19, is a reporter at the David City Banner-Press in Nebraska.


Tyler McClelland
is a digital investment team analyst at Haworth Media & Marketing in Minneapolis.


Matthew McDermott,
with IowaWatch 2018-19, is a customer care associate at Exact Sciences in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

Thomas Nelson, an IowaWatch intern in 2016, is a marketing specialist at SHAZAM Network — ITS, Inc.

Taylor Odekirk, a former director of marketing and public relations at IowaWatch, is a senior media relations specialist at Walker Sands Communications in Chicago.

K. Rambo, a spring 2019 reporting intern at IowaWatch, is a Zuhl editing fellow at Streetroots, a nonprofit news outlet in Oregon.

Bailey Ramsey is an event planner at Bella Sala Event Center in Tiffin, Iowa. She was an events planner intern at IowaWatch in 2018-19.

Jonathan Stefonek


Jonathan Stefonek
was with IowaWatch in 2011-12. He is a communications coordinator with the Wisconsin United Methodist Church.

Makayla Tendall


Makayla Tendall
is a communications/public relations specialist at Trilix in West Des Moines. She was a summer 2015 intern with IowaWatch.

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Hayley Bruce,
an assistant IowaWatch editor in 2012-13, is University of Iowa News Services writer.


Laura Arny,
a former public information officer for IowaWatch, works in operations at Printfection.

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Katherine Wilcox
is an executive producer for news investigations at KPNX television in Phoenix. She was a multimedia reporter with IowaWatch in 2013-14.

Tessa Langeling_1Tessa Lengeling, an IowaWatch reporter in 2014-15, completed law school at the University of Nebraska in spring 2021.

Inma Mateos
Inma Mateos
is a global channel manager at Gamelearn, in Madrid, Spain, and MBA candidate at Instituto de Empresa. She produced IowaWatch video reports in 2014.

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Ben Moore, an IowaWatch reporter in 2012 and 2013, is a Los Angeles-area freelance writer.

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Sujin Kim,
an IowaWatch reporter in 2012, is studying international relations at the Yonsei University Graduate School of International Studies in Seoul, South Korea.

Robert Maharry
Robert Maharry
reported for IowaWatch in 2012-13. He is regional news editor at Mid-America Publishing in Iowa

Libby Collins

Libby Collins, an IowaWatch staff reporter in 2013-14, is a senior publicist at Macmillan publishing in New York City.

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Donna Schill Cleveland,
with IowaWatch in 2010-11, is editor of iPhone Life magazine in Fairfield, Iowa.

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Haley Hansel is a marketing manager at Chanje, in Los Angeles.


Mariah Prendergast,
a former director of public relations and marketing, is an actress and model in Los Angeles.

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Lu Shen,
an IowaWatch staffer in 2014, is a reporter with Magnify Money, a personal finance news site.

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 Erin Selin, with IowaWatch in 2015-16, is human resources director at 4C Insights in Chicago.

Kathryn Susik

Kathryn Susik, an IowaWatch staffer in 2012-15, is an assistant account executive at Ketchum in Chicago.

Lamia Zia

Lamia Zia, who focused on documentary and multimedia journalism in spring 2013 at IowaWatch, is an adjunct journalism professor at Texas Tech University.

Rebekah Hoeger, with IowaWatch in 2011 and 2012, is a  reporter and anchor at KKTV 11 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Dana Davidsen, a reporter in fall 2011, is studying in the Master of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning at the UC Berkeley College of Environmental Design.

RanaMoustafa

Rana Moustafa, a reporter in 2014-15, is an English teacher at Forsan American School.

Gabriella Dunn

Gabriella Dunn, a reporter in 2014, is a talent and organization consultant at Accenture in Houston.


Gabriel Gao, a medical affairs reporter from fall 2010 through January 2012, is an emergency medicine physician at Providence, Rhode Island, at Rhode Island Hospital-Brown University.

Ryan Roccafort, a former public information officer for IowaWatch, is an account director at SideCar PR.