Meet the Journalists

costalogofinal.pngFor two weeks each January, student journalists from the University of Missouri travel to and around Costa Rica to explore the overlapping worlds of environment, agriculture and society in the Central American nation. Covering Nature and Society in Costa Rica is updated frequently during the trip with photographs, articles and videos as the group travels through several areas, including Monteverde and the Pacific Coast of northwest Costa Rica. More stories are posted after the trip as students complete field-reporting projects.

Meet the Dec. 2016/Jan. 2017 Contributors

Isabella Alves is a senior International Print and Digital Journalism  major with a minor in Middle East Studies and a self-made declaration minor in Arabic. She hopes to one day become an international correspondent, preferably in the Middle East. She hopes her study abroad in Costa Rica will give her valuable experience as a field reporter that she’ll need in her career.

Liza Anderson is a junior Documentary Journalism major at the University of Missouri from Providence, Rhode Island. She loves music, hiking, and macaroni and cheese. In the future, Liza would like to pursue a career in post-production work.

From San Diego, California, Katy Cawdrey is a senior studying science journalism with a minor in biological sciences. She is excited to explore the environment of Costa Rica through ecological and conservation standpoints.

A science and agricultural journalism major, Holly Enowski is a freshman from Mid-Missouri pursuing minors in Agriculture Economics and International Agriculture. While in Costa Rica, she hopes to explore food insecurity, eco-tourism, and implications of environmental policy.

Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, Amanda Henderson (@AmandaHNews) is a senior broadcast journalism major with a passion for learning. While abroad, she will be focusing on longer visual stories that have varied multimedia elements. This is Amanda’s second time in Costa Rica and she cannot wait to begin field reporting.

Blake Nourie is from Pittsburgh and is a senior biology major at the University of Missouri. The only student on the trip without a journalism background, Blake hopes to add some scientific expertise to the environmental topics and a new approach to the field reporting.

Always with cameras in hand, Nadav Soroker is a senior photojournalism student. He was raised in Northern California and is a frequent traveler. He is willing to eat anything, including turtle eggs!

Brianna Stubler is a senior International Journalism with an emphasis in print and digital media and a double major in Classical Studies. She is also pursuing a minor in Political Science. An avid traveller, Brianna has studied in Greece and the Philippines. While in Costa Rica, Brianna is excited for sea turtles and the food!

Professor Bill Allen is leading the field-reporting course. He is an assistant professor of science journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism and College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. He fancies himself part Indiana Jones, part Lao Tzu, part muse and part Pete the Cat.

Project co-coordinator Fern Perkins, hailing from the Carolinas, is an international programs supervisor at the Monteverde Institute. Perkins is a nature lover by birth and a biologist by training. She has worked in various aspects of international education in tropical biology and conservation while in Costa Rica and is excited to join the University of Missouri team again this year.




Meet the Dec. 2015/Jan. 2016 Contributors


Bill Allen (link is an assistant professor of science journalism at the University of Missouri. As a teacher of field reporting, he fancies himself part Indiana Jones, part Lao Tzu, part muse and part Pete the Cat.


Fern Perkins grew up exploring the creeks and rivers of the Carolinas, and became fluent in Spanish along the way. Perkins is a nature lover by birth and a biologist by training. She has worked in various aspects of international education in tropical biology and conservation for the past five years. In 2014, Perkins joined the Monteverde Institute team as international programs supervisor.  She says she, “value this opportunity to be in the field with budding journalists as they my the country I call home.”


Emily Rackers is a junior studying convergence journalism and Spanish at the University of Missouri. She is from Columbia, Mo., and likes cats, naps and snacks.

2015-12-28 10.55.35.jpeg

Emma Diltz, an international and science journalism major, hails from Mattoon, Ill. Her interests include obsessing over National Geographic, learning about new cultures, and advocating for free speech. Emma plans to learn how to step out of her comfort zone and embrace the unknown in Costa Rica, while also further expanding her knowledge of conservation, ecology, and Costa Rica in general.


Emily O’Connor is a junior at MU studying investigative journalism.  She is originally from Westfield, Ind. Emily is pumped to learn more about Costa Rica’s beauty and and the work behind what keeps it green.


Neima Omar is a senior strategic communication major from Kansas City, Mo. She aspires to travel the world and share its beauty through her reporting.


Lauren Barnas is a junior broadcast student at the Missouri School of Journalism. She loves fitness and is addicted to coffee and crunchy peanut butter. She’s also a proud cat mom and is from Springfield, Mo.



McGuire McManus is a senior strategic communications major with an emphasis in Art Direction. She says, “Although I have found a home at Mizzou, I am from Frisco, Texas, originally, and it is very near and dear to my heart. Some of my interests include eating, photography, design, eating, fashion, golf, and more eating (especially Whataburger).


Thomas Friestad is a junior print and digital news major at the esteemed Missouri School of Journalism. Friestad believes he may have a solid future in Spanish international reporting. During his free time, Friestad is an avid fan of reality TV, Nintendo gaming, blacklisted books and working out.



