Ebert Center announced


Roger Ebert raises his hand to interject during his wife Chaz Hammelsmith Ebert’s (not pictured) speech at the Ebertfest Opening Night Gala at the President’s House on Wednesday, April 25 during the the Ebertfest Opening Night Gala at the President’s House. 

Students who hoped to follow in University alumnus Roger Ebert’s footsteps will now have even more opportunities to pursue their career goals. The College of Media announced it will establish The Ebert Center to honor the Champaign native and film critic Roger Ebert.

Jan Slater, dean of the college, said the University has been working on plans for the center since Ebert and his wife Chaz made a donation to the college in 2009.

“This will be a programmatic center — with a mission for engaging students, audience, scholars, faculty and filmmakers of the past, present and future,” Slater said. “The guiding principles are for it to emphasize the careful study and (appreciation) of film, filmmakers, and the industries that support them.”

Students will also be able to earn internships and fellowships through the center’s programs. Slater said students can become Ebert Fellows by participating in the competitive application process. Of the 19 applicants, three students were chosen as Ebert Fellows for the upcoming academic year.

Riane Lenzner-White said she’s excited for the opportunity to learn what “the real world of journalism” is like, outside of the classroom and work on different platforms within media.

“It will encourage writers and filmmakers to think as critically about movies as Roger did. It will challenge them to craft more humanitarian films and tell stories that matter,” Chaz Ebert said in a press release. “These are the values Roger lived and championed with uncommon clarity and conviction.”

Each year, students will work with a professional critic as Ebert Fellows and receive a $3,000 stipend. In the program’s first year, students will be mentored by Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune and work with him to produce content for local publications.

“It’s so much exposure in such a huge news market and such a great opportunity to learn from the veterans in the business,” Lenzner-White said.

The students will also be recognized at the annual Ebertfest Film Festival at the Virginia Theater.

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