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Faces of 2017

Each Medill graduate is special and has a unique story to tell about his/her path to Medill and what the experience was like. Here are just a few of their stories.

September 26, 2017

IMC Online 2017

Elva-Maria Diaz

Medill IMC alumna Elva-Maria Diaz who works at Allstate
Why did you choose Medill?

I had colleagues who I was impressed with their work. Their thinking and approach to solving business challenges were ones that elevated the business. I began follow- ing their approach and started to see the consistent positive results. I then realized that they had graduated from the IMC program. I considered an MBA as well but IMC, I felt, stood out and has proven to be true.

If you had three words, which would you use to describe your experience in the online program?

Intense, Rewarding, Success

What has been your most rewarding experience in the IMC program?

All the connections I have made have been so wonderful. My network has expanded to include classmates who have successful careers themselves. 

Is there a “miracle moment” you can recall during your time here? A project, a class, etc.?

There have been so many moments from leadership to group assignments. The IMC Leadership Week was extra special because while we are able to connect with classmates through Canvas it is so wonderful meeting in person. I have had a very demanding career that made it seem impossible to go back to school. I am so grateful for the IMC online program for giving me the opportunity to achieve receiving a master’s and now have a position that I have had my eyes set on for a long time. The classes prepared me well!

What is your current job and do you think the IMC degree helped elevate your career? If so, how?

My decision to go back to school was in hopes of continuing to grow in my career with eyes set on working within an innovations department. The IMC program validated what I had learned in my years of experience and more importantly gave me the direction, the tools and therefore the confidence to go after my ideal role. While finishing my last class I began interviewing for my current role as an Associate Product Marketing Manager at Allstate working within Product/Service Innovation and Development. I truly believe that IMC prepared me for my current role.

How would you describe the community in the IMC Online program?

The online community is experienced, dedicated, efficient and collaborative. Those of us that choose online choose it because of our determination to achieve higher education even when we have full-time careers and full-time families that all demand attention.


BSJ17, IMC Certificate, Sociology

Haley Smith

Medill journalism alumna Haley Smith who works at Facebook
Why did you choose Medill?

When I started applying to colleges, I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in journalism. So when researching schools, I tailored my searches to the best journalism and communication schools in the country. In the fall of my senior year in high school, I attended a college meet-up that had representatives from Northwestern University. My interest was instantly piqued and as I began to research more about the university, I realized that Medill was truly one of a kind in the journalism and media world. I felt especially drawn to the school’s focus on hands-on learning as well as staying innovative and above-the- curve in terms of curriculum. In addition, classes at Medill allowed students an open setting for discovering their true passions. All in all, Medill had the right combination of qualities I was looking for so it was the best choice for me! 

What has been your most rewarding experience here?

I think my most rewarding experience here has just been being able to talk to truly passionate people from all walks of life and having them entrust me to communicate their stories. In my Reporting & Writing class, I was able to get to know the Edgewater community in a way I never would have otherwise and I found myself discovering stories in the most random ways. I walked into what looked like a store, only to discover this woman who was running a program assisting people in the city living with AIDs. Getting to speak to people who were really trying to make a difference in the lives of others has been the most rewarding for me.

Is there a “miracle moment” you can recall during your time here? A big story, a fabulous class, etc.?

I think my “miracle moment” in Medill was finally getting to do feature writing my senior year. Feature writing was something that had always held my interest even before coming to school here. It was great experience to practice feeling out a topic that held my interest and then having the autonomy to delve deeper into that topic. It was definitely an ‘Aha’ moment! For me, the feature writing class really confirmed that this is something I want to keep getting better at throughout my life.

What advice would you give incoming Medill students?

My biggest advice to incoming Medill stu- dents would be to stay curious. Curiosity is your biggest friend in journalism school, and it will allow you to discover things about the world and about yourself that you wouldn’t have otherwise. I’d also advise incoming students to practice being open-minded. Studying journalism means learning about a hundred new topics that you have limited knowledge on initially. With curiosity and an open mind, journalists can allow the story to take its true form. It is up to journalists to uncover the best stories and tell them in a truthful and authentic voice. The key to learning how to do that is to be open-minded and to be a fantastic listener.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I will be pursuing the Integrated Marketing Communications focus of my degree. I will be joining Facebook out in Menlo Park, Calif. under the Global Marketing Solutions umbrella as a Business Integrity Analyst, and I’m so excited!


