EMILY LOREK '14 (Psychology; Minors in Leadership Studies and Spanish)

First-year student in a graduate program (2014-2015)

at the University of Montana.


POST #6: March 2015

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” –The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

In honor of Dr. Seuss day (March 2nd), I found myself reflecting on one of my favorite quotes. The wise Lorax highlights the importance of passion. For some, finding passion is not a difficult task. Some people found their passion when they were five years old. For others, finding passion is a journey. No matter where you find yourself on your passion journey, there is always something to learn and something to give back. As I invest in my second semester of graduate-level classes, I’ve noticed myself constantly brainstorming where my passions will take me and how I will be able to use those passions for something good.

Like last semester, I have really enjoyed my classes so far! It’s hard to believe we are already beginning Week 6 of the semester! My classes consist of Addiction Studies, Post-Secondary Transitions for Youth with Disabilities, Counseling Forgiveness and Reconciliation, Intercultural Skills, and Applied Theatre for Therapeutic Means. I honestly never thought I would take a theatre class, but I have already learned so much from this course that I can easily apply to my work with at-risk youth during my Peace Corps Service. I’ve learned how theatre can be used as a form of counseling or critical social change. It is a whole area of counseling and social movement that I never considered. My Intercultural Skills class is also interesting and important for my future work because at the conclusion of the course I will gain the knowledge and skills to be a Mental Health Facilitator. The information that I can take away from each course and apply to my Peace Corps Service and beyond already shows, which is very exciting to see as a student!

After I officially accepted my Peace Corps position in Costa Rica for this July, I have since then been working on various tasks and paperwork to prepare for my departure. I updated my resume, applied for a new passport, and started working on the medical clearance requirements. There is a lot of paperwork to go through, but it definitely pays off. As I prepare to live and work full-time in another country for over two years, it is important to go through each step carefully to be sure an extensive service project is a good fit for you in your life at this moment. It’s a long process, but more than anything, it’s an exciting process. Education and service have been my passion for a long time, and the opportunity to combine my two passions into Peace Corps has been a thrilling journey.

Nobody can tell you what your passion might be someday. Nobody can make that plan for you. Only you can find it and decide how to use it. Once you find it, you have to hold on tight and take that passion everywhere with you in life. Then, you are guaranteed to go far.


POST #5: February 2015

“And is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights—the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation—the right to breathe air as nature provided it—the right of future generations to a healthy existence?”-JFK

Since 1961, the United States Peace Corps has strived to promote global peace and friendship. I’m excited to share that I will officially be a part of that process starting in July 2015! Before I get into the details, let’s back up just a little bit…

As I mentioned in previous posts, I applied for Peace Corps in July, and after several months of patiently (or maybe it was anxiously…) waiting, I received an email in November that my application was being considered for placement in Costa Rica. Then, after a few more months of anxious anticipation, I received an email requesting an interview for the position. Mid-January, over winter break, I had my formal interview with Peace Corps for a Youth in Development position in Costa Rica. The interview lasted a whole two hours over the Internet. It was long and exhausting, but mostly it was exciting to finally take that step forward. After the formal interview, I was expecting to hear about the final decision for placement in March. However, I opened my email on January 27 to find an invitation email attached with a program position description and specific information for my country placement. I was stunned! I wasn’t expecting to hear a word for another month and a half! I eagerly opened the email, and I spent the next couple days reading all the (lengthy) paperwork. Finally, on January 30, 2015, I officially accepted the position.

Come July 6, I will be moving to Costa Rica to work as a Youth in Development Coordinator. I’ll spend the first three months in the capital city of San José. After the first three months of intensive language, technical, safety/security, and cultural training, I will move to my site location. I actually will not find out where specifically I will spend my two years until sometime during Peace Corps Training. But, I do know some of the goals that I will be working on as a Youth in Development Coordinator. I know I will be working directly with a local elementary and high school focusing on prevention programs in areas such as drugs/alcohol, school retention rates, and sexual education. I’m excited to use the semester before me to gain skills that I can apply directly to my future position.

This semester is going to fly by! July really isn’t too far away! I went from not really knowing anything about the status of my application to officially accepting a Peace Corps position in less than a month! I have a lot more paperwork to go through…lots of medical forms and other technical work to complete. I also need to officially start brushing up on my Spanish!  But more than anything, I’m excited about the journey ahead and the opportunity to learn as a global citizen.

My next post I’ll give more of an update on my grad school classes for Spring Semester!


POST #4: December 2014

“What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it.”

