CHC Foundation Names 2022 Les Brownlee Scholarship Recipient: UofC’s Yiwen Lu

By Storer (Bob) Rowley

The Chicago Headline Club and the Chicago Headline Club Foundation announced Friday (June 3) that University of Chicago Junior Yiwen Lu is the recipient of the Les Brownlee Memorial Scholarship–a $5,000 annual grant given to a Chicago-area journalism student in honor of Les Brownlee.

The foundation received 23 applications this year for the scholarship from an array of excellent candidates from private and public institutions and community colleges around Chicago and Illinois. Lu was chosen (May 24) by the foundation board after an extensive review of many exceptional applicants.

Lu is finishing her Junior year at the University of Chicago and heading for Washington, D.C. to work this summer as a business reporting intern at The Washington Post. The Shanghai native is finishing her third year in Hyde Park and will graduate next year with a bachelor’s degree as part of the Class of 2023. She is majoring in Economics and Political Science and is the first member of her family to attend university in the United States. 

She has been industrious here. Lu has been a writer and fact-checker covering local news, accountability and community issues at South Side Weekly since 2020, and she has worked remotely as a graphics and interactive intern this spring at USA Today, developing interactive graphics on international topics including COVID-19. She also currently serves as managing editor of The Chicago Maroon, the university’s independent student newspaper, overseeing an editorial staff of 200 active members and five editorial sections.

In addition, she has wide-ranging experience working as an intern for NBC 5 in Chicago on consumer issues and FOIA requests, for the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina on breaking daily and enterprise stories, and for RADII China in Shanghai, writing about Chinese youth culture for the English news startup. She admires Chicago’s strong array of independent local news organizations and has demonstrated a dedication to showing readers the kind of hyper-local journalism that covers, uplifts and informs them about their communities.

“The Chicago Headline Club Foundation is excited to announce Yiwen Lu is the recipient of the 2022 Les Brownlee Memorial Scholarship,” said foundation President Molly McDonough. “There were so many exceptional applicants this year, which made our job of selecting only one truly difficult. Lu is an outstanding candidate, and she impressed the board with her dedication to community-oriented journalism serving under-represented communities. 

“We are delighted to award her this scholarship to help support her continued work in journalism and in her studies,” she added. “We can’t wait to see what she does next in her career, which she hopes to continue here in Chicago after graduation.”

Lu had high praise for Chicago’s tradition of independent journalism. “My decision to pursue journalism is grounded in local reporting and is inspired by exceptional journalists at Chicago newsrooms,” Lu said when she learned she was being awarded the scholarship. “As such, I am beyond grateful for the generous recognition from the Headline Club. I hope to leverage the opportunities made possible by the Les Brownlee Memorial Scholarship to continue working on stories that serve and uplift the community around me. I hope more students who come from unconventional backgrounds would feel encouraged to cover a vibrant city like Chicago.”

In particular, Lu observed that her work as managing editor of The Maroon had been “a life-changing experience, showing how important it is to have a diverse newsroom” to best reflect and report on the diverse community it covers. She also serves as communications director of the Chicago chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association.

McDonough and Scholarship Committee Chair Storer H. (Bob) Rowley made a special point of noting that the foundation is deeply grateful every year for the work done by deans, faculty advisors, counselors and student media at Chicago-area and Illinois higher education institutions to pass on news of the scholarship opportunity to prospective journalism students and encourage those interested to apply.

Brownlee, who died in 2005, was the first African-American member of the Society of Professional Journalists and the first African-American president of the Chicago Headline Club. 

Applicants for the Les Brownlee Scholarship are current undergraduate journalism students at Chicago-area and Illinois colleges or universities. Candidates are assessed by a committee of the Chicago Headline Club Foundation and evaluated on their journalism excellence and potential, previous experience, clips, cover letter and a demonstrated interest in pursuing a journalism career.

Applications for next year’s scholarship will open in February 2023.