Kristy Shaulismade her way from the debutant ball to the Daily Illini features desk and brought her southern drawl with her. This southern belle came to the University of Illinois from Merritt Island, Florida to study journalism; her passion for her career is just as sweet and strong as her accent.
Kristy exemplifies discovering what you love to do and going for it. Journalism wasn’t always her dream, but when she realized it was where her heart lay, there was no stopping her. Kristy took some time to chat with Her Campus Illinois about how to figure out what you want to do and how to actually do it.
HC: Why did you choose to come to the University of Illinois from Florida?
Well, there were a lot of factors, but I think overall it was just general curiosity. I had lived in Florida, in the same small town my entire life, and I felt like there was so much more to the world that I needed to see and learn about. It sounds like a Tom Petty song, but it’s true. I had family ties in Illinois, so it was a good place to go because if I needed it, I did have a close family support network nearby, but I also still had a strong sense of independence.
HC: So what made you choose Journalism? What do you love about it and why did you pursue it?
To be honest, I didn’t always. Early in high school, I wanted to be a forensic toxicologist, but after taking my first chemistry class I decided that wasn’t for me. Soon afterward, I took my first journalism class. I loved English and writing, so with enough instruction, journalism came easily to me. But soon after I realized it wasn’t just a way to communicate, but a way to tell intriguing stories of important and interesting people and events. It’s also one of the rare careers where there is a continuous learning curve. No matter what you’re reporting on, you almost always learn something new, which I think is what has fueled my addiction to the field for so long.
HC: Who is your favorite writer/reporter/news source?
First of all, Katie Couric is a huge inspiration. I really admire her and during a recent trip to New York City I actually got to meet her. She’s really a great pioneer who has done so many different types of work, from feature writing to hard news and everything in between. Anderson Cooper is also a favorite for similar reasons, but I also appreciate his ability to inject humor when needed and appropriate. Christiane Amanpour is amazing, as is Lara Logan. Her work with 60 Minutes has made me want to be a better journalist, as has Amanpour’s dedication to international reporting and affairs. The New York Times is my go-to newspaper, but I firmly believe in reading everything you can get your hands on, from Glamour to The Economist. You never know where you may run into a great work of journalism.
HC: You’ve been very successful at climbing the ranks at the features desk at the DI. What helped you climb that ladder and what advice would you give a freshmen journalist who wants to do the same thing?
First of all, it’s important to know what you want and go after it with all you’ve got. Put in the time and dedication required, but also go above and beyond what you’ve done in the past. Push yourself to go farther because it will not only improve your ability, but also your self-confidence. At the same time, don’t limit yourself to just one thing — that could cause you to miss out on many other equally valuable opportunities. Listen to your editors, be respectful, but also don’t be afraid to fight for your story when necessary. I think overall it’s a huge learning process and you’ll come across you’re own lessons on the way, but believing in yourself and constantly striving to attain your goal will put you ahead of a lot of people in an industry where people don’t always realize the commitment that’s needed.
HC: What are your hopes and dreams after you get your masters in journalism at the University of Alabama?
To be honest, there are a lot of opportunities I’m considering. What originally drew me to the graduate program I’ll be attending — it’s a community journalism program through the University of Alabama — was the ability to learn how journalism in a close-knit community affects its citizenry and how that process can also be applied to a larger, more metropolitan area. Fashion journalism and features writing was the original plan, but since then my interests have just exploded in so many directions that it is hard to pinpoint one area I’d be interested in covering. I also have a huge interest in politics, especially international affairs and relations, so I’m excited to see how my knowledge of journalism can aid and factor into these major, worldwide decisions. Somewhat connected is my interest in law school as well — combine that with my ability to argue and even my family is scared to say too much around me. So I’m not sure exactly where this path will take me, but I know it will be quite an interesting ride.
HC: What advice do you have for girls who are chasing their dreams?
No matter what field you’re in or what interests you, I think it’s important for girls everywhere to know that smart is sexy. I think a lot of women in their teens or early twenties don’t realize how important it is to be aware of the world and the issues in it. Find what you love to learn about and just immerse yourself in it. For me it was easy because my interests are so varied, but in a world with so many expectations for women and the way they are supposed to look and act, the importance of education has a tendency to get lost in the mix. It’s okay to be a “nerd” or “geek” — it’s even cool.