Sean Roberts is 24 and transferred to Mizzou from Maple Woods Community College in Kansas City. She is an international journalism major and hopes to see all 50 states and travel to Egypt and Austria one day. She also wants to graffiti a train before I die.


Catherine Wendlandt is a sophomore studying magazine publishing and management. She was born and raised in Austin, Tx and loves learning, writing and talking to people and appreciates that journalism combines all of those elements together.

Meet the Spring 2015 Contributors

Mariah Brannan is originally from Austin, Texas. She’s pursuing dual majors in Journalism and International Studies. Her interests are social justice, social equality, child development and ministry. Through this class she gained a new concern and awareness for conservation and biodiversity. She plans to use the knowledge learned in Costa Rica to better inform her peers, and to make a conscious effort to preserve the environment and the organisms and animals in it.

Hailing from East St. Louis, Illinois, Jamie I. Y. Crockett earned her Bachelors of Journalism degree from the Missouri School of Journalism in December 2014. She chose to focus on Strategic Communication, with emphasis in public relations and digital strategies. It is her goal to provide exceptional service to the public. Crockett believes in giving a voice to the voiceless, and shining a light on and sharing stories that will have a positive impact on the community. The opportunity to travel to, learn about, and interact with the people of Costa Rica undoubtedly has changed her life for the better. This experience further broadened her perspective of diversity and humanitarian issues.

Natalie Helms is a junior at the University of Missouri studying science and agricultural journalism. She is originally from a southern suburb of Chicago, though her family recently moved to Erie, Pennsylvania. Costa Rica was her first experience abroad, and now she has the travel bug and wants to explore the world! She plans to graduate in May 2016 and pursue a career writing about wildlife.

Joey Fening is a senior Magazine Writing and East Asian Studies double major from Cincinnati, Ohio. He loves to read and write long-form journalism. He hopes to report for a magazine that focuses on international issues after graduation. His time in Costa Rica was wonderful, and I feel more compelled to report on environmental issues in the future.

Caleb O’Brien is adamantly pursuing a master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism. He digs science writing and prefers mountains to beaches.

Ryan Schuessler is a multimedia journalist and graduate student at the University of Missouri, studying how isolated communities access and use the Internet to consume news. He frequently writes about religion, immigration, culture, identity, and LGBT* issues, among other subjects. His work has appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, regional NPR affiliates, and Al Jazeera America.

Justin L. Stewart is a masters student at the University of Missouri studying photojournalism. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Photography from Montana State University – Bozeman. Born in Wyoming, Justin has a love for the outdoors and a passion for telling stories he thinks are important on a global scale. One of his favorite outdoor activities is swimming his heart out and pretending he’s a merman.

Bill Allen is an assistant professor of science journalism at the University of Missouri. As a teacher of field reporting, he fancies himself part Indiana Jones, part Lao Tzu, part muse and part Pete the Cat.

Meet the 2014 Contributors

Josh Booth is a sophomore science and agricultural journalism major. His hometown is a farm in Cainsville, Mo. He enjoys showing pigs, which he raises and shows in FFA.

Margaux Henquinet is a first-year graduate student studying convergence journalism. She majored in print & digital journalism and Spanish as an undergraduate at the University of Missouri. She hopes to someday be an editor at a city newspaper, and to work abroad for a few years. Margaux is from the Chicago suburbs and enjoys music, salsa dancing and baking desserts.

Kelly Koch is a senior studying parks, recreation and tourism. She is from St. Louis and has been working for the Missouri state park system. Her favorite park is Elephant Rocks State Park in Belleview, Mo.

Kristi Luther is a senior journalism student from St. Louis. She is studying magazine writing with minors in Spanish and social justice, and she plans to graduate in May. Her goal is to cover human rights issues with an emphasis in the longform narrative. She lives for good storytelling. Follow her on Twitter @kaluther.

Courtney McBay is a senior studying agricultural education & leadership. She joined the journalism students on this trip without any formal training because she loves to learn and she loves to write — and that’s exactly what journalists do! After she graduates in May, Courtney will begin her career as a seed saleswoman in Illinois. Follow her on Twitter @Courtney_McBay.

Stephanie Sidoti is a second-year graduate student pursuing a dual degree of a master’s degree in journalism and a Juris Doctor in law. She is an avid photographer in her free time as well as in her photojournalism studies. Stephanie also enjoys traveling abroad and is glad to make Costa Rica the fourth country she has visited outside the U.S.

Jack Suntrup is a junior studying print and digital journalism and international studies. His interests include newspapers, sunshine, the environment, business and cities.

Daniela Vidal is a freshman studying journalism and English. Her hometown is Peoria, Ill. Originally from Colombia, she enjoys learning about the culture, society and politics of other countries. Her dream job is to write for National Geographic.

Kearston Winrow is a senior studying convergence journalism. She is originally from Nashville, Tenn., and after graduation she hopes to return to the South to work at a communications firm. She loves to travel and experience new things, and studying abroad is right up her alley.

William Allen is an assistant professor of science journalism in the Missouri School of Journalism and the Science and Agricultural Journalism Program of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources. After more than two decades in journalism, mainly at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he enjoys challenging students with field-reporting experiences where they confront complex issues, diverse people, and rice and beans.

