Imagine you are a GW student aspiring to be a broadcast journalist or break into political communications. You walk into your classroom and see the guest speaker, a former White House press secretary. Or a U.S. senator. Or the co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates.
This is a dream for many students. For those in Columbian College’s School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA), it is a reality thanks to an endowed gift from former GW parents Bruce and Cindy Terker to create the Terker Distinguished Fellows in Media and Public Affairs. The new program brings to campus notable professionals from the fields of media, political communication and public affairs to engage students through class discussions, public events and career advising.
"Through their vast experience and stature in media and in politics, [the Terker Fellows] have brought to SMPA an extraordinary depth of knowledge, understanding of history and appreciation for context,” said SMPA Director Frank Sesno. “The Terkers’ gift enriches us and deepens our intellectual and experiential learning in countless ways. It sets us apart."
Past Terker Fellows include NPR’s national political correspondent Mara Liasson; co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates Frank Fahrenkopf Jr.; national editor of The Cook Political Report Amy Walter; former George W. Bush deputy White House press secretary Tony Fratto; and the late Senator Robert Bennett (R-Utah). This year’s fellow is Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, who reported from Iran until he was arrested in 2014 and given a prison sentence by an Iranian court for alleged crimes related to espionage. He was released in January of 2016.
“Frankly, if [Jason] was the only individual that we were ever able to get to join this program, that in of itself would be wondrous,” said Bruce Terker of Rezaian’s selection.
For the Terkers, creating the Distinguished Fellows program in 2015 was a way to give back to SMPA for providing an “incredible” student experience for their daughter Jennifer Terker, BA ’13, who is now on the production staff for 48 Hours on CBS.
“Hopefully, the program gives students some direction and motivation and connects them with people who can help further their careers and be resources for them,” said Bruce Terker. “Being in Washington, D.C., as a student, you are at the political, journalistic, and business epicenter of the world, so this program takes advantage of that and provides students with the opportunity to interact one-on-one with the people making it happen. We wanted to do our part to make the opportunity a reality.”