May 27, 2005
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)â€”United Methodist Communications' first racial-ethnic minority fellow will push the fellowship experience to another level when he mentors the 2005-06 recipient in the California-Pacific Annual Conference.
Byron S. Minor, a mass communications graduate of Southern University A&M, Baton Rogue, La., has been chosen as the eighth recipient of the Judith Weidman Racial Ethnic Minority Fellowship. The fellowship provides a year of working with an experienced director of communications in one of the United Methodist Church's U.S. annual (regional) conferences.
Larry Hygh Jr., the first fellow of the 8-year-old program and director of communications for the California-Pacific Conference, will mentor Minor in video, electronic media, print, broadcast and public relations. He also will have opportunities to explore religion communications in varied settings, such as through the United Methodist Association of Communicators, the Religious Communications Council and other organizations.
Minor will work in the California-Pacific Conference July 1-June 30, receiving a $30,000 stipend for the year. "We feel honored to be the first annual conference in the Western Jurisdiction to host this fellowship," Hygh said.
UMCom developed the fellowship in 1998 to encourage people of ethnic minority background to consider religion communications as a career. The 63 U.S. annual conferences have fewer than 10 conference communicators of ethnic minority heritage in leadership positions. The fellowship was named for the Rev. Judith L. Weidman, its founder and a former top staff executive of UMCom, who died in 2000.
"It was Judith Weidman's dream that these scholarships would not only encourage qualified individuals to enter into communications careers in the church, but also that they would bring inclusiveness and diversity to the story-telling that shapes us as a community of faith," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, UMCom's top staff executive.
"I think she would be quite gratified to see our first racial-ethnic fellow mentoring a new fellow only a few short years after the scholarship was created," he said. "We are all very pleased by this development."
Minor, who graduated from the Louisiana school with a master's degree in 2004, said in his letter of application that "being a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church has truly drawn my interest in religion communication," especially in the area of community involvement.
Through religion communication and his own faith, he said, "I think I can make a great impact on this internship and the community." A member of St. Luke United Methodist Church, he affirmed the witness of Louisiana United Methodists and the denomination in social, community and relief issues.
Hygh, the 1998-99 REM fellow, is also a doctoral student at Pepperdine University working on an educational doctorate in organizational leadership. He expressed excitement at working with Minor. "I feel very honored not only to have been the first REM Fellow, but now to be selected as the first racial-ethnic communicator to serve as a mentor to another African-American male is a reflection of my commitment to empower other African Americans to excel."
"We look forward to the year ahead cultivating Byron's communications gifts for ministry in the church to tell God's amazing story," said Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, who leads the California-Pacific Conference. "We look forward with anticipation to Byron's arrival on July 1 to dwell among God's people called United Methodists in the California-Pacific Conference."
Jacquelyn Dorice Hall, the 2004-05 recipient, will complete her fellowship year July 31. Danette Clifton, the director of communications for the North Alabama Annual Conference, was her primary mentor. Royya James, Hall's predecessor is now a member of the denomination's Igniting Ministry staff at United Methodist Communications.
The fellowship's fifth recipient was David Malloy, 2002-03, who is the director of communications for the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference. He followed Ciona Rouse, currently a free-lance writer in Nashville, Tenn.
Nicole Benson, the third recipient, became communications coordinator and editor in the Texas Conference and is pastor at Paul's Chapel United Methodist Church, Hugo, Okla. Eunice Dharmaratnam, who enrolled in graduate school after her fellowship year in the Indiana Annual communications office, was the second recipient.
Information about the REM Fellowship and other scholarship opportunities is available at crt.umc.org or by calling Amelia Tucker-Shaw at UMCom, (888) 278-4862.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.