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And now, a word from our alumni: Mat Wolf

This is the second part in Ethos’ three-part series in which alumni of the magazine share memories of their time here. CNN International staffer Mat Wolf writes on coming to the j-school at the University of Oregon, his Ethos story on a white supremacist cell in eastern Oregon, and moving to the Middle East to report on the so-called Islamic State. 

MY SHORT BUT DENSE JOURNALISM CAREER actually started with Ethos, so I’ll always be grateful to the magazine and its 2009-2010 senior staff.

In the fall of 2009, I had just separated from the Marine Corps and enrolled at the University of Oregon. I had no clips whatsoever — but,  folks like Kevin Bronk, Raychael Mitchell and Suji Paek gave my slim resume a chance and took me on.

Everything I’ve done since owes something to the articles I was able to knock out that winter. My 2010 Ethos story, “The Nazis Next Door,” about an attempted white supremacist takeover in eastern Oregon, remains in my portfolio. It also got me a Hearst nomination.

Ethos was a great way for me to socialize and meet people at a new school. Don’t know if it rings true today, but the magazine threw some great parties back in the day (see: former editor Nina Strochlic’s recent essay here).

I would go on to work at other student publications. I also moved up the ranks at Ethos, serving as its managing editor in 2011. I completed a Snowden internship at The Mail Tribune in Medford, another internship at The Register-Guard, and participated in the Media in Ghana program before I graduated from the School of Journalism and Communication in 2012.

Reporter Mat Wolf looks up from inside a Kurdish tank. (Photo by Andrew Wade Nunn)
Mat Wolf inside a Kurdish Peshmerga tank. Picture was taken during a battle with ISIS near Mulla Abdulla village, Iraq in January 2015. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Wade Nunn)

From there, I set a return course to the Middle East. I had already done two Iraq deployments while in the Marines, and started watching with fascination the so-called Arab Spring unfold in 2011. I found out via Dan Morrison, a photojournalism professor in the school, that some past alumni ran a magazine called JO out of Jordan. I contacted them to see if I could come aboard.

With JO I got the opportunity to cover the growth of Syrian refugee camps in Jordan. What started as anti-government protests in 2011 turned into a civil war by 2012. Then the war fused with unresolved elements of the U.S.-Iraq war that had begun in 2003. Surviving Al-Qaeda members in Iraq founded what would become the so-called Islamic State.

I eventually traveled back to Iraq in 2015. However, after a year in Jordan, I set my eyes on Egypt. There I covered the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and the ascension of military strongman Abdel Fatah al-Sisi. My work in Egypt and Jordan from 2012-2015 was featured in The Huffington Post, Al Jazeera and VICE. Post-Egypt, I traveled to Iraqi Kurdistan. It was there that I got my first clips with The Daily Beast covering Kurdish war efforts against ISIS.

After a year in Kurdistan and nearly four years abroad, I decided it was time to come home. I moved to Atlanta and joined CNN International as a writer in February. Live broadcast is a new format for me, but as I type this I just got my first script on air, so I’m excited about what’s to come.

Again, my last four years wouldn’t have been possible without Ethos or the j-school. So, happy 100th to the School of Journalism and Communication, and I hope Ethos continues pumping out the best magazine on campus.

To read Wolf’s dispatch, “The Nazis Next Door,” click here. This series is Ethos’ contribution to the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication’s centennial celebration.   

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