Wow, can you believe it? A whole semester already come and gone. Finals and research papers are turned in and completed. I’m already halfway done with my graduate classes! Time sure does fly! I like the quote above because when I notice myself in the trap of hustle and bustle, especially at this point in the year, these words remind me to take a step back and reflect! After experiencing my first semester of grad school, I realize how much I have learned and grown within just a few short months. From moving halfway across the country to taking specialized classes, I have grown to understand myself and my surroundings in more ways that I expected.

This semester I took a multicultural class. Throughout this course, we explored a variety of cultures and identities. We discussed the importance of multicultural humility, in terms of being aware of cultural values and principles that impact a person. We also reflected upon our own culture and how that impacts everything about us, from our daily language to food selection to decision-making. As a future Peace Corps Volunteer, this class was especially helpful. No matter where I am in the world, understanding culture, the worldview of community members, and my own personal bias is especially important to serve effectively. I’m excited to take the skills that I have learned in this class with me when I enter my Peace Corps service.

As far as my Peace Corps application, I’m still waiting for my interview. I should hear from the Peace Corps office anytime between now and March. It’s a waiting game, but also a great opportunity to practice patience. Hopefully more to come on that soon!


POST #3: November 2014

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey

Every person has unique passions that drive them forward. Whatever you decide to do in life, do what excites you. Use those passions; in my opinion, there is no greater strength. For me, using my passion as energy meant continuing my education beyond my four years in college. Graduate school made me dig deeper into my passions and interests. Before joining the program, I knew I was interested in a helping profession and studying human development. Taking classes specifically designed for these interests has increased my knowledge and energy for my chosen field. At the same time, I have the opportunity to practice skills outside of the traditional classroom.  Graduate school is a great option if you are interested in continuing learning about a specific career or gaining knowledge about a topic that energizes you forward. It will push you to learn more about what interests you. It will force you to create an opinion over a controversial issue. You will become educated in a unique area that fits you and your passions perfectly. Specifically for me, my passions have increased in terms of maintaining and exploring positive mental health, issues of multiculturalism, and taking time to understand the multiple and unique experiences people face every day.

McDonough taught me the importance of experiential learning through service. My passion for service has increased through my program as I learn how to prepare myself for Peace Corps. Additionally, even in graduate school, I still have experiential learning incorporated in my classes. My “Sociology of Poverty” class requires ten hours of service, specifically working within the realm of poverty. Continuing service has been really beneficial for me as a new community member. My volunteering site is at the public library. This experience alone has developed new networking connections, as well as an opportunity to learn about a variety of resources available to the public. Service is a great way to get involved in a community and to learn what a community has to offer.

If you are contemplating attending graduate school, consider getting involved in a local organization. Moving to a new city, state, or country can be intimidating. But, finding an outlet to connect with other people can help you quickly integrate into a new setting.


POST #2: October 2014

“When there’s a goal, you feel able to overcome any problems, as there’s future success waiting for you.” – Alfred Adler

My first couple weeks in graduate school have been a learning experience! I love all of my classes. I love my program. I even love the town and the surrounding area. The first few weeks as a graduate student were fairly comfortable in terms of out-of-class work, but all of a sudden this week, I felt the pressure. I felt like a true graduate student! My work load increased, and I had to look to my goals as to what I want to accomplish in each class so that I can keep myself on track. Even with an increased work-load, I felt completely invested in my classes, eager to learn more, which is good news! I felt well prepared by my undergraduate studies to embrace the vigorous path towards a graduate degree. I hand selected my program of study, and I definitely think I am in the right place. It combines my interests of continuing education in human development, while also preparing me for life in the Peace Corps.

I am so excited to be a Master’s International (MI) candidate. As I mentioned in my last post, Master’s International combines a professional degree with international service work through the Peace Corps. For me, my Peace Corps experience will be a long-term internship. Through my two years of service, I will have one main project and several smaller projects on the side. I will learn more about my specific projects when I find out what country I will serve. (Right now, my application is in the “Review” stage, which essentially means it has to go through several layers of Peace Corps administration before I am considered for an interview.) During my internship, I will also have an academic component, which will ultimately translate to my thesis/project required to earn my actual master’s degree once I return to the States.

My area of study in the MI program is Global Youth Development (GYD). Before starting my program, I knew it focused on cross-cultural issues when working with youth and families. Now that I am several weeks into my classes, I have gained a better understanding of what that actually means. My classes consist of Theories and Techniques of Counseling, Lifespan Development, Multicultural Counseling, Sociology of Poverty, and Critical Issues. My Critical Issues class is especially interesting and unique to the GYD program. Essentially, this class is a Peace Corps prep course, in which we talk about what to expect in the Peace Corps, strategies to deal with difficult situations, and ideas for working with at-risk youth. Being an MI student has already helped me gain a global understanding. Based on the vast amount of knowledge I have already gained, I think being an MI student will really help me feel prepared before I invest and transition into the Peace Corps.

