Sheila Burt (BSJ06) is a writer for the Center for Bionic Medicine (CBM) at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. In her role, she assists in writing grant proposals, creating content for CBM’s website and working on projects involving communication, education and dissemination plans.
As a student Burt was involved with The Daily Northwestern working as a news reporter, the development editor and later the campus editor.
“Working at the Daily taught me not only how to be an effective reporter, but also instilled in me confidence to ask tough questions, interview almost anyone and write on deadline,” Burt said.
After graduating from Medill, Burt traveled to Ireland on a five-month work visa.
“I worked odd jobs to pay the bills but also contributed a few small stories to The Irish Times, one of the main papers in Dublin, thanks to a Medill connection,” she said.
Burt returned to Chicago and began freelancing and searching for full-time positions.
“Freelancing was very tough at first because I was used to being at the scene and covering the events as they happened, or being assigned stories,” Burt said. “As a freelancer, I had to develop a different set of skills where I needed to analyze what wasn’t being covered by full-time staff writers and pitch these ideas to editors.”
In 2010, Burt began a full-time internship in the research department at Crain’s Chicago Business, where she worked with two editors who were Medill graduates.
When her Crain’s internship was over, Burt applied to teach English in Japan through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, a large cultural exchange and education program run by the Japanese government.
“I knew little about Japan, but as a native Chicagoan who never traveled much outside of the Midwest, aside from my experience in Ireland, I yearned once again to see the world from another perspective,” Burt said.
During her three years abroad, Burt began blogging about her experience in Japan, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and wrote the series “Letters from Japan” for the website Gapers Block. Much of her work compared social issues in Japan and Chicago. After immersing herself in Japanese culture, Burt said her time in Japan “remains an integral part of my identity.”
Looking forward, Burt is working to complete her master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University, with a focus on narrative science writing.