A Wits alumna who won the 2007 medal for the most distinguished academic record in the Wits Faculty of Humanities, and who graduated magna cum laude, was named the ?best international student? for 2009 on Journalism Day, the day before graduation at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York. Jackie Bischof, 25, shared the award with Mexican broadcast student, Celina Canales.
Bischof (BA 2007, BA Hons 2008) received the Henry Taylor award ? also known as the ?best international student? award ? for ?demonstrating the qualities of a superior journalist?.
?To be recognised by the school for the 2009 awards was truly an honour, especially considering the calibre of students in the class,? comments Bischof.
Established in 1962, the Henry Taylor award honours its namesake who was a journalist killed on assignment in the Congo, age 31. Bischof says she considers the award a great responsibility to ?honour the memory of such a courageous journalist, by forging a career reporting faithfully and accurately on the news?.
Bischof earned a Pulitzer African fellowship shortly after enrolling at Columbia. This fellowship, enabled by Michael and Ceil Pulitzer, funds the tuition and living expenses of two students from Africa who are studying at Columbia and who plan to return home.
The Columbia School of Journalism is home to the Pulitzer Prize, and the fellowships are a result of the enduring relationship between the Pulitzers and the school.
?Receiving the Pulitzer fellowship and the Taylor award had an incredible impact on me,? recalls Bischof. ?The financial assistance allowed me to eradicate some of my student debt, extend my stay so that I could complete unpaid internships with the BBC?s New York bureau and Time Out New York magazine, and pay for short trips within the States.?
Although by now a ?citizen of the world?, a multi-linguist fluent in German and Afrik ns, and conversant in French, Swiss German and South African Sign Language, Bischof?s journalism roots are firmly planted in South Africa. ?[The Pulitzer fellowship and Henry Taylor award]? imposed a greater responsibility on me: to commit to reporting on Africa and to stay true to my identity as a South African journalist,? explains Bischof.
Prior to enrolling at Columbia, Bischof published weekly in the Wits student newspaper Vuvuzela and served as content editor for Vuvuzela Online. She also worked at The Citizen and as a correspondent for the Editors Weblog at the 2007 World Associated Newspaper and World Editor?s Forum conferences in Cape Town.
The former St Dominic?s Convent schoolgirl from Boksburg, who represented South Africa at a UNESCO children?s conference in Hawaii, age 14, has a love for community service and volunteerism. ?Since I was a child, community work has been an integral part of my life. Life is not full for me unless I?m engaged in some kind of service!? Bischof enthuses. ?Right now my commitment is to starting my career, which hasn?t left me much time to volunteer, but I?m working on changing that. I spend quite a bit of time providing information about South Africa to journalists looking to work in or write about the country, and setting up connections between local and international journalists.?
She served as community service director for the Wits chapter of the Golden Key International Honour Society ? an exclusive community of the top 15 percent of academically exemplary undergraduates worldwide ? and is currently ?creating a website for a pre-school in South Africa that my family has been supporting for many years.?
Bischof is now a part-time editorial research assistant to the global editor (ethics, innovation and news standards) at Reuters and a freelance writer in New York. She maintains a blog at http://jaxbischof.wordpress.com