In addition to academics, I have also enjoyed exploring the campus community and the city of Missoula! I have joined the triathlon team, which has shown me some really awesome hiking and running trails. I have discovered the Saturday morning farmer’s market, which is absolutely amazing! A lot of great music also comes to Missoula, and I am determined to learn how to do the west coast swing dance! (My dancing abilities are practically zero, but it is a really fun dance to learn!)

Wherever you go, whatever you do, create a vision for yourself. As the opening quote states, future success awaits those who establish a goal. A goal to get from point A to point B: a goal that guides you in direction. Whatever it may be, goals give a sense of inspiration and motivation to get to that desired point.


POST #1: “To go, or not to go, that is the question…”

Piggy-backing off of one of Shakespeare’s famous lines, I often found myself asking this question when I was in the process of deciding to go to grad school. Going to grad school is a big decision. Many students may find that graduate school is not necessary for their career goals, or it may be better to start a program after some practical work experience. Others may find that grad school is best to begin directly after undergrad. Nevertheless, depending on your major and career interests, grad school may very well be in your future. For many graduate students, the decision to go to grad school carries a large amount of unexpected extras, such as financial responsibilities, new independence, and an increase in course work.  The transition from undergrad to grad school isn’t exactly the easiest. But don’t let that scare you! Speaking from experience, it all works out. Change and new responsibilities are exciting! They hold a perfect opportunity to explore new surroundings and to grow, learn, and adapt personally. Here I will share with you a little bit of background about my program and decision-making/transition processes to go to grad school.

In May 2014, I graduated from Marietta College with a BA in Psychology and minors in Leadership Studies and Spanish. I felt very blessed by my undergraduate education and experiences at Marietta. I was a member of the cross country and track teams. I was coordinator for the 2013 EXCEL Workshop. I had participated in a number of service opportunities, and traveled to Nicaragua for an international service trip. I completed an honors thesis in psychology and leadership. Overall, I had an abundance of experiences that I was hoping would get me into either A) graduate school or B) Peace Corps. During my four years as an undergrad, when I thought about my life after Marietta, I tried to figure out which path I wanted to take. I knew I wanted to continue my education in the field of psychology. I also had a passion to continue service work and to travel internationally. After contemplating what to apply for and what to do for a year or more, I found the Master’s International program through the Peace Corps.

Master’s International is designed to combine an advanced education with service. Programs are designed to help Peace Corps Volunteers acquire the skills and education necessary for successful service, in addition to attaining an advanced degree at the same time. Typically, Master’s International students study on campus with a participating school for about a year, volunteer with the Peace Corps for two years, and then return back to their school to finish any remaining course work before receiving their master’s degree. This program was a great solution for my desire to continue my education and travel/serve internationally directly after undergrad. Through the Peace Corps website, I was able to find a program that fit directly with my academic interests.

I chose to study at the University of Montana, where I will pursue my master’s degree in Global Youth Development. The degree offers a cross-cultural education in human and family development through a psychological and counseling perspective. The application process for this degree required separate applications to the University and the Peace Corps. At this point, I am still in the application process for the Peace Corps (stay tuned).

The decision to go to grad school is different for everyone. It takes a lot of planning and embracing new experiences, but my hope is to share with you through my own experiences why grad school was the right path for me. (And hopefully you will one day find the same!)


CONNOR WALTERS '13 (Journalism; Minors in English and Spanish; Teacher Leadership Certificate)

First-year student in the graduate journalism program (2013-2014)

at Northwestern University in Chicago.


POST #9: 12 Months to a Degree

Well, it’s that time of year again: back to school. I’m sure the staff at Marietta is gearing up, and the EXCEL Leaders are anxiously awaiting the newest cohort of scholars. Everyone’s getting ready to go back to school—except me. For the first time in what seems like eons, I will not be starting school at the end of summer. In fact, I’m graduating. August 29th will soon arrive and I will officially have received my master’s in journalism.

This will probably be my last post for the McDonough blog, and I’ll use it as a reflection on the choice to attend graduate school and to do so immediately after leaving Marietta. I feel like a different person. A year in a new, big city changes a man.

So was it worth it? Another year not earning a salary, of taking out big-time student loans, of still having to tell people that, yep, I’m in school. I’ve pondered this question a lot lately. Fortunately, the clear answer for me is: yes.

