Every spring, we hold our Women’s Cafe Night where we honor awesome women doing awesome things on Temple’s campus. Recognizing these women inspires not only the ladies within our chapter, but outside of our chapter. We have handpicked these women based on their accomplishments, attitudes and bright futures. Some of them you may have seen on our website before, some of them may be new to you…from outstanding internships to on campus leadership roles, it is a privilege to have these women featured on our website!
Carolyn Kitch is a professor of Journalism and the chair of the Journalism department. She got her start in the magazine industry before coming to Temple and has found passion in the history of magazines. We are honored to recognize her at this year’s Women’s Appreciation Night due to her dedication to her students!
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your career:
My career makes sense if you look at it backwards, but in fairness when I was moving forward I had no idea what was going to happen. I went into the magazine business right out of a college and I loved it. I was a newspaper major at Boston University, which is where I received my journalism degree, so I thought I was going to go into newspapers. I really didn’t understand what magazine editing was or even that magazines were a cultural phenomenon until I received an internship with the American Society of Magazine Editors. I went to New York for the summer and had this great experience. I thought it was just going to be another great internship opportunity at McCall’s and then I could figure out what I wanted to do and then they hired me. I worked at old magazines (Good Housekeeping, McCall’s and Reader’s Digest), meaning that they had been around for a long time and also there had been career continuity so my bosses had been there for 20 years or so. They were really generous with me in terms of teaching me how to edit and I had great mentors. I learned that I was best at was putting everything all together and that’s what magazine editors do and it’s not just literally copy editing but also working with the art department and the freelance photographer who has to understand what to take pictures of and the writers and the lawyers. I learned that it was really about editing and shaping the story and there are a lot of parallels between that and teaching.
That’s really interesting. How so?
The parallels are kind of obvious if you think about it. You are trying to show somebody how to think holistically about a story and how you develop it. Even the process of being in the magazine environment was that it was creative and in an office so you have to learn to convey to a group about a particular end result that’s not about you. It’s about the story. It’s about the magazine. Teaching is a lot like that.
How did you make the transition from the magazine industry to academia?
You don’t really know when you go through a career what is going to happen. It is really important to be able to tolerate uncertainty. You don’t know why you make the choices that you do, but very often you make them for a reason and those choices are more related than you think. When I was still working as a magazine editor, I also started teaching as an adjunct, just one course a semester, Magazine Article Writing at Seton Hall University and at NYU. I did this as a way of kind of doing the same kind of skills, but using my brain in a different way for a different purpose. Then I decided that I wanted to do that full time and I did a Masters and a Doctorate after I had been in the business for some time. It was during this time that I started to pursue academic research and my interests really fell in magazine history so I spent a lot of time in archives and researching. I continued to freelance for about five years or so after I left the business, but I fell in love with historical research so that has been the nature of my accomplishments for the past fifteen years.
You are obviously very successful. You’ve worked at national magazines, are the department chair of Journalism, have earned doctorate in Mass Media and Communication and a Women’s Studies Graduate Certificate and have authored multiple books. What are you most proud of?
It’s not one single thing. My proudest accomplishment are the students and I would have said the same thing in the magazine industry as well in regards to my stories. As you move through your career, you will find that the most rewarding thing is to be part of the future of that industry, whether that’s the magazine business or education. My greatest accomplishment is not the first job of my students, it’s the third job. It is the student’s ability to shape the biggest ways that they grew in college. It’s not the skills, