Mountain Workshops returns to campus

Mountain Workshops returned to WKU campus this year as we offered the options of a Remote workshop or a Live experience for our WKU students. Seniors Brenna Pepke and Gabi Broekema  were able to focus on story for the week with guidance from video coaches Leslye Davis and  Carey Wagner.

Brenna Pepke’s Caught in the balance

Since her partner’s diagnosis, Andee Rudloff has worked to regain balance in her life. As relationships change, so does Andee’s perspective on how to respond to her life’s new structure.


Gabi Broekema’s Underdogs

Brian ‘Slim’ Nash and his daughter, Presley, have a bond stronger than Presley’s condition of alpha-mannosidosis. Presley’s strength against the incurable disorder amazes and inspires her father daily.


Sam Mallon – Finding stories that feed your passion

During Sam Mallon’s past four years at Western Kentucky University the photojournalism major has alway made a point to give a voice to subjects she is passionate about. This past summer her love for nature led her to intern at Acadia National Park where her Instagram feed began to fill with fungi, bees and crashing waves. Here are a collection of images from her past year at WKU where she continues to showcase people and their approach to life. For more of her work visit:

“I really liked that [Everly] is able to spend a lot of her days, as she’s learning, outdoors,” said Patrick. Homeschooling Everly, Patrick’s five-year-old daughter, is of utmost importance to her. “I like that she can have access to certain educational materials that aren’t necessarily promoting a history of colonization or that don’t have respect for other species,” said Patrick, “Doing any sort of homeschooling, you can choose [educational materials] that support your values and morals.” Following their Thanksgiving meal, Patrick took her children on a hike with a tray of food from their feast and their garden as an offering to the spirits that protect the land they occupy. Giving thanks, respecting and celebrating the history of land they live on is central to Patrick’s teaching practices for her daughter.

Chiara Jeanfils, a Friends of Acadia Summit Steward, illuminates the night sky with sparklers as her friends look on while dancing on the rocks beside the pier on the campus of the College of the Atlantic prior to the fireworks show on Monday, July 5, 2021.
Derik Overstreet, 24, trains as a Mixed Martial Arts fighter at least once a day and up to three times a day. Overstreet, a local activist in Bowling Green, uses boxing as a release for the frustration and anger that comes as a consequence in doing social justice work. Derik Overstreet, 24, uses his platform as a MMA fighter to promote his non-profit, Bowling Green for Peace, and to cope, “If [activism] was all I did, If I didn’t have some kind of physical outlet, I would have lost it,” Overstreet said.”
Vinny Almeida kisses Sarah Macleod, both of Boston, MA, while Almeida plays ukulele as they walk back along the sand bar from Bar Island Path on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Acadia National Park.



Zane Meyer-Thornton

Zane Meyer-Thornton, a senior photojournalism major from Los Angeles, California has recently seen success following his summer internship at the Cincinnati Enquirer. His image of a protester won a 1st place finish in the College Photographer of the Year competition for General News. Previously Zane has worked as a Creative in Residence at Boyd’s Station during the summer in 2020 and has worked at WKU Student Publications since coming to Western. This past year he was named to the Native American Journalists Fellowship program, which produces content on Indigenous People and communities. Here are a few of his images from his work this past year. To see more of his work visit:

A supporter of former President Donald Trump takes a break from protesting the arrival of President Joe Biden on the corner of Delhi Road and Neeb Road outside of Mount Saint Joseph University, where President Biden is set to speak at a town hall on Thursday, July 21, 2021.

Brian Bayley, of Walnut hills, crashes into hay bales as he finishes his race on Saturday, July 31, 2021 at Dangerwheel, in the Pendleton area of Over-the-Rhine. Dangerwheel is an adult big-wheel race where proceeds are used to raise money for beautification efforts in the community.
Being able to help construct the foundation for children is something Guerra keeps close to her heart. She hopes her love and care can assist them on their journey, no matter where their destination may be. “Having a support system for a child is huge. I feel like that’s why I have been able to do the things that I have been able to do. I’ve always had somebody to look up to, somebody that I know has my back,” said Guerra.
Ellie Banaszynski, 5, has a snack between games of Killerqueen on Sunday, June 20, 2021 at Wondercade Cincy. By having only classic arcade games, Wondercade Cincy is helping a new generation of people enjoy games from years past.

