A recent Ball State University graduate has been recognized by one of the nation’s top collegiate journalism awards programs.

Rebecca Slezak, who in May graduated from Ball State’s College of Communication, Information, and Media, recently was awarded second place in the photojournalism category of the 61st annual National Hearst Journalism Championships.

Slezak excelled in her championship assignment, “Chaotic Normalcy,” in which she was tasked with documenting the “new normal that represents the American experience” affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It’s such an honor to be recognized among my peers and competitors," Slezak said. "I would like to thank the Hearst Foundations Board of Directors, the Hearst Journalism Awards Program, and the judges for affording me this opportunity. I'd also like to thank my professor and mentor, Dr. Martin Smith-Rodden, for always encouraging me and believing in me, even when I did not believe in myself. I'd also like to thank Dr. Gabriel Tait and Lisa Renze-Rhodes for their support over the years.

“I'm very thankful to have a close cohort of peers and Ball State alumni friends that have always spurred me to dream big and reach for what seems impossible,” she continued. “I would not be here today without any of them."

Slezak earned a $7,500 scholarship as a result of her second-place finish, which represents the largest monetary award for a Ball State student in the history of the National Hearst Journalism Championships.

A Mahomet, Illinois, native, Slezak adds to an impressive list of accolades that includes being a two-time recipient of the Indiana News Photographers Association’s College Photographer of the Year Award (2019 and 2020).

“We are extremely proud of Rebecca, not only for her exciting result in this year’s National Hearst Journalism Championships, but for her display of excellence in photojournalism throughout her entire career at Ball State,” said Dr. Paaige Turner, dean of the College of Communication, Information, and Media. “We look forward to following Rebecca as she embarks on her professional career.”

The Hearst Journalism Awards Program was founded in 1960 to provide support, encouragement, and assistance to journalism education at the college and university level. The program awards scholarships to students for outstanding performance in college-level journalism, with matching grants to the students’ schools.

The Hearst National Championships are the culmination of monthly competitions in writing, photojournalism, audio, television, and multimedia held at 104 accredited journalism schools across the country. Selected finalists meet with judges and receive spot assignments to fulfill from home, which are then reviewed to determine final results.