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Broadcast journalism student earns prestigious Rhoden Fellowship

Aniyah Robinson poses next to an HBCU night t-shirt design
Published 04/19/2024

Aniyah Robinson is the first Langston University student to become a Rhoden Fellow

by Ellie Melero, Media Relations Specialist

Earning the Andscape Rhoden Fellowship is a dream come true for Aniyah Robinson.

A broadcast journalism junior from Wichita, Kansas, Robinson has been interested in sports and sports media since elementary school, and now she has the opportunity to work with ESPN during a yearlong fellowship with Andscape.

“I’m looking forward to being in a space with like-minded individuals and just being able to do stuff that we love,” Robinson said. “And I’m really excited to be able to work with the other fellows this year.”

Andscape, part of the ESPN portfolio and formerly known as The Undefeated, is a Black-led media group dedicated to highlighting and uplifting Black stories. As part of the United Negro College Fund-Disney Corporate Scholars program, Andscape sponsors the Rhoden Fellowship.

Named for award-winning sportswriter William C. Rhoden, the Rhoden Fellowship is a prestigious one-year sports media program for aspiring journalists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The program includes a 10-week summer internship, various professional development opportunities and a $5,000 award.

Aniyah Robinson is Langston University’s first Rhoden Fellow, and her journey to get there has been one filled with hard work and determination.

Little Girl, Big Dream
A young Aniyah Robinson poses in front of NBA player cut-outs with her younger brother and sister.
Robinson (left) has dreamed of working in sports media since she was a child.

Robinson was in fourth grade the first time she told her grandmother, Kim Ross, that she was going to be on ESPN one day.

“I just kind of shoved it off when she was little because she was a kid,” Ross said. “We all thought, ‘Oh, you know, she’s just talking right now. She don’t know what she want to do.’

“Because when you’re a kid you don’t really know,” Ross reasoned. “You’re gonna have 15 different things you’re gonna wanna do by the time you graduate high school.”

But as Robinson got older, Ross realized this goal was more than just a passing childhood interest. Robinson was still talking about it when she was in sixth grade. And in seventh grade. And in eighth grade.

By the time Robinson was a sophomore in high school, Ross had realized working for ESPN really was Robinson’s dream job.

“Even her friends were like, ‘Uh, yeah, Aniyah is going to do this. She wants to do sports. She’s going to be on ESPN someday,’” Ross said. “It’s just something she’s always said, and she’s striving for it.”

Ross knew pursuing this dream would mean earning a college degree, and she always told Robinson to make her education a priority. So Robinson worked hard in high school to get accepted into her dream school: Prairie View A&M University.

Robinson was excited to attend Prairie View, but then her best friend, Kennadi, broke the news to her that she would not go to Texas with Robinson in the fall. Kennadi had been accepted to Langston University, the school where her mother and sisters had gone, and that’s where she wanted to go.

Faced with a choice between her dream school and her dream of going to school with her best friend, Robinson decided to give Dear Langston a chance.

“Langston was closer to home, it was less expensive, and it was just ideal,” Robinson said. “It’s still small, but it’s the perfect size to where we’re all just a big family. So here I am, third year!”

Putting in the Work

When Robinson came to Langston, one of her first classes was with Daniel Thompson, an instructor of communication and the advisor for the LU Gazette, Langston University’s student newspaper. Thomspon said as a freshman, Robinson was a very quiet student. She didn’t talk a lot in class, and he could tell she didn’t quite have her feet under her yet. But that soon changed.

Aniyah Robinson takes a selfie with her best friend Kennadi Graham
Robinson (right) ultimately decided to attend Langston University after her best friend, Kennadi Graham (left), decided to attend LU.

Robinson made a conscious effort to get more involved on campus her sophomore year, and that included getting involved with the student newspaper. She began writing for the Gazette and has risen to the role of managing editor. She will be the editor-in-chief in the fall.

The summer after her sophomore year, Robinson pursued an internship with KSN, a news station in Wichita, and she returned to Langston in the fall with confidence and motivation.

“Doing an internship that early on has such a massive impact on students,” Thompson said. “She came back just more confident and more capable.”

