Master’s in Communications Student Tonya Rivens Honored by NABJ for Philanthropic Efforts

Journalist Tonya Rivens can count Vice President Kamala Harris and former First Lady Michelle Obama among the hundreds of interviews she has conducted during an award-winning career that spans more than three decades. 

Portrait of Tonya Rivens
Tonya Rivens

She earned her most recent honor over the summer, when she received the Angelo B. Henderson Community Service Award at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame ceremony. 

Rivens also feels like she still has much more to learn. The radio personality, multimedia journalist and writer enrolled in the Newhouse School’s online master’s in communications program in April of this year, deciding to return to school to sharpen her skills in the ever-changing field of journalism.  

“What the internet has done to cause a shift is something that we all have to make adjustments for,” Rivens said. “What I learned in journalism school (as an undergraduate) is not exactly what journalism is today.” 

“In order for me as a student that’s always trying to learn to stay relevant in this business, it only made sense for me to go back and work on graduate studies,” said Rivens, who earned her undergraduate degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What has remained constant during Rivens’ career is a commitment to serve her community in Charlotte, North Carolina.  

A woman standing between two people holding an award
Tonya Rivens accepts the Angelo B. Henderson Community Service Award at the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame ceremony.

She is founder and executive director of the Ausie and Martin Rivens Scholarship Foundation, a community development and education foundation that’s partnered with UPS to donate $20,000 in Chromebooks to underserved students. 

Rivens developed Praise in the Park (also known as the Lake Norman Empowerment Festival), an annual outdoor festival and Angels in Pink, a breast cancer awareness luncheon, along with conflict resolution workshops, a little free pantry, programs with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other community outreach events.  

NABJ recognized her philanthropic efforts in July with the award named after Angelo B. Henderson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, radio broadcaster and minister from Detroit. 

“It’s a huge level of prestige. I feel quite accomplished,” said Rivens, who has more than 30 years of experience in radio and television.  

Rivens currently hosts the “Sounds of Inspiration” show on WPZS-Praise 100.9 FM in Charlotte and has worked at WPEG (Power 98 FM) and WBAV (V101.9). She was a 2021-2022 North Carolina Equity Fellow, is a 2022 alumna of the Poynter Institute TV Power Reporting Academy and also received the NABJ Chan Zuckerberg Grant in 2021 and 2022.

a woman speaking at a podium
“It’s a huge level of prestige. I feel quite accomplished,” said Rivens of winning the Angelo B. Henderson Community Service Award.

Rivens said the skills she’s learning through the online master’s in communications program at Newhouse has given her more confidence about adapting to today’s increasingly digital news environment. 

With such an accomplished career, Rivens wants to continue to share her wisdom and stories with others while building her journalism skills at Newhouse. 

“I’ve got many lessons and things that I can share with people,” she said. “There’s a point where I lost two jobs within a week. Most people would’ve just given up and said, ‘I’m walking away from this tough, crazy ridiculous business,’ but I didn’t.”

Nico Horning is a sophomore in the broadcast and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.