BSJ17

Carson Brown

Medill journalism alumna Carson Brown
Why did you choose Medill?

Quite by accident! I fell in love with a photojournalism seminar my senior year of high school. We learned about incredible journalists like Greg Marinovich

and Bill Cunningham. From political to cultural consciousness, I loved the ability journalists have to push public discourse. Seeing that I was completely inspired, a school counselor told me to check out Northwestern, of which I had known nothing. Through research, I fell in love with the program and the idea of Medill. The rest is history. I committed to Northwestern before ever visiting campus. 

What has been your most rewarding experience here?

My journalism residency at Pacific Standard magazine was an incredible experience. I lived in Santa Barbara that quarter, escaping winter in Evanston. The Editor-In-Chief, Senior Staff Writer, and Deputy Editor are all Medill grads and welcomed me with enthusiasm. The entire team is young, vibrant and talented and the office quickly became home. I value PS Mag for its commitment to eth- ical journalism and stories that matter. I could sing its praises forever. PS Mag is completely underrated, but those who really know it, love it. I was so lucky to be part of that team.

What advice would you give incoming Medill students?

Never second guess your ability to achieve the incredible. Reach out to faculty and older students to get to know them, because their experience will teach you so much about successfully navigating Medill. Build a community and take time to try everything you can. Fall in love with your craft over and over again, but don’t bother to stick to the path already well-trodden. There’s so much to expe- rience at Northwestern, so don’t waste a moment of it. Even if it’s a laid-back night with friends, live college to the fullest. 

What are your plans for after graduation?

I’m doing a teaching fellowship this summer with the Bridge program at Northwestern, which is a free program for select freshman, such as first generation students, to help prepare them for college. During the month of August, another Medill student and I will partner with Medill and Weinberg faculty for a pre-ori- entation program for incoming Medill students. It is one-part crash course in qualitative reasoning, one-part crash course in reporting for the month before Wildcat Welcome. After that, I have my heart set on returning to Southern California and getting a great job.


BSJ17, Political Science

Tyler Pager

Medill alumnus Tyler Pager
Why did you choose Medill?

I chose Medill after participating in the Medill Cherubs program where I was exposed to the incredible faculty and programs. I was especially drawn to Medill because of the range of experiences for students, particularly the Journalism Residency program, Medill on the Hill and The Daily Northwestern. I also loved the fact that Medill, the best journalism school, was housed at Northwestern where I could take advantage of all the benefits of a major research university. 

If you had three words, which would you use to describe your experience at Medill?

Transformative, inspiring and collaborative

What has been your most rewarding experience here?

My most rewarding experience was my time as the editor-in-chief of The Daily Northwestern. I started working at The Daily at the beginning of my freshman year and eventually became the paper’s top editor where I worked with more than 100 students to produce the only daily newspaper for Northwestern and Evanston. Not only were we responsible for keeping the community informed, but our reporting played a major role in driving conversations and influencing change on key issues such as mental health, inclusion and sexual assault.

Is there a “miracle moment” you can recall during your time here?

I’ve had so many tremendous opportunities at Medill including reporting at Guantanamo Bay and covering the White House, but one of my favorite experiences

was a story I worked on for The Boston Globe during my journalism residency at the paper’s Washington Bureau. I pitched a story on how the Trump administra- tion’s crackdown on immigration was impacting dairy farms, which rely heavily on immigrants. For the story, I traveled  to western New York where I spent three days on dairy farms, interviewing workers and farmers about their fears and the difficulties of navigating an unpredictable administration. The 2,000 word story ran as the main story on The Globe’s front page and continued on a full inside page.

What are your plans for after graduation?

In the fall, I’m headed to the University of Oxford for a master’s program in comparative social policy. My hope is to develop  a policy framework centered on social issues that will improve my reporting.


MSJ17

Henry Keyser

Medill alumnus and entrepreneur Henry Keyser
Why did you choose Medill?

