• Introduction
  • Eligibility
  • Stipend and Benefits
  • Selection and Criteria
  • How to Submit
  • Contact Us

The O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism will begin accepting applications for its 2019-20 class on Dec. 1, 2018. The deadline for applications is Jan. 25, 2019.

This is a reporting fellowship. If you are looking for a sabbatical, this is not the program for you.

O’Brien Fellows will leave after an academic year with a world-class project on a topic of state, regional, national or international interest. See the Our Work section of our website for examples of the journalism produced by past fellows.

Fellows are expected to:

  • Work and travel from a home base in the O’Brien suite in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Fellows live in Milwaukee.
  • Mentor and team with top Marquette journalism students in the pursuit of an investigative or explanatory journalism project.

Applicants should have at least five years of professional experience and produce journalism regularly as an employee or freelancer. Applicants may be connected to print operations, radio, television, websites, podcasts, online publications, wire services, or magazines of general public interest. There are no academic prerequisites.

Applications from international journalists are welcome.


A stipend of $65,000 for nine months for your salary, paid to your sponsoring organization, or directly to the fellow in the case of independent journalists.

  • A residency allowance based on family requirements for fellows moving to the Milwaukee metropolitan area for the duration of the fellowship: up to $4,000 for a single, married or partnered fellow, up to $6,000 for a fellow with one child, up to $7,000 for a fellow with two children, up to $8,000 for a fellow with three or more children. Fellows submit rent receipts from the rental property owner.
  • A moving allowance based on family size and distance. The allowance, covering the move to and from Milwaukee, ranges from $2,000 to $4,000 in total. (Fellows from the Milwaukee metropolitan area are not eligible for a moving allowance.)
  • A travel and research allowance up to $8,000. This covers project-related travel as well as technology, data and document costs and equipment needs.
  • Employee benefits continue to be paid by the fellow’s employer, where applicable. Please contact us if you have questions on this.
  • Fellows and their spouses are eligible during the fellowship for tuition remission (up to seven credits) for courses offered by Marquette University.

A proposal to produce a rigorous, multimedia public service journalism project with the potential to have major impact, lead to significant reform, and investigate and explain how individuals and groups can identify creative solutions to social problems.

The ability to complete the project during the fellowship using Milwaukee as your primary home.

The ability to integrate Marquette students as part of a reporting team.

The capacity to ensure the greatest possible exposure for the reporting once completed.

An advisory committee consisting of distinguished journalists and Marquette faculty and alumni will interview candidates for O’Brien fellowships from a pool of finalists recommended by College of Communication journalism faculty.

Following those interviews, the advisory committee will send a list of recommended fellows to the dean of the Diederich College of Communication for final review.

Method 1 (Preferred)

We provide space below for you to link to your supporting files from a file sharing service such as Dropbox or Google Drive, or from your personal or company’s website. This allows us to view your materials online. This is our preference.

Method 2

If you are unable to send us a link to your materials, you may email them to us at obrienfellows@marquette.edu with the subject "O’Brien Application Materials: Your Name."

Method 3

As a last resort, we will accept physical copies of materials at the mailing address below. These materials won't be returned to you. Please call us before sending them.


Contact Dave Umhoefer, O’Brien Fellowship Director, at (414) 288-5956 or by email at david.umhoefer@marquette.edu.

1. Applicant Information

2. Resumé

Your resumé should list all relevant professional work experience and education, including start and end dates.

NOTE: Total file sizes must equal less than 20 MB. If your upload files total more, the form will not be submitted and you will be asked to upload smaller files.

3. Public Service Journalism Proposal

In 1,000-1,500 words, tell us about the project you propose to have published or broadcast. As part of your proposal, please directly address the following:

  1. In a tight paragraph, please summarize the project.
  2. What is the key question you are trying to answer?
  3. Based on your preliminary research, what makes this a timely and important story?
  4. How would your work be made available to the public and in what format(s)?
  5. The O’Brien Fellowship is centered on deeply incorporating student journalists into the projects as researchers, data analysts, reporters, writers or multimedia specialists. What roles might students play in your project?
  6. How might your project break new ground? If other outlets have taken on the topic, explain how your work would advance the story.
  7. Discuss what you would need to do to pursue the story. Is it a data or document-driven story? If so, what are the documents, what will it take to get them, etc. Is it a source driven story? If so, who are the sources? Are they cooperative? Hostile?
  8. What are possible obstacles to completing the reporting, and how do you plan to address them?
  9. What is the “minimum” story that would come out of your project? What is the greatest potential upside?
  10. Estimate how long you would need to complete the project.


4. Personal Statement

In 1,000 words or less, tell us a few things about yourself. For example, you might tell us why and how did you become a journalist? Or what appeals to you about public service journalism? What makes you ready for an academic-year fellowship now? You might tell us why you are applying for the O’Brien Fellowship instead of one at another university? What appeals to you about being in an academic setting for nine to 10 months?

5. Summary Bio

Please link to a 300-word biographical summary for promotional materials if selected.

6. Work Samples

Please provide examples demonstrating your professional abilities. All samples must include the date published or broadcast. It is your responsibility to ensure that any URLs you provide work properly. No samples submitted will be returned. You may submit either:

  • Up to six (6) articles that you have written.
  • Up to twenty (20) photographs, timelines, graphics or other visual/interactive journalism.
  • Up to one (1) hour total of journalistic broadcast work, with the link to a video or audio service or server where the work can be accessed.
  • Up to six (6) URLS of online journalism, accompanied by a short description of your contribution to the site, story or package.

NOTE: You may choose to submit a combination of any of the above. If you do, be selective. More is not necessarily better. Describe any features of the work that makes any of this unique – without, of course, repeating what might already be in your proposal or personal statement.

NOTE: If you are a journalist in an editing or managerial position, please include a link to a document that is 500 words or less describing your job responsibilities and how you carry them out. Please also provide specifics about your impact on the journalism generated under your supervision – presumably included as part of your application – and what motivates you.

Add another file

7. Awards, Fellowships and Certificates

Please list any awards, fellowships or certificates that you have received that are relevant to your application. You may also include any relevant links.

8. Letters of Recommendation

Three (3) letters of recommendation are required for your application to be considered complete. It is your responsibility to ensure that your recommenders submit their letters by the application deadline. Each recommender should explain their relationship to you and your potential to complete the public service journalism you propose to do while at Marquette University.

NOTE: One of your three (3) recommendations should come from someone (editor, managing editor, news director, etc.) from your media company who has the authority to state that:

  • It would continue to employ you during your fellowship at Marquette.
  • It would publish or broadcast your fellowship work once completed.
  • It understands that Marquette students would contribute to the work.

NOTE: If you are self-employed or a freelancer, then:

  • At least one of your three (3) recommendations should come from someone for whom you have produced journalistic work.
  • One of your letters should come from someone who would ensure that your work would be published or broadcast once completed – and that the news agency is open to having undergraduate and graduate students contribute to the project.

Have recommenders mail your letters of recommendation to:

O'Brien Fellowship Applications
Diederich College of Communication
Marquette University
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201

Or upload the letters of recommendation:


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