Anna Connors ’24, Aayas Joshi ’26 awarded Rich Beckman Documentary Award to document effects of climate change in Arctic Circle

News & Spotlights | August 14, 2023
Photo by Aayas Joshi ’26 of Nuptse Base in the Nepalese Himalayas from his Morehead-Cain International Gap Year.

Anna Connors ’24 and Aayas Joshi ’26 have received the 2023 Rich Beckman Documentary Award from the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

The award goes to a journalism student or students to “conduct fieldwork for documentary storytelling or interactive multimedia projects,” according to the school.

Anna and Aayas are teaming up to research and document the effects of the climate crisis on indigenous communities near the Arctic Circle. The scholars will be based in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, for several weeks in December 2023.

The project will expand upon Anna’s previous research on how climate change is impacting ecosystems, and Aayas’s research from his Morehead-Cain International Gap Year on the disproportionate impact of climate change on marginalized communities in the Himalayas.

Aayas shared about his gap year on Morehead-Cain’s Catalyze podcast.


Anna’s connection to Churchhill began in 2015 through the International Student-led Arctic Monitoring and Research program. The scholar researched in the Wapusk National Park south of Churchill to better understand how a warming planet affects permafrost, polar bears, and soil microbial communities in the area.

Anna left the experience “feeling like Churchill had a unique story,” she said.

“The media has focused on the region’s tourism—its polar bears and northern lights—but there is so much to learn from the community of people who call Churchill home,” Anna said. “As a media and journalism student, I see the immense potential in Churchill that’s been overlooked by most journalistic projects in the region.”

The scholars will be in Canada during the off season of tourism—a strategic choice to focus on nontourism sectors, according to Aayas.

“We want to tell Churchill’s story in a way that puts its people at the center,” said Aayas, a media and journalism major at Carolina and a photographer on the Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team. “We have a lot to learn before we leave this winter.”

The scholars are interested in connecting with Morehead-Cain Alumni who have experience working on climate change in the region and knowledge about navigating the Arctic environment. Contact Aayas and Anna on the Morehead-Cain Network.

Photo by Anna Connors ’24 in Stonington, Connecticut.