2019 Capstone Senior Projects

Here at WKUPJ, we are excited to present a collection of the 2019 PJ436 Projects course final thesis. Students complete their photojournalism curriculum by enrolling in a semester-long instructional “workshop” that provides individual guidance and hands-on practical experience in producing a story that covers a topic of their choosing.


Life After Death

How grief forever changes a life


Death is the one certainty everyone will one day have to face. However, when facing the death of a person you love, the grief can change your life forever. This documentary explores three stories of loss and chronicles the difficulties and years of heartache that come with the death of a loved one.




For The Love of Jude

After a tragic accident, Katii Bishop searches for a new normal


Katii Bishop, a mother of four, copes with loss after the tragic death of her daughter from a car accident on December 28, 2018. The accident has left Katii searching for what life looks like without her daughter, Jude. Katii realizes, though, that although time moves on, the grief doesn’t necessarily get easier.




High Hopes

Two stories of people in Kentucky who devote their lives to help those struggling from addiction in a state hit hard by the opioid crisis


This project brings together two sides of the opioid crisis in Kentucky. A personal story and a story about the epidemic on the frontlines accompanied with data on the epidemic in the state of Kentucky and resources for addicts and their families. The personal story is about Nikki Arnold-Strunck who lives in Richmond, Kentucky. Nikki lost her son, Brendan Strunck, to a heroin overdose when he was 24-years old. Now she travels around Kentucky to places like recovery centers and jails sharing their story and how his overdose effected her in hopes that she can change peoples lives. The story shares how she continues to cope with the loss of her son three years later and uses her story as part of that. The story on the front lines is through the eyes of members of the Louisville Fire Department about the multiple overdose calls they run on a daily basis, in a State hit hard by the opioid crisis.




Spokes in the Wheel

Finding a balance between being competitive and having fun is something John and Jenny Lachowicz strive for as they raise their three sons Sam, Jacob, and Van, through BMX


In Clarksville, TN., the Lachowicz family are finding their roots and planting a plentiful garden. While juggling homeschooling, racing, and social interaction, bicycles bring this family closer in ways that cannot be explained but only witnessed. A wheel cannot spin without each spoke, much like a family cannot function smoothly without each member. Each individual, pulling and pushing at times, but always together in the end. The rambunctious family of 5, hold each other accountable and look at every day as a new day to make it a great one. This journey is far from over and they do not plan on stopping anytime soon.




Revolving Doors

How a jail in rural Kentucky is working to break the cycle of addiction and recidivism


In a state with the second highest incarceration growth rate in the country, Butler County Jail is seeing the direct effects of incarceration for addiction. In an effort to break the cycle of recidivism, the local jail is focusing on rehabilitation, offering many programs for inmates who want to start their road to recovery while serving time.




A Mother’s Choice

Women across Kentucky fight for the legal rights of midwives


In the state of Kentucky, midwives are not legally allowed to attend a home birth due to laws that have not been updated since 1975. Practicing midwives are put into a system that does not recognize the work that they are and have been doing for years. On March 13, 2019 senate bill 84 an act relating to Certified Professional Midwives, passed through the House and the Senate.




Leaving a Mark

Accepting the spots that make them unique


Spreading awareness about vitiligo in hopes that if someone sees another person who has it and looks different, they will be accepted instead of treated differently. Vitiligo is a skin condition that causes the loss of pigment in blotches. It can affect the skin on any part of the body regardless of age, race, or gender.




Bound By Love

Defining the word family may be a hard task for some, but for Ashley Purcell, family is defined by one thing; love


After having two children of her own and living a comfortable life with her small, but content, family, Ashley felt that something was missing. After talking with Scott and her two children, John and Ava, Ashley and her family collectively decided that what they were missing was an opportunity to share the wonderful life they had built for themselves. After being made aware of the foster care system in their community through their church, the Purcells decided the best way to share their lives with those in need was to become foster parents.




To Be Like You

International students work to find their place in an American Society


Students at Geo International High School work to become more than just seen as an international, but to be someone like you. They seek to be successful in life, language, and learning to develop who they are in this diverse world.




Just a Regular Joe

It’s not easy being a man. It’s especially not easy being a transgender man active duty in the US Army


Follow Nic Maloney’s journey through finding himself and finding love. Stepping off the ledge, past the point of no return, transgender people, once certain steps are taken, there is no going back. Maybe he sometimes wishes he was born a man, but he wouldn’t be who he is today, and with who he is today. He has no regrets, and wouldn’t change a thing. “Even though it sucked.” It is not a cookie cutter life, or love. He met his wife when he was a woman. His wife identifies as a lesbian, after spending most of her life believing she was straight. To everyone on the outside, they appear as a straight couple. For her, she struggles with Nic’s identity taking the front, but feels she needs to protect him, so they don’t always tell new people the whole story.




Within Our Border

The Southern Border creates conflict between two countries, a president, and migrants seeking asylum


The Southern Border has been a hot button issue in American society in recent years. The project is a news piece which focuses on how the southern border affects society in recent years. The project does not focus solely on an individual, but is more of the bigger picture of how society functions between the United States and Mexico. The idea of the southern border between the 2006 Border fence Act and President Trump saying “Build that wall” in front of thousands of supporters shows the growth of the southern border fence; and how many asylum seekers every year wait for their claim. Within our borders, our society creates a conflict between two countries within the same continent.



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