The couple dedicate a new scholarship fund to investigative journalism and new media.
By Katie Dohman, B.A. '03
There's a new scholarship to support students with financial need and a love of investigative journalism: The Deborah Hudson and Rick Pallansch Award for Emerging Investigative Journalists. Founded by the husband-and-wife namesakes, Hudson and Pallansch were both first-generation college-goers who had financial need, and who remember how much a little help, well, helped. The scholarship gift will be awarded to students who are able to demonstrate financial need and maintain a GPA for 3.5 or higher, with a preference given to full-time students interested in investigative journalism or new media.
As college students, Hudson in the journalism school at the University of Minnesota (B.A. ’80), and Pallansch at St. Cloud State University, were recipients of financial support themselves, from work-study funds to scholarships to Pell Grants. Ultimately, they both graduated without student loan debt. So, their scholarship goal was two-fold: Honoring their parents, who scrimped and saved to help with expenses such as books and groceries, and encouraging prospective journalists devoted to seeking truth and accountability in an increasingly volatile industry.
Hudson, once a journalist at the St. Cloud Times, said she wishes she could go back and do her career again with the variety of research resources and media forms now available.
“Investigative journalism drives accountability and the free press,” she said. “We’ve been so dedicated to trying to make sure we support students no matter what form that takes. . . such as podcasts or the data-driven infographic stuff you see besides just the printed word. Journalism has changed so much, but the basics—facts and verity and publishing the truth and accountability—is the same.”
But Hudson, who transitioned to working in higher ed communications at Ball State, and Pallansch, who is the Assistant Vice President of Creative Services at Towson University, have watched as higher ed has become less financially accessible for students. “One of the things that always struck me in working inside the machinery of higher ed is how much we and all the people we work with really honestly care about students,” Pallansch said. “It’s easy to think that we are just doing a job and the fact that students are educated is a byproduct. I’m here to tell you that is not the case. Almost to an individual, everyone is passionate about making sure students have a good opportunity and experience and education—but also a life education at the same time.”
Hudson and Pallansch consider themselves mentors to students and young professionals, and helping them financially seemed to be the logical next step they assumed they’d take with their estate, though they’re quick to note they never knew if they’d be in a financial place to create a gift as generous as this in their lifetimes.
“I was thinking the other day: We aren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination,” Pallansch said. “We’re not multi-zillionaires, but we were able to cobble things together.” When they realized they could contribute in a significant way, they asked themselves: why wait, especially when they could enjoy recipient successes? And especially with the immediate need for journalists?
“One of the stories I love most about my mom—who worked in a factory—was when I started getting college offer letters, she put a box under the bed. She would buy me school supplies and fill the box,” Hudson said. “That’s what made going to the University real for me, how supportive they were. Now we have a box under the bed, and we keep putting some money in it. The reality of this scholarship is that somebody else will benefit from the box under the bed.”