Victoria Ryan is a rising second-year majoring in Political Science and Journalism. She plans to create a short documentary following a class action lawsuit in the northside of her hometown of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Tell me about your SURG topic.

Ryan: I was initially looking into the SURG because I wanted to stay home this summer and there’s not a ton of journalism internship opportunities in the area, with the decline of local media. Essentially, this grant is going to be used to make a short documentary describing an ongoing class action lawsuit between Graphic Packaging Incorporated, which has a plant in Kalamazoo, and the northside neighborhood of Kalamazoo, which is predominantly Black and low income. They just filed this lawsuit a little bit ago, basically saying that the company has been polluting them and the company is aware that they’re polluting the neighborhood and they’re not stopping it. They’re basically asking for a decrease or a complete stop in production because the air quality is really bad.

The media has not really been covering it a ton beyond the local Kalamazoo newspaper. I would look into that and dig into the details of the case and be able to spread light on this issue. I have some experience in the northside neighborhood. I interned for the state representative for Kalamazoo last summer and we canvassed all the neighborhoods in Kalamazoo, but specifically this neighborhood, and talked to people and spread information. A lot of constituents were concerned about this issue and saying that nothing was really being done. I would be able to talk to them and see what’s happening and hopefully raise awareness.

What kind of journalism are you interested in?

Ryan: I’m interested in political journalism, specifically broadcast. I do the Northwestern News Network here, and I’ve really enjoyed being able to do multimedia journalism. I’d say specifically this is more like investigative long form journalism. I definitely have an interest in it, but I haven’t really had the chance to pursue that. That’s what this opportunity is going to do.

What is your end goal for this documentary?

Ryan: The end goal is definitely to raise awareness about this issue. This community means a lot to me. It raised me. It’s really been a big part of my life, and having the opportunity to see each neighborhood of the community last year was really an awesome experience because I’ve always been really passionate about advocacy, especially environmental. Being able to pursue this and bring this issue to light is really impactful. I feel like it’ll be really impactful for me, but also for the community.

Meet the other SURG Recipients!