Media study major finds adventure with Barbara and Bill Haseltine prize

Emmy-winning media producer Eric May’79 funds scholarships for media studies superstars. Hope Joy Nelson’23, the award’s first recipient, launched her “Hope This Helps” blog. Apply by Feb. 11 for the 2023 prize.

“I have been in Oregon for about six days, and it has been filled with immense confusion, happiness, and uneasiness. When I first move somewhere, I always find that I tend to fall into a state of lostness; which is extremely understandable given the circumstances. However, each time becomes easier and easier, for I have learned different tactics to make the change as smooth as possible.
- Hope Joy Nelson’23

Hope Joy Nelson'23 Hope Joy Nelson'23 was the first recipient of the Barbara and Bill Haseltine P... Hope Joy Nelson’23 Hope Joy Nelson’23 was the first recipient of the Barbara and Bill Haseltine Prize for Media Studies. She launched her "Hope This Helps” blog and discovered a new world in Portland.Hope Joy Nelson’s “Hope This Helps” blog is a security blanket for college kids lonely in a new place. The message she wants to get across to others is clear: “If I can do it, you can do it, too.”

She pinned Portland on the map, far from Beloit, and a new city for Nelson. With her Barbara and Bill Haseltine prize, Nelson bought an airline ticket to embark on a social media experiment to “test the waters of being an adult” in a new space.

When she landed in Oregon in July 2022, she felt overwhelmed but excited. She was happy to be in a new place, but worried that she couldn’t call her sister — now far away — to pick her up when things got scary.

Eric May’79, did the same thing, only in reverse, decades earlier when he was accepted at Beloit College. In the college’s experimental Field Term, May found adventure in a Pennsylvania Mennonite community, building a barn beam by beam.

“That experience was the inspiration for the Barbara and Bill Haseltine Prize: for students to do something outside their major, away from home and Beloit,” says May, who set up the prize in 2020 to honor his mom and stepdad, who always supported his success in life.

The Barbara and Bill Haseltine Prize 

Barbara and Bill Haseltine Prize awardees get up to $5,000 to elevate their creative media studies endeavors, service projects, and entrepreneurial initiatives. Applicants must be willing to go out of their comfort zone and confidentially navigate the unknown.

“The Haseltine Prize embodies the best lesson of the Beloit Plan, that transformative experiences and the quest for meaning can be the most profound forms of career preparation,” says Professor Shawn Gillen, English department chair.

Nelson’s proposal for the Haseltine Prize was vetted by Nelson’s media studies professor and advisor Joe Bookman, who encouraged her to apply.

So, every few days, she would write a blog about the adult things she was doing, and how she was handling it. “It was challenging at first,’ Nelson says. “I didn’t know anyone, so I had to reach out and make friends.”

So Nelson picked up a job as a barista at a café nearby her apartment.

“It was a way to meet people,” Nelson says. “I would see people come and go and they would always chat with me about their life experiences, it was a really cool job to have there.”

As a media studies and economics major, Nelson learned of social media’s power.

“Social media can help people communicate better, especially for my generation; we know how to use it well,” Nelson says. “We post our stories when something happens in the world, and the information spreads quicker than word-of-mouth.”

A blogger and a barn builder 

Emmy-winning media producer Eric May'79 has a successful career in the industry. Now he wants to ... Emmy-winning media producer Eric May’79 has a successful career in the industry. Now he wants to give the same opportunity for a Beloit College media studies major with the Barbara and Bill Haseltine Prize.May was a grade-schooler when he applied to the local TV station. When he showed up a decade later, the recent Beloit College grad — with a BA in history and four years experience at WBCR-FM and Beloit Cable TV — was hired as an entry-level film archivist and teleprompter operator.

“My passion from the very beginning was to do this one thing: television,” May says.

A year later, May was the station’s youngest producer. After building experience in the industry across the United States, May’s hard work earned a spot at the CBS station in San Francisco as executive producer, overseeing newscasts, breaking news, and election coverage, winning an Emmy Award and earning numerous nominations.

In his 40s, May then headed to Europe to start his own consulting practice, working with the United Nations, and TV stations and media companies around the world.

Eric May (right) with Mike Cotter (left), and Ernie Foust, who sponsored the barn building projec... Eric May (right) with Mike Cotter (left), and Ernie Foust, who sponsored the barn building project through the Beloit College Field Term office.
Credit: Jonathan Foust
Now an international media consultant and book author, May remembers a pivotal experience building a barn in a Pennsylvania Mennonite community. With zero carpentry skills, but with the guidance of fellow Beloiter Mike Cotter’78, May helped transform a big pile of wood into a barn frame for his field term project.

“That naked frame was the most beautiful thing I ever saw,” May says. “And when the elders of the Mennonite community came and looked at it, we knew we passed the test.”

Just go for it

With the Feb. 11 deadline for the Haseltine Prize approaching, May is eager to see more students take up the challenge Nelson did.

“Hope’s project epitomizes what the Barbara and Bill Haseltine Prize is all about. To encourage students to go outside their comfort zone and give them the confidence to do anything,” May says.

Nelson graduates this summer, and is teetering between a career in graphic design or social media content creator, maybe in Europe.

“The Barbara and Bill Haseltine Prize award project gave me confidence that I can live anywhere. I’m very thankful for the opportunity it gave me,” Nelson says.

She encourages others to apply.

“It is a really cool opportunity,” Nelson says. “Just go for it.”


Find more information on the Barbara and Bill Haseltine Prize in Media Studies.

Jennifer Fetterly
January 05, 2023

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