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Making it in the Big Apple

August 30, 2012

Drake Bulldogs from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) are scattered all over New York City working at some of the country’s top magazines. How each graduate got to the big city is different, but one thing is the same—they all have Drake University printed on their resume.

Preparing students for life after Drake starts day one in the magazines program. Professors focus assignments to give students practical experience and clips for their portfolios.

The magazines capstone class is an example of the practical experience the magazines program prides itself on. Senior magazine majors create a publication cover-to-cover for their final project.

“In the magazine capstone we turn it over to the students to figure out what they want to do. It’s like an experimental lab,” says Lori Blachford, the Peggy Fisher and Larry Stelter Chair of Magazine Journalism.

Not only do magazines students graduate with an impressive portfolio but also with valuable alumni connections all across the nation.

“The alumni are dedicated to giving back and willing to help current students,” Blachford says. “It’s a self-perpetuating system.”

Students meet alumni through magazine-sponsored networking and guest speaker events featuring Drake grads. Another way to meet alumni is the annual trip to New York City. Assistant Professor of Journalism Jeffrey Inman coordinates the trip for magazine majors to spend a week connecting with alumni and learning about publications in the Big Apple.

More than 20 SJMC alumni live and work in the magazine industry in New York City. Here’s a look at how Drake helped these graduates get where they are today.

Rachel DeSchepper, web editor at Country Living magazine

After the Portland startup magazine Rachel DeSchepper, JO’06, was working at folded, she headed to New York City.

“I had no job, no apartment,” DeSchepper says. “Only my parents’ promise that a room was waiting for me at home, should I fail. That kept me from being paralyzed with fear that I’d end up homeless and jobless.”

DeSchepper’s job search was challenging. She freelanced to get by and interviewed daily. She finally caught a break and landed a job as the web editor of Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine.

“New York never entered my mind when I was growing up. But after starting at Drake, I realized that working in New York wasn’t only an option, but a viable one,” says DeSchepper.

Now DeSchepper works for Country Living as the web editor.

Her first taste of New York City came as a student, interning for Travel & Leisure.

“Those four months I spent in the city were essentially New York on training wheels,” DeSchepper says.

Pat Prijatel, DeSchepper’s academic advisor, was integral in many of DeSchepper’s career choices.

“I can confidently say that without her, I wouldn’t even be close to where I am today. I still go to Pat for career advice,” DeSchepper says.

DeSchepper’s hands-on learning style helped her feel confident going into interviews.

“I felt better prepared and ahead of other candidates purely because of what I was able to do in the journalism school. I had bylines—good bylines,” DeSchepper says.
Michael McCormick, design director at Martha Stewart Weddings

Michael McCormick, JO’94, understood sweeping the floor after a photo shoot or archiving magazines would help him get where he is today: design director for Martha Stewart Weddings.

“I’m glad I had those experiences,” McCormick says. “I have an appreciation for the full scope of what it takes to produce a magazine.”

One of McCormick’s first post-graduation jobs gave him invaluable experience.

“When I was working at Cincinnati Magazine I was truly in a learning position and paid my dues,” McCormick says. “But in turn I learned about managing people by watching great managers work.”

McCormick was content and not looking for a change when he applied for his current position. He told himself the only job he would move to New York City for was to be the design director of Martha Stewart Weddings.

He got the job.

“So, I guess that was the universe telling me to be careful what you wish for,” McCormick says.

Getting to where McCormick is today takes hard work, an open mind, and an impressive resume. Drake’s practical approach to teaching gave his career a kick-start.

“One of the things I think Drake really excels in is there are professors who have real-world experience,” he says. “The projects felt like tasks you would be hired to create in an actual job.”