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Sherrell Dorsey, founder of digital news platform covering the Black innovation economy, awarded inaugural Medill Garage Media Entrepreneur Fellowship

Fellowship supports underrepresented groups in addressing challenges facing media

June 24, 2020
Sherrell Dorsey working on her laptop
Sherrell Dorsey is the inaugural Medill Garage Media Entrepreneur Fellow. Photo by Mecca Gamble photography.

Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications in partnership with The Garage, Northwestern’s entrepreneurial incubator, has awarded the inaugural Medill and The Garage Media Entrepreneur Fellowship to Sherrell Dorsey, founder and editor-in-chief of The Plug.

Launched in 2016, The Plug curates the top news of Black founders and innovators. It has grown to become a subscription-based digital news and insights platform covering the Black innovation economy, investigating and reporting on Black tech trends, stories and breaking news.

Dorsey will use the fellowship opportunity to increase The Plug’s freelance and editor budget, invest in search engine optimization strategies and social media advertising for the site, and upgrade its content management system. She also will take classes from Medill focused on innovation and technology, in addition to classes on leadership, and Black entrepreneurship.

“2020 has been a year of unprecedented change that showcases just how important it is for the media industry to continually innovate to address new challenges,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “That is why I am proud to have Sherrell Dorsey as our first ever Medill and The Garage Fellow. It's my hope that this fellowship will help her to continue her important work of leading us through this time of historic social, political and technological change."

The one-year fellowship supports entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups—with an emphasis on women and people of color—who are working on innovation in the media industry. As part of the fellowship, Dorsey will receive an $80,000 stipend for the year, and access to a variety of resources across Northwestern such as select classes at Medill, the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the University at-large to help her to continue to expand her work.

“What really compels me about this opportunity is the entrepreneurship community at The Garage as well as the chance to root myself in academic prowess with innovators, leaders and mentors that really understand the media industry at Medill,” Dorsey said.

Throughout its journalism and integrated marketing communications programs, Medill emphasizes the importance of technological innovation and telling the stories of diverse audiences.

The Garage at Northwestern is a community and physical space for every Northwestern student interested in entrepreneurship to learn, iterate and grow. The 11,000 square foot space, carved out of the North Campus parking structure, is currently home to more than 60 student-founded startups and projects.

“We are thrilled to have Sherrell join The Garage community,” said Melissa Kaufman, Founding Executive Director of The Garage. “She will provide fresh perspective and new ideas to our students and will be an outstanding mentor to their entrepreneurial endeavors.”

A native of Seattle, Dorsey had early exposure to technology through the Technology Access Foundation—a coding program for children of color in the early 2000s. She went on to take an internship at Microsoft which she says, “shaped my world view in the possibilities of technology.”

Prior to launching The Plug, Dorsey served as a marketing manager at Uber and a Sales Analyst at MarketSource Inc. on their Google Fiber account. A graduate of Columbia University with a master’s degree in data journalism, Dorsey’s work has been featured in VICE, The Washington Post, Axios, The Information and more. She has also been a contributing writer for Columbia Journalism Review, Fast Company, Black Enterprise and others. In 2018, she was named an inspiring woman in tech by CNet.

"This Fellowship is an excellent example of how Northwestern can leverage the extensive resources in our robust entrepreneurial ecosystem to cultivate innovation across disciplines," said Hayes Ferguson, the incoming director of the Farley Center, who, as associate director of The Garage, helped select Dorsey.  "I can't wait to see what Sherrell achieves while she is here, and am excited about the impact she will have at Northwestern and beyond."

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