More good news from Concordia Journalism 

Diploma student’s scholarship win extends department’s impressive run

By Michael Keegan

Vanmala Subramaniam earned one of seven CBC scholarships for 2010. Magnifying glass

Vanmala Subramaniam earned one of seven CBC scholarships for 2010.

Graduate Diploma student Vanmala Subramaniam has won a coveted CBC News Network Joan Donaldson Scholarship for 2010, upholding a tradition for Concordia’s Journalism program.

“I’m really happy,” says the 24-year-old Subramaniam. “But honestly, mostly I’m relieved. It’s so competitive to get a job in this field.”

Graduating in April, she’s been applying for every internship she can find. “This was the last, but the one I wanted the most.”

Subramaniam was born in Vancouver to Indian parents and raised in Malaysia. Following her degree in economics and political science from U of T, she wanted to study journalism at Concordia out of a self-described “curiosity about every aspect of the trade.”

The scholarship, established by the CBC in 1999 in honour of respected journalist and founder of CBC Newsworld, Joan Donaldson, includes a $2 000 cash award, a week of training and an intensive four-month paid internship at one or more locations within the CBC News Network. Up to eight Donaldson scholarships are presented each year. In 2010 there were only seven.

Competition is fierce. There are nine participating journalism schools across Canada, and each can submit up to five candidates. From this pool, the CBC chooses those to whom it will grant an interview.

“No school is guaranteed a selection,” says Peter Downie, the director of the Graduate Diploma in Journalism program, via email. “Each school obviously sends its strongest candidates so the competition is intense. Making it to the interview stage is a real accomplishment. We had three students selected this year.”

Subramaniam describes the interview as the most rigourous she’s ever been through.

“It was one hour of rapid-fire questions, mostly about news content on the CBC and on Canadian television, and gauging your general knowledge about the world,” she explains. “The interviewer wasn’t taking notes or recording, just looking at you. You just felt pressure. I was drained.”

Subramaniam credits Concordia and Downie’s coaching with helping her win the scholarship.

“Peter Downie really helped. He was excellent at prepping us and giving us encouragement,” she says. “And the diploma program has been so good. It’s a very skill-based program—we learn technical things like editing and how to use the camera—and gives us an awareness of what the industry wants.”

Downie is proud Concordia has never failed to have at least one of its students granted a Donaldson scholarship each year.

“And for two years running now, a Concordia student has been at the top of the CBC’s list of scholars from across the country,” he declares. “I think that says something critically important about our students, the relevance of our program and about the skills of those who teach in it.”

Subramaniam will intern in Toronto from mid-May to the end of August. “I’ll be working as a chase producer or writer for a couple of shows, on a rotation,” she says. “I’ll find people to interview, follow-up on stories and suggest stories, too.”

Subramaniam did a one-month internship as a financial reporter for the Malaysian newspaper The Star last summer, and another with The Financial Post in December.

“I just want to end up being a reporter,” she says, “choosing my own stories and going out and doing them.”


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