Grand Valley State University
This university in Grand Rapids, Mich., received a $5,000 1 for All grant to support FOIAFest on Election Day, Nov. 5, 2019. The multi-faceted event celebrated the Freedom of Information Act, which enables journalists and the public to gain access to vital government information. The campus held the event in partnership with the annual Big Data Ignite conference.
“We had a terrific set of presentations and activities that reached people across campus as well as in the Grand Rapids community, and the students in GrandPR did excellent work promoting the activities,” said Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, assistant professor of journalism. “1 for All's support was critical in making it happen.”
Highlights of FOIAFest:
- A lawyer and FOIA expert from Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office gave the keynote address.
- John Muyskens, a data-visualization expert for The Washington Post who was a member of the newspaper’s 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning project about police shootings, spoke about his work.
- Grand Valley State University alum Marisa Kwiatkowski, who was part of the team of reporters who broke the Larry Nassar sex-abuse story, led a hands-on session about FOIA.
- ACLU lawyer Pete Walsh led a FOIA salon-like conversation that lasted 90 minutes.
- With a focus on water contamination and water quality, a daylong water-data hackathon with national and international components that involved collaboration between campus partners and the City of Grand Rapids. Two teams competed throughout the day, assisted by freedom of information expert Mike Morisy and veteran investigative journalist Matt Kauffman.
- GVSU alum and journalist Allison Donahue spoke about her use of FOIA law to students in an introductory journalism class.
- Michigan Sen. Jeremy Ross sent a four-minute video that we played at a student-led Teach-In event the day after FOIAFest. Our Student Senate president and a colleague led the conversation, and Prof. Lowenstein presented information about FOIA law.
Commenting on the FOIAFest events, student Brittany Preston said meeting some of the speaker participants taught her more about filing FOIA requests and how to approach a news story she was working on.