In 2013 I attended a Medill preview day. I was a playwright part-time working a low- wage, miserable data-entry temp job. And now I was pipe-dreaming acceptance to an expensive and prestigious journalism school, when I’d never written or published an article in my life.

I told my data-entry boss I wanted to apply to Northwestern, and, instead of being angry, he praised the data work I’d done the previous two years, and asked me to stay on for another two years as head of the data department. He more than doubled my pay, and asked me to rebuild the department from something antiquated and miserable to how I would want to run it.

Exactly 24 months later, I applied to Medill. But now I had much more programming and product-management experience, data science and data visualization experience, and I had gone through the management stages of forming, storming, norming, and performing an operation. I was a much better candidate. Medill had launched the Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MIE) specialization. This new track would train 10 MSJs to analyze modern media strategy, so that we might lead teams of designers and programmers to create new tools, sites and apps to solve issues in the journalism and media industry. Suddenly, the 24 months I spent making new apps, while I delayed applying to Medill, were completely relevant. I applied immediately and poured myself into the specialization—finding it to be everything I wanted and more. 

If you had three words, which would you use to describe your experience at Medill?

Concentrated, Critical, Collaborative 

Is there a “miracle moment” you can recall during your time here?

NUvention final pitch really was the culmination of my entire year in MIE. Months of learning how to code, design and critically plan new business innovations was deeply rewarded when my team’s ShareVR product was warmly received by very critical minds. I didn’t think I would finish my year at Medill having founded my own company.

Only hours before NUvention final pitch I was approached for a dream position doing Virtual Reality strategy work for a large media organization, so when I said no to pursue my team’s mutual vision for ShareVR, I didn’t know if I’d made a huge mistake. But when investors were approaching us after the class and ShareVR was rated top venture of the program, it felt exceptionally rewarding. 

What are your plans for after graduation?

The product my team started for NUvention, ShareVR, incorporated into a company during the first week of June. We were accepted to The Garage’s Wildfire Pre-accelerator program and received a few thousand to get us started (from which I will take a small stipend for the summer). For the foreseeable future, my full-time job is Co-Founder and CEO of Pryde (the new branding of ShareVR), “the easiest way to show your friends what you’re doing in virtual reality.”


BSJ17

Daniel Hersh 

Medill journalism alumnus Daniel Hersh who works at Credit Suisse
Why did you choose Medill?

I chose Medill because it was the only world-class journalism school that was also a part of a top-tier university overall. The opportunities offered by Medill are second to none and allowed me to explore many different forms of journalism during my undergraduate career.

What has been your most rewarding experience here?

My most rewarding experience probably was going to D.C. for Medill on the Hill. I learned so much about journalism and politics in general during that quarter and had a blast doing it. I also loved living in the heart of Washington and getting to make new friends.

Is there a “miracle moment” you can recall during your time here? A big story, a fabulous class, etc.?

I think my “miracle moment,” may have also come on Medill on the Hill. It was our first week and we hadn’t started reporting yet, but we were allowed to explore the Capitol and get a lay of the land of the building. I sat in on a small debate in the House of Representatives (I can’t remember what the subject was or who was even debating), and all I could think about was how much it reminded me of high school- ers arguing—rude interruptions, snickers in the background and lots of negative body language. This isn’t a very uplifting moment, I guess, but it was incredible to see it firsthand and it has stuck with me since. 

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I’m moving to New York City and doing real estate investment banking at Credit Suisse.


IMC16, Marketing Automation Consultant, San Francisco Consulting Group

Yang (Will) Zhao

Medill IMC alumnus Will Zhao who works at San Francisco Consulting Group
Why did you choose Medill IMC?

It is all because of the short promotion video “what is IMC” on YouTube. I feel like every line in that video describes myself perfectly. Marketing makes me happy inside.

If you had three words, which would you use to describe your experience at Medill?

Intensive, profound, and inspiring

What was your most rewarding experience in the IMC program?

Definitely the immersion quarter. Our team developed an integrated measurement    dashboard    enabling Mondelez’s global VP to make cross channel performance comparison. We presented the final deliverables to C-level management and got the approval to implement the dashboard into global adoption. IMC really empowered me to make some real changes in such a giant corporation.

What advice would you give incoming IMC students?

