Taz Lombardo (Coordinator): Taz Lombardo is a first year photojournalism graduate student at the Missouri School of Journalism. Prior to starting grad school, he studied professional photography at the University of Central Missouri, earning a Bachelor's degree in 2014. He made the decision to enter the MA program at the Journalism School after learning about the firing of the entire Chicago Sun-Times photography staff in the spring of 2013. Taz's ultimate goal is to assess photography's role in modern journalism and to preserve the integrity of photography as a profession.
Aaron Phillips (Coordinator): Aaron Phillips is a first year graduate student studying photojournalism at the University of Missouri. Aaron spent the first half of his life in Texas, the second in Mississippi. After a career start in civil engineering, he began to look for something more creatively fulfilling, and turned to photography. The last several years he has attended photo and video workshops, including the Missouri Photo Workshop in 2013. He has also worked part time as a commercial and editorial still photographer and has recently delved into video and film lighting/ production.
Rita Reed (Director): Rita Reed has served as Director of the College Photographer of the Year competition for the past 13 years. She is a Professor on the photojournalism faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism. Prior to joining the University of Missouri faculty, Reed worked as a photojournalist for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and the Gazette in Cedar Rapids, IA. She is 1993 recipient of the NPPA/Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant and holds a MA in Journalism from the University of Missouri.
Jackie Bell (Moderator): Jackie Bell is an Associate Professor on the photojournalism faculty at the Missouri School of Journalism and a former assistant professor at the University of Montana. She has 15 years of combined experience as a staff photographer at The Tennessean, The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, The Arizona Daily Star and a chain of magazines in Tel Aviv, Israel. She has a master’s degree in photographic communication from Ohio University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan.
Joe Weiss (Moderator): Joe Weiss is the Director of Technology at Verse, a video storytelling platform based in New York City. He has been developing storytelling experiences for the web for more than 20 years. Prior to Verse, Weiss founded and created Soundslides, a pioneering multimedia application for journalists. He led the company and its product development until its successful acquisition in 2012. Prior to his shift to product development with Soundslides, Weiss worked as a photojournalist, multimedia reporter, designer, developer, and editor in print and online media, including stints at MSNBC.com and McClatchy.
Brett Slaughter (Web Producer): Brett Slaughter is a 2005 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism photojournalism program in 2005. He is a self-taught web programmer, learning Internet technologies and programming during his time at the University of Missouri. Since graduating, he has recognized that his talents with technology outweigh his talents as a photojournalist, and as a result has given up photojournalism in favor of pursuing a career in information technology. He continues to devote a portion of his time to the continuing mission of the College Photographer of the Year program and is always seeking ways to use the web to enhance the contest experience for students worldwide.