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PBS Journalist Alexander Heffner Named Fitzwater Fellow in Residence

May 4, 2015

image textThe Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication at Franklin Pierce University is pleased to announce that PBS’s Alexander Heffner, host of The Open Mind, will be in residence as a Fitzwater Fellow during the Fall 2015 semester through the 2016 New Hampshire Primary.  

“The Fitzwater Center strives to help our students find their voices in the public discourse.  Alexander, an extraordinary young journalist and civic educator, will draw on his significant experience to help us realize this mission, engaging his own generation--the Millennials--in the people and issues of the 2016 Presidential Election,” said Dr. Kristen Nevious, director of the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication.   
Despite his young age, this is Heffner’s third time covering the road to the White House as a member of the press corps. While still a student at Phillips Academy Andover and later at Harvard, he founded and edited SCOOP08 and SCOOP44, the first online national student newspaper, to cover the 2008 campaign and the first years of the Obama administration.
During the 2012 campaign, he chronicled the Millennial vote as a correspondent for PBS’s Need to Know.  A year later, Heffner took over the helm of The Open Mind, the longest running public broadcast, after the death of his grandfather, Richard D. Heffner, who had hosted its “quiet and thoughtful excursion into the world of ideas” for a half-century.
And now, he will cover the 2016 presidential election while embedded in the Granite State, home of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, at a university that has sent teams of young student journalists to cover the road to the White House in the last two presidential election cycles.

“I thank the Fitzwater Center at Franklin Pierce University for this honor,” said Heffner. “I am delighted to join the Franklin Pierce community for an exciting primary season ahead, and look forward to working with students to advance the civil discourse that our democracy demands."

“Attacting an accomplished journalist like Alexander Heffner to the Fitzwater Center will be a great benefit to our campus,” said Dean of Undergraduate Studies Dr. Kerry McKeever. “Alexander knows politics and he knows how to relate to students.”

While in residence at Franklin Pierce’s Rindge campus, Heffner will work with the student media and various majors across campus—including Social Media and Emergent Technologies, Political Science, Mass Communication, and the Honors Program.  

“I look forward to welcoming his perspectives to my Honors Freshman Year Inquiry class, VOTE, in which the students will be exploring the issues important to their generation in the context of the presidential race,” said Nevious.

From Heffner’s perspective, the 2016 election contains a significant historical shift that could greatly influence the outcome. ”This election cycle Millennials will surpass Baby Boomers as the largest living generation,” said Heffner. “They are poised to become the decisive electoral demographic. With New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary, there is an unprecedented opportunity for young people to engage with the ideas of this campaign.”

Heffner’s byline has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Newsday and RealClearPolitics, among other print and digital publications. He has been interviewed about politics, education and stories in the news by C-SPAN, CNN, and the BBC.

He has given talks and moderated panels at major universities and colleges, including the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Drake University, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the School of Politics and Economics at Claremont Graduate University, the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago, and the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University.

Mr. Heffner’s fellowship is made possible by the Stan and Cheri Fry Fund.


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Franklin Pierce University is an accredited university that achieves outstanding student success through the integration of liberal arts and professional programs. The University consists of the College at Rindge and the College of Graduate & Professional Studies with locations throughout New Hampshire and in Goodyear, Arizona. Degrees are offered through the doctoral level. Franklin Pierce embraces an education that matters—one that achieves academic success by augmenting the traditional liberal arts foundation with professional programs. Our community of educators and learners create an environment that fosters intellectual curiosity and encourages experiential and applied learning. Franklin Pierce empowers each student to discover and fulfill their unique potential, so that they enter the professional world with the confidence and knowledge to be leaders of conscience. Franklin Pierce graduates are well-prepared for the professional, personal, and social demands required for success in the 21st century.

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