Tag Archives: Alumni

Alumni Interview: Katie Heaney

By Maggie Zeisset

Majorkatie_heaneys: Political Science, Hispanic Studies

Graduated: 2009


What were you involved in on campus (Greek life, RSOs, academic work with a professor, etc.)?

Pretty involved! I was a tutor at the Writing Center from the second half of my freshman year until I graduated, and a Spanish language tutor and Political Science Research Assistant for the latter two years. I played on the tennis team sophomore through senior years. I was also a member of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance for sophomore through senior years, and president for the first two years.

How have you used your liberal arts education in your career? What specific skills have been valuable to you?

I think that my writing-focused coursework (no matter the subject) and my work as a writing tutor is probably the most directly helpful in my career, but learning how to do good research, and how to understand and use language, all of that’s helpful too.

Your major isn’t necessarily typical of someone in your career field, how has your major benefited you in your career?

I have to say, my majors don’t really affect my career in any specific way that I’m aware of. My career came more out of something I’ve always been interested in, which is writing. I loved the majors I chose, and I’m sure I would be happy had I ended up working with them more directly, but I don’t think they’re necessarily as important as the skill sets I got just from going to such a good school and working hard in general.

What experiences did you draw from to create your book Never Have I Ever?

Just my real life! I mean, it’s a memoir, so I was just retelling everything as best I could remember it. Several of the friends I made at Wesleyan are my best friends to this day, and play a prominent role in the book, and they helped me both directly (like by remembering little details in certain stories) and indirectly (by being my friends, making memories with me, influencing the way I write) too.

How did this idea come about?

I was contacted by a literary agent after publishing a few things online, and they were really conversational and kind of about both friendship and dating, and I knew that I was in the somewhat unique position of being the age I was then without having really done much/any dating. And I thought I could make that funny.

What was the process like to get your book published?

Much easier than I had any right for it to be. Like I said, I was contacted by my agent, who is wonderful, and I wrote the book during my second year of graduate school (I was getting my master’s degree in public policy), and sold it shortly after I graduated to a really wonderful editor and publisher. It was so unexpected and exciting.

Do you have any advice for students aspiring to write a book and then publish it?

Yes—get online. I sort of think you have to have (or, well, you don’t HAVE to have, but it certainly helps and I don’t know how people sell books without it) Twitter, and maybe a Tumblr, and you have to get some smaller things published on websites if you can. Name recognition is huge, and though I didn’t have much of it when I sold my book, even the little audience I had built by then really helped make a case for me and my book.

You have different types of work that you’re doing (BuzzFeed, author, blogger, etc.); can you talk about the realities of balancing those different types of work? What steps did you take in order to get where you are in your career?

I’ve at various points balanced book writing with internet writing, though right now I’m pretty much just focused on my full-time job at BuzzFeed. I would like to write another book, but it’s definitely hard to write all day every day and then want to go home and write more. It’s tough. I sometimes feel like I have to use my vacations for that. But I know it’s possible to write a book when you’re largely focused on something else, because I did it in grad school.

What would you suggest students get involved in now in order to be successful later in a similar career as yours?

The Writing Center is great I think, whether you’re a tutor there or just making use of the fact that it’s there to help you. I am going to be honest: I read a lot of bad papers when I was there. And Wesleyan is such a great school! But I don’t think students are taught how to write early on enough, or well enough, and it’s possible to get through school without ever getting good at it. But the tutors are there to help, and you can learn a lot from them. Learning to write and communicate is essential for a job like mine.

Can you talk about your typical day at work?

I get to work a little before 10, and usually spend the first hour or so of the day kind of looking around the internet for post ideas or talking them over with coworkers. We bounce a lot of ideas off each other, and we’re organized into little groups, so I spend a lot of time talking to my group about how to make our post ideas better and stronger. I typically publish about one post a day, unless I’m working on something longer, or just stuck. We all have days where we just can’t find ANYTHING. It’s part of the reality of working in a creative field I think.

What is the best and worst thing about your career?

The best part is getting paid to do something I love, which is writing and trying to make people laugh with writing. It’s hard sometimes, and I think it’s a job that can burn you out easily, but finding new ways to do it and be weird and creative makes it continually interesting and fun. And BuzzFeed is a really fun office to be in.

Alumni Interview: Jack Thornburg

by Katherine Serrano

jack-thornburgMajors: Business Marketing, Religion

Graduated: 2010

What was your major(s)/minor(s) while you were at IWU? Did they change throughout your years?