I have the perspective of looking and applying for jobs now, compared with just a year and a half ago. My horizons are broader. I’m more qualified and more interested in more jobs than I could have predicted when I graduated with my B.A. in journalism. I’ve shot and edited photos and videos, produced a news website from scratch, written long-form articles, reported breaking news stories, and even led a team of students in launching a media product. My network has grown massively, from peers in my program to professors to established professionals. I’ve been exposed to a large media market and a myriad of opportunities that just don’t exist in the mid-Ohio valley. I should add, however, that I am grateful for my experience at Marietta College and wouldn’t change a thing. There are things at that school that you can’t find elsewhere, and I recognize that.

By getting my master’s in journalism straight out of undergrad I have a much higher starting platform for my career. I have a better understanding of the field of journalism and the tools and skills needed to succeed in it. I was still in the school mode, so it was fairly easy to go back for one more year; I was still free from big life obligations like home ownership, having a spouse or kids and just used to the daily schooling grind. J-school isn’t quite like any schooling I’ve ever had, but similar enough that I could make the transition smoothly.

I am awaiting word on a number of jobs in a number of places, and they are all exciting opportunities I’d be grateful to have. Grad school, for me, was the right choice. It’s delivering on everything I hoped for, and then some. It was costly (financially), but I view it as an investment in my career and my future. I’m thrilled with the outcomes, even without knowing the biggest of outcomes yet: the job. It’s worth considering for any graduating student, especially if you feel like there’s more for you to learn, an edge you want to gain or a new direction you want to take.


POST #8: A Defining Quarter

As of this writing, I have just three months remaining in my graduate program, with a little more than a quarter of schooling left.

Third quarter has been fantastic.

For the first five weeks I was one of nine students in a class called "Producing a News Website." We were responsible for conceptualizing and building a website from a minimalistic Wordpress template on a news topic of our choosing. We selected Chicago’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene as our area of focus, and while we rotated roles for each of the four editions of our site, I was tapped as the week’s first managing editor. This was a big role, as I had to make sure our site had all of the things you might not think about: color scheme, logos, About and Information pages, in addition to great multimedia content. However, while I held that title for week one, it was entirely a group effort to make those things happen during that week and the ones that followed. I had the chance to report and present my stories using Scrollkit and videos, in addition to developing a robust social media strategy that helped our fledgling site pick up more than 1,000 views over five days. This class was a lot of fun and helped me realize that I am very interested in so much more than writing.

During the second five weeks of the quarter I am in a class called "Developmental Editing," which focuses on reading and editing magazine features. In addition to writing fake letters to editors and freelance writers, repurposing stories for different magazines and copyediting, we also discuss critically some truly outstanding feature stories. It’s a real joy when my homework involves settling down with some coffee to read and re-read some 10,000-words stories that were reported extensively and written beautifully—it gives my classmates and me a lot to aspire to write like that some day.

For the full duration of the quarter, I have taken two other classes: "Sports Journalism" and "Magazine Writing." My professor for the first class is LZ Granderson, a senior writer at ESPN and freelancer for CNN. Much of the class is discussion about sports reporting and writing, but we have also Skyped with some big-name sports journalists like Wright Thompson, Dave Zirin, Jeff Pearlman and Jay Williams; it’s inspiring to be able to talk with them about their journalism paths and how they wrote some of the great pieces they’ve compiled. Furthermore, our class work for the quarter has involved reporting and featuring a Northwestern University athlete. The athlete I’m covering is on the baseball team, and our reporting has included photo slideshows, video diaries and culminates in a 2,500-word feature. It’s been a very interesting look at reporting and working with a student-athlete who has a busy schedule (it takes me back to undergrad…), but I’ve learned a lot and enjoyed getting to do the work that leads to the story.

In "Magazine Writing," my professor is Chicago magazine’s senior writer Bryan Smith. He brings a wealth of award-winning reporting and storytelling experience to our class, as well as a critical eye for the elements that yield riveting magazine writing. Our class work has focused on scene-setting, description-writing, in-depth reporting and also culminates in a 2,500-word feature. Again, the lessons are intangible really until I am out reporting and writing, so it’s great to have assignments where I can try out the things we discuss in class and a professor who really knows the craft.

This has been a longer post, so I’ll end things here, but I look forward to perhaps a couple more blogs before I graduate in late August, when I finish my fourth quarter innovation project. Stay tuned!


POST #7: Learning By Doing

If I was not aware of this before, I certainly have been clued into the notion that a lot of journalism is learning by doing.

Take this past week as an example.

