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Bethany Crystal (BSJ09)

General Manager at USV Network at Union Square Ventures
Bethany Crystal

Why did you choose Medill?

I chose Medill because I wanted to be immersed into one of the strongest journalism programs nationwide to really hone my skills of writing, editing and communications.

What is your fondest memory of your time at Medill?

Thinking back on my experiences at Medill feels like paging through a magazine. In it, I see the "man on the street" reporting assignments in Evanston, the late nights at McCormick Tribune Center on group projects and the cramming for AP Style Guide and current events quizzes. But I also see the stories of the people I met along the way -- the family at Maxwell Street Market who sold homemade tacos every weekend, the interview with my uncle about his work on climate change that eventually earned him a Nobel Laureate and our Medill outpost in Rogers Park for a quarter. The stories we wrote and told during our time in Medill share so much with my experience overall.

Why do you think Medill is unique?

Medill is unique because of its place set squarely within the Northwestern experience. As a whole, Northwestern University does so much to prepare students for the increasing demands of tough careers in changing industries. Having an opportunity to learn and practice these core skills of journalism while being a part of such a solid academic foundation in other areas made my education really stand out. And while it can be challenging to learn at the time, I believe that Medill's focus on the foundational building blocks of spelling, grammar, AP Style and ethics levels up all students in their quality of writing as well as integrity throughout their careers.

What was your greatest achievement or best experience during the program? Best story, best project, a good scoop, etc.?

I really enjoyed the time I spent on my final profile piece senior year when I wrote about the impact of climate change and interviewed everybody from people at Argonne National Laboratory to others who were climate change skeptics. This was particularly powerful for me, as my uncle had been working on this project and I had an opportunity to connect with him and better understand why this research is so critical for us to take action.

How has your Medill training helped you in your career so far? Are there skills or lessons you learned at Medill that you still use today?

I decided to pursue journalism as my undergraduate degree for three reasons: I liked writing, I liked talking to people, and I liked traveling. Naturally, I assumed that a degree in journalism would be the closest match in helping me achieve all three of those in my career. What I was surprised to learn was how versatile this definition became even in the time since I graduated in 2009. Since then, I have worked in consulting, in sales, in marketing and now for a venture capital firm. In every job, I write, I talk to people, and I travel. Medill's focus on the basic building blocks of solid and effective communication in any context have enabled me to have a far more flexible and agile career than I would have ever imagined.

What advice do you have for someone who might be looking to pursue a degree in journalism?

Focus less on the jobs you want and more on the skills you enjoy. At its core, journalism will always be a blend of solid writing, effective communication, ethics and presenting an objective narrative. Whether you work as a professional writer or in business, part of your success will always hinge on how well you communicate with others. For that reason, I believe that a degree in journalism can take you very far.

How have you tapped into the Medill network in your career?

I have and will continue to tap into the Medill network. So far in my career, I have been introduced to two of my previous jobs from Medill alums, and I have hired several Northwestern students or graduates as interns. One of the reasons why I remain so actively involved in the Medill alumni community in NYC is to stay connected with my peers as we all diverge into different paths that somehow end up converging again down the road in unexpected ways.