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Susan Snyder '85

Susan Snyder '85Susan Snyder is the only IUP graduate to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize, one of journalism’s highest honors.

When Ms. Snyder graduated from IUP in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, she just wanted a job “to get paid to do what I love.” “The Pulitzer Prize wasn’t even a goal on the distant horizon,” she said.

Ms. Snyder believes she was well-prepared at IUP for her career in journalism.

“My professors really emphasized ‘real world’ education,” she said, “setting us up to shadow working reporters and having us prepare stories that were good enough to be published in local newspapers. I had several series and articles published in local papers, thanks to Professor Pat Heilman’s classes.”

After working as a general assignment reporter for the Freeman’s Journal in Cooperstown, New York, and the Standard Speaker in Hazleton, Ms. Snyder began working as an education reporter for the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, the Morning Call in Allentown, and finally the Philadelphia Inquirer.

She has focused on education reporting because she loves the beat for several reasons. “It allows so many different types of stories—classroom features, trends, breaking news, and of course investigative reporting,” Ms. Snyder said. “Even after all these years, I continue to be interested in the topic, whether it’s K-12 or higher education.”

But the main reason, she said, is that “education is our future; therefore, I believe, it’s the most important beat at a newspaper.”

It was as the lead reporter covering the 149,000-student Philadelphia School District that Ms. Snyder and her colleagues began investigating the increasing violent assaults in the school district.

As she wrote in the November 2012 issue of IUP Magazine, “The blatant assault of Asian students indicated that the school violence problem was as bad as ever. The Philadelphia Inquirer decided to take on the issue like never before—to look at the school violence epidemic from every angle as well as potential solutions.”

For 20 months, Ms. Snyder, as co-lead, and four other reporters worked almost exclusively investigating the city’s school violence.

“There were many late nights, many sleepless nights, times when I had to miss family functions,” she wrote in IUP Magazine. “I found myself even working in my dreams.”

The resulting series, “Assault on Learning,” which ran from March 27 to April 3, 2011, earned them “the Super Bowl of journalism,” as Ms. Snyder told new IUP Journalism graduates last May when she served as the department’s commencement speaker.

The Pulitzer Prize for public service honors a distinguished example of meritorious public service by a newspaper or news site through the use of its journalistic resources. It is the only Pulitzer Prize awarded in the form of the Joseph Pulitzer Gold Medal.

The Philadelphia Inquirer series also gained several other honors, including a first-place award from Investigative Reporters and Editors, the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism, a Salute to Excellence Award from the National Association of Black Journalists, and a Keystone Press Award from the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association.

Following the investigation, the Philadelphia School District created a special committee on safety, changed the way it reports violent incidents, and began disclosing more information on its website. Also, the state appointed a safe schools advocate to help victims of violence in the Philadelphia schools.

Ms. Snyder, who is from Allentown, currently lives in Philadelphia and is the daughter of Edward and Gerri Snyder. She serves as a member of the IUP Journalism Department Advisory Board and participated in a Women and the Press project, in which she made her stories available for use in the class.

Ms. Snyder was nominated for the IUP Distinguished Alumni Award by her former professor Patricia Heilman M’83, D’87. In her introduction of Ms. Snyder at the May 2012 department commencement ceremony, Dr. Heilman said, “As her News Reporting instructor in 1984, I did not doubt that she would be a great reporter. About the Pulitzer Prize, I remarked that, with Ms. Snyder, it was not a question of if she would win, only when.”

Profile published on 6/11/13

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