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AUS alumna awarded prestigious Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism
Based on her intention to explore the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic on the aviation sector and its impact on the mental health of people working in that industry, Deena Kamel, an alumna of American University of Sharjah (AUS), has been awarded the Rosalynn Carter Fellowship for Mental Health Journalism. Kamel is one of the two recipients of the year-long, non-residential prestigious fellowship, which aims to increase and improve the quality of mental health reporting in the media. Starting in September, Kamel will receive extensive training from experts in the US as well as a local advisory board in the UAE on the protocol of reporting on mental health issues accurately.
Previously a correspondent for Bloomberg in Dubai, Kamel is currently a senior business reporter at The National and reports primarily on aviation and transport. Through the fellowship, she hopes to gain a better understanding of complex mental health issues and how to report on them in an informed and nuanced way, stating it is crucial to bring mental health issues to the forefront of public attention to re-shape the narrative on these often-misunderstood problems.
Speaking about her expectations of the fellowship, Kamel said:
“My goal during this reporting project is to shed light on the hardship of vulnerable workers in the aviation and tourism sectors, which are crucial pillars of the economy. I hope to enrich my reporting on aviation by bringing in more of the human element of the industry. At the heart of it, I am excited about the opportunity to combine my passion for aviation with a keen interest in psychology to produce in-depth reporting and analyses of timely issues.
A Magna Cum Laude graduate of the AUS Class of 2006, Kamel earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications with a concentration in Journalism and a minor in English Literature. She credits her success to her professors who were instrumental in explaining the principles of news reporting, the ethics of practicing journalism and techniques of approaching and interviewing people in different contexts.
“My professors, especially Dr. Joseph Gibbs who continues to be a valued mentor, helped build the foundation for my interest in journalism and growth as a reporter. They were also candid about the issues we may face in the real world of journalism reporting beyond the classroom, drawing from their own experiences in the field to illustrate different scenarios and challenges we may face as reporters. This helped prepare me for what to expect as journalist beyond an academic setting.”
Kamel hopes more universities in the UAE can incorporate mental well-being workshops and education into their programs to help students understand, and even cope with, the important issues of behavioral health.
Speaking about the selection process for the fellowship, Nick March, assistant editor-in-chief at The National and administrator of the fellowship’s UAE program, said:
“Applicants to the UAE program had their candidacy reviewed and rated by a panel of mental health experts and academics and then separately ranked by a panel of senior editors. Based on guidance received from both panels, a few candidates were shortlisted. Final decisions were made after all shortlisted candidates were interviewed by a panel comprised of fellowship advisory board members, the program’s administrator and one of the existing UAE Rosalynn Carter fellows.”
Elaborating on Kamel’s plan to focus on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, March said:
“Deena’s candidacy and application stood out for being thought-provoking and her pitch was strong: she has a track record in breaking and developing stories in the aviation sector and wants to use the fellowship to explore the impact the pandemic has had on the mental health of people who work in that industry. Her project feels like vital and important work to undertake and one which will undoubtedly benefit from the advice and mentorship she will receive as a fellow.”
The Carter Centre, a US-based not-for-profit, non-governmental organization, has awarded annual fellowships to more than 200 journalists around the world since 1996. The fellowship is named after Rosalynn Carter, co-founder of the Carter Centre, an influential voice in the field of mental health for decades.
Applications for the 2021–22 UAE cohort of the fellowship will open in February 2021.