The Comer Scholarship supports students who demonstrate commitment to covering environmental issues. Comer Scholars are selected based on academic excellence, passion for environmental journalism, and vision of the potential impact of environmental journalism and their role in it as future journalists. Past Comer Scholars have gone on to report for public radio stations, newspapers, the energy media, nonprofits and many other outlets.
While at Medill Comer Scholarship recipients study techniques for reporting science, the environment and climate change. They network with top environmental scientists from across the country and travel to report on stories of international concern. The Comer Science & Education Foundation carries on the philanthropy of the late Gary Comer, who founded the Lands’ End clothing company. The Comer Foundation, based in Chicago, supports organizations in an array of fields including education, environment, health and social services as well as neighborhood rehabilitation.
Comer Scholarship FAQs
What job opportunities are there in science, health and environmental journalism?
These specializations in journalism are increasingly relevant. New knowledge and innovation, as well as the quickening pace of climate change, increase the public's need to understand science, health and the environment. Journalists with expertise in these areas go on to reporting jobs in digital and broadcast media. They also find meaningful work in related government and nonprofit organizations.
Is an undergraduate degree in the sciences required?
No, but it can be helpful. A passion for reporting about the environment is required.
What will my curriculum be at Medill?
If you are admitted, you will take the same courses as other students pursuing a master of science in journalism (MSJ), with a few additional options. In your first academic quarter, you will be enrolled in Journalism Methods, our orientation to news reporting, writing and storytelling. In your second quarter in Medill’s Chicago newsroom, you will cover a news beat linked to key environmental topics. You will spend one week off the beat pursuing field research with scientists. Comer funding can support travel for this practicum week. In the third quarter, your courses will include advanced health, environment and science reporting. You will pursue more in-depth stories and even write for Popular Science. In your final quarter, you may continue reporting from Medill’s Washington, D.C., newsroom or pursue a capstone. You will learn to use creative, multimedia and interactive tools that every reporter needs today. You can take elective graduate courses in Medill's journalism and integrated marketing communications programs or in other Northwestern graduate programs. You may be particularly interested in taking advanced courses in computer science or environmental sustainability. Optional fifth-quarter opportunities include global reporting residencies and reporting fellowships that allow you to embed with field-research teams across the globe.
"The connections the Comer family helped facilitate for me while I was in graduate school and the education they helped me pay for all led me to where I am now – reporting for NPR and Marketplace on agriculture, environment and health."
- Kristofor Husted (MSJ11), Reporter/producer for NPR's KBIA
What are the opportunities for travel?
Past Comer Scholars have used scholarship funding to travel domestically and internationally. Comer Scholars regularly attend the Comer Climate Change Conference at the Comer estate in Wisconsin. Comer Scholars have traveled to Colombia to document efforts to preserve the traditional knowledge of healing plants endangered by mining and climate change, New Zealand to report on the climate change clues that ancient kauri trees hold in their rings and Minnesota to report on the effects of global warming on peat bogs, an important carbon dioxide reservoir.
How much of the cost of attending Medill does the scholarship cover?
The typical Comer Scholarship award will be equivalent to half the cost of tuition for Medill's one-year master's degree program. Applicants who require additional financial aid may complete the standard federal applications in order to be considered for other scholarships, merit awards, need-based grants and student loans.
Are international students eligible for the Comer Scholarship?
Yes. We welcome applicants from around the globe who demonstrate a passion for environmental reporting.
How can I apply for the Comer Scholarship?
Fill out an online application for admission to Medill's graduate journalism program, including all required materials. In addition to answering the essay questions on the standard application, please upload your answers to the following questions: Why are you passionate about environmental journalism? How can environmental journalism have an impact? What role do you think environmental journalists should play?
What are the application deadlines?
Information about application deadlines can be found here.
If you have questions about applying for the Comer Scholarship, please contact Julie Collins, associate director of graduate admissions and financial aid, or call the Office of Graduate Admissions at 847-491-2052.
For questions about studying environmental and science journalism at Medill, contact Assistant Professor Abigail Foerstner.
"When I first received it, I thought it would just be a scholarship - something to help defray my tuition costs, a big help in itself - but it did so much more. As a Comer Scholar, I was able to attend one of the top annual climate change conferences, held at the Comer estate in Wisconsin, which was for me basically a crash course in the cutting edge of climate science. In the space of a couple of days, it furthered my understanding of climate science and the current state of climate research by leaps and bounds.”
- Rosa Lin (MSJ12), Reporter, Energy Intelligence Group