Dear members, partners and all interested parties,

I am proud to announce the addition of staff and consultants who will help ensure that membership needs are met as technology and new business models continue to reshape journalism. Three of the four positions are based at our Minneapolis headquarters.

  • Laura Widmer joins the staff as full-time associate director in January 2015.
  • Sarah Cavanah will serve a seven-month term appointment as associate director from January to July 31, 2015.
  • Kirsten Chang became full-time contest and critiques coordinator on Dec. 1.
  • Ann Visser began her consulting role from Iowa on Dec. 1, which will continue through the end of May. While working on special projects for NSPA and MHSPA, Visser’s role on the Board of Directors will be as an ex-officio, non-voting member.

In completing my first year as executive director, I’ve examined all aspects of NSPA, ACP and MHSPA, with the goals of ensuring excellence and offering new resources and opportunities for the student-directed news organizations and publications that we serve.

For the digital natives who comprise these enterprises, the best practices of journalism and ethics remain at the core of their work. In addition, disruptive innovation and entrepreneurship will shape their careers.

In 2015, I’ll be focused on new partnership opportunities and strengthening our current ones, along with overseeing an overhaul of websites and updating publications.



Kirsten Chang
 is from Asheville, N.C. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2013 with a degree in English. For three years, she worked at the North Carolina Scholastic Media Association, helping promote journalistic excellence through events and contests.

Her passion for journalism began at Charles D. Owen High in Black Mountain, N.C., when she worked on staff of The Hoofbeat. In college, she wrote for and edited Blue & White, the monthly features magazine on campus.

Chang also reported for and co-produced Carolina Connection, the university’s radio newsmagazine, helping the staff win the title of Best Student Radio Newscast from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2012.

Chang enjoys reading, writing and traveling. Before she began as contest and critique coordinator at NSPA/ACP in December, Chang completed a month-long solo road trip up the east coast. Contact her at or 612-625-4337.


Laura Widmer
 will work closely with me closely on all things ACP, as well as other duties as assigned.

Widmer most recently served as Chief Executive Officer and General Manager of the Iowa State Daily Media Group in Ames. During her tenure at the Daily, which began in August 2012, Widmer established new university funding of $200,000 and increased student government funding by 22 percent.

Prior to Iowa State, for 29 years Widmer was Director of Student Publications at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, Mo. While at Northwest, her students won multiple Pacemakers and Pacemaker finalists from ACP, as well as Crown Awards from Columbia Scholastic Press Association. Both publications are in the Associated Collegiate Press Hall of Fame.

Her staffs focused on innovation at Northwest. The Northwest Missourian was one of the first college newspapers to go online, and it also was one of the few college newspapers to provide complete coverage of the city and campus to its readers. The Missourian was also one of the first college papers to report stories with multimedia components for its online readers. The Tower yearbook provided unique coverage techniques to its readers by providing first an interactive CD, and then a DVD of bonus coverage.

Widmer has been recognized by the College Media Association with the Honor Roll Distinguished Yearbook Adviser Award, Distinguished Yearbook Adviser Award and Distinguished Multimedia Adviser Award. She is also a member of the College Media Association Hall of Fame and the Missouri College Media Association Hall of Fame.

Widmer served CMA in various roles over her 32 years of advising. She served as yearbook committee chair, vice president, president and past president of CMA. She also served as New York Convention Director for five years.

Besides convention planning, she has focused on student training via workshops. Widmer founded the Yearbook Workshop and Idea Forum, and along with colleagues at Iowa State Daily, co-founded the Journalism Leadership and Management Conference.

Widmer has served on the board of directors for National Scholastic Press/Associated Collegiate Press, Student Press Law Center, Iowa Newspaper Association and Missouri Association of Faculty Senates. She also started a newspaper, Chariton Valley News Press, in her hometown of Salisbury, Mo. She continues to write a column for that newspaper today.


Over the next seven months, Sarah Cavanah will be in the office 25 hours a week and work closely with me on all things NSPA and MHSPA.

Cavanah began working in mass communication while at Marceline (Mo.) High School, simultaneously serving as editor of her high school newspaper and as a reporter and eventual interim editor of The Marceline Press, a weekly newspaper serving a rural Missouri town. (She was a fixture at the newspaper — literally. A poster-sized photo of her as a toddler with Mickey Mouse hung for decades on the walls, taken when her mother was a typesetter at the paper.)

