New Terker Fellows Bolster SMPA Ranks

Pulitzer-winning journalist Molly O’Toole and corporate responsibility leader Katherine Miller will contribute their expertise to class discussions and public events.

O'Toole & Miller
Table 81 founder Katherine Miller (left) and Los Angeles Times reporter Molly O’Toole are the 2022-2023 Terker Distinguished Fellows.
August 31, 2022

By John DiConsiglio

Molly O’Toole, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who chronicles the human impact of immigration, and Katherine Miller, a leading voice in helping socially responsible companies address the world’s most pressing problems, are joining the George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) as the 2022-2023 Terker Distinguished Fellows.

In their roles, they will participate in class discussions, student lunches and public events throughout the academic year.

“We are delighted to welcome Molly O’Toole and Katherine Miller as SMPA’s new Terker Distinguished Fellows,” said Silvio Waisbord, SMPA director and professor of media and public affairs. “Each of these women bring extensive backgrounds in journalism and have made a significant impact. Both work on critical issues such as food, sustainability and migration that are of great interest to our students, who will benefit greatly from their participation in classroom discussions and events.”

Established through a gift by Bruce and Cindy Terker in 2010, parents of 2013 SMPA graduate Jennifer Terker, the Terker Distinguished Fellows in the Media and Public Affairs program annually brings exceptional professionals from the fields of media, political communication and public affairs to SMPA, part of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

As the immigration and security reporter for the Los Angeles Times, O’Toole has covered federal policy debates across Washington, D.C., while telling migrants’ stories from spots like Mexico and Guatemala. She is currently writing a book titled The Route, which traces refugees’ journey from around the world to South America and on to the U.S.-Mexico border.

In 2020, she was awarded the first-ever Pulitzer Prize in Audio Reporting, along with colleagues from Vice and This American Life, for a series that detailed the personal impact of the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy. The Pulitzer citation described her work as “revelatory, intimate journalism.”

“I think people are the best vehicles for policy coverage,” O’Toole said. “By making connections with people and telling their personal stories you can humanize unfathomably complex issues like migration.”

O’Toole has reported for leading news outlets including The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and The New Republic. Her articles have retraced the steps of a Mexican teen who vanished in the Arizona desert; examined El Salvador’s gangs; and uncovered sex-trafficking  in Nigeria. For her new book, which will be published by Crown Publishing in 2024, O’Toole is traveling with migrants along bus routes, jungle trails and border crossings on their hazardous path to the United States.

As a Terker fellow, she hopes to inspire journalism students to look beyond Washington officials and seek out the stories of people directly impacted by world issues.

“I want to communicate to students that they don’t have to be super politicos and that putting people at the center of their stories will set their reporting apart,” she explained. “People want to read about other people.”

Miller has built a 20-year career at the intersections of policy, politics and social impact. In 2012, she founded Table 81, a consulting firm that works with foundations, nonprofits and socially responsible companies to confront global crises. She has developed strategies for clients such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Aspen Institute to address issues from global health and food systems to gender equity and environmental sustainability.

“We are increasingly looking to businesses to make meaningful progress on many issues such as climate change mitigation or fair wages,” she said. “Companies that are interested in people, the planet and communities can make a huge immediate difference.”

Much of Miller’s work has revolved around the global impact of food sovereignty. As a former vice president with the James Beard Foundation, Miller led efforts to create sustainable, ethical and inclusive environments within the restaurant and hospitality industry. She helped mobilize the culinary community in support of federal policy changes in global food aid, child nutrition, food waste and other areas.

Food systems “impact every single thing about our lives,” she said. “Food is our memories, our livelihoods, our health, our safety. It’s the greatest example of a system where we all have skin in the game.”

Miller has been featured in media outlets around the world, including The New York Times, Financial Times, CNN and The Economist. In 2017, she was named one of Fortune’s Most Innovative Women in Food & Wine. She is the author of the forthcoming book At the Table: The Chefs’ Guide to Food Systems Advocacy, from Island Press.

A passionate advocate for women’s reproductive rights, Miller is a past board member of NARAL ProChoice America and RAINN, the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

She currently sits on the boards of directors of New Venture Fund and Les Dames d 'Escoffier, a philanthropic organization of women leaders in the food, beverage and hospitality industries.

As a Terker Fellow, Miller’s goal is to share her experiences while learning from students’ perspectives, ­particularly on issues like community organizing in the social media age. “I’m hoping they can help me make sure my thinking and work is relevant to them and their experiences so we can find ways to work together to make changes on politics and policy,” she said.

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