Meet the 2013 Contributors

(Well, we got so busy reporting within a few hours of landing in Liberia that we couldn’t introduce ourselves, except through the stories we filed.)

Meet the 2012 Contributors

Cidney King is a senior broadcast journalism major at the Missouri School of Journalism. She loves meeting new people and finding out their stories, which is why she enjoys her job as a reporter for KOMU 8 news. She first became interested in the environment after learning about environmental inequalities in her social problems class. Cidney is originally from Country Club Hills, Illinois but now calls Washington D.C. home. She will return to D.C. next fall as she seeks out a master’s degree in public policy.

— Cidney King

Bobby Watson is a native of St. Louis, and is a junior studying Photojournalism and Russian Language at the University of Missouri—Columbia. Upon graduation, he plans to travel to Europe and gain professional culinary training. For him, food is life. He hopes to use his international relations to bring a fresh opinion of world cuisine to American readers. His post career plans involve opening a photo studio aimed at channeling commercial food industry experts into modern media outlets.

—Bobby Watson

David Dishman is a senior magazine journalism student at the University of Missouri. Originally from Boulder, Co., David has had several opportunities to travel internationally and has visited four continents and eight countries. An avid outdoorsman David enjoys camping, hiking, skiing and exploring.

— David Dishman

Breanne Brammer is a freshman Science and Agriculture Journalism major with a minor in International Agriculture and emphasis in photojournalism. Her hometown is Gallatin, Mo., where she lives on a family farm. She is active in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources Student Council, where she serves as reporter and the Science and Agriculture Journalism representative. Breanne loves to travel — her bucket list includes visiting all 50 states and U.S. territories by her 50th birthday. The only thing Breanne loves more than agriculture is inspirational/cheesy quotes.

— Breanne Brammer

Gaby Ramirez is a sophomore at the University of Missouri studying magazine journalism and Spanish. Originally from St. Louis, Mo., she has never had the opportunity to travel abroad but will visit extended family in Mexico City before leaving for Costa Rica. Gaby enjoys spending time with friends and family and indulging in Mexican food. She looks forward to gaining international writing and reporting skills while acquiring a taste of new cultures.

— Gaby Ramirez

Maggie Hardwick is a freshman Science and Agriculture Journalism major at the University of Missouri-Columbia. She is expecting to graduate in May 2015 and hopes to pursue a career in public relations for an agricultural company. Maggie is a small-town girl from Salisbury, Mo., but has seen many other parts of the world, including Australia, the Cayman Islands, Canada, the Caribbean and Africa. Maggie intends to visit all seven continents at some point during her life and loves new experiences.

—Maggie Hardwick

Amy Esker is a freshman in the Missouri School of Journalism from St. Louis, Mo.  Although Amy has never lived outside her hometown, she loves all aspects of travel.  In the past six years Amy has traveled to eight states and three different countries, including Mexico, Canada and most recently Spain.  Amy plans to graduate in 2015 with a degree in journalism and a minor in Spanish.

—Amy Esker

Meet the 2011 Contributors

Bill Allen (link ) is assistant professor of science journalism at the University of Missouri, where he teaches science and environmental reporting. Among other important-sounding accomplishments, he leads the MU journalism study abroad program in Costa Rica and wrote Green Phoenix: Restoring the Tropical Forests of Guanacaste, Costa Rica (Oxford University Press, 2001). He was a 1996-97 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he concentrated on tropical ecology, the history of science and Red Sox baseball. His favorite pastime is asking people what their favorite animal is.

Jessica Barnett is a Spanish and Photojournalism major at the University of Missouri-Columbia.  She will graduate in May 2011. Jessica was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but has also lived in Arizona and Alaska and traveled across much of the United States and parts of Latin America.  She has a strong interest in international and environmental journalism.

Kristina Casagrand is a junior from Lebanon, Mo.  By dual majoring in magazine journalism and cultural anthropology, she hopes to make sense of human ecology and encourage people to get outside.  She serves as president of Sustain Mizzou, volunteers for Missouri River Relief and creates multimedia for Missouri State Parks.

Kevin Deane is a senior journalism student at the Missouri School of Journalism with an emphasis in Print and Digital news. He is expecting to graduate in May 2011 and will inevitably begin his search for a full-time job. Although he graduated high school in Dublin, Ohio, Kevin considers himself to have multiple hometowns — moving nine times during his short lifetime. The only thing cooler than Kevin is his ginger-red hair.

Melissa Klauda, originally from Chanhassen, Minn., is a junior at the Missouri School of Journalism, studying photojournalism and international studies, with an emphasis in peace studies and Latin American studies. Upon graduation, she plans to continue her travels in hopes of working for an international or a non-governmental organization. Melissa enjoys spending time with family and friends, biking, live music and speaking Spanish.

Benjamin Zack is a junior photojournalism student. Originally from Spokane, Wash., Benjamin began attending the University of Missouri last year after working for AmeriCorps in the St. Louis Public Schools, fighting forest fires in Oregon and travelling. In addition to a degree in a photojournalism, he is also working on a minor in forestry.


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