She attended the University of Oklahoma on a National Merit Scholarship, where she won several collegiate and professional writing and design awards, including an honorable mention for Reporter of the Year from the Associated Collegiate Press, as a beat, feature and eventual senior writer at The Oklahoma Daily, an independent newspaper serving both the campus and wider community of Norman.

The next year, Cavanah earned Columbia Scholastic Press Association awards for first place in news writing and second place in feature writing for her coverage of and leading up to the opening of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. In 2000, she was selected to the Dow Jones News Fund copyediting internship program, studying at the Temple University training camp, followed by positions at Newsday on Long Island as part of the news and feature sections.

After graduating summa cum laude in 2001 with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and anthropology, Cavanah took a position as assistant editor at Mother Earth News Magazine, a 300,000-circulation national bimonthly publication serving the sustainable living community.

She then transferred over to public relations, first serving as communications coordinator for Dana College in Blair, Neb., and then as director of public relations at College of St. Mary in Omaha. During this time Cavanah also freelanced for an educational publishing company, writing two nonfiction books for middle school-aged reluctant readers and more than 50 English, reading and writing skills workbooks for primary, middle and high school grades, as well as more than 10 teacher companion titles.

In 2007, she returned to Oklahoma to pursue her graduate education, earning a master’s in professional writing in 2010 and a master’s in journalism in 2012. During this time, she served as the Lachenmeyer Fellow for Oklahoma Scholastic Media (formerly Oklahoma Interscholastic Press Association), the oldest continuous organization serving high school journalists in the world, and served as interim executive director for the 2010-2011 academic year.

While there, she was an active presence at conferences, teaching sessions on writing, editing, and design, as well as supervising and participating in judging contests. Two of her favorite activities were teaching, advising, and coaching at the Oklahoma Scholastic Media Initiative Workshop, a weeklong training camp for high school advisers awarded grants to start or improve publications, and at the Oklahoma Institute for Diversity in Journalism, a scholarship camp for aspiring high school journalists.

Cavanah entered the doctoral program at the University of Minnesota in 2012 and is on track to complete her degree in 2016. Her research focus is on community media, including student media. She has been volunteering for NSPA and MHSPA for the last two years.


Ann Visser
 has been involved in journalism since her junior year of high school where she was a member of the high school publications staff at North Nodaway High School in Hopkins, Mo. She continued her education at nearby Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, where she graduated with honors in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an English/journalism emphasis. There, she became acquainted with both Linda Puntney and Laura Widmer as Puntney advised the student yearbook of which Visser and Widmer were both staff members.

After graduation, Visser accepted a job teaching English/journalism at Gallatin (Mo.) High School where she taught from 1983-1985. A move to Minnesota meant being away from the classroom for two years, but Visser did advise a four-person newspaper staff at Foley (Minn.) High School during one of those years.

When the English/journalism position opened at Pella (Iowa) Community High School, Visser moved south and began her 31-year career there. The program expanded from one journalism section per day to two journalism sections daily to, ultimately, a full-time journalism position. Pella High was one of the first high school journalism programs in Iowa to use desktop publishing for both publications, making that move in 1987. It was a consistent award winner during Visser’s tenure.

Early in her career, Visser connected with the Iowa High School Press Association and began serving as a regional director, secretary, vice president, and, eventually president. She was presented that organization’s Kenneth Stratton Award as Iowa Journalism Teacher of the Year and was also inducted into the IHSPA Hall of Fame.

In addition to presenting sessions at the state and national level and teaching summer workshops, Visser became integrally involved with the Journalism Education Association where she reconnected with Puntney, her college adviser. She served that organization in several capacities, including state director, regional director, secretary, vice president, president, and, past president. She was awarded JEA’s Medal of Merit and its Lifetime Achievement Award, along with its highest award, the Carl Towley Award. Additionally, she is also an NSPA Pioneer and a Dow Jones Distinguished Adviser.

Visser has continued her involvement in the world of scholastic journalism by serving on the NSPA Board of Directors and the Quill and Scroll Board of Directors.


We look forward to working with you in 2015.

Best regards,
Diana Mitsu Klos