RCJF 2023-2024 Fellows

The Carter Center Awards 9 U.S. Journalists Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism

The Center will train fellows on accurate and effective mental health reporting and provide access to mental health experts 

ATLANTA (July 12, 2023) — The Carter Center is pleased to announce nine U.S. recipients of the 2023-2024 Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism.

The group includes award-winning freelancers, staff reporters, a Georgia journalist, and the third annual awardee of the Benjamin von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grant for Mental Health Investigative Journalism, in partnership with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.

This year’s group also includes the inaugural awardee of the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Grant. This grant is awarded to a journalist who proposes an in-depth investigation into a mental health topic of their choice focusing on cutting-edge research in mental health treatments. The Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Grant was launched in 2023 in support of the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism.

The Carter Center will announce international fellows later this summer, in collaboration with The National newspaper in the United Arab Emirates, the World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) in Qatar and SHINE in Ireland.

This year’s fellows are accomplished journalists who have a high interest in in-depth mental health reporting. Fellows are selected by a committee of current and former journalists, mental health experts, and the U.S. Fellowship Advisory Board, with an emphasis on diversity.

Beginning in September, fellows will pursue innovative mental health journalism projects of their choice during the nonresidential, year-long fellowship. The projects tackle some of society’s biggest behavioral health challenges and seek to strengthen reporting, drive change in their communities, and help reduce stigma through storytelling.

Carter Center U.S. fellows receive a $10,000 stipend to report on approved mental health topics of interest and intensive training from leading mental health and journalism experts.

The fellowships challenge recipients to delve deeper into learning about mental health and substance use disorders and to share reliable information with the public about behavioral health issues.

Fellows will receive virtual training on effective behavioral health reporting from past fellows and advisors, connect with alumni, be paired with their mentors, and gain a deep understanding of behavioral health.

The Carter Center is pleased to welcome the 2023-2024 U.S. class of Rosalynn Carter Fellows for Mental Health Journalism:

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye
Editor, ICT

Topic: The mental health landscape in Indigenous communities, particularly examining the accessibility of mental health services and the availability of mental health professionals, and the root causes for this. This project will explore mental health obstacles stemming from boarding schools and U.S. assimilation policies and examine solutions Indigenous peoples are creating for their nations.

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye is the editor of ICT. She is the first woman to be the chief news executive and top editor of the 41-year-old newspaper and website. She is a Diné citizen of the Navajo Nation and a Native American Journalists Association board member. Since joining ICT in 2018, Jourdan has reported stories on health, education, public health, 2020 Census, policy, politics, and more. She has focused on the COVID-19 pandemic coverage, especially COVID-19 data, in Indian Country. She has won multiple awards for her reporting in digital and broadcast, such as the ICT Newscast for her contribution to the COVID report and for her COVID-19 data beat reporting. She is part of the Indigenous Investigative Collective, a project by NAJA focused on investigations in Indian Country.

Bennett-Begaye received her master’s degree in Magazine, Newspaper and Online Journalism through the Newhouse Minorities Fellowship at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Her health background is rooted in her bachelor’s degree in athletic training from Fort Lewis College and the University of Michigan Future Public Health Leaders Program via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her experience working with Native youth led to teaching high school journalism, video production, and theater at Upward Bound in Colorado in her home state. She is the director of NAJA’s Native American Journalism Fellowship. Bennett-Begaye’s work can be read or watched in the Anchorage Daily News, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Source NM, Arizona Mirror, North Coast Journal, APTN News, NPR’s Short Wave, Native Peoples Magazine, MediaShift, The Daily Times, NPR’s NextGen Radio Project, and Syracuse.com/The Post-Standard.

Lee Hawkins
Podcast Host/Producer at American Public Media Group

Topic: The intergenerational effect of the racism and racial violence tied to slavery, Jim Crow segregation and integration on the mental health and well-being of Black families.