Always think out of the box and always explore things out of your comfort zone.


MSJ17

Katanga Johnson 

Medill journalism alumnus Katanga Johnson who studied social justice reporting
Why did you choose Medill?

Medill came second to no other institution when I considered graduate school. In fact, my decision to attend rested on a consistent series of follow-up emails with Julie Collins in the Admissions & Financial Aid Office. Julie paid attention to my meager interest in journalism three years before I applied. I graduated, moved to Ecuador and began wetting my feet in embedded reporting among indigenous communities. Julie stayed connected, kept me informed and read my work. I figured if the faculty and wider community at Medill could be as committed as Julie was, I wanted to be a part of that learning community. 

If you had three words, which would you use to describe your experience at Medill?

Bustling. Rigorous. Nurturing.

What has been your most rewarding experience here?

At Medill, my most rewarding experience was traveling to Cuba with members of my Social Justice cohort. The trip afforded me the unique opportunity to tell the story of two female entrepreneurs shattering glass ceilings in the socialist island nation.

Is there a “miracle moment” you can recall during your time here? A big story, a fabulous class, etc.?

My ‘miracle moments’ at Medill were shaped by countless conversations with mold my mind into a sharper and more compelling story-generating machine.

What advice would you give incoming Medill students?

To incoming students: Stay present in the moment of your learning and your growth. The future—and all that it seems to demand of you—will only be realized one learning, growing moment at a time.

What are your plans for after graduation?

While the dream is to tell long-form feature stories both in print and in video in the future, immediately post graduation, I am spending an optional fifth quarter at the D.C. bureau with practicums at CQ Roll Call and The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5, Washington D.C.’s NPR station.


IMC Part-Time 2017

Reema Rao 

Medill IMC alumna Reema Rao who is a senior brand strategist at Cavalry
What has been your most rewarding experience in the PT IMC program?

Without a doubt, the people I’ve met—both faculty and students. I think most people who get additional degrees realize that there’s an advantage in making connec- tions with more and more people in your field. And while that’s absolutely true, the most rewarding was getting to know these people deeper than just their professional selves. Part of my commencement speech is dedicated to a classmate that had a huge impact on me—she’s not just a peer, she’s a friend. In fact, I’m extremely lucky to be able to call several of my classmates, life- long friends. And sure, we’ll all “grow up” together and become a kickass band of powerful CMOs (a girl can dream, right?), but we’ll also always be each other’s big- gest cheerleaders along the way. That’s the hidden reward you don’t always see written on your diploma.

What is your current job and do you think the IMC degree helped elevate your career? If so, how?

I am currently a Senior Brand Strategist at an awesome, small (but mighty!) advertising shop called Cavalry. I might be an anomaly because I’m one of the few students who came into the program knowing I wanted to stay in my line of work-brand strategy. Tactically, my impending graduation from Medill at the time helped to back up my semblance of confidence that I could take on a senior-level role. But it’s done much more than that, too.

You were selected as the student speaker - what does that mean to you and what were your key points?

First and foremost, I am so honored to have been nominated as my class’ commencement speaker, and I hope I did our experience justice! It’s so much more meaningful to be representing and speaking for a class in which I can confidently say I know every fellow graduate—my speech felt REAL to me. Not just a set of words but reflections on actual experiences I can think back to sharing with my classmates.

That’s why my speech was centered around empathy and putting people first.  It can sound lofty, but after taking a step back and mentally summarizing my entire experience at Medill, it truly boiled down to a lesson in empathy—both in how we move forward professionally and how we move through the world every day. I hope my classmates had the same resounding takeaway as well.


MSJ17

Shen Lu

Medill journalism alumna Shen Lu who studied business reporting and works at CNNMoney

How would you describe your experience at Medill?

Best year of my adult life so far. Serendipitous.  Fun.

Before coming to Medill, I saw it as a year off from work. I knew going back to school for a year as an adult probably would be one of the best experiences in my life, so   I cherished every minute of it. At Medill,  I worked on many stories—text and visual—that I was interested in and were of great public and global importance. I was able to travel to Tokyo, Washington, D.C. and to Seattle for learning, reporting and networking opportunities, which undoubtedly enriched my experience at Medill. I am grateful for my professors who encouraged my creativity and innovation and did their best to support me.

