One of 30 Under 30
The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has named School of Journalism alumna Elizabeth Jespersen (B.J. ’14), as one of its inaugural "Top 30 Under 30" award recipients. The award honors young industry leaders in all aspects of news media to contribute to the future success of field.
Jespersen—who at 23 is the youngest recipient of the award—is a digital content manager at GateHouse Media in Austin, where she helps journalists and news organizations evolve to a rapidly changing media landscape. Her daily work includes evaluating and training newsrooms on everything from in-depth news reporting to personal branding on social media as a reporter.
We caught up with Jespersen to congratulate her and ask her about her short but successful career following graduation from the Moody College of Communication.
How were you involved in campus activities at UT Austin?
I involved myself in various campus activities, including writing for The Daily Texan, mentoring for the Leadership and Ethics Institute, participating in Communications Council and United Students Against Sweatshops and co-founding an anti-human trafficking student organization. Some of the organizations I stuck with all throughout school, while others I was only active in for a semester. Intentionally trying out different things around campus helped me to meet other students who shared my passions, and finding my niches helped me to feel more invested in my education.
What meaningful professors and classes in Moody College made an impact on you?
I loved my journalism classes because most of them focused on creating projects and actively telling stories, rather than hours of lecture. Some of my favorite classes actually took place outside Moody College, because the multi-disciplinary perspective I gained from them better informed my journalism coursework. I wouldn't have been exposed to those other classes if I hadn't pursued a Bridging Disciplines Program certificate.
What did you learn interning at The Austin Project, CHOICE and the Austin Chronicle?
My internships were probably the most influential part of my time at UT. I interned at both nonprofits and publications because I was passionate about both things, and those various internships helped me to understand what it would mean to be employed in those different sectors. The feedback from my internship supervisors was invaluable to my career because I was able to go into my first position with a better understanding of my strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. That kind of self-awareness is critical in being able to put your best foot forward in your career.
What was your first job after graduation?
My first job after graduation was as a digital assistant and content producer for GateHouse Media, the company I still work for today.
What do you do in your job now?
I very recently moved into a new role, in which I'm looking forward to focusing a lot more on developing and managing the content and promotion strategy for our company's editorial resource site, GateHouseNewsroom.com, as well as continuing to manage our annual editorial contest. In my previous role, I also coordinated the development of our industry best practices program and coached our 300+ newsrooms in implementing the program's expectations.
Who nominated you for the award, why, and how did you find out you won?
My boss, Director of Newsroom Development Carlene Cox, nominated me for the 30 Under 30 award. She was also the one who notified me of the results by sending me a link to the list of selected individuals.
What advice do you have for students to be successful when they graduate from Moody College?
Tune out everybody else. Attending a university like UT is awesome because you're constantly surrounded by a pool of extremely talented, motivated and well-connected peers, and it's inspiring to see all of the amazing places those people end up taking their skills after graduation. It's also too easy to compare yourself and put yourself down if your career path doesn't look like theirs. I find that I'm happiest when I remember that my career is one of the few places in my life where it's OK to be completely selfish – if I'm proud of my work and see a future for myself on my own path, I can consider that just as successful as anything I'm seeing on Facebook or LinkedIn. The other advice I would give is to take initiative. When I look around at what sets apart the successful individuals in my industry from the people who get stuck in the same position and the same responsibilities, the difference is that the successes don't become complacent. They're constantly asking themselves how things can be improved, how projects can be taken to the next level, or how they can make their own positions more interesting. Seek out new projects to push yourself and new opportunities to develop your skillset.