Announcing the Catalyst Class of 2017


The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is proud to announce the following fellows who will be participating in the first Catalyst: Elevating Media Founders of Color entrepreneurship program taking place from November 9-11, 2017 at NYC's Media Lab in Brooklyn.

Catalyst is a three-day boot camp for founders of color who want to learn how to fund and launch their own media products. Our fellows are passionate about media and journalism and aspire to take their side hustles to the next level. The program includes workshops, speaker panels, and one-on-one mentoring sessions where fellows will learn how to: 

  • Transform ideas into products

  • Develop strategies for finding product-market fit

  • Pitch angel investors and venture capitalists

  • Apply to incubators and accelerator programs

  • Navigate the foundation grantmaking process

  • And join a growing community of media investors, advisors, and founders of color


Please join AAJA in welcoming our very first Catalyst class!




Ayumi Bennett is the founder of Startup Southerner, an online publication on a mission to include, inform and empower the Entrepreneurial South. Born in Japan and raised in the southern Appalachian Mountains, she serves on the advisory board of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center's diversity and inclusion initiative. 






Heather J. Chin is a freelance journalist whose reporting on health, arts, politics, books, business, Asian America, and more have appeared in The Week, The Village VoiceWhere Traveler, PBS, BrooklynReporterNew York Press, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and other publications. She currently serves as AAJA New York secretary and is a proud ELP alumna. 






Denise Clay has been a journalist for more than 20 years. She currently works as a copy editor/proofreader/columnist for the Philadelphia Sunday Sun, a columnist for Philadelphia Magazine and the Philadelphia Public Record and as a co-host for "Wake Up With WURD" with Mark Kelly Tyler on WURD Radio. Her work has also appeared on the websites XO Jane and AllDigitocracy as well as the BBC and the Huffington Post.But while she sees herself as a journalist first, Clay is also a researcher who believes that the African American perspective must be included in any academic look at the profession. With the help of NABJ, Clay has done extensive research on journalists and objectivity, minority employment in journalism and student journalism as part of her Master’s program. 





Katherine Ellis is a Program Associate with the American Press Institute based in Washington, D.C. After a year as editor-in-chief at The Daily Utah Chronicle heading up new digital initiatives, she interned with USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin, then completed a fellowship with NPR's Next Generation Radio in Phoenix, AZ. Most of her experience has been writing and editing but she enjoys photography as a hobby and studied video production in Genova, Italy, summer of 2015. Her passion has always been reporting stories of race and culture which lead her to start SWAY Stories, a community site that dives into the mishaps and misadventures of mixed-race Americans just trying to answer the question, "So What Are You?"





Dorothy Hernandez is a Detroit-based journalist who works for the city as a writer and editor for a new website and broadcast platform called The Neighborhoods. She has worked as a copy editor for The Detroit News and Chicago Tribune’s RedEye edition. In her spare time, she runs a Filipino pop-up restaurant called Sarap with her husband. An alumna of the ELP class of 2016, she is looking forward to refining her concept for a community-driven journalism project based in Detroit as part of the inaugural class of Catalyst.






Katerina Jeng is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Slant’d, a print magazine that celebrates Asian American identity through personal storytelling. What started off as a passion project quickly evolved into a collective vision to build a diverse, intersectional community, leading to a fully funded Kickstarter campaign and press coverage from CBS News, Colorlines, and more. Katerina is also a Product Strategist in the tech industry and has worked for companies ranging from Yahoo to early-stage Silicon Valley startups. She has Bachelors of Arts in English & Music from Cornell University. 






Claritza Jiménez has a decade of experience working in video journalism and television news. Jiménez started out her producing career at the CBS television stations in Chicago and Dallas, and now works at The Washington Post as the digital video editor for the Metro desk and its blogs, which include education, religion, and immigration coverage. Prior to The Post, Jiménez worked as a news producer on the Latin America video desk at Associated Press Television News (APTN). She coordinated coverage with more than a dozen bureaus in the region in English, Spanish and Portuguese.  Jiménez graduated from George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a B.A. in political communication. She was a recipient of an Investigative Journalism Fellowship at American University’s School of Communication where she earned a Master of Arts in journalism while working as a reporting fellow at the Center for Public Integrity. While at CPI, she was part of the team that partnered with NPR on a one-year series investigating how sexual assault cases are handled on college campuses. Jiménez is a native Spanish speaker and conversant in French. Twitter @claritzajimenez




