University of Miami School of Communication students and faculty connected with a global community of women journalists and learned important digital storytelling skills last week when the school hosted Chicas Poderosas Miami, the first event of its kind in the United States.

Chicas Poderosas is a program founded by Mariana Santos, an International Center for Journalists fellow, with a mission to empower Latin American women journalists with digital storytelling skills and professional networks they need to succeed. 

Speakers at Chicas Poderosas Miami included many innovative digital journalists including Giannina Segnini, former investigative editor of La Nación; Chrys Wu, New York Times developer advocate and founder of Hacks/Hackers; Alastair Dant, interactive developer at The New York Times; Chris Cross of The Guardian, Erika Owens, of Knight-Mozilla OpenNews; School of Communication Professor Alberto Cairo and many more.

“It was crazy being in a room with so many people who are such big deals in media,” said SoC senior Arielle Ray, who attended the event. “My favorite part was watching [Dant’s] New York Times presentation on iterations. Seeing how their projects began and then the step by step refinement process was mind blowing.”

Participants also researched, designed and developed websites and applications to try out new skills with the help of the speakers as well as mentors from Vox Media, ICFJ, The Sun Sentinel, and more. The projects can be viewed at SoC students worked on projects visualizing data from Miami’s 311 system for civic services and a website tracking drug trafficking in Mexico, among others.

SoC alumna Miranda Mulligan, the executive director of Northwestern University’s KnightLab, helped to organize the event and also led the hack-a-thon. Mulligan closed the event, reminding participants that connections and community are as important as skills in empowering women to succeed in digital journalism. “At Chicas, magic happens here,” she said.

“I learned so much,” said senior Alysha Khan, an SoC senior and a Chicas Poderosas Miami attendee. “The best part was that speakers included novelists, fashion designers, hiring managers, the kinds of people you don’t normally hear speak at a journalism event.” 

Chicas Poderosas Miami was funded by grants from ICFJ, Knight Foundation, the World Bank, and was sponsored by the School of Communication, UM’s Center for Computational Science and many others. The series, founded in June 2013, has served more than 1,000 journalists and will continue with events across Latin America, Europe and the United States.