First-year student Gwynnevere Vang is an inaugural member of The New York Times Corps, the newspaper's yearlong mentor program for aspiring college journalists from underrepresented groups. Vang is one of two ThreeSixty Journalism alumnae, along with Faaya Adem, to be selected.
In addition to being a first-year student, Vang is a second-generation Hmong woman and the first grandchild in her family to go to college.
The Newsroom talked with Vang about her experience in starting journalism and starting this new program.
What made you interested in journalism?
My interest in journalism started my sophomore year [of high school] because of the ThreeSixty Journalism programs I joined. In my senior year I applied for the ThreeSixty scholarship and I got it, so that's what pulled me toward journalism and the fact that I want to go into different communities and tell their stories and culture.
What was your family's reaction to being accepted?
After I got the news through Zoom, I just sat there in the dining room soaking it all in before flying upstairs to my dad’s office. He was so proud, and we did a mini celebration until my siblings asked what was going on. I told them I got into the program, and we were all screaming and jumping and smiling. Then I called my mom, who was at work, and she was telling me how proud she was too! It was even crazier when the official news was out, and my family was sharing it on social media.
What does your Hmong heritage and being the first grandchild to go college in your family mean to you?
I grew up with the core value of community and that’s shaped how I look at journalism. Going to college for journalism is a rare career path, but I want to break that barrier and allow there to be more opportunities for Hmong people. I want to create a path for younger generations of Hmong people so that they can explore writing and reporting.
Even though I’m a second-generation college student, I’m the first for everything as the oldest child. I get to experience things first but that also means that I can’t ask for help, especially since I’m in a career field that my family doesn’t know much about. Being the first grandchild to go to college put another weight on my shoulders. I know that it inspires my younger siblings and cousins to study what they want to though, so that serves as motivation for me as well.
What past work have you done with ThreeSixty?
I wrote articles from culturally-specific foods to sports coverage on a Lynx game. I also did a radio broadcast on Indigenous narratives when ThreeSixty partnered with MPR and a video package on housing inequities when ThreeSixty partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield. One thing that stuck with me was to always ask, never assume. I practically live by this saying now. I mean for interviews it’s a good idea to do a bit of research but the ability to act on my curiosity is a working strength of mine. I take that piece of advice with me everywhere I go, especially when I walk around looking for story ideas!
What is your future career goal?
My future career goal is to be a traveling journalist, preferably with print journalism. I want to travel and immerse myself into different communities, learning what’s important to them and their environment while building connections. Then I’ll report on those stories for them. Print journalism is what I’m leaning toward, but I wouldn’t mind being on the radio or behind the camera.
Where would you want to go in the U.S. and why?
I would love to go back to New York City! I’m in love with the bustling atmosphere and since I grew up with a fast and busy schedule it feels somewhat natural being there. There are a lot of places to go and it’s a really interesting place to be, which is perfect for story ideas.
What sparked an interest in environmentalism? What is your inspiration?
My first inspiration was watching documentaries like “Seaspiracy” and “Our Planet.” There’s just something about them that invokes so much emotion in me. The natural environment is so beautiful, it hurts to see that we’re not doing as much as we should to sustain the Earth we live on.
I think the biggest inspiration was animals. Animals have been so fascinating to me, and it surprises me how many misconceptions there are about them. But my first concern was about air pollution, and it grew from there to renewable energy then to spreading awareness about the dangers of fast fashion, etc. I don’t know much about what’s happening around the world, but that’s why I want to travel, understand and report because I want to know and help others become more aware. I want people to care about our Earth.
What are your go-to songs to listen to?
My go-to songs would be both “Make Room” by Destroy Boys and “Chromatica” by Lady Gaga.
Throughout the school year, Vang will be working with the Times Corps program, growing her professional network, gaining new opportunities, and further polishing her writing skills. She is paired with Sharon Chan, the Culture and Careers deputy at The New York Times.