Last weekend I spent three days covering the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Chicago. I sat in on three separate presentations and panel discussions relating to food growing, engineering and overpopulation issues. I listened to big name experts like Paul Ehrlich, who wrote the 1968 book The Population Bomb, talk about areas of science they are passionate about. I turned four stories in three days, did some web production for our class site and was totally wiped out by the end of it. But I learned so much about the different topics and about my ability to handle reporting in this setting.

Two days later, I trekked down to central Illinois to spend two days at a family-owned and operated organic dairy farm. I was warmly welcomed by the couple that runs the farm, and was put to work for the majority of the experience. I milked cows, fed pigs, prepared animal feed, plowed snow, cleaned up barns and even observed some minor surgical procedures on animals. Throughout my visit I was educated about the advantages and rationale behind raising free-range, organic and non-antibiotic animals, and the policies and procedures that complicate their popular use and distribution. The husband and wife generously hosted me in their home, shared their food and information, and made an impact on my knowledge of these areas of food, science and policy that are becoming hot topics.

Coming up this week, I am the leader of a group moot court project that involves debating about the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights. Working with some students who I did not know before this class reminded me distinctly of my first Make a Difference Day project, and I am confident in our presentation, despite my lack of any legal or debate background. This is the first instance in my grad school term where I have been able to apply leadership lessons from undergrad in a group setting; I feel well prepared for this.

All of this has been going on while I have been covering food science as a reporter for the Medill News Service. I have taken on study stories, features and consumer product alerts, and had to work the phone and email lines to find expert sources to talk with. Additionally, I am learning how to be a magazine editor and design a website using HTML, CSS and PHP. There seem to be new things for me to learn every day, so I definitely feel that I’m getting my money’s worth!

Getting to write this blog gives me the chance to reflect on what I am doing and gaining from this year of amped up journalism education. The lessons and experiences are countless, and I am sure they will continue to be as such during my remaining two quarters.


POST #6: Methods That Matter

In December I finished my first quarter of grad school, a time in which our journalism professors harped on us to build a strong lede, find and emphasize what makes a story newsworthy, and develop photo, audio and video skills. Among insiders, this quarter is known as "Methods."

Embarking now on my second quarter, I can really see how the fundamentals--the methods--that my first-quarter professors grilled us on really make a difference. What's more, I am finding concrete ways that my liberal arts foundation has prepared me for the work that lies ahead. During our introductory class we had to list what sort of science classes we had taken in undergrad. I had as many or more than nearly every other student. Our professor was adamant about how important this background information might become as we report, and I whispered a quiet word of thanks to Drs. Jeitler, Tschunko, Barnas, and Rocky Freeman.

In this quarter the focus is on beat reporting, which we all do from our downtown newsroom three days each week. My beat is food science, a topic I was first introduced to in Dr. Joan Price's Food, Media and Society class as a junior. I anticipate my coverage will include GMOs, food safety policy, flavor labs in Chicago, fast food, modern agriculture and perhaps even food for space. Some of my stories will be localization of national movements or events. Others will be features. Still others will be breaking news. I've already spent several hours developing source ideas that will be able to provide expert opinions or share the latest developments in their industry. Furthermore, in seeking out stories, I've constantly been asking myself: "Is this newsworthy?" Clearly the methods I learned last quarter are becoming second-nature.

My classes outside of beat reporting are called How 21st Century Media Work and Magazine/Interactive Techniques. The first class focuses on the changing world of journalism, from reporting to delivery of information. You mention anything related to what's happening in the digital world of mass communication and we are probably covering it. The second class serves two purposes: to familiarize us with how magazines are written, put together and operate; and to teach us the digital basics behind building a website, including HTML and CSS. By the end of the quarter, www.connordwalters.com will be a fully functional personal website that I plan to use as an online portfolio, of sorts.

On top of my school work I am also freelance writing for Rowing Magazine, which is very exciting. I often pitch story ideas to the editor, who picks the one or two he wants me to cover. Then I do some research, conduct my phone interviews, write, edit, review and send my work off to the magazine. When I finally receive the completed magazine in the mail each month, the sight of my name in print really gets my adrenaline going.

The pace of this program is quick, and by the end of the quarter it will be halfway over. It is starting to hit me that once I am done I can take my career in any number of directions. I am becoming convinced that sharing news and information that matters to people is very important, and I enjoy having the responsibility fall on me to deliver. Often I also find myself thinking about ways to change the industry, develop a new way of doing something, or bringing a new element to a news organization. If I can say one thing about journalism right now, it's that it has plenty of room for students to take it to new places. I'm ready to explore.


