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WVU graduate's passion for multimedia takes her to Capitol Hill

Ashley “Elaine” McMillion

Ashley “Elaine” McMillion is a self-starting, always-learning, multimedia machine.

The Charleston native, who is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism this week, broadened her academic career at West Virginia University not only by utilizing study abroad programs, but also by exploiting her passion to learn more about multimedia.

This summer, the WVU Foundation Outstanding Senior and recipient of WVU’s most prestigious honor the Order of Augusta, will put her skills to the test during a documentary internship with Washington Post Newsweek Interactive.

A leader at heart, McMillion and a fellow student co-founded the student organization All Things Magazine: Ed on Campus in the fall of 2007. Interested in more than just print journalism, McMillion wanted to introduce other students to multimedia with the magazine club. She is currently the vice president of the organization.

When asked how she helped started a student-run organization, McMillion said she doesn’t recognize impossibility.

“It’s easy to just use the bare minimum. Plenty of students on campus just do what they have to just to get by,” she said. “In the end, it’s how bad you want something. Teachers are willing to help but it’s your ideas that really spark it.”

McMillion’s aspiration to do more contributed to her decision to study abroad. In the spring of 2008, she began her journey at Aalborg University in Denmark. During McMillion’s six-month stay, she visited seven additional countries and captured each with her digital camera.

“I think traveling can teach you so much more than the classroom,” McMillion said. “It’s an adaptation process. Everything seems so strange but some things you accept and bring back with you and other things you find just don’t fit in your life.”

Even though she was 4,000 miles away, McMillion continued to think of ways to enhance her education at WVU. McMillion and fellow student, Tricia Fulks, wanted to plan a project that helps rural newspapers incorporate multimedia.

“We had an idea about a senior multimedia project and I wanted to stay ahead while I was away,” McMillion said. “Tricia and I spoke with John Temple and we worked together to lay the foundation for West Virginia Uncovered.”

While abroad, McMillion kept in touch with Temple, interim associate dean and assistant professor of the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism, to create the project. With the help of other faculty, students and grants from the WVU Faculty Senate and the McCormick Foundation, several WVU journalism students have been able to travel to newsrooms across the state to assist in teaching multimedia.

McMillion’s “go for it” attitude helped her gain attention from national organizations.

In the fall of 2009, she became one of 10 student journalists in the country to receive a $10,000 Scripps Howard Foundation scholarship.

As a result, McMillion is able to travel to Washington, D.C. this summer to complete a documentary internship with washingtonpost.com. The unpaid internship may have not been possible without the scholarship.

“The scholarship had a big involvement with landing the Washington Post internship,” she said. “I had no awards previously and the scholarship will pay for my living accommodations for the 11 weeks that I’m there.”

McMillion has worked as a contributing writer and photographer for Lawyers and Leisure Magazine, a staff member of the WVU campus radio station, U92 and writer and reporter for the Charleston Daily Mail. She currently does freelance work for the Dominion Post.

To conclude her undergraduate career, McMillion will graduate summa cum laude.