UCSC alumnus wins annual student-journalism award from Chronicle of Higher Education

Sam Laird, a 2007 UCSC graduate in American Studies, has been awarded the fifth annual David W. Miller Award for Student Journalism by the "Chronicle of Higher Education."

Sam Laird--a 2007 UCSC graduate with a degree in American Studies--has been awarded the fifth annual "David W. Miller Award for Student Journalists" by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Laird received the $2,500 prize for three articles he had published last year in UCSC's weekly student newspaper, City on a Hill.

"There are a lot of great student journalists out there--even just at UCSC alone--so to get recognized like that is pretty flattering," said Laird by e-mail from Montevideo, Uruguay.

Laird left for South America in January with a one-way ticket en route to an internship at a bilingual newspaper in Quito, Ecuador. Two weeks later, the paper went bankrupt. Laird decided to make the best of a bad situation and proceeded to travel through Ecuador and write for an online travel guide. He later dipped into his savings to continue traveling in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay.

"The whole situation taught me a lot about what is possible in the world if you force yourself outside your comfort zones and are willing to take that step into the unknown," said Laird.

Laird noted that the day after he found out about the Chronicle of Higher Education award, he was surprised by an e-mail from Susan Watrous, faculty advisor for UCSC's City on a Hill, who notified him that he had also just been recognized with a Columbia Scholastic Press Association Certificate of Merit for News Feature Writing.

"City on a Hill was the best thing that ever happened to me academically at UCSC," Laird observed. "I had no journalism experience prior to my senior year when I first started there. But thanks to Susan Watrous and all of the amazing students who work for the paper, I was able to really get a chance to learn a lot and develop as a writer and journalist after basically starting from scratch."

Laird received his Chronicle of Higher Education award for three articles he wrote that dealt with public policy issues that were of major interest to residents of Santa Cruz. He noted that his recent honors should help with his future career plans.

"I'd definitely like to pursue a career as a journalist," said Laird. "I think my ideal situation would be to end up at some sort of news magazine where you get a chance to really get deep into public policy and other issues that have huge effects on real people's everyday lives."

Contact the author at srapp@ucsc.edu.