Publish Date

The University of Illinois Springfield's renowned Public Affairs Reporting program celebrated its 50th anniversary and inducted five distinguished graduates into its Hall of Fame during an all-class reunion in Chicago on June 15.

PAR director Jason Piscia also announced the launch of a new fundraising campaign to increase financial support for students while they're serving in reporting internships at the Illinois Capitol.

About 150 PAR alumni and friends -- including students from the first class in 1972-73 and the current Class of 2024 -- attended the lunchtime event at the Union League Club of Chicago.

group photo of Christine, Daralene, Phil, Jeremy, and J. Jacqueline

The highlight of the afternoon was the Hall of Fame induction. This year's inductees were (pictured clockwise from upper left):

  • Christine Tressel ('87), an investigative journalist on the I-Team at WLS-TV in Chicago.
  • Daralene Jones ('03), anchor and investigative reporter for WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando.
  • Phil Jurik ('83), managing editor of the Chicago Tribune.
  • Jeremy Finley ('96), chief investigative reporter for WSMV4 in Nashville.
  • J. Jacqueline McLean ('78), a veteran investigative reporter who has worked at television stations across the country.

PAR Hall of Famer Kathy Best ('80) moderated a discussion with the new inductees, covering their memories of the program and the importance of journalism.

Piscia spoke at the event about the state of the PAR program, including that he is projecting the incoming PAR class will be full, with 12 students, the largest enrollment since the 2017-18 class.

The strong enrollment is due in large part to PAR's partnership with the Joyce Foundation, which last summer awarded PAR a two-year, $100,000 grant to supplement the salaries students receive while they're working as news reporting interns at the state Capitol.

Combined with financial contributions from the university, host news organizations and scholarships, PAR remains an extremely time- and cost-efficient way to gain high-level journalism experience and a graduate degree.

This increased level of support from the Joyce Foundation grant helps PAR students better concentrate on their work at the Capitol and their remaining classes. With students essentially working a full-time job as a Capitol reporter, it's difficult for students to earn money from another source, such as a part-time job.

When this two-year grant expires next summer, PAR wants to make sure this level of support remains available for future students. A new fund, the PAR Student Journalist Salary Fund, will be dedicated solely to putting money directly into the pockets of PAR students during their internships so they can afford everyday living expenses.

"We are engaging with other philanthropic sources to contribute to this fund," Piscia said. "But we’re hoping you will want to get involved, too, to show the foundations that we have a community of alumni and friends willing to invest in students who choose to pursue the PAR degree."

PAR is a 10-month master's degree program that trains students to cover government and politics. The highlight of the experience is a six-month paid reporting internship with a professional news organization covering the Illinois General Assembly and other functions of state government from inside the state Capitol in Springfield. To learn more, visit the PAR website.