Iris Kuo is a writer, journalist and cofounder of LedBetter, a data-driven media group that produces striking statistics and visuals pinpointing social disparity and diversity issues. Last year they launched an index and web interactive that tracks female representation in the leadership of over 2,000 of the world's biggest consumer brands. Their work has been covered in Fortune and Forbes, and was the source for recent stories about gender disparity in business by FiveThirtyEight and 24/7 Wall Street. Iris has written about business, race, Asia and tech for The Wall Street Journal, The Washington PostFast Company and Inc. magazine. In 2015, she received one of 10 Knight-Bagehot fellowships to study business at Columbia University, and was chosen from a pool of over 650 applicants to win a International Women's Media Foundation grant that funded the development and launch of LedBetter. Iris has spoken at the University of California-Berkeley, Columbia University and several conferences about race, gender and diversity. She holds degrees from Columbia and the University of Texas at Dallas, and is an active leader in the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA).




Erika Lee is a senior studying journalism at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism. She is the President and Co-Founder of the Asian American Journalists Association's USC chapter. She's also an Annenberg Admissions Ambassador and Weather Anchor at Annenberg TV News. She's previously interned at Eater, Circa, and Los Angeles Magazine. She hopes to combine her love for media, arts, and emerging platforms with entrepreneurship to create something innovative and meaningful in the future.






Krystie Mak is the Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Slant’d, a print magazine that celebrates Asian American identity through personal storytelling. What started as a passion project quickly evolved into an intersectional community looking to explore what it means to be Asian American on their own terms. During the day, Krystie works at Landor, helping startups, non-profits, and Fortune 500 companies activate positive change through the power of branding. She is also a SheEO Activator, serves on the national advisory board of Answer (sex education non-profit), and volunteers at the Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn. Krystie holds a dual degree in Business and Public Health from UC Berkeley.





Paola Mardo is a writer and producer of podcasts and radio. She is currently a producer at KPCC’s The Frame and her work has been featured on PRI’s The World, KQED’s The California Report, KCRW and LA Weekly. She began her adventures in audio journalism as host and producer for F This Weekly Podcast. She was accepted into the Transom Storytelling Workshop and Third Coast International Audio Festival’s inaugural Radio Residency. She recently earned her master’s degree in arts journalism from USC’s Annenberg School. Her podcast story about Tiki bars and cultural appropriation was a finalist at the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards and won 3rd place at the Los Angeles Press Club Awards.





Karen Mok is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Disorient (, a media platform for global culture creators. Prior to starting Disorient, Karen worked in venture capital and led audience engagement at a fast-growing media tech startup. She is based in San Francisco.






Megan Rummler is presently a Communications Strategist and Fellow at Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI), a Washington, D.C. innovation lab and research center that creates, studies and showcases media for social impact. She is also pursuing a Masters in Journalism and Digital Storytelling from American University in Washington, D.C. Before that, she trained as a voice over professional in Manhattan, New York with the renowned voice coach, David Goldberg. And, prior to that, Megan held a bi-coastal career as a corporate public relations professional. Megan’s voice narration work is showcased online at Megan resides in the Washington, D.C. area along with her husband and two children. Currently, Megan is working hard to launch a podcast about Asian Americans that aims to amplify, advocate, embrace and celebrate their complex and uniquely, American identities.




Parul Wadhwa is a new-media artist and documentarian. She is currently working to create new-media which blurs the boundaries between film and technology to create immersive environments. Her research interests include interactive, digital storytelling and Virtual-Augmented-Mixed Reality(VR/AR). She is excited about the utility of new media to create social impact through participatory storytelling. Previously, she has worked in the film industries of UK, South Korea and India in production, post-production and digital film-restoration. She is also an MFA candidate at the Digital Arts and New Media Program at University of California, Santa Cruz.





Soo Youn is a freelance journalist who has worked in newspapers, magazines, web, TV and radio. She contributes to New York Magazine, The Guardian National Geographic, NBC, Mic, among other media outlets. She started a more traditional career as a cops reporter at The Times-Herald Record in Middletown, New York upon the advice of everyone at Columbia Journalism School, from which she holds a Masters in Science. She then worked as a business reporter at Reuters and The New York Daily News before moving to LA. From 2005 to 2006 Soo was a Fulbright Scholar in Seoul, South Korea. She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in English from Amherst College.