What has been your most rewarding experience here?

I am really glad I stumbled upon the Business, Money and Markets specialization on orientation day. At Medill, I took three classes dealing with economics and business reporting in both text and video formats, where I learned a great deal about the subject as well as various storytelling methods to make business stories more accessible to a broader audience. I had wonderful professors who made sure we all learned the material and enjoyed the experience. I never thought I would be interested in the topic of business and money, and now I aspire to become an international business journalist. I couldn’t have hoped for a better learning experience.

Is there a “miracle moment” you can recall during your time here?

I remember one day in my third quarter, perhaps the most hectic time period in my life, everything seemed to happen on a single day. That day, I published my first market story on Medill Reports, working with Lecturer Ceci Rodgers, which was great fun. That night, I received a voice message from the president of the Foreign Press Association, telling me that I won a Foreign Press  Association  (FPA)  scholarship. Before I went to bed, my former CNN editor told me that the story I had worked on for weeks about the influx of Chinese students to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign was finally published on CNN.com as part of a big project on China’s global influence. I also sublet my studio in Chicago and found a place to stay in New York in the summer on that day. A very productive day!

What are your plans for after graduation?

I will be interning with CNNMoney in the summer while completing my degree.  I  am looking for jobs in business journalism after  graduation.


BSJ17

Lorenzo Gudino 

Medill journalism alumnus Lorenzo Gudino
Why did you choose Medill?

I was 14 years old when I realized Northwestern was my dream school. I remember being mesmerized by the University’s landscape while I stood in Centennial Park with my mother and brothers. When I applied to Northwestern, Medill made the most sense at the time; I enjoyed meeting people and listening. I was not completely sold on journalism, but the craft grew on me once I arrived to campus. Medill allowed me to both meet people and listen to their stories, and later taught me how to tell their stories respectfully.

In three words, how would you describe your experience at Medill?

Revealing. Challenging. Humbling. In retrospect, my Medill experience was largely humbling. And I say this with my heart full of gratitude for the opportunity to meet inspiring and wonderful people. This includes the Medill faculty, staff and students, but it also includes the count- less people I met by extension of Medill. Interviewees, sources and journalism professionals I met through Medill have all played large roles in my life. Through Medill, I was able to learn more about my Native American heritage. The questions I asked were not only for assignments, but also for my personal growth. In this regard, I am humbled for all those who shared their stories and teachings with me. Medill allowed me to ask those questions and for that, I am truly grateful.

What has been your most rewarding experience here?

My most rewarding experience at Medill was the opportunity to attend the Native American Journalist Association’s conference in the summer of 2014. Traveling to the conference was the first time I ever flew by myself, let alone traveled by myself. Medill’s funding of the trip allowed me to mature and meet some great people and mentors. Through this trip, I learned about the NAJA Fellowship that I was accepted to the next summer. During my fellowship experience, I met even more people and rekindled the relationships I made the previous year. Both opportunities allowed me to meet fellow Native American journalists and learn from their experiences. The opportunity to attend the 2014 NAJA conference through Medill was hands down, my most rewarding experience.

Is there a “miracle moment” you can recall during your time here? A big story, a fabulous class, etc.?

My Medill miracle moment came during Visiting Professor Patty Loew’s class titled Native American Environmental Issues and the Media. I took the class during fall quarter of my senior year. The class was first Native American-focused class, taught by a Native American professor available during my time at Medill. The experience in that class was absolutely incredible. The content of the course introduced issues and concerns of Wisconsin’s Native American population that I never encountered. The course questioned the way mainstream media covered Native American people and issues in a way that I thought would never happen at Medill. The course took students to the Oneida Reservation in Wisconsin so they could gain a new perspective. However, the greatest part of the class was undoubtedly the instructor. I learned and continue to learn so much from Patty. We stay in touch and she has helped me in more ways than I can count. I even deemed her my auntie. Of all the classes I took at Medill, this was surely the most unforgettable and remarkable.

What are your plans for after graduation?

Following graduation, I plan on freelancing while I apply to law school. I wish to pursue Indian Policy and Tribal Law and start law school in the fall of 2018.