The Pulitzer Center has awarded one of its prestigious summer reporting fellowship to Hunter journalism student Audrey Henson (pictured, above). The fellowship comes with a $3,000 grant that Henson will use to travel to Japan to report on dementia treatments.
Henson’s winning proposal, selected from among four Hunter finalists, focuses on the rise of “dementia villages” in Japan, where local businesses are trained by Alzheimer and dementia associations to aid older people who suffer from cognitive impairments.
The Pulitzer Center said her project caught its attention for its originality, as well as for its urgency, as Japan’s population of people of ages 65 and over continues to rise.
Kem Sawyer, a contributing editor for the Pulitzer Center, said of Henson’s proposal, “Japan has set a trend and we’re going to be experiencing the same issues as Japan in the near future. I think Audrey’s report on this will be very informative for the U.S and people all over the world.”
Henson said the idea stemmed from her running across a Japan Times article on the topic, but also from her personal encounters with dementia, “My grandmother has vascular dementia,” she explained, “So this is a topic that sits close to me personally.”
Henson emphasized that her report will look both at what Japan is doing and what the U.S. could be. “It’s a concept that the U.S. doesn’t think about,” she added. “I’m looking forward to seeing how these dementia villages work and how they affects the families that are a part of them.”
Henson will be spending roughly two weeks in Japan this summer and will be paired by Pulitzer Center with a professional journalist to guide her with her reporting, likely someone who has also reported on Japan.
As part of the fellowship, Henson will be invited to talk about her report during a Pulitzer Center fellowship conference next fall, along with other student fellows.
Prof. Sissel McCarthy, director of the Hunter College journalism program, praised the benefits of the Pulitzer fellowship for students.
“This is an incredible opportunity for students to apply what they learned from the classroom and really become reporters,” said McCarthy, who led the judging team that selected Hunter’s finalists. “It’s a very unique opportunity that the Pulitzer Center gives to students.”
Henson will be the third Hunter student to be chosen for this prestigious fellowship.
In 2017, Amy Russo became the first, with her report on the plight of the thousands of unaccompanied children who entered Sweden as refugees.
Kadia Goba was the 2018 winner, with her report on a deadly 2017 mudslide in Sierra Leone, which killed more than 1,000 people and displaced thousands more.
Hunter College is one of the 35 colleges that partner with the Pulitzer Center to give grants to students and give them the chance to report on international issues.