How SMU Meadows' Internship Program with The Dallas Morning News Shapes Students’ Futures

Since the internship launched in 2019, it has led students to impressive career and educational opportunities, from working at NPR to getting accepted into the country’s top graduate schools.


There are few local newspapers in the country with the same kind of legacy and highly acclaimed reporting as The Dallas Morning News. Every semester, four SMU students have the incredible opportunity to jumpstart their futures at The News through a collaborative internship program between the paper and the Meadows Division of Journalism. 

“Thanks to the generous support from Jennifer Altabef and SMU Meadows, the SMU-DMN internship program has had a tremendous impact on our community and in our newsroom,” says Tom Huang, Assistant Managing Editor for Journalism Initiatives at The Dallas Morning News.

The internship, which launched in 2019, allows students interested in the news industry to work alongside seasoned journalists and editors, attend weekly meetings and turn in stories at a professional level on deadline. Students get a true feel for what it’s like to work in a newsroom in various capacities, from reporting on beats like education, news, business and food/entertainment to learning about social media strategy with the paper’s Audience Development team.

“I’m learning a lot about writing, but more about how a newsroom operates and how each editor is different,” says Sydni Walker, a junior at SMU and current intern writing for the food column. “I think my favorite part is meeting people and learning their stories.”

Students working on one of the paper’s beats write several articles throughout the semester. Reporting for such a major publication means students can reach large audiences and make a difference through their work at the News.

“I remember as a student, I always wanted to do the kind of journalism that would have an impact, and I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined that I would get to do that as a student,” says Michelle Aslam, who interned at the education desk for The Dallas Morning News in the spring of 2020.

For her final story as an intern, Aslam wrote about fellow student Joie Lew, who experienced homelessness and financial hardships during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“By telling her story, I got to help raise over $30,000 for the student to continue her education and eventually graduate from SMU,” Aslam says. “I left the DMN fellowship with a really optimistic view of the power of this industry and excited to have that same impact with other stories in the future.”

After graduating from SMU in December 2020, Aslam went on to be selected as one of a select few Kroc Fellows for National Public Radio. The NPR Kroc Fellowship is a yearlong program for accomplished young journalists to hone their craft and work different rotations within the public radio nonprofit. Aslam later went on to work for Arts Access, a collaborative project between local NPR station KERA and The News.

Other former interns have gone on to study in prestigious graduate programs. Maggie Kelleher, who completed her internship in the spring of 2021, is currently pursuing her master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University while interning for NBC’s TODAY show. Audrey McClure, who interned at The News in the fall of 2020, is now in law school at the University of Texas in Austin. She hopes to work in media law upon graduation. 

Sriya Reddy, another former intern, worked for the DMN for two years as a Report for America Corps Member. She covered news for South Dallas and is now in graduate school at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, one of the top journalism schools in the country.

“My time at the DMN directly led to my Report for America position, where I got to work on stories that I’m really proud of,” Reddy says. “I’m grateful for all I learned in the fellowship and really enjoyed working alongside some of the same reporters I grew up reading and looking up to.”

The skills interns have learned at The Dallas Morning News have also helped them pursue careers in marketing. Mary Grace Granados, who was part of the first group of interns in the SMU-DMN collaboration, freelanced for the paper and now works as the Associate Director of Content Strategy at Zen Media, a Dallas-based marketing and communications agency.

Cristin Espinosa also freelanced for The News after completing her internship in 2020 and later worked as a digital producer for KERA’s nationally broadcasted radio show, Think with Krys Boyd. Espinosa now serves her alma mater as Content Strategist for the Meadows School of the Arts marketing team, where she manages social media strategy and develops web content, such as this very article.

Whether they pursue graduate school, journalism careers or work in other industries, The Dallas Morning News SMU interns have proven that the program offers invaluable opportunities to hone their writing skills, gain real-world media experience and impact the community.