By Brian Howard
For Florida A&M University (FAMU) student Marissa Stubbs, persistence pays off.
Stubbs, a senior broadcast journalism student from St. Petersburg, Fla., is FAMU’s first-ever Rhoden Fellows Scholarship recipient.
“Stubbs is a pioneer,” said Bettye Grable, Ph.D., interim dean of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication. “To have the opportunity to work with someone as recognized as William Rhoden, just to rub shoulders with someone of his caliber, will provide a level of training and experience that cannot be duplicated.”
The ESPN Undefeated Rhoden Fellows Initiative is a training program for the next generation of sports journalists from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Headed by Undefeated editor-at-large and former New York Times award-winning columnist William C. Rhoden, the three-year-old program highlights sports, race and culture.
Rhoden Fellows serve as on-campus correspondents and are expected to produce daily, weekly and monthly multi-media content for The Undefeated.
They also participate in weekly conference calls and in behind-the-scene work at various athletic conferences and events, such as the Big 12 women’s basketball tournament, the NCAA Men’s Final Four tournament and the NFL Draft. Students also produce and edit a weekly podcast about sports and HBCU culture. Fellows will work from ESPN’s Washington, D.C., office next summer.
Stubbs’ acceptance into the program came on her second try. As a junior, she applied but wasn’t selected. While she was devastated, Stubbs was determined to try again.
“Failure can teach many, many lessons,” she said. “It taught me to keep working harder. I may have gotten denied, but I knew I would need to keep working, keep being persistent.”
Stubbs poured her energy into her course work and student media. She was sports editor for The Famuan and a contributor to “The Playmakers,” a weekly sports-talk radio show on WANM 90.5 FM. Meanwhile, she kept her eyes open for the Rhoden Fellowship opportunity.
When the application process opened last fall, she reapplied and went through the entire process again, including the initial phone interview and two additional interviews, before being offered the internship.
“I was so thankful for the opportunity, especially because I was about to embark on my final year and didn’t have an internship,” Stubbs said. “I was nervous during the entire process, but it was a blessing in disguise to earn this internship and complete it during my senior year.”
In early March, soon after Stubbs got the good news, the global pandemic forced the suspension of college and professional sports.
“Things will definitely look different for me during this internship,” Stubbs said. “Instead of just focusing on sports, now I will need to shift that focus to stories about race, class and culture on our campus. While yes, the year will be different, it does allow for me to bring out my creative side and show that I can still prevail in journalism.”