People of the Month: Teryn Payne and Amirah Zaveri

By Tristin Marshall Photos by Joseph E. Davis

J.A.MS. annual awards show—also known as the JAMMIES—which highlights student accomplishments in the College of Media is less than 30 days away, and we are getting very excited to put on another amazing show this year. However, our show would not be as successful without the help of our fellow College of Media organizations and co-sponsors, the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists, who help bring us a wonderful audience and amazing nominees every year.

IMG_2589t1Amirah Zaveri (left) and Teryn Payne (right)

Amirah Zaveri, the president of the Society of Professional Journalists and a junior in Broadcast Journalism at the University of Illinois, is a leader for many of those looking to further their career in journalism. Amirah is a food and drink writer for buzz Magazine, a weekly entertainment magazine in the Champaign-Urbana area, as well as a pledge trainer for volunteer organization Alpha Phi Omega, and also a grader for an upper level Public Relations course at the University.

Teryn Payne is the president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a senior in News-Editorial Journalism at the University. When she is not working hard in school, she is a communications intern for the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University, an office assistant for one of the resident directors on campus, as well as being the Regional Communications Undergraduate Representative for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., one of the four historically black sororities on campus. In the past, Teryn was also a Life and Culture and Daytime reporter for the Daily Illini, the oldest student run publication at the University.

The Spread has the opportunity to sit down with both of these phenomenal women before the upcoming JAMMIES awards ceremony.

The Spread: How did you get your positions as president of your organization?

Amirah Zaveri: Last year, I was vice president [of the Society of Professional Journalists] under [then-president] Jesse Goddard. I did a lot of event planning and I contacted speakers. I was basically her right-hand, her second-in-command. I was really involved.


Previous to that, I was also a member in SPJ.  I would go to the meetings, and I connected with Jesse. They do elections in the fall, so I ran for vice president and I got it.

I worked alongside with Jesse all of last year and she was happy with my work, so I got the president’s title.

Teryn Payne: I was really active in NABJ since the second semester of my sophomore year.  I started off as programming chair after the first elections, and then I moved up to vice president.  It was something I was really passionate about, so it was an easy transition.

The past president said I helped her with everything that I possibly could have, and I familiarized myself with our faculty advisors, and then I ran and got elected.

TS: What is the most rewarding part about your position?

AZ: Most of our members are freshman and sophomores who are looking to get a feel for [journalism] and what the field is like and what the opportunities are there, and how they can network and meet other professionals and other journalism students.

It’s really nice to know that information and to basically be their mentor. I’m like “any time you guys have a questions, let me help you!” and we can share networking and interviewing tips. Getting to help those students early on and getting them on a path to success is the most rewarding thing.

TP: I would have to say a couple of things. One would be the programs that we put on. They’re really stressful, but after it’s over and I see the impact—we did “City on the Brink” last year when I was vice president—and I had my hands in a lot of it.


To see that we had over 200 attendees, and we got front page of the Daily Illini and to see the mayor [of Champaign] come out, I am ready to do that over again and see how it can impact the community.

When we have eager freshman and sophomores it makes me think back to when I [was that age], the president and vice president took me under their wing and we did mentoring together. It made me super excited about the program. They were so nice to me and I wanted to keep going and move up into a higher position.

AZ: With SPJ, we usually have about 15-20 members come to each meeting. It’s really small, so it’s nice that everyone knows each other.

TS: What’s one thing you love about the College of Media?

TP: I like how supportive the College of Media is of NABJ, specifically. They’re always like ‘When is your next program?’ and ‘What are you all doing? How can we help? Do you all need food? How can we co-sponsor? How can we get you all funding?’ and they’re really supportive of NABJ. It makes us feel wanted because they always have so many nice things to say about us.

Every time there is a College of Media function, they always make sure we are represented and that we well feel included, and I really appreciate that. Professor Rich Martin is always asking me about NABJ.


AZ: Our [faculty] advisor John Paul is really helpful because he has a lot of connections with the outside community in professional networking and brining in speakers. Also, all of the professors within the College of Media have always extended a hand [saying] ‘Do you want me to come speak?’ and ‘Do you need a professor panel?’ They’re always very receptive. That’s the best.

TS: What do you want to be when you grow up?

AZ: I want to be a foreign correspondent. I love traveling, I really want to help people. I want to make an impact.

I want to meet interesting people and travel places, and I don’t mind putting myself in danger for a couple of years if it actually helps people and I can make a difference. Ultimately, I want to be a foreign correspondent, maybe do some anchoring for a time, but my dream companies would be BBC, Al Jeezera, and CNN.

TS: What countries would you be most excited to go to?

AZ: I think right now, the Middle East. CNN usually sends new reporters to the Middle East. That would be exciting [experiencing] the culture.

TS: What about you, Teryn?


TP: I want to be an editor-in-chief of a fashion publication. I really love fashion and photography, and I love page design and layout. If I could find a job that incorporated all three of those I would be really happy.

I want to start off being a staff writer, something to get my foot in the door at a fashion magazine.

TS: What is your dream magazine to work for?

TP: Probably Vogue. I really love high fashion, and I also love to travel. I would love to go to Fashion Week in Milan and Paris. I see it all the time, and I’m just like ‘I need to be there!’

TS: Thank you for co-sponsoring The JAMMIES with us this year! We’re really excited. What are you most looking forward to at the JAMMIES?

TP: I wasn’t able to attend last year, but I heard so many good things about it. I’m really excited to come this year and see so many students rewarded for their hard work because I feel like sometimes being at the University of Illinois, the College of Media students don’t get the same exposure as the [students in] the College of Business or the College of Engineering. I feel that a lot of success stories come out of this college, and we need to be highlighted for our accomplishments because we work really hard.


AZ: Yeah, I think it’s a great event to showcase all of our hard work throughout the academic year. [There are] the students who submit things and who work hard to get [their] the best work put out there, and to reward students for it and to have a night to meet other students to have a good time would be great.

The JAMMIES awards will be April 19th in Greg Hall 112. You can submit entries via until April 5th.

**This interview was edited and condensed.

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