WKUPJ Alumni Look Back on 9-11 and their Journey to Cover History

“It made me question if I was holding the right tool, but a camera is the tool of my trade,” – Michael Bunch

Twenty years ago WKU Photojournalism students decided to journey to NYC and Washington DC to document the biggest historical event in their lives, the September 11 attack.  Recently WKU President Gary Ransdell looked back on that day and remembered hearing that students from the Photojournalism program had decided to drive to NYC to cover the tragedy. He explained his first reaction was concern for their safety but quickly understood  we are training them to be journalist and that is what journalist do.


Under different circumstances, a weeklong trip to New York City for three college students would have been a lot of fun. But 852 miles away, history was happening.

Within a couple of hours of hearing of the devastation on September 11, 2001, I was in a car along with two other photojournalism students from Western Kentucky University.

In Bowling Green, Kentucky, I’d left behind a week’s worth of classes, four very understanding professors and two very frightened parents on the other end of a telephone.

“Be careful,” my dad said.

How fortunate that my mom had not answered the phone. I don’t think I could’ve told her where I was going.
On the road, we listened to radio reports of what was happening. We didn’t know what we would find when we got there, or if we’d even get there.
We were scared.

We arrived in New York in the early morning hours of September 12. Lights from the worksite at Ground Zero illuminated the smoke still drifting over the city.

I spent four days in New York, photographing the pain, the devastation, but mostly the indomitable human spirit that was alive everywhere around the magnificent city.

The feeling there was much different than we had expected. People were shocked and dazed, but friendly and polite — nothing like the rude New Yorkers you hear about or see in the movies. They had wanted to talk about what happened to them and the country and what was still happening.

During our third night, after walking around for a couple of hours, trying hard not to be noticed, it began to rain. We eventually found shelter beneath an awning only a couple of blocks from ground zero. The three of us huddled together because it was very cold.

I remember just how miserable I was and then began thinking of the people who were still trapped inside the remains of the smoldering towers and how cold and wet and alone they must have felt. That was the moment that it really felt personal.

Going to New York to photograph the attacks isn’t something I’m proud of; it’s just something I did. I didn’t have to think about going. I had the opportunity to see something that I knew would forever change our country, and I went.


There was a lot of self-doubt covering such a large-scale event as a student, especially not knowing exactly how, if ever, the images would be used.

There was discussion before we even left about whether it was responsible to go and possibly add further strain to a chaotic situation, but a few other students and myself felt very strongly a need to document this tragic moment in history.

So, when one of us secured a place to stay in the city we drove all night and arrived on the morning of September 12.

I went into the situation thinking I was covering an event that had already happened, but the truth was that the story was still unfolding, with repercussions that would be felt for many years to come.

The gravity of the situation washed over me after seeing hundreds of faces on “missing” posters plastered across the city as many people had not yet officially been declared deceased.

Our first night we photographed people gathered at makeshift memorials in parks near Ground Zero, with some of us finally putting away our cameras to help each other deal with the overwhelming feeling of sorrow and tragedy.

The next day, when F-16 fighter jets screamed overhead at low altitude, the thought crossed my mind, will they attack again?


The morning of September 11, I woke up to an ABC Special Report as Peter Jennings reported that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center North Tower.

In class with journalism professor Mrs. Albers, we watched the World Trade Center South Tower get demolished by a highjacked plane.  I remembered the class was silent as everyone was in disbelief.

Two of my classmates and I made the decision an hour later to drive 12 hours to New York City to document the event.

As we stood close to Ground Zero, we witnessed chaos and bravery from the people of New York.  We documented the event as best as we could.  I remembered the drive home was depressing.  Throughout the night, I was terrified, and what-ifs kept repeating in my mind.

What if they target a small town such as Bowling Green or my hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan?  What’s going to happen next?  The unknowns were uneased.

I remember September 11 as if it was yesterday.  My mental wellness was affected, and thousands of Americans suffered.

What we witnessed on TV and in person was a nightmare that became a reality that day.

May the heroes of New York City be remembered.


I was working on a photo story when I saw live news coverage of the 9/11 attack. Going up to New York was the talk among us. Some went right away. Others like myself waited a few days, and then decided to go.

For me, my hesitation came from not wanting to get in the way. I wasn’t a working journalist with an outlet (so I thought) so I didn’t feel I had a reason to be there. I changed my mind after a couple of days and four of us drove up. I decided that it was too big of an event to not go.

