SJMC students embark on life-changing experiences before their senior year.
Take long afternoon naps. Catch up on daytime TV. Go shopping with friends. These are all pretty typical activities for college students on their summer break, right? Not for these SJMC students. They used their summer vacation to embrace career-changing opportunities.
National News Project = Confidence
After years at the Minnesota Daily and internships at the Star Tribune and
MinnPost, Jeff Hargarten got the chance to have his work showcased on the national level through News21, an annual news project out of Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Hargarten was one of 12 students from 26 universities to create "Back Home," a project that explores the tribulations of post-9/11 veterans.
The project began in January 2013 with a weekly video-conferenced seminar led by Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of the Washington Post. Work on story ideas and assignments began immediately.
Due to his strong background in data journalism, Hargarten was assigned to the four-person Veterans Suicide Team and was tasked with gathering veteran suicide data and stories (see the work). "We dove right into the story and started reporting and gathering data," Hargarten said.
When students arrived in Arizona, it was right to work with 10 hours a day spent in the Cronkite School's newsroom for 10 weeks. "We put so much time into this project," Hargarten said.
Hargarten's main objective was a comprehensive database of veteran suicides by state. "This was data that had never been collected at this level," Hargarten said.
Since its publication in early September 2013, the data -- scrollable and searchable by state (see the work) -- has been picked up by reddit and other national news organizations.
On top of gathering the veteran suicide data, Hargarten traveled to Houston to speak with veterans at Camp Hope, a facility for post-traumatic stress disorder recovery, and to Dallas to speak with mothers of veterans who had committed suicide. "They just break down," he said of speaking to the mothers. "The sadness you feel for them is just a fraction of the trauma they feel and what they go through every day. Especially as we deal with a lot of numbers and data, talking to people helps humanize it. It helps you remember that every one of these numbers is a story."
Now that Hargarten is back in Minnesota and set to graduate in May, his experience at News21 has provided a new level of confidence to his writing and reporting. "This project definitely put things in perspective," he said. "Small deadlines used to stress me out and now I know a lot of creative ways to find information and communicate with people and how to find the right people to talk to. I definitely have a new confidence in reporting."
Niche Interest Leads to National Title
Matt Herbert has paired his journalism major with an interesting minor: conservation biology. So the senior, set to graduate in December 2013, had his magazine internship sights set on one place: National Geographic's Traveler magazine, based in Washington, D.C. "I've always had an interest in the outdoors and conservation, so I've always been drawn to National Geographic."
Herbert began looking for summer internships in January 2013 and was drawn to "Nat Geo." A combination of his minor, his digital and video production skills and his work at the Minnesota Daily made him one of six interns chosen.
Herbert found out he got the job in April via email while sitting in publications editing class in Murphy Hall. "The world stopped," he said. "I was so excited but couldn't show it because I was in class!"
Finding out about a summer internship in April meant that Herbert had to move a lot of plans around. "I had other things lined up for the summer, but couldn't turn down National Geographic."
The South Dakota-native found last-minute housing in Washington, D.C. and headed to the East Coast on an Amtrak train in May. "I had only been to D.C. once before and really had to get my bearings," he said of his arrival.
At the magazine, Herbert was put to work as an editorial research and blogging intern for Intelligent Travel, the magazine's travel blog. Herbert wrote about three blog posts a week, including an in-depth post marking the 125th year of National Geographic that highlighted the biggest travels in the organization's history.
"It was a really fast-paced environment," Herbert said. "So I learned a lot about writing high-quality and legitimate articles quickly. My editor was really patient and showed me how to speed up my writing and condense articles while keeping the writing to a high standard."
In many cases, Herbert would be writing about places he'd never been. "It was a challenge," he said of writing about the unknown. "You just really have to find as many sources as possible and do your research. I learned a lot about the research process and making sure facts are correct."