POST #5: Cruising Through the Quarter

As I write this post tonight, I am finishing up my sixth week of the first quarter of my program, which means I am already 1/8 of the way through grad school. I have settled in nicely into my classes. I am enjoying the work we are doing and am learning a lot.

Throughout the last three weeks we have had the responsibility of going out to some neighborhoods on the northwest side of the city and covering our beats. Since my beat is sports and recreation, I have previewed the grand opening of a new rowing boathouse, completed a feature on a men’s novice hockey program, and tomorrow will cover a high school football playoff game that includes a team making its first appearance in 21 years.

Working a beat is fun and challenging. It forces you to go out and talk with people, take some risks and race against a deadline. So far, all of the people I have interacted with have been nice and helpful, although some have been difficult to get a hold of. From this I have learned to be polite but persistent as I reach out to sources.

Finding story ideas can be difficult since we are limited to our neighborhoods, but we have learned a great deal about localizing larger stories and how sometimes a good story might fall into one’s lap. One of my roommates was at a local town hall meeting and ended up sitting next to a lady whose house foundation was cracking; a couple of interviews later proved that this was a problem for a number of people on her street and a story was born.

The professors I have are more than willing to help us find stories and push us to find out for ourselves if something will work. They also have been drilling us with in-class exercises to hone our writing skills and prepare us for a wide range of story types.

Although our stories are not published this quarter, all the students in the program can see what each other wrote, helping us to see the work that everyone is doing and support them.

For the next six weeks we are shifting gears somewhat as we learn a lot more about video, audio and photography. As a sign of the changing nature of journalism skills, we will learn how to capture these media using an iPod. This, connected with lessons on various Adobe programs, will advance our skills in what is rapidly becoming a digital field.

The hard work I am putting in and the connections I am making with peers, professors and sources have really helped me to start feeling more comfortable in my journalism shoes. And almost without my noticing it, the quarter is already half over!


POST #4: The First Week!

Wow. A lot took place in my first four days at Medill. I will attempt to keep things brief, but things have really taken off!

Tuesday afternoon was our first class: Editing Methods. This four-hour class meets every Tuesday afternoon to discuss grammar, AP style and the finer points of writing that I know I need to ingrain in myself. We are divided into “sections,” which are four classes of roughly 16 students that also attend our News writing and Multimedia Methods classes together.

In that first class a number of familiar elements were present. These included a grammar and AP style exam, a news quiz and an overview of the many grammar rules that are oft forgotten by many people (yours truly included). I felt fortunate that many of the things we discussed were familiar and they served as good reminders to me. Additionally, the AP style exam and news quiz were measures used by Dr. Joan Price in MASS 207 and MASS 360 while I was at Marietta College.

Wednesday was the first day of our 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. classes for News Writing Methods. Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we follow this schedule, which begins with a lecture from a guest professor or professional. Throughout the week we had lectures covering the basics of our methods classes, how to find story seeds and how to begin understanding our audiences. So far I enjoy these lectures and always have a lot to take away from them.

The remainder of the week in News Writing we discussed story structure, including the inverted pyramid, reviewed how to write effective leads and wrote a crime story. This last part was very similar to the style that Professor Gi Smith used in my Article Writing class during senior year. We were provided with a police report and were able to “phone in” and ask questions of a police official (played by the professor). Although the assignment was a little complex it was nice having some familiarity with this exercise.

On Friday, I received my beat for the quarter—Sports and Recreation—and spent the day with my beat partner researching many areas of this subject. Our section is responsible for reporting about the Northwest side of Chicago and is starting to gel into a cohesive newsroom team. We learned a lot through our research and now have some great story ideas that we will start working on next week.

To conclude the week, our professor encouraged us to get together at a local pub to relax after a long first four days. A couple of the faculty joined us, and it was great to talk with them about their journalism experience, pick their brains and just have casual conversations about journalism.

If I had any doubts about whether this program is right for me, they are certainly gone now. Time for a restful and productive weekend, followed by week two!


POST #3: A New Adventure on the Horizon

It is now two days before I move to Chicago and I could not be more excited.

A lot has happened since I submitted my enrollment deposit in April, from meeting potential roommates, to apartment hunting, filling out financial aid and loan applications, and now preparing to move. Just last week I finally received my course syllabi, schedule and book list. It was a nice reality check about what I am actually about to enter.

Back tracking a little bit, I am about to move into an apartment in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, which is the northernmost part of the city before you arrive at Evanston, which is where main campus is located. I will be living with two other guys in my program who I met and communicated regularly with through Facebook.