I was a nontraditional student in my early thirties. Another person I went up with was also older. The others were young college kids, and all of us handled ourselves wonderfully in such a raw situation.

The New Yorkers were extremely receptive and welcoming as well. I can’t recall anyone turning away from a camera. Everyone was on the same page when it came to documenting this horrific event.

Over the years, and more recently, I have found my thoughts drifting to the image I made on that trip of a woman looking at the Jasper Johns American flag painting in the Museum of Modern Art days after the attack. I wonder what she was thinking then, and now. I wonder what many of us are thinking about our country.

As for New York right after the attack, one typically doesn’t get to experience humanity on this level in a lifetime.

It is hard to believe that, until the other day, we’ve been at war ever since that day 20 years ago. In that time, I’ve again changed careers. I’ve seen my classmates go on to have families, their children never knowing us not at war.

Going up to New York and covering the tragedy of 9/11 was something we needed to do. I believe we are better for it.


I was young, and while very independent, I hadn’t been to a big city on my own since I was a kid with my parents.

I am glad Jenny Sevcik and MJ Mahon decided to tag along in my car. Along the drive we heard from others that they had either turned around, or decided to drive to Washington, D.C., instead. We kept heading towards New York and finally arrived late in the evening on 9/11 and checked into a hotel in New Jersey.

When we entered New York City on September 12, we made our way into Tribeca, where we could see a parade of vehicles delivering water and supplies to the nearby rescue crews.

We kept walking south. The sun was shining and there was a lot of noise from people hollering at the rescue vehicles, and just in general there was a lot of commotion. As we turned into a quieter side street, I saw a firefighter sitting on a stoop, his uniform dirty and his hands over his face, crying. I just remember that so vividly because I was wondering what we were about to experience.

When I was there with my family as a kid, I do remember one thing very vividly: it was a big and impersonal city. People would pass each other by, not speaking to each other, ignoring each other, keeping to themselves.

On September 12, 2001, it was a completely different feeling. Small groups had formed on the streets and in the parks. Strangers were randomly interacting with each other sharing stories and information. It felt more like a small village rather than a big city.

This was even more noticeable in areas where people had posted “missing” posters with pictures of their loved ones. Seeing those is what really made it real for me. So many posters and so many loved ones missing. It was gut wrenching.

I am glad I had the opportunity to experience one of the biggest news events in history with my camera and my classmates, though I wish I never would have had the reason to go.

I was 27 and not yet that experienced in photojournalism, but it was a valuable lesson. It was not only a lesson in how to approach people who were in anguish but also how to deal with my own anguish and emotions after returning from it all.


Twenty years after 9/11, l remember the human spirit much more than I remember the destruction and chaos.

I recall watching vehicles roll in from all over the country, sedans strapped with wheelbarrows and shovels, covered in makeshift signs stating they’d traveled to New York City to help in any way possible.

It made me question if I was holding the right tool, but a camera is the tool of my trade, so I focused on finding images that showed less the tears and rubble and more how remarkable people can be in the wake of immense tragedy.


I’m not sure what I expected as we drove toward New York on the Thursday after September 11, 2001. As we got closer, we could see across the Hudson River. I saw the smoke still rising from Ground Zero. The tragedy became real with such sadness.

Twenty years later, I certainly remember that sadness as we documented those few days. But I mostly remember the resiliency of New Yorkers. They pulled together for the common good. The country did the same. I hope for that feeling of unity now.


When I think back this is what I remember:

  • Listening
  • Shock at the size of the hole in the earth.
  • Watching hope turn to despair and grief.
  • Not being able to focus my camera through tears, but still shooting. 
  • Feeling the importance of documenting the events of September 11, 2001, knowing that the future would be changed.


As my colleague, David Cooper, and former student, Amy Smotherman Burgess, and I drove into New York City in the wee hours of the Friday morning after 9/11, with smoke still rising from where the twin towers once stood on the city skyline, I remember thinking to myself, “This is not how I wanted to see New York City for the first time.”

I grew up in Los Angeles, but my father, who died when I was 17, grew up in New York. Perhaps because of this the city had always held a special, almost mystical place in my mind and heart. I had always dreamed of traveling to New York City to walk the streets that my father walked as a child. But instead, I was walking these same streets photographing destruction, disbelief, pain, tears, and the faint hope that those missing were still alive.

By the end of the weekend, hope had faded. The reality of what happened had fully set in.

