My Hugh S. Sidey Scholarship Experience

By: Anna Olson, senior in journalism and mass communication and political science

When selecting the college I would attend, Iowa State University told me to “choose my adventure.” What I didn’t know in 2019 was that choosing my adventure would include being a scholarship recipient and guest at The White House Correspondents’ Dinner! The Hugh S. Sidey scholarship through the Greenlee School of Journalism made this incredible opportunity possible. The Hugh S, Sidey scholarship is “designed to jump-start the career of a student interested in political communication.” The scholarship is named after Hugh S. Sidey, an Iowa State University graduate, who reported on ten U.S. presidents, from Dwight D. Eisenhower through George W. Bush.

After submitting the winning essay, I was on my way to Washington D.C. that spring where I was fortunate to attend  the White House Correspondents’ Dinner and many other events with the White House Historical Association and Correspondents’ Association. 

My first day in D.C. involved meeting my mentors from Hearst Television, Wendy Wilk and David Hurlburt, who taught me about their operations as a company that owns and operates local television and radio stations serving 26 media markets across 39 states reaching over 21 million U.S. television households. I was toured through The Washington Post by Chief Communications Office Kathy Baird, who showed me the numerous Pulitzer Prizes they have received. I also attended a White House Press Briefing of White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre while accompanied by Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville. Superville provided amazing guidance and gave me access to the President of the United States, Joe Biden’s press briefing with kids on “Bring Your Kid to Work Day.” To end the evening, I attended a reception with many accomplished professionals at the White House Historical Association’s Decatur House, where I was recognized for receiving the Hugh S. Sidey scholarship.

My second day involved meeting other scholarship winners through the White House Correspondents’ Association, where we had the opportunity to participate in a mock press briefing with the White House Press Secretary, and where I asked about President Biden’s opinion on the Unlock Ticketing Markets Act and if he plans to be rigorous on his approach to antitrust issues if he wins the 2024 election. I also attended a luncheon where I listened to remarks from my former boss, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who spoke on her father and his roots in journalism and committment to truth-telling. I also listened to a very interesting panel with speakers Weijia Jiang from CBS News, Sabrina Siddiqui from the Wall Street Journal, and Zolan Kanno Youngs from the New York Times.

The third day of my adventure was amazing, as I attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. The dinner was surreal, as it was impossible to believe a college student could be attending an event with celebrities such as John Legend, Kelly Ripa, Roy Wood Jr., Rosario Dawson, Ke Huy Quan, Winnie Harlow, and journalists Gayle King, Tamara Keith, Dana Bash, Kristen Welker, Karen Travers, and many more. It was a tremendous opportunity to meet some of these individuals, and being  honored for being a scholarship recipient in front of the President and Vice President of the United States was the peak of my college career. 

Words cannot describe how appreciative I am to Cindy Buck, Hugh S. Sidey’s daughter; the White House Historical Association; the White House Correspondents’ Association and Mr. David M. Rubenstein, who generously donated to this scholarship. Receiving the Hugh S. Sidey scholarship is a gift that keeps on giving. Every person I came in contact with was so kind and willing to help and provided guidance and leadership that will assist me in my future career. I cannot thank the Greenlee School of Journalism enough for providing amazing opportunities like the Hugh S. Sidey Scholarship to their students. They aren’t kidding when they encourage you to “choose your adventure.”