Campus Celebrity- Meet Teri Schultz

It’s 9:06 p.m. on a Sunday night in Brussels and Teri Schultz is sitting in her cluttered, dimly lit dining area at the end of a long week. After tucking her children, ages 6 and 10, into bed, she is still trapped in the interviewer persona, a natural instinct for someone with over 30 years of experience.

She’s asking hard-hitting questions about her alma mater – New Mexico State University – and the current state of its Journalism and Mass Communications program, from which she graduated in 1988. She remembers a broadcasting team that travelled the region and won awards, a newscast that molded strong journalistic minds and a newspaper so competitive that being a typesetter – the seemingly vintage profession of creating text on a machine to be transferred to a printing mechanism – came with a sense of pride.

“We were really hardcore journalists in the program back then,” Schultz said. She reminisces over debates with her classmates and the broadcasting basketball intramural team called Dirty Laundry. “It is a different universe from when I was there.”

Schultz profiles the U.S. Army training Afghan police units in 2012

While other alumni might leave college behind post-graduation, Schultz follows the story and forms a strong-headed opinion. “As a department, we need to make students aware of her,” said Hugo Perez, a former classmate and current NMSU journalism professor.

Schultz vibrantly stands her ground, unapologetically states her opinions and relishes in the extremities that surround her current life. The timbre of her voice, fit for live broadcast even as she lounges around in her living space, confidently tells the story of how a shy middle school newspaper editor from Los Lunas now pitches daily stories to NPR and CBS radio as a freelancer based in Belgium – and it wasn’t by sitting around and waiting for the right opportunity.

As a recent top-of-the-class graduate, Schultz did a short stint at a local Las Cruces radio station and took a side job in a bar. In the past she had taken on work at a steakhouse although she was a vegetarian herself.

“I think kids need to hear that today,” Schultz said of her bumpy start. “You take whatever job you can get in the business and you show how good you are. If you’re not on the air, if you don’t have a byline, if people don’t see or hear from you, you don’t exist as a journalist.”

Her willingness to sacrifice the security of a traditional post-graduation job, coupled with a knack for thinking outside the box found Schultz in Helsinki at 22 years old, after getting a call back from Finnish broadcasting company YLE, which had looked at the tapes she submitted all over Europe when in need of a change.

“They didn’t know that I didn’t know what I was doing,” Schultz said of her time there. “I think they didn’t realize what a sheltered existence a New Mexican would have.”

 All of that did not matter when two months after her arrival, the Berlin Wall fell, giving way to an educational experience that would lead to her deciding on a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Helsinki. After eight years in Finland, Schultz moved on, but her passion for international relations remained.

Schultz interviews NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Turkey-Syria border in 2014

Since those days, Schultz has worked for news outlets with different approaches and visions, all while maintaining a high level of journalistic integrity and, contrasting to her opinionated presence, gave only the story and not her own interpretation of it.

“She’s one of those people that even if you’re not on her side politically, you listen to her,” retired NMSU journalism professor Frank Thayer said of Schultz, who’s had freelance stints at CNN and Reuters, and a state department reporter and producer position on Fox News. “She’s reasonable and very much fun to discuss things with.”

This versatility comes in handy today, where her current freelance gigs – NPR and CBS radio, require her to take different approaches on reporting – one more traditional and somber, while the other more energetic. The same versatility is to be seen in her home life, where the single mother always finds a way to cover the story, even with the little ones roaming around. In the past, her children have sat in conferences taking place in the European Parliament.

Schultz’ love of the journalism trade and the unknown has gotten her through the difficulties of the job – the hours away from family, the low wages, the uncertainty of the journalism market as a whole. “I’ve had the most interesting life,” she said, with so much life in her eyes while discussing her adventures, from the beginnings in Finland to her opportunities of travel to Afghanistan when covering the war.

Recently, her 10-year-old asked if she would stop going to Afghanistan. “I said yes, but I didn’t believe it,” Schultz said. Because the one most important recurring theme in her life is following the story. “I’m really a journalist. That’s just what I am,” she insisted.