I came in sadness and left in sadness. I brought home photographs and audio, stories that I hoped would make some sense of it all, or at least make some difference. Beyond my prayers, this was all I had to offer.


It’s my first time in New York City.

The buildings tower over the chaotic streets. An acrid haze diffuses the September sun and the endless lines of flashing emergency lights. Every road and sidewalk leading to Ground Zero is locked down. Every park has huddled masses. Many people are crying, wrapped by the consoling arms of strangers. Candles, teddy bears, flowers, and keepsakes are set up in impromptu memorials throughout the city. It appears every lamppost is hauntingly decorated with the faces of the missing – the phone numbers of their loved ones boldly printed, pleading for someone to call with good news.

It is quieter than I expected, as if we were all at a wake and being loud would be disrespectful. And so, it is with quiet and careful steps that we move about the city doing what we are trained to do.

We photograph what we see today so it is not forgotten tomorrow.




Call for submissions


Since early March, 2020, we have collectively witnessed an unprecedented time in history. From a worldwide pandemic, social and political movements that shook the world, to a political season like we have never witnessed before, the past year has given us no shortage of obstacles nor moments to document. 

The role of photojournalists have been more crucial than ever before. Many of us were among the first on the front lines documenting, capturing, experiencing the strifes with the rest of the world. 

The School of Media Gallery at Western Kentucky University will be re-opening to the public this fall and we are looking to our alumni to offer up still images and video stories to be considered for inclusion in our March to March exhibition.

And we need YOUR help. 

WKUPJ is now accepting submissions for any photo or video footage covering the months of March 2020 to March 2021. 

These images should consist of documentation surrounding the major themes of this past year: Covid-19, BLM Movement and the election.



Who can submit:

  • WKU School of Media current students or alumni. 


Submission requirements: 

  • File naming convention: LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME_01, LASTNAME_FIRSTNAME_02, ETC.
  • You may submit up to 10 photos 
  • Please size your files accordingly: 2000px on the longest side, 300dpi, JPG Medium
  • Captions are required in the description field
  • The work must be made between March 11, 2020 – March 11, 2021 (approximately)


The deadline to submit is Monday, June 14, 2021

If your image(s) are selected, we will reach back out to you for full resolution files and clarifications on caption information.

Please contact [email protected] with any questions.


Submit here: 

Looking Inwards


As the global pandemic transitioned from novelty to reality, Western Kentucky University college students realized their lives would be altered forever

When students of the School of Media at Western Kentucky University beelined from their cramped dorm rooms and fluorescent lit classrooms in Jody Richards Hall to enjoy a week respite on March 6, 2020, they were blissfully ignorant of the storm that was about to shatter their perception of what college education would become, how their world would change and what their future may become.

The COVID-19 pandemic at first felt like this bump in the road that was merely an inconvenience but as WKU President Timothy Caboni, like other schools across the country and around the globe, announced classes were to move online for the rest of the semester, college life as it used to be quickly became a distant, hazy dream. Dimly lit basements or child-hood bedrooms became the new classroom as increasingly un-kept students clung to their red solo cups which were filled with a liquid of ambiguous content (at least to the professor) as they swayed to whatever heavy bass they could feel in their mind as they pretended to maintain attention in the new Zoom world. Instantly gone from their grasps the sensations of college life freedom.

View the complete project online at:

Produced by Gabi Broekema

Content by Fatimah Alhamdin, Grace Bailey, Raaj Banga, Morgan Bass, Gabi Broekema, Alex Driehaus, Kennedy Gott, Morgan Hornsby, Missy Johnson, Cassady Lamb, Sam Mallon, Vonn Pillman, Rachel Taylor, Lily Estella Thompson

Photo and Journal entry by Sam Mallon

MARCH, 2020
I find myself exhausted though my quarantine days are filled with very little movement. I long for places to go and people to see; I am grieving the could-have, would-have, should-have-beens. I am grateful that I am safe and it is my responsibility to keep others safe, so I have been staying inside and learning to spend time with myself. I have found solace in the fact that the trees are turning green — they remind me that we are all still growing —I am eager to see how much stronger we are on the other side of the current pandemic.

Video and Journal by Lily Estella Thompson

SUMMER, 2020
“Upon reflection of our relationship throughout the pandemic, Brandon and I try to make sense about what went wrong, and what went right during this time of isolation. In a video and thru images I took, we are both made to talk about what it has been like living together through one of the most historic times in our lives.”