Lee Hawkins is producing podcasts in partnership with American Public Media (APM) on the intergenerational effect of racial violence and racism on Black American families. He’s the author of the forthcoming book, NOBODY’S SLAVE: How Uncovering My Family’s s History Set Me Free (HarperCollins 2024). Hawkins is an O’Brien Fellow at Marquette University. He was a lead reporter on a Wall Street Journal team that was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for a story about the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in 2022. Also in 2022, he was the host and executive producer of Mayo Clinic’s “Rise for Equity” podcast, which featured interviews with the top health care and research professionals discussing issues concerning diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Health Care field. In 2021, he was a finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. He is a four-time winner of NABJ’s Salute to Excellence Award and received NYABJ’s Adam Clayton Powell Reporting Award. He was a WSJ reporter for 19 years and is also known for his on-camera interviews with influential newsmakers and icons. He was a 2018 Logan Nonfiction Fellow and received the 2017 National Fellowship from USC Annenberg’s Fund for Journalism on Child Well-Being for Reporting on Childhood Trauma. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s in political science, where he was editorial page editor of the Badger Herald student newspaper.

Sonner Kehrt
Investigative Reporter, The War Horse

Topic: Mental health approaches to combating radicalization in the military community.

Sonner Kehrt is an investigative reporter at The War Horse, a non-profit newsroom covering the military and veterans, where her work examines the intersection of the military, the public, and topics like extremism, misinformation, the environment, and gender. She studied government at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and served as a Coast Guard officer before earning a Master’s in Democracy and Governance Studies from Georgetown University and a master’s in journalism from UC Berkeley. Her work has also appeared in outlets like the New York Times, WIRED Magazine, and Mother Jones.

Josh McGhee
Reporter, MindSite News

Topic: The ways that the mental health and criminal justice systems intersect to the detriment of Black and brown people in America, especially those in disinvested communities.

Josh McGhee is an investigative reporter at MindSite News covering the intersection of criminal justice and mental health with an emphasis on public records and data reporting. He has covered Chicago on various beats for the last decade, including criminal justice, courts, policing, race, inequality, politics, and community news. He’s previously reported at DNAinfo Chicago, WVON, the Chicago Reporter, and most recently Injustice Watch. He was awarded a Peter Lisagor Award for Best Feature Series. He serves as the secretary of the Chicago Chapter of NABJ.

Sandhya Raman 
Health Care Reporter, CQ Roll Call

Topic: How overturning Roe v. Wade has impacted mental health and parity.

Sandhya Raman is a health policy reporter at CQ Roll Call in Washington D.C., where she has reported extensively on mental health and substance use issues through the lens of Congress, the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House. She has tracked the passage and implementation of major legislation tied to expanding treatment, reducing the drug supply and improving mental health parity. In 2019, she reported a multi-story magazine cover package on Dayton, Ohio’s success in fighting one of the nation’s highest opioid overdose death rates. In 2022, she was awarded a UN Foundation/Universal Access Project Press Fellowship to report on global international family planning efforts in Thailand and selected as a ‘Your Body, Their Data? Privacy, Tech and Biometrics Fellow’ through the National Press Foundation. Raman is a regular contributor to Kaiser Health News’s ‘What The Health’ podcast and a member of and mentor through the Association of Health Care Journalists. Raman is a graduate of Oberlin College and previously edited and reported for Politico and FierceMarkets.

Preeti Simran Sethi

Topic: The factors behind the hidden crisis in Asian mental health and ways to address the challenge.

Preeti Simran Sethi, a journalist and independent scholar, was named one of the “50 Most Influential Global Indians” by Vogue India and “the environmental messenger” by Vanity Fair. Dedicated to social, environmental, and personal transformation, she has reported on issues ranging from climate anxiety, sexual assault survivors’ quest for justice, and the impacts of psychedelic on pro-environmental behavior for outlets including NPR, The New York Times, Nautilus, WIRED, and The Guardian. Sethi was designated one of the top eight women saving the planet by Marie Claire. She is the author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love— winner of the Nautilus book award and named one of the best food books of 2016 by Smithsonian—detailing the loss of agricultural biodiversity through stories of bread, wine, coffee, chocolate, and beer. She is also the contributing author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy, winner of an Axiom Award for Best Business Ethics Book.

