Alumni and Friends

Howard Wilkinson pays his Ohio University experience forward by mentoring current students

Howard Wilkinson, an Ohio University non-degree journalism alumnus, has spent the last decade paying his Ohio University experience forward by mentoring future journalists and Bobcats. Those efforts have come full circle now that one of his mentees was recently hired as a co-worker. Isabel Nissley was recently hired at WVXU Public Radio in Cincinnati where Wilkinson works as a senior political analyst.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Wilkinson. “It’s amazing to me that this kid I knew since she was in the 8th grade and mentored is suddenly my colleague.”

To learn how Wilkinson mentored Nissley from high school in Cincinnati and through college at Ohio University, you have to go back to the beginning. Wilkinson grew up in Dayton, Ohio and came to Ohio University to study journalism after attending a weeklong journalism conference held each year in Athens for those who were going to be the editors of their high school newspaper the following school year.

“During that conference, I stayed in Washington Hall and fell in love with the school and the town immediately," Wilkinson said.

Since Ohio University’s journalism school had a great reputation, Wilkinson’s decision to come to Athens for college was a no-brainer. He immediately got involved working as a reporter for The Post and created a statehouse beat.

“I’d borrow my buddy’s 1964 Chevy and drive to Columbus,” said Wilkinson. “And I learned how to cover state politics.”

After leaving Ohio University, Wilkinson worked at several small-town newspapers, before getting a job at the Cincinnati Enquirer, where he worked as a politics writer for 30 years. A few years ago, he retired from the Enquirer and started working for WVXU Public Radio.

While working in Cincinnati, he got involved in a project called “Democracy and Me” for high school students. The program utilizes journalism professionals as mentors for high school journalism students. Wilkinson was paired with Walnut Hills High School.

“Over the last 10 years or so, I would go out to Walnut Hills one or two days and week and talk to the journalism students, the reporters and editors of their high school paper, about what stories they are working on. Over the years, some would come to me who knew I went to Ohio University and ask me to talk to them about the college and about the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. I tried not to put my thumb on the scale too hard,” said Wilkinson with a laugh. "It was their decision, a family decision. But I would be honest and would tell them what they could get out of an education in journalism in Athens. What I would tell them is that they can get hands-on experience in print, broadcast and digital, any area of journalism they wanted to study. I tell them about how important it is to get experience outside of the classroom, and how my experience at The Post was absolutely unbelievable.”

About a dozen of the students Wilkinson mentored went to Ohio University, including Nissley. Nissley graduated this past May and was hired as WVXU’s environmental reporter. Nissley worked at The Post and the Athens County Independent during her time in Athens. She was also vice president of the Ohio University Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Two current Ohio University students from Walnut Hills were also mentored by Wilkinson, Robert Keegan III and Kylie Bridgeman.

“It’s wonderful to see these students go to Ohio University and have successful journalism careers,” said Wilkinson.

To learn more about OHIO alumni visiting high schools, visit:

If you’d like to participate in high school visits, contact alumnus Marc Rosenweig.

June 12, 2024
Cheri Russo