In 2016, Indianapolis Star investigative reporter Marisa Kwiatkowski received a tip about a lawsuit being filed against USA Gymnastics, which is based in Indianapolis. With her Star investigative colleagues Mark Alesia and Tim Evans, Kwiatkowksi started looking through the files she collected.
What they revealed through their reporting would lead to the arrest, trial, and sentencing of national gymnastics team doctor Lawrence Nassar; a sprawling investigation into USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University (Nassar’s former employer); and, when more than 100 of the abused young women testified in open court, a national reckoning on the issues of amateur athletics and sexual abuse.
On March 26th, Kwiatkowski, a 2005 graduate of Grand Valley State University’s journalism program, will speak about her role in this story at the School of Communications’ first annual Robert Mayberry Comm-Unity Series.
Kwiatkowski’s talk is titled “Local Reporting, National Impact: Marisa Kwiatkowski on Breaking the USA Gymnastics Story.” It will take place Monday, March 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Loosemore Auditorium on GVSU’s downtown campus.
“Marisa Kwiatkowksi has done remarkable investigative work that has had profound impact since graduating from GVSU,” says Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism Jeff Kelly Lowenstein. “We are thrilled that she’ll be returning to campus to share her insights and experience with our community.”
During her career, Kwiatkowski has reported on social services issues, including child abuse and neglect, poverty, elder abuse, human trafficking, domestic violence and access to mental health services.
Prior to her employment at the Star, Kwiatkowski worked for The Times of Northwest Indiana and media outlets in South Carolina and Michigan. She is past president of the Indiana Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and previously served as vice president of Girls on the Run of Central Indiana.
Kwiatkowski has earned more than 40 journalism awards throughout her career, including Indiana Journalist of the Year, the Tom Renner Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors, a Sigma Delta Chi Award in public service, the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism and the Will Rogers Humanitarian Award.
Before her stellar professional career started, however, came Kwiatkowski’s undergraduate tenure in GVSU’s Journalism program. Her advisor then was current Associate Professor of Multimedia Journalism Lawrence Beery.
“Marisa was drawn to public affairs reporting,” Beery recalls. “That was especially true during her time as a reporter and editor for the Lanthorn, the student-run newspaper.”
Beery also recalls that in 2004, Kwiatkowski was honored by the Michigan Press Association for a Lanthorn editorial titled “Stepping Stones.” The judges at the time remarked: “It’s important to be involved in the university community. This is a nice reminder of why that’s important.”
The Comm-Unity Series is named in honor of professor emeritus of communications and philosophy Robert Mayberry, who died on December 8, 2017, at the age of 79.
Mayberry started at GVSU in 1971, and was instrumental in developing the William James College and creating the School of Communications, which was founded in 1983.
Professor of Communication Studies and former School of Communications director Alex Nesterenko calls Mayberry “an academic visionary.” He adds that Mayberry “saw, perhaps more clearly than most others, how various academic programs logically connect, and that the union between them would prove to be highly successful for students and for Grand Valley.”
Thirty-five years after its fledgling beginning, the School of Communications launched the Robert Mayberry Comm-Unity series as a testament to the school’s continued devotion to interdisciplinary scholarship. It celebrates Mayberry’s academic vision of diverse academic programs forging a productive connection for students and for the Grand Valley community.
The series will feature public intellectuals, practitioners, and alumni who have benefitted from and/or engage in the kind of cross-disciplinary education and practice that leads to the betterment of localities across the U.S. and the world.
Assistant Professor of Advertising and Public Relations Yasmin Gopal believes that Kwiatkowski is the ideal speaker to launch this series. “Marissa’s reporting brings to light deep social inequities and injustices with a view to eradicating these from our social fabric.
“Her visit and her talk will be an inspiration to our students,” Gopal adds.