Photo and Journal by Morgan Bass
MAY, 2020
I used to be an extrovert, someone who would strike up conversations with strangers for fun. After half a year in social isolation, the mere thought of putting myself out there like that is suffocating. Since March of 2020, I have been on a downward spiral into a pit of panic attacks and depressive episodes. I have been trying to act like the person I was before, but there is a piece that is now missing from that person that I used to be, and I am not sure how to pretend that it isn’t.


Photo of her family by Rachel Taylor
APRIL, 2020
“The first thing I’m doing when quarantine is over is going to church,” Catherine Taylor said on Sunday. Much like her husband, she has missed very few Sundays and longs to be back in the church building she grew up in, rather than praying virtually on her front porch. “I know that church isn’t just a building, but I can’t wait to be worshiping with my church family again.” she added.

Write-In by Alex Maxwell

Senior Photojournalism major Alex Maxwell follows the unlikely campaign of Tom Morris who was running as a write-in candidate for Mayor of Bowling Green, Ky.

Longtime Bowling Green resident Tom Morris launched his campaign for the office of Mayor in July of 2020, falling just behind the deadline to get his name on the ballot. With no time to waste, he began vigorously campaigning as a write-in candidate.

What are the chances of winning a write-in campaign? If the United States Senate is taken as an example, the odds are slim.

To see the complete story visit:



Delayed: Resilience in the Face of a Life-Altering Pandemic

WKU Photojournalism major, Sam Mallon, a Junior from Silver Springs, Maryland, documents college student Maggie Smith as she learns to navigate a pandemic as a student in a field that requires hands on connections, in the Interdisciplinary Early Childhood Education program. The limitations of virtual learning was recently balanced out as Smith began caring for Rush Renshaw, a 17-year-old boy with low-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. You can view the entire project here.

“I think that my education wasn’t individualized the way education should be. I was expected to work at the same pace as everyone around me and I constantly felt stupid,” Maggie Smith said. “I’m not stupid. I’m pretty smart. I’m not able to learn the same way as everyone else, and that’s okay, but I was never told that that was okay. I was always just seen as slower.” Smith has ADHD and spent most of her life trying to figure out how it affected her learning. She now understands it better, but her ADHD can leave her to cram during finals week and end her days exhausted, in the middle of the morning. As an aspiring teacher, she wants to help neurodivergent students understand their diagnoses earlier, so they don’t have to go through standardized education the way she did.

“As Donna, [Rush’s] mom, was walking me through his routine, I just fell into place and I was just doing it like second nature like I’m working at Sproutlings again, and then I spent a night with him an entire day and an entire night and it was totally fine,” Smith said, “When I got there, I just realized I’m completely qualified for this. This is literally what I’m meant to do.” Although respite work on top of school and a part-time job making pizza is a lot for Smith to juggle, she is grateful for the opportunity to learn from and with Rush.

“I talk to [Rush], like I talk to anyone else,” Smith said. “I interact with him the same way. He still talks to me, without using words, but I mean, it’s the same as a toddler not being able to talk to me with words, they can still communicate what they need and want.” Smith and Rush communicate very smoothly, though Rush is non-verbal. Smith recognizes cues about how Rush is feeling or what he need through body language. She knows he feels safe when holding her hand.

A Relative, A Revelation | by Chris Kohley

Senior WKU Photojournalism major Chris Kohley depicts in this multimedia project how history lives on for local historian Tommy Hines as he uncovers facts about his ancestor with the same name. “They called him the most dangerous man in the Confederacy,” Tommy Hines said of Thomas Henry Hines, a soldier that fought for the south during the Civil War.

As Executive Director of the South Union Shaker Village, Tommy has uncovered revelations about his ancestor and grappled with his role in the Civil War.

You can view the entire project here.


Driving Change | by Sam Mallon

Sam Mallon, a junior WKU Photojournalism major, documents Bowling Green’s Mobile Grocery Bus, that was established by the Housing Authority of Bowling Green to address the growing problems of food insecurity in the region. Bus driver Danny Carothers takes us on the tour of the outreach program that has recently gotten national attention from HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

You can view the entire project here.

“I want to serve people in any way, form or fashion… I think it was just what I was raised to do,” Carothers said. He may have given up on his dream of teaching, but his giving spirit lives in all of his work, especially in regard to the Mobile Grocery Bus.