Robinson didn’t just get involved with already existing organizations, though. Langston students are often encouraged to find organizations that reflect their interests and goals, and if they cannot find one, they are encouraged to start one. Robinson did just that, and she said restarting the LU chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has been one of her most memorable achievements at Langston.

Robinson first learned about NABJ when members of the NABJ Tulsa chapter came to speak to one of her classes about the organization. Then one of her friends at the University of Missouri told her about how beneficial the organization had been for her. Robinson decided Langston students should have an opportunity to receive those benefits, too.

“I felt like that’s a good organization to bring to Langston,” Robinson said. “So I worked with Mr. Thompson a lot to get that started, and it’s just been amazing ever since.”

Langston had a chapter of NABJ years ago, but membership fizzled out and the chapter became defunct. Over the years, several students tried to restart the chapter, but all were unsuccessful. Robinson wouldn’t let that deter her, though.

She worked with Thompson to formulate a constitution, recruit students to be consistently involved in the organization, earn the approval of the regional director of NABJ, earn the support of the Tulsa chapter, and receive letters of recommendation from both the Tulsa chapter and regional director to NABJ’s national board.

“Aniyah was able to get the student support and the momentum, and she was diligent enough to push through this new chapter,” Thompson said. “Just the amount of effort and time it took to get that started back up, to get the constitution in order, to get all the documents in order, to set up the meeting with the national association, it was a lot of work.

“She really did that work, and she’s almost entirely responsible for NABJ coming back.”

Between writing for the Gazette, restarting NABJ and maintaining good grades in all her classes, Robinson still found time to pursue an on-campus internship. She became an intern in the Department of Athletics under the supervision of Sports Information Director Kyle Taylor.

A group photo with members of the NABJ
Robinson spent months working to restart the LU chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.

As an Athletics intern, Robinson helps with anything from game-day live streams to running the football video board. She is a quick learner who’s constantly looking to add skills to her repertoire, and Taylor said Robinson is one of the hardest working interns they have.

That’s why when Taylor received an inquiry for potential Rhoden Fellowship applicants, Robinson was one of the first people he thought of. After requesting more information about what the Fellowship was looking for, he was certain Robinson was the perfect candidate.

“Aniyah really kind of stuck out as a potential candidate because part of what they were looking for was a writing component,” Taylor said. “Aniyah has been a part of the Gazette for a while and she’s written quite a lot, so this seemed really up her alley.”

A Black Woman in Sports Media

ESPN Senior Editor and LU alumnus Eddie Maisonet knew that though Langston University had never had a Rhoden Fellow before, there were tons of students with incredible potential. That’s why he reached out to Director of Alumni Affairs Rachel Belmon and asked if there were any students who stood out as promising potential fellows. Belmon, in turn, reached out to Taylor, and Robinson began her journey to becoming Dear Langston’s first Rhoden Fellow.

Robinson worked with Taylor and Maisonet to prepare her application and prepare for her interview. After months of preparation and waiting, the 2024 UNCF Disney Corporate Scholars were announced in February. Robinson was one of six students selected for the Rhoden Fellowship, which this year happens to be an all-woman cohort.

“This is the first time they’ve had an all-woman cohort,” Robinson said. “So, all of us wanting to work in sports, being Black women, I feel like it’s gonna be just such an awesome experience.”

Robinson will spend the summer in Bristol, Connecticut, as an intern for Andscape. She will work with her fellow interns to cover sports as well as other news and cultural subjects, especially Black culture, and Andscape will take the fellows to various events and experiences as the opportunities arise.

Robinson has wanted to work in sports media since she was a child, and she always knew it would take a lot of hard work and dedication to be successful in such a male-dominated industry. She said her experiences at Langston University have shown her she is capable of anything, and she is excited to continue pursuing her dream of being a Black woman in sports media through the Rhoden Fellowship.

“I feel like often-times Black women are not taken seriously, especially in an industry like sports media,” Robinson said. “It’s really hard for us to move up in the rankings. But it’s really amazing that I’ve been able to see women in the sports industry, especially Black women, come together and support each other, and that is just an amazing thing to now be a part of.”

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