Now a senior, Herbert has brought his experience from Nat Geo back to Murphy Hall. "I definitely have more of a goal in mind of what I want to do," he said. "I'm definitely asking more questions in class. It gives you more confidence, to know that you have clips at a national publication and have seen that operation from the inside."
National Internship Leads to New York
As a sports reporter at the Minnesota Daily and an intern at the Star Tribune, junior Megan Ryan had a lot of clips and a good start to a sports reporting career.
Which is why the Dow Jones News Fund (DJNF) sounded like the perfect opportunity for Ryan. "This was my chance to do something different but still keep a sports focus," she said.
But being accepted to the DJNF is no easy feat. Students must pass a test as part of the application to the prestigious program. If accepted, interns are placed at newspapers around the country.
In December 2012, Ryan received word that she would be spending the following summer as a sports copy editing intern at The Journal News in White Plains, NY.
"I have spent a lot of time doing sports reporting, but never sports copy editing," Ryan said. "Going into the internship, I was excited to learn both sides of sports writing -- the reporting and the editing."
At a workshop in Lincoln, Neb. in late May, Ryan got to meet and train with nine other DJNF sports copy editing interns from around the country. For 10 days straight, Ryan dove headfirst into copy editing training. "It was really intense and I definitely learned a lot," she said of the experience, which also included newspaper editors as guest speakers. "They would teach us everything from ethics to sports reporting to how copy editors can help reporters. It was really helpful. You learn so much you didn't know you were doing wrong!"
On June 1, 2013, Ryan headed to New York to spend the summer in White Plains, about 30 minutes outside of New York City. "There were a lot of unknowns," Ryan said of arriving in the city, subletting from strangers and going without a car. "But I figured it out. You have to sink or swim. I learned a lot about myself and my ability to be independent."
Working Wednesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Ryan was on the sports copy desk, editing stories, writing headlines, pulling photos, writing photo captions and cutting stories for space. Ryan was the only intern in the sports team and worked alongside six sports copy editors and eight news editors.
The internship left Ryan, who is now assistant sports editor at the Daily, a more confident and well-rounded journalist. "I have improved as a writer and my grammar and AP style skills are so much stronger," she said. Ryan also gained a stronger understanding of the "macro level" of journalism. "I saw what it takes to get a good story and when the potential for a good story is missed," she said. "It has allowed me to understand the difference between a front page story and an inside story. It's important to not miss the big picture."
Internship Leads to Job Offer
During his junior year, Ben Fleishman was paired with Liz Gray, senior strategist at OLSON, as his mentor through the SJMC Alumni Society Board's Mentor Program. Little did he know the pairing would set the direction for his early career. "She took me around OLSON and I really got to know a lot of people there," Fleishman said.
So when it came time to apply for OLSON's O-tern program, Fleishman had a leg-up. But that didn't mean the application was easy. "It was daunting," Fleishman said of the initial process, which included answering questions via Twitter and creating a one-second video.
Fleishman's application garnered attention and in March he had a phone interview followed by an in-person interview -- which was a bit unconventional. "They played pranks on me during the interview!" Fleishman said. "It was to test how you handled yourself and if you could keep your composure. I held my own, and they were impressed." Fleishman was offered the job in late April.
As an O-tern, Fleishman worked on brand strategy, which included a lot of research on brands and companies, as well as working with fellow interns on a Discover Boating campaign for the National Marine Manufacturers Association. "That campaign really helped us own something and immerse ourselves in the whole process," Fleishman said. "You're not really selling a product, but a lifestyle, and that was fun."
As the internship progressed, Fleishman was given additional duties and responsibilities and wrote strategy for bigger and bigger clients like Bauer and the Minnesota State Lottery. "You really have to prove yourself once you're in," he said.
Fleishman quickly took his skills into the classroom. "I used to be a follower, but realistically if you want to be successful, you have to tackle things head on and be more of a leader," he said.
Now as Fleishman is set to graduate in December 2013, he's been offered a full-time position with OLSON. And his mentor will continue to be close by. "Liz sits across the hall from me!" Fleishman exclaims. "Her guidance has been so valuable, I'm lucky to have her."