Sethi is the creator of The Slow Melt, the first podcast on the cultural and environmental stories behind chocolate and the winner of the SAVEUR award for Best Food Podcast. She is a former contributor to NPR’s Life Kit and was an inaugural inductee into Heritage Radio Network’s Hall of Fame. She has produced environmental programming for NBC News, PBS, and Sundance Channel, and was the host of the EMMY Award-winning documentary A School in the Woods. Sethi holds an M.B.A. in sustainable business from the Presidio Graduate School and graduated cum laude with a B.A. in sociology and women’s studies from Smith College. In 2009, the College awarded her the Smith College Medal. She is currently completing an MSc. in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology at the University of East London with a focus on psychedelic integration and post traumatic growth.

Richard Sima | Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Grantee
Science Journalist, The Washington Post

Topic: How the immune system impacts mental health and could inform new more targeted treatments.

Richard Sima is a neuroscientist turned science journalist who writes the Brain Matters column for The Washington Post’s Well+Being desk. After more than a decade of research, Sima transitioned from academia to journalism. His work covering the life, health and environmental sciences has appeared in outlets such as the New York Times, National Geographic, Scientific American, Discover Magazine, New Scientist and Eos. Prior to joining The Post in 2022, Richard worked as a fact checker for Vox podcasts, including for the award-winning science podcast “Unexplainable.” He was also a researcher for National Geographic’s “Brain Games: On the Road” TV show and served as a communications specialist at the International Arts + Mind Lab at Johns Hopkins University’s Brain Science Institute. Sima has a Ph.D. in neuroscience from Johns Hopkins University and an undergraduate degree in neurobiology from Harvard College. He also serves as the President of the D.C. Science Writers Association.

Savannah Tryens-Fernandes
Child Health and Wellness Reporter, AL.com

Topic: Covering the impact of the first youth homeless shelter in Birmingham that opened in 2023.

Savannah Tryens-Fernandes is a child health and wellness reporter at the Alabama Education Lab, part of AL.com. Prior to AL.com, she worked as a senior Africa associate at Human Rights Watch, where she documented xenophobic attacks against migrants in South Africa. She holds a BA in Political Science from Villanova University and an MS from Columbia Journalism School, where she was a Stabile Investigative Fellow.

Evey Wilson Wetherbee | Benjamin Von Sternenfels Rosenthal Grantee for Mental Health Investigative Journalism Assistant Professor of Practice in Journalism, Mercer University

Topic: The mental health crisis in Georgia’s prisons.

Evey Wilson Wetherbee is an Assistant Professor of Practice in Journalism at Mercer University. Prior to this, she worked as a producer at the Pulitzer Center in Washington, D.C. and freelanced for publications like the New Yorker, ProPublica, WABE, and Instagram. She now works as an educator and continues to report as a Journalist in Residence at Mercer University, often working with their partner publications and newsrooms including the Macon Telegraph, Macon Newsroom, WMAZ, and Georgia Public Broadcasting. Wetherbee double majored in Journalism and Religion at the University of Georgia before becoming a full-time photojournalist for daily and weekly papers. She received her master’s at UNC-Chapel Hill as a Roy H. Park fellow at the Hussmann School of Journalism and Media. She was a finalist for the 2022 Livingston Award in local reporting for her investigative documentary, Saving Juliette, which chronicled one small town’s fight for clean water against the largest coal-burning power plant in the Western Hemisphere. This film screened in festivals nationally and was nominated for an Emmy. It is now available on PBS. Wetherbee’s latest project is a six-part investigative podcast called Prison Town. After a year of reporting, she uses one prison in South Georgia as a case study to explore systemic issues within the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Learn more about the Carter Center’s Georgia mental health program.

Read about Rosalynn Carter’s 50 + years of mental health work.

Contact: Michelle Rivera, michelle.rivera@cartercenter.org

The Carter Center
Waging Peace. Fighting Disease. Building Hope.

A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in over 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health worldwide.

Katie Hawkins-Gaar

Katie Hawkins-Gaar is an advisory board member and program consultant for the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism.