FāVS Staff

Tracy Simmons, Executive Director

Tracy Simmons

Tracy Simmons is an award winning journalist specializing in religion reporting, digital entrepreneurship and social journalism. In her 13 years on the religion beat, Simmons has tucked a notepad in her pocket and found some of her favorite stories aboard cargo ships in New Jersey, on a police chase in Albuquerque, in dusty Texas church bell towers, on the streets of New York and in tent cities in Haiti.

Simmons has worked as a multimedia journalist for newspapers across New Mexico, Texas and Connecticut. Currently is a Scholarly Assistant Professor at Washington State University and serves as the executive director of FāVS News a digital journalism start-up covering religion news and commentary in Spokane, Washington. She also writes nationally and is a reporter and columnist for the Spokesman-Review.

You can reach Simmons at [email protected].

Cassy Benefield, Associate Editor

Cassy (pronounced like Cassie but spelled with a ‘y’) Benefield is a wife and mother, a writer and photographer and a huge fan of non-fiction. She has traveled all her life, first as an Army brat. She is a returned Peace Corps volunteer (2004-2006) to Romania where she mainly taught Conversational English. She received her bachelor’s in journalism from Cal Poly Technical University in San Luis Obispo, California. She finds much comfort in her Savior, Jesus Christ, and considers herself a religion nerd who is prone to buy more books, on nearly any topic, than she is ever able to read.

You can reach Benefield at [email protected].

Mikayla Finnerty, Social Media Manager

Mikayla Finnerty Washington State University graduate with a Bachelor’s in Multimedia Journalism. She spent her time at WSU moving forward in her content creation career, with positions as a social media manager, managing editor and editor-in-chief at The Daily Evergreen. Besides writing, Mikayla enjoys photography. She spends her free time reading, baking and learning new skills.



Paige Thurman, Events Coordinator

Paige Thurman

Paige Thurman is the owner of Driftwood Point Events. Paige has had a passion for event planning since she could walk. She had the opportunity to start in the event industry in 2015 where she started out as an intern under a wedding planner and worked her way up. When she isn’t planning events you can find her cuddling her two pups Ruby and Nelly or paddle boarding in the sun. If you have a community based event idea, please don’t hesitate to reach out at [email protected].

 Mia Gallegos, Reporting Intern

Mia Gallegos

Mia Gallegos is a junior studying Journalism and Digital Marketing at Gonzaga University. Her love for journalism began in high school within her hometown of Broomfield, Colorado. She has written for the Gonzaga Bulletin since she first began at GU. Aside from writing, she is a passionate dancer and member of the Gonzaga University Bomb Squad, GU’s exclusively Hip-Hop dance team. Mia is a dedicated Catholic and is excited to be interning with FāVS during the Spring 2024 semester. She is looking forward to learning about religions aside from her own and to gain more journalistic prowess by working with the skilled reporters of FāVS.

Gen Heywood, FāVS News Photographer

Gen Heywood / Photo by Hana Reinhardt

Rev. Gen Heywood has been active in parish ministry for more than 30 years. From small towns to big cities, she always lets the needs of the community and the congregation be her guide. Gen credits the supportive leadership of Veradale United Church of Christ for including her work to overcome racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation as part of her ministry. “Veradale UCC is a small church with a powerful faith. They are the reason I can be a witness for a world where we do justice, live with compassion and walk humbly with the Divine.” Gen grew up in rural Maine. She received a B.A. in Music Therapy and German from Emmanuel College in Boston, Massachusetts, and her M.Div. from Andover Newton Theological School in Newton, Massachusetts. She is a lifelong learner who lives in Spokane Valley, Washington, with her three dogs, as well as, sometimes, with her amazing young adult children.



To meet our Reporters, click here.

To meet our Columnists, click here.

To meet our Board of Trustees, click here.

FāVS is always looking for enthusiastic supporters to lend a hand in keeping FāVS running!

Contact Cassy Benefield at [email protected] to talk about available volunteer opportunities including Marketing Director, Calendar Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator, Fundraising Coordinator, Advertising and Promotional Executive and more!

Contact Tracy Simmons at [email protected] if you’re interested in internship opportunities, from copy editing to graphic design, social media to event planning, photojournalism to public relations.