Hometown: Marlton, N.J.
Political Science, Class of 2011
Saint Joseph’s University senior political science major and Marlton, N.J., resident Samantha Koch ’11, earned a first place Keystone Press Award in the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association (PNA) 2011 contest. The Awards recognize strong, relevant journalism that reflects integrity and initiative.
Koch’s winning article, “After two decades, Clery Act continues to have a positive impact on campuses,” ran in The Hawk, SJU’s student-newspaper, in November 2010. It revisits the 1986 rape and murder of Lehigh University freshman Jeanne Clery that exposed the high number of unreported violent crimes on U.S. campuses, laid the groundwork for the founding of Security On Campus, Inc., a King of Prussia non-profit focused on promoting safe campus practices, and ultimately led to the passing of the 1990 “Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act.” In 1998, the Act was renamed the “Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act” – more commonly known as the Clery Act – in Jeanne’s honor. Koch says writing the article, inspired by the Clery Act’s 20th anniversary, represents one of her best experiences while working forThe Hawk.
“Sexual assault and campus violence are critically important issues for college students across the country, and the Clery Act was instrumental in expanding the conversation about these topics at universities nationwide,” she says. “Speaking with Jeanne Clery’s mother and members of Security On Campus was an incredible opportunity to learn more about the fight against campus crime and violence.”
Taking first place in the general news category, Koch’s article defeated pieces submitted from student journalists at larger Pennsylvania schools such as Penn State, Temple and the University of Pittsburgh.
“When you look at the dozens of other student publications across the state that submitted their work and recognize the exceptional quality and commitment to journalism that they represent, having The Hawk’s name on that list makes this achievement even better,” says Koch.
As that publication’s 2010 editor-in-chief, part of Koch’s responsibility was to compile a portfolio of the newspaper’s strongest pieces for submission to the Keystone Press Awards on behalf of the staff. Though she expected The Hawk to compete with the other schools, she says receiving the award for her own piece was an unanticipated pleasure.
“The award represents how far The Hawk has come in terms of its commitment to quality writing, editing and publication standards, and an award from the PNA just reflects the attitude and achievements of everyone involved,” she says. “For me, the award is an unexpected, but wonderful, culmination of four years of interviews, editing, and late nights spent writing.”
Over the past three years, four SJU students have been recognized by the PNA. In 2008, both David Spain ’08 and Kelleen O’Fallon ’07 earned honorable mentions, while Matt DeGeorge ’10 earned the same in 2009. Koch’s win is the first time a Hawk staff member has taken first-place. Jennifer Spinner, Ph.D., assistant professor of English and faculty adviser for The Hawk, says that it is enormously gratifying when SJU students prove their journalistic excellence is on par with some of the best student newspapers in the state. And when those students share the characteristics and work ethics of Sam Koch, it’s no surprise.
“She's got the instinct of a journalist, the ability to find a story, report it and write it well. What she demands from herself and her staff is admirable and commendable,” Spinner says.
Following graduation, Koch will begin a full-time job as a Member Services Associate with The Investment Fund for Foundations, a Conshohocken-based financial firm that manages the assets of endowed nonprofits.