The Stanley Foundation
Seeking a secure peace with freedom and justice, built on global citizenship and effective global governance.
Kelly Smits
Program Assistant, Journalism & Media

Kelly Smits is a program assistant for media at the Stanley Foundation, where she assists with the development and implementation of media programming in support of the foundation’s mission and strategic policy goals. She graduated from American University in 2018 with a B.A. in international studies and a minor in French language. While studying in Washington DC, she completed internships at ReThink Media as a peace and security intern and the Arms Control Association as a communications, media, and marketing intern.  She also lived in Paris for a year as a student at Sciences Po Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

What do you do at the foundation and how long have you been here?

I started at the foundation in June 2018 after graduating from American University in Washington, DC. I work with the program officer for media programming, Devon Terrill, to identify opportunities to engage media and strengthen reporting around the foundation’s three issue areas:  climate change, mass violence and atrocities, and nuclear weapons policy. The programming we put together includes workshops, trainings, salon dinners, and story labs—and we also organize a variety of reporting fellowships that support the foundation’s policy priorities.

What do you like most about your job?

I like the fact that the Stanley Foundation has such an influential, global reach from the Midwest. Working at the foundation provides the perfect balance between frequent international travel and a relaxing Midwestern base. Also, it is exciting to work with people who are truly passionate about their work and are making a positive difference in the world.

Where are you from?

I was born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but for my undergraduate studies I made the move to Washington, DC. Now I am back in the Midwest to work for the Stanley Foundation, where a big goal is to convert the Bears fans in the office into Packers fans.

What are your hobbies?

My biggest hobby is dance. I’ve been dancing since I was four years old and most recently I was on the dance team at American University. I’m excited to explore new ways to stay active now that my dance career has come to an end.

Media Programming

The Stanley Foundation’s media programming promotes quality, in-depth, and timely reporting on topics related to the foundation’s three program areas:  climate change, nuclear weapons policy, and mass violence and atrocities. Media programs are often produced in collaboration with trusted media organizations, with strict adherence to principles of editorial independence. In addition, the foundation is exploring the role and impact of new media and technology (social platforms, content distributors, new media formats, and information systems) within the larger media ecosystem. As a private nonpartisan operating foundation, the Stanley Foundation does not receive or give grants. 

Media programming includes:

  • Media workshops, trainings, and forums
  • Engaging journalists and other media actors at policy convenings 
  • Facilitating topical, regional/global, and investigative reporting fellowships

Current Work

The foundation collaborates with a variety of media partners and other organizations to strengthen understanding of the issues we are focused on and to provide useful tools, expertise, and resources to support rigorous reporting. Partners have included Thomson Reuters Foundation, the Center for Public Integrity, the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, Atomic ReportersGroundTruth Project, Earth Journalism Network, the World Conference of Science Journalists, and others.

The foundation also looks for opportunities to include journalists and other media actors in policy discussions and other global events/conferences related to our three issue areas, often in partnership with the foundation’s policy team.

Climate Tracker | Climate Journalists | Youth Empowerment
The Stanley Foundation is partnering with Climate Tracker and the United Nations Secretary-General’s Climate Action Summit Team to organize a fellowship of eight young journalists to attend and report from the Global Climate Strike, UN Youth Climate Summit, UN Climate Action Summit, and other related events taking place during Climate Week NYC. Early-career climate journalists from around the world will travel to New York to report on climate action and the efforts of young people who are pressing for more ambition from world leaders and others to combat the climate crisis. Learn More.

Planetary Security Conference 
Together with Amsterdam-based Free Press Unlimited, the Stanley Foundation organized a four-day media fellowship for fifteen journalists to attend the fourth annual Planetary Security Conference in The Hague, Netherlands, February 18–21, 2019. The conference explored how effective climate policy can be preventative to conflict and how peace can be secured in regions affected by global warming. Journalists from Mali, Iraq, the Lake Chad Basin, and the Caribbean—the spotlight regions at the conference—participated in workshops with seasoned journalism trainers. Activities were programmed to facilitate reporting opportunities and quality interaction with conference attendees. The journalism resulting from those opportunities and interactions may be found here.

Past work of the foundation at the intersection of climate, security, and the media includes film screenings and discussions of the ABC News Nightline documentary “A Climate for Conflict” and a policy analysis brief "Putting Environmental Stress Back on the Mass Atrocities Agenda."

This is Not a Drill Journalism Workshop
From January 8-12, 2019, the Stanley Foundation and Atomic Reporters hosted the four-day "This Is Not a Drill" Journalism Workshop in Hawaii, just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the false ballistic missile alert that occurred there in January 2018. Workshop participants revisited that incident and explored new dimensions of nuclear risk in the digital age. Learn More

"Independent Journalism as a Pillar of Peace"
Learn more about the foundation’s strategy and priorities in supporting independent media in this interview with Program Officer Devon Terrill, conducted by Central European University’s Center for Media, Data and Society. 

Climate Vulnerable Forum Summit
Marshall Islands President Hilda Heine has announced the first ever carbon-free, online summit of world leaders on November 22, 2018. In this video, which the Stanley Foundation produced in collaboration with Principle Pictures, President Heine explains the intent and goals of the Climate Vulnerable Forum Summit—cooperative action for a sustainable climate future where all can survive and thrive.

Climate Change Media Partnership Fellowships
Twenty journalists have been awarded fellowships to cover key climate change meetings in San Francisco, California, and Katowice, Poland. The journalists, from 18 developing countries, will "learn how cities, countries, communities, companies, and individuals are working to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement – or are perhaps lagging in their commitments." Learn more.