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AWSM Story

Association of Women in Sports Media provides community, mentorship for students interested in sports 

For me to have a group of girls I could look up to, and who I could enjoy talking sports with and see myself in was something I had never had before. As soon as I learned this organization existed, I didn’t need to be convinced to join.”

Sophia Vlahakis
Treasurer of the Association for Women in Sports Media

Open to students of all genders, this group’s numbers are increasing each year

When Medill sophomore Sophia Vlahakis committed to Northwestern in 2022, she knew she wanted to pursue sports journalism. 

While researching student organizations on Twitter, Vlahakis discovered the Association of Women in Sports Media (AWSM), a group that would cater to her interest in sports media and provide her with a community of women in the male-dominated sports world.  

“For me to have a group of girls who I could look up to and who I could enjoy talking sports with and see myself in was something I had never had before,” Vlahakis said. “As soon as I learned this organization existed, I didn’t need to be convinced to join.”  

Vlahakis connected with several members of the student organization over the summer. With the support of AWSM members leading Inside NU, one of Northwestern's sports publications, Vlahakis began writing about NU’s athletics before arriving on campus. Now, as a sophomore, she is the co-editor-in-chief of Inside NU and the treasurer for AWSM.  

_d520926.jpegNorthwestern is one of 17 schools with an AWSM chapter, making it part of a national network that works to increase diversity in sports media.   

Founded in 2017, Northwestern’s chapter of AWSM regularly hosts speaker events to learn from women in the industry. The group also hosts regular meetings, allowing members to discuss the industry and give and receive advice about the sports media world. And despite its name, students of all gender identities are welcome at AWSM. 

“There are men who want to come in and talk about women’s sports and sports media and want to support us, and that’s really awesome,” AWSM co-president Sarah Effress said. “We love having as many people as we can.”   

AWSM regularly invites professionals in sports journalism to chat with members and answer questions, sometimes paired with a women’s sports event like a basketball game at Welsh-Ryan Arena. 

In February, the group hosted Emily Ehman (Medill ‘20), a Northwestern volleyball alum turned broadcaster for Big Ten Network and ESPN. Other guests have included sports columnist and commentator Christine Brennan (Medill BSJ ‘80, MSJ ‘81) — the inaugural president of AWSM and current chair of the organization’s national board — and Meghan McKeown (Medill ‘14), a women’s basketball team alum and an analyst for Big Ten Network. 

AWSM also hosts article clubs throughout each quarter, allowing members to sit down and discuss recent stories about women’s sports or pieces written by female sports journalists. Effress said these meetings are informal and a space for discussion about articles and other topics involving sports media. 

Aside from networking and sports discussions, AWSM provides mentorship for its members. The group’s adviser, Medill assistant professor Melissa Isaacson, covered the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Bears for over 19 years at the Chicago Tribune — the first woman to hold either role. In addition to Isaacson’s expertise in the sports world, junior and senior members are open to helping younger students with any questions they may have about sports media or Northwestern, according to co-president Ally Navarrete. 

“It’s been awesome to be a mentor and I feel so lucky to have had the people who came before me,” Navarrete said. “If it weren’t for the older girls who I was able to look up to when I was a freshman, I wouldn’t have stuck around with the publications I do.” 

Navarrete said that when she was a first-year student, she was one of only a handful of female students in her class pursuing sports journalism. Now, around 10 first-year female students regularly attend AWSM’s events, she noted. Navarrete and Effress said they hope this growth will continue, especially as they hope to bring in sports marketing and public relations speakers in the coming quarters. 

To get involved with AWSM, DM their Instagram account to be added to their GroupMe.