When we were admitted, we were also invited to a class Facebook page for us to all meet and interact on; a few postings later we started talking about living together and filled out a mutual survey about our own interests, living habits, lifestyles, etc. Call it your less-extensive grad school freshman roommate questionnaire. Since that point, we all agree to live together and began the housing search…in May, four months before any of us was actually planning on moving.

We quickly found out that no property manager wants to sign out any residence so far in advance, so our search was postponed until early July when we scoured Craigslist, HotPads, places referred to us through Facebook and a wide range of other apartment search databases. Ultimately we found a good one that had just opened up and were the first people to submit all of our paperwork and applications (there was a lot more than I had ever anticipated). We sent a friend to scope it out, who confirmed that it was a good place, and by late July it was a done deal.

From that point on, it’s just like college in that we talked about who was bringing what to furnish our place; however, we did have to discuss who got which bedrooms (they were all different), if we would get cable (no) and other independent rental-related decisions. Things are now ready for me to arrive on Friday.

As I mentioned before, I received a lot of my course information last Friday, and it was a reality check about the rigors and respect of my program. Wednesday through Friday I am in class from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; I have half-days on Monday and Tuesday, but will be spending parts of the “free time” gathering news information, reading newspapers, brushing up on editing and AP style, and maybe sleeping for a few seconds.

My classes in many ways resemble some of those I took at Marietta, but I am reminded that they call first quarter at Medill “Journalism Boot Camp,” so I expect it to be much more rigorous and demanding. I’ll take three “methods” courses (Editing, News writing, and Multimedia) and an Ethics & Law of Journalism course. For that last course, my professor actually wrote our textbook, and for another class I am using the most recent edition of a text I used in Dr. Joan Price’s MASS 207 class; these and a few other books, of course, are in addition to the “AP Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law” that is the lifeblood reference material for any journalist.

Perhaps one of the most exciting and yet intimidating elements of my program are the professors. They are renowned in journalism, media, law and other fields, with Pulitzer Prizes and other recognition to boot. I am thrilled to be around these people who I am sure will teach me tons about the field, but who also have the highest of expectations for me and my peers.

Speaking of high expectations…the “Medill ‘F’” comes to mind.

I had only heard about it as a rumor, but my syllabi confirmed that, yes, certain mistakes in news story assignments will automatically result in a failing grade. Misspell a name or word in a headline, introduce an error into a story, and include numbers or figures that do not add up and expect to receive an ‘F’ as your grade in some classes. This practice, while a little unnerving at first, is important for me to practice my accuracy as a journalist; when I am out on the job after graduation, such mistakes could cost me credibility, readers, or in certain cases, my job.

So a lot has happened and continues to happen as I embark on the journey out to the Windy City. I am already looking forward to meeting my roommates in person, attending our Orientation Day, going to our new graduate student boat cruise dinner (!) and just living in Chicago. My excitement builds with each day.

Yet I think that the thing I am most excited about is actually getting to live my dream, at the ripe age of 22-23. I have hoped for this opportunity since the summer before my senior year of high school and feel very privileged to get to experience Medill, Northwestern, Chicago, etc., after having thought about it and worked towards it for so long. I understand that not all people get such a unique opportunity, especially when they are as young as I am. For that, I look forward to being completely open and engaged with everything that awaits me for the next 10-12 months.

I get to wake up on Friday and live a real dream.


POST #2: From McDonough to Medill (Part Two)

Each school that I had picked had a significant amount of appeal to me. All had sound reputations for their MSJ programs. Notably, Missouri and Kansas were state schools (and in some ways were cheaper), but both were two-year programs, whereas Northwestern was only one. Also, Northwestern’s program holds much more prestige and notoriety, with its laundry list of notable alumni, innovative programs and practices, as well as location in a major American city like Chicago, where opportunities are plentiful. Lastly, Northwestern was the dream school; it had been where I wanted to go for undergrad, so it still had some extra allure.

Applying was an extensive process. The first thing that anyone considering applying to grad school should really do is take the GRE (or whichever standardized test applies to your program of interest). I ended up taking the GRE after the Northwestern application deadline and sat on pins and needles as I wondered if this would hamper my odds at being accepted. So, what are you waiting for? Schedule it now!

The GRE is just one element of the equation. There is no “Common App” for grad schools; each has its own application, its own essays, its own online system that can be finicky to navigate, etc. I familiarized myself with all three applications early and put out feelers to potential letter of recommendation writers. I began taking notes of deadlines (very important!), jotting down essay ideas, ordering transcripts to be sent and budgeting the application fees. For Northwestern I also set up a video interview because I figured it might help my chances.

