Student to Receive Weidman Racial Ethnic Minority Fellowship

May 20, 2003 10:21 AM EDT

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – United Methodist Communications has selected Royya L. James, a recent graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, as the 2003-2004 recipient of the Judith L. Weidman Racial Ethnic Minority Fellowship.

James is the sixth recipient of the fellowship, which provides a year of working with an experienced director of communications in one of the United Methodist Church’s annual (regional) conferences.

She will work in the Wyoming Annual Conference from July 1 through June 30. Don Perry, the director of communications, will be her mentor. The conference, which covers parts of New York and Pennsylvania, has offices in Endicott, N.Y.

UMCom developed the fellowship in 1998 to encourage people of ethnic minority background to consider religion communications as a career. Among the 64 annual conferences in the United States, there are fewer than 10 conference communicators of ethnic minority heritage in leadership positions. The fellowship carries the name of the late Judith L. Weidman, who encouraged its development during her tenure as UMCom’s top staff executive.

"I am very excited about beginning the REM Fellowship and all the new opportunities that will follow," James said.

An Antioch, Tenn., resident and former UMCom summer intern, James graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro in 2002, having earned a bachelor’s degree in communications with a public relations concentration. She is a lifelong member of Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church and has served as college representative, usher and member of the youth group and Black Methodists for Church Renewal. She is currently a substitute teacher in the Nashville public school system.

While working as a UMCom intern, James said, she recognized that the REM Fellowship would allow her another opportunity to learn about the roles of conference communications in the mission of the church as well as prepare her to be an effective conference communicator.

She became passionate about religion communications, she said. "Secular reporters work passionately to tell their stories. I feel we need the same type of passion for telling the story of Jesus! It is possible that someone could be saved if the word of God dominated the media for a full week."

An eight-person selection committee chose three finalists, who were interviewed May 6 in Nashville.

David Malloy, the 2002-03 recipient, will complete his fellowship year July 31. Tom Slack, director of communications for the West Ohio Annual Conference, was his primary mentor.

Larry Hygh Jr. was the first recipient and spent a year working in the New England Conference. He is now director of communications in the California-Pacific Annual Conference. Eunice Dharmaratnam, the second recipient, enrolled in graduate school after her fellowship year in the Indiana Area communications office. Nicole Benson, the third recipient, became communications coordinator and editor in the Texas Conference, after spending her fellowship year in the Southwest Texas Conference. Ciona Rouse, the fourth recipient, is communications coordinator for the denomination’s Shared Mission Focus on Young People, and served her fellowship year in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference.

Information about the REM Fellowship and other scholarship opportunities is available at or by calling Amelia Tucker-Shaw at (888) 278-4862.

By Albert H. Lee
[email protected]