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Derrick Clifton (Comm12, MSJ16)

Writer, Communicator and Freelance Journalist

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When Derrick Clifton (Comm12, MSJ16) began their college career, they knew they cared about media and thought they’d go on to become an intellectual property lawyer. However, they soon were overcome by their desire to build bridges across different identities and experiences, which they wanted to combine with a communications discipline.

Clifton started writing and editing for The Daily Northwestern, with a focus on identity, culture and politics. That evolved into blogging after college and advanced to pursing a masters in journalism at Medill. Near the end of the Medill MSJ program, they met one of Mic.com's editors at a Medill career fair and were eventually hired as one of the site's editorial fellows.

What do you do now and what are your main responsibilities?

I'm currently a freelance journalist and serve as a contributing writer to outlets such as NBC News THINK, Out Magazine, VICE, The Grio, Chicago Reader, The TRiiBE and more. Just prior to that, I served as the communications manager at ProPublica, where I worked to boost brand visibility and develop a core audience for ProPublica Illinois. I also have a background in corporate and political communications.

How did your Medill degree help advance your career?

Medill's network has helped me tremendously both in terms of work and freelance opportunities as well as the support of a community that never once stopped believing in my career vision and my voice. Several of my classmates became work colleagues, and I can now count some of my professors as good friends. I didn't think I'd be able to say that coming into the program.

What skills did you gain at Medill or what experiences did you have that were particularly beneficial?

When it came time to complete my capstone, I wanted to take a different approach and focus on how to parlay my desire to develop long-form narratives into becoming a published author. I was thankful to have the support and instruction of a Medill professor who had both the subject-matter expertise and the experience of writing multiple books, and I was therefore able to graduate with a draft book proposal.

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