The struggle in applying for grad school really occurs when you consider that you are also still in school, preparing for finals, doing extracurriculars and trying to enjoy your senior year. Being on top of what I needed to do (for the most part…) helped me complete everything on time.

Fast forward to late January and February when these programs start to send you admissions decisions. It was just like hearing back from undergrad programs: equal parts nerve-wracking and exciting. I was confident about Kansas and Missouri, but it was Medill, which had waitlisted me for undergrad, that I was most anxious about hearing back from.

Friday, February 22nd rolled around. I was already into Kansas. Sitting at dinner with my teammates, a phone call from a number I did not recognize provided me with some of the most exciting news of my life.

“Hello, is Connor that I am speaking with?”

“Hi, yes.” (Look of complete confusion on my face)

“Hi Connor! This is Anne Penway from Medill at Northwestern University. How are you today?”

Excitement starts to build…they don’t call you to tell you that you’ve been rejected, right?

“I’m fine, thank you.” (Nervously shaking)

“Well Connor, I just wanted to call and congratulate you on being admitted to our program for this fall.”

“Wait. Are you serious?”

The rest is history.

After that phone call, I knew where I wanted to go. Still, I visited Northwestern and waited until I received all my financial aid information before making any decision.

I was fortunate enough to be graduating Marietta without any debt, and the cost difference between one year at Northwestern and two years at Kansas and Missouri was comparable. Grad school is not cheap, so this was an important factor in deciding to enroll anywhere.

Within a month or so my deposit was submitted and I attended Medill’s enrollment days so I could meet people and get a better feel for what I would be doing during my four quarters of grad school. It reinforced everything I thought about what would be the best for me and my career.

As I sit a month away from moving to Chicago, I realize what an extensive, expensive and time-consuming process getting to this decision was for me. But I believe that it was entirely worth it, and I am excited for this next stage, just as I would hope to be if I had gone the job route right after graduation.

I believe that it was because I gave myself options and planned ahead that I was able to choose from several options about what I was going to do after graduating from Marietta College. Whatever avenues you are considering pursuing after graduation, I encourage you to take the same steps I did. At times it will be stressful and exhausting, but it will allow you to approach graduation with an eagerness for what is next that will be both rewarding and comforting.

Please stay tuned.


POST #1: From McDonough to Medill (Part One)

As I set out into the less-frequently chartered waters of grad school, Dr. Perruci approached me to blog for McDonough about my experiences in this area. How did I come to choose this post-undergrad option? What was it like applying? Then getting started? Did I feel prepared? How different was it from Marietta?

These are all important questions for any student considering what he or she is doing once they leave the brick mall, the moving bookshelves and close-knit community of Marietta College. Allow me, first, to introduce myself.

My name is Connor Walters and I am a 2013 graduate of “time honored Marietta” with a journalism major, English and Spanish minors and a Teacher Leadership Certificate. My resume of extracurricular undergrad activities included serving as President of Student Senate, coordinating the McDonough EXCEL Workshop, rowing for the Pioneer Navy and writing for the Marcolian. I also had an internship with the H.J. Heinz Company the summer before my senior year, and one with Phillips Exeter Academy immediately after graduation.

In September I am heading to the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University to receive my master’s degree in journalism (MSJ). Enrolling at Medill has been a long-time dream of mine, especially because it consistently ranked as one of the top journalism programs in the country.

A first element of deciding to take this route included understanding my field, what jobs are out there and my preparation for such jobs. Journalism is a rapidly changing field, and it seems that it is more common to hear about news or media publications dropping writers instead of adding them. Although I learned and experienced a lot in my undergrad years, part of me felt as though I would still be facing an uphill battle in finding a job that would suit me.

Naturally, this led me to consider what lessons or skills I would need to learn in order to obtain a job that I wanted to do, or at least one that would help me develop professionally. My knowledge of all elements of digital media was limited, and I also felt as though my interviewing and reporting skills could use some more work. There were two routes to go to try and develop these important skills: a job or grad school.

So, wanting to set myself up to choose a route, I sought out both. And I’ll keep the job portion of things short: I only heard back from one out of the 20 or so that I applied to over winter break of senior year.

Beginning in the summer prior to my senior year I began researching graduate journalism programs after I had spoken with my advisor about them. I exchanged messages with a recent graduate (Alison Matas ’11) who was finishing up her MSJ program at the University of Missouri to find out how she liked her program, what she was learning, how helpful she found it and what sort of prospects she was looking at as she entered the job market. Everything she said was encouraging, so I went forward with my search. Ultimately, I settled on three schools: Missouri, the University of Kansas, and Northwestern University.