I received a double major in Business (Marketing) and Religion. I didn’t make any changes while I was there – I knew that marketing was a field I would enjoy making a career out of and the religion courses were consistently my favorite at IWU.

Were you a part of any RSO’s or Greek Life?

I was a Sigma Chi and also worked on the Fraternity & Sorority Programming Board.

What on-campus resource(s) helped you excel throughout your years at IWU?

The Hart Career Center was a tremendous help and actually put me in contact with the hiring manager at L2TMedia. Without a doubt, the Career Center is a resource that everyone at IWU should be utilizing very early on. I think people wait to reach out to career advisers until they’re panicked and looking for a job. Start those relationships early – share what classes you enjoy taking, discuss what types of internships might interest you, and ask about graduates that have gone into careers that appeal to you. It’s true that you don’t need to know exactly what you want to do while in college, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if you’re not exploring your options and testing some cool things out along the way!

What is your role as SEO & Social Media Manager? Can you describe the work that you do?

At L2TMedia, we provide digital marketing solutions primarily within the automotive industry. Products include Paid Advertising (PPC), Display Advertising, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Social Media, and Reputation Management. I oversee the strategies and specialists for our SEO, Social Media, and Reputation Management products. As a manager, much of my time is spent keeping up with industry trends, understanding what those trends mean for our clients, and making decisions around how we should adjust our strategies. The digital marketing world is always changing, so it takes a lot of work to ensure that we’re providing the best services possible to our clients.

How has each of your major(s)/minor(s) helped you to this day?

Illinois Wesleyan does a great job of allowing (and encouraging) students to take a variety of classes. Studying religion appealed to me because of the requirement to think critically from another person or culture’s point of view. It’s no secret that much of marketing requires the same skill.

If you were to hire future IWU alumni, what characteristics would you look for in candidates?

At the risk of giving a simplistic answer, I look for candidates who are personable and excited to learn. Most college graduates simply don’t have a ton of experience to pull from – and that’s fine. I think most hiring managers know this, so they look for bright candidates that will be easy to work with (communicate well, know right from wrong) and will walk into the office eager to learn.

If you had the opportunity to make one change from your IWU experience, what would it be?

I still kick myself for not taking computer science courses. The ability to understand how computers and applications work is invaluable in most careers and will only become more important in the future. Whether or not you can code/develop a website from scratch isn’t critical for most professions, but understanding core concepts like how data is collected and how you can modify technology to suit your needs is invaluable across the board. (If you haven’t taken courses at IWU, it’s not too late! A good place to start is codecademy.com.)

What was the best part about attending IWU?

The best part about attending IWU was being able to study religion as well as business. I would encourage all students to take plenty of courses outside of their major. To put it bluntly, I always lean towards hiring entry level candidates with strong liberal arts backgrounds over those that have specialized themselves. So much of business (and agency work, in particular) is being able to think critically outside of your “expertise.” Illinois Wesleyan gives you an awesome opportunity to practice this critical thinking through a variety of courses, so take advantage whenever possible!


More questions for Jack?  The Hart Career Center can put you in contact with him!

Alumni Profile – CSI: Illinois Wesleyan

I once spent my May term in a forensic anthropology class. For three hours a day, I held real human bones – some hundreds of years old – briefly learned how to pick up clues from a crime scene, and eventually could tell you what the bones I spent hours staring at said about the person they once belonged to. By the end of my class, I wasn’t any sort of expert. The most I could do was answer the “Is that a bone or a stick?” question that I asked myself so many times in my adventures through parks as a child. To be honest, I don’t know the first thing about forensic science. But IWU alum, Kevin Latman could probably teach me more than I ever thought went into that field of study. For this FBI employee, CSI is just a day in the life.

Continue reading Alumni Profile – CSI: Illinois Wesleyan

IWU Alumni Profile – Peter Storms’ Balancing Act

Balancing Careers

A lot of times, I’m impressed with myself if I can find a way to simultaneously ride my bike and wave to a friend across campus (it’s harder than it looks!). Unsurprisingly, IWU alum Peter Storms ’95 puts my attempted balancing act to shame. Storms has carved out two careers for himself over the years, one as an IT specialist and one as a musician. I recently interviewed Storms to see how he does it: Continue reading IWU Alumni Profile – Peter Storms’ Balancing Act