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The Columbia Chronicle

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The Columbia Chronicle

Columbia faculty remember alum who died in house fire

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Ruth Johnson

Rocío Villaseñor, a local journalist and Columbia alum, died on Nov. 10, as a result of a Brighton Park house fire. She was 31 years old.

Villaseñor was a graduate student at Columbia, receiving her master’s degree in the Fall of 2018. She has written for publications like Block Club ChicagoLa RazaCicero IndependienteCity BureauJournalism Gateway Review and Modern Healthcare.

Former Columbia professor Curtis Lawrence, who taught Villaseñor in the now defunct journalism master’s program, remembers her as a quiet but, “serious,” student who wanted to cover education and the Brighton Park neighborhood, where she was born and raised.

Len Strazewski, a retired associate professor who taught Villaseñor in data journalism, said Villaseñor had a bright future. “She was somebody who had a long and good career ahead of her, and unfortunately she lost that opportunity,” he said.

Villaseñor also took “Reporting in Spanish” and “Digital Storytelling” both classes taught by Elio Leturia, an associate professor in the Communication Department. “It took me by complete surprise,” he said.

During her time at Columbia, Villaseñor covered a story on an exhibit Leturia had for Instituto Cervantes. She reported on it in Spanish and in English which Leturia was proud of.

“It’s very sad to see someone so young and with so much to offer,” Leturia said. “Especially when we need these voices to tell the Latina story.”

GoFundMe campaign has been set up to help the Villaseñor family that survived the fire. It has raised over $40,000 out of its $100,000 goal as of Tuesday morning, Nov. 28.

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About the Contributors
Connor Dore, Reporter
cdore@columbiachronicle.com   Connor Dore is a senior journalism major, concentrating in broadcast journalism. Dore primarily reports on Columbia's School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but has also written about the college's financial deficit, Chicago protests and course changes. He joined the Chronicle in May 2023.   Hometown: Hickory Hills, Illinois
Ruth Johnson, Former Creative Director