Campaign Leads to NYC Internship
To land an internship at mcgarrybowen in New York City, Connor McCarthy created a campaign about himself, starting with a video that opens with University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler. "There's no doubt Connor McCarthy is the best applicant for this intern job you're going to get," Kaler said. Talk about high endorsement.
McCarthy, now a junior, had been an international marketing intern for Crayola in the summer of 2012 and would go to visit Crayola's agency mcgarrybowen. There he was encouraged to apply for the summer internship program.
For the application, "they have you put together a project that demonstrates why you would be the best fit for the agency," McCarthy said. McCarthy set out to sell himself, creating videos, as well as a Tumblr titled "McCarthy for Intern."
That gained the attention of mcgarrybowen, whose clients include Disney, United Airlines and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. News came in April that McCarthy had gotten the internship.
"I figured this would be a perfect place to [get] a feel for agency life," McCarthy said. And being located in New York City "gave me a chance to test whether I would want to start my career on the East Coast or . . . find a more local agency and stay in Minnesota."
As an account management intern, McCarthy worked on United Airlines' "Flyer-Friendly" campaign and was able to work across traditional, digital and social platforms. McCarthy worked with creative and media teams to build creative rotations for in-airport advertisements, as well as some competitive analysis.
And his work was made public. McCarthy recalls a moment when he saw that there were multiple stories online about United's new campaign. "Seeing the work that I did out in public and all around the Internet made [the work] well worth it."
On top of the United campaign, McCarthy worked with eight fellow interns on developing brand campaigns for Canada Dry and 7UP and presented the work to the global chief strategic officer. "We were able to show off all of our hard work from the summer and the client seemed very pleased with the end result," he said.
"I learned a lot about attention to detail, multi-tasking and patience," McCarthy said of his internship experience. "I've always had employers who stressed that they need someone who is detail oriented. I always took it with a grain of salt until I interned at mcgarrybowen."
Studying Abroad Provides Personal and Cultural Insights
For some, studying abroad helps them see the world and learn about different cultures. For others it helps them focus in on a career path. For SJMC junior Devan Grimsrud, it did both.
During May 2013 Grimsrud traveled to Spain and Morocco with a group of 14 students and SJMC assistant professor Giovanna Dell'Orto to examine the role of journalism on immigration issues in the Mediterranean. "I wanted experience in reporting and to experience different cultures," Grimsrud said.
While in Spain, the students met with journalists from the Associated Press to hear about immigration and how the issue is reported throughout Europe. In Morocco, the students had to be more cautious. "We had to be careful with the questions we asked" Grimsrud said of the atmosphere in the constitutional monarchy.
"It was definitely a culture shock," Grimsrud says of comparing the United States to Spain and Morocco. "In Morocco, the way that women are treated and portrayed is a lot different," she said. "I'm glad I experienced it, but it can be disturbing."
The three-week experience focused on journalism and interviewing skills, but also incorporated art history and the history of Islam and Christianity in Spain. "It was all integrated," Grimsrud said. "It was great to learn about the history of the place we were and why what we're studying was a big deal and why it's changing the world. It made me look at people and the things I see here differently."
On top of exploring the culture, Grimsrud discovered her career ambitions. Students chose a topic related to immigration and had the three-week course to report. Grimsrud explored a story about what the United States is doing to intervene in immigration issues in the Mediterranean, especially the organizations that help people immigrate legally and partner with the U.S. "I was wondering about the reasoning behind the U.S.'s intervention, whether we're trying to stop the immigration or help it happen," she said.
While she enjoyed working on the article, the experience taught Grimsrud that reporting was not for her. "One of the reasons I wanted to go on this trip was because I was debating journalism or strategic communication," she said. "Through this experience, I learned that I don't want to be a reporter, but I'm glad that I experienced it and can carry the skills that I learned with me."