Meet the Team

Leah Clapman

Founder, Executive Director

Leah Clapman created Student Reporting Labs in 2009 as an experiment to engage middle and high school students with current events and reimagine public media for tweens and teens. Under her leadership, Student Reporting Labs has grown from 6 pilot sites to 180 schools in 46 states with partnerships extending from major media and online platforms to international education and youth initiatives. Leah has developed education products such as PBS NewsHour Classroom for teachers, Teachers Lounge and “Making the Grade,” a weekly focus on education issues, policy and practice. A Princeton graduate, she serves on the Education Writers Association journalism advisory, Education Innovators and Library of Congress TPS council.

Christine Zirneklis

Senior Manager of Communications and Partnerships

Victor Fernandez

Director, Youth Media Program

Victor is the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs Director of our Youth Media Program. He makes sure that student pieces are ready for publishing on our website, social media platforms, and on the NewsHour broadcast. He gives technical feedback and detailed demonstrations on how to polish your video in the post production stage. He recently received the 2018 Instructional Media – Engaged Learning award from the National Educational Telecommunications Association where he was the editor for the SRL Level Up tutorial series. Victor worked as a Career and Technical Education teacher for 15 years in Miami-Dade County Public Schools where he prepared students for the Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Photoshop certifications. What Victor enjoys most about his job is visiting SRL schools and providing students with hand-on learning experiences. During his time off work he serves as the Student Production Awards Coordinator at the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Suncoast Chapter and participates as a judge on college and high school film festivals.

Briget Ganske

Youth Media Producer & Lead Podcast Producer

Briget is a multimedia storyteller and educator. She grew up in Iowa, exploring life with the Kodak camera her grandparents gave her. She earned her B.A. in English, creative writing from Northwestern University, studied documentary photography at The Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, and received her Ed.M. in arts in education from Harvard Graduate School of Education. For the past eight years, Briget has been a freelance photographer and video storyteller. She’s led photo and video workshops with youth in New York, South Africa, Boston, Maine, and Richmond. Before joining SRL, Briget was a videographer at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. She lives in Richmond, VA with her husband and two young sons. Briget also is the lead producer for SRL’s podcast on teen mental health, On Our Minds.

Rawan Elbaba

Digital Producer

Rawan is a Digital Producer at the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs. She leads digital content strategy and manages SRL’s social media platforms. Rawan received her master’s degree in journalism at Georgetown University. She was born and raised in the Washington, DC area to Lebanese parents and is a first-generation American.

Marie Cusick

Editorial Director

Emily Anne Tkaczibson

Director, Operations & Development

Becky Wandel

Youth Media Producer

Becky Wandel is a journalist and educator who joined the Student Reporting Labs team as a production assistant after starting as an intern last year. She is from the Boston area and graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in Journalism and concentrations in French and English in 2019. Having worked as a writing tutor, theater educator, and radio news director, Becky has a passion for spreading effective and creative communication skills as widely as possible and loves working with young people. She relocated to DC to join the SRL team but is always ready to talk all things Boston to anyone who will listen.

Anurag Papolu

Graphic Designer

Anurag is a multimedia producer and designer. In his previous role as the multimedia editor at The Conversation, he worked with scientists and scholars around the country to help them communicate their research through text, graphics, and video. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including The Washington Post, NBC, The Daily Beast, and Fast Company. He loves all things visual art and likes to learn and experiment with new creative techniques.

Chris Schwalm

Youth Media Producer

Chris Schwalm created the media production program at a Central Pennsylvania school district and developed the broadcast journalism and film production classes over his twenty-year tenure. He covered several municipalities as a journalist for the Lancaster News on nights and weekends for twelve of those years, and covered a three-state territory for a national publisher for five years. After a family move brought Chris, his wife, two daughters and two dogs to the Pacific Northwest during the summer of 2021, he served a short stint as the Digital Social Media Marketing Specialist for a large Seattle-Area school district before joining the SRL team as a Youth Media Producer – his dream job!

Emily Hope Dobkin

Community Engagement Manager

Emily’s role is to strengthen and build community on StoryMaker, ensuring the best possible user experience and teacher engagement. Emily comes to Student Reporting Labs after several years of connecting people to meaningful experiences within museums, marketplaces, libraries, after-school programs, cultural organizations, and during the pandemic: zoom rooms worldwide via The Meet Cart. In everything she does, Emily cares deeply about creating exploratory experiences that nourish curiosity, celebrate all voices, and spark storytelling. In her 14+ years working in the realms of education and informal learning spaces, she’s launched everything from teen programs that focus on arts for social change to her own platform called BetterishDenver Westword has identified Emily as a “people person extraordinaire,” and she has further been dubbed a bridge builder, a connector, a joiner, and a facilitator of joy. For such reasons, she’s committed to dressing up as a Connectectasaurus Rex during Halloween season year after year. Rooted in east coast upbringings, expanded by some inspiring years of seafaring adventures along the Pacific coast, Emily now resides on a tree-lined street in Denver, Colorado overlooking the Rocky Mountains.

Neianne Sambile

Associate, Grants and Data Projects

Caroline Frentz

Associate Producer, Social Media

Caroline is an associate social media producer at the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs. In her role, she helps manage SRL’s social media platforms. Whether through impactful vertical video or a cutting meme, she believes in the power of digital media to connect and inform audiences. Previously, she was at Washingtonian magazine where she managed social media accounts for an audience of over 800,000.

She received her bachelors degree in journalism from George Washington University where she developed a passion for digital storytelling and advocacy journalism. When she’s not at work, she can be found walking her bratty French bulldog or reading a novel about feminine rage.