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Sara Stanley named Galvan Outstanding Graduate in Journalism recipient


Lou Harry, SPJ Manager of Publications and Awards, 317-920-4786, lharry@spj.org
Michelle Lagos, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-927-8000, mlagos@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is honored to present Sara Stanley with the 2022 Julie Galvan Outstanding Graduate in Journalism Award. Stanley graduated from Western Carolina University, where she served as the SPJ chapter president and was the editor-in-chief for The Western Carolinian.

This award honors a graduate in journalism who has excelled in their class based on character, service to the community, scholarship, proficiency in practical journalism and contribution to their SPJ chapter.

Stanley has proven to be an outstanding student. Many of her professors say her commitment to academic excellence is undeniable. She demonstrates a unique ability to adapt and excel in any project she receives, displaying a great range of skills from on-air talent to working behind the scenes on production.

"Sara is truly one of the most exceptional students with whom I have worked with in the past four decades," said Pamela Meister, director of the Mountain Heritage Center at WCU. "In addition to her talent, intelligence and energy, she is also highly ethical and always looking for opportunities to bring people together and create positive change in the world around her."

In addition to her academic achievements, Stanley has been an active member of her community on and off campus. In spring 2021, Stanley worked as virtual projects coordinator, assisting staff in creating virtual exhibit projects. In addition, she worked with the Sylva Herald, a nearby town's local newspaper, the Western Carolina Journalist and served as editor-in-chief of the Western Carolinian. As editor-in-chief, Stanley helped the publication resume printing hard copies and maintained the publication's website by gaining additional funding from the university and obtaining ads from the local community.

Stanley has devoted herself to journalistic excellence as she developed award-winning stories. She was also recognized as a finalist for the SPJ Mark of Excellence award for her data journalism and food insecurity work.

"Her commitment to journalism, to inform her audience and make their life better, her drive to make a change will have a lasting impact in every community she continues to work," said Katerina Spasovska, associate professor at WCU. "Sara is a smart, persistent and brave reporter; she improved and impacted our community and I know she will continue to do the same in any community [where] she goes."

Furthermore, Stanley has been an exceptional mentor and a valuable asset to her university. Debra Connelly, a visiting assistant professor in the communications department at WCU, said Stanley's in-depth knowledge made her an essential asset for students in radio and television production classes, design and journalism. Stanley was capable of handling students' needs and questions, as her extensive knowledge and dependability enabled her to go above and beyond for her peers.

"I am very excited to see where her career takes her, though I will admit that the university and the community is losing a great resource when she walks across the stage," said Matt Binford, assistant professor of practice at WCU. "Her drive to tell stories that the community needs to hear, her work ethic and her dedication to local journalism will be greatly missed."

Stanley will be recognized at the Student Summit & Awards Program at MediaFest22 in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 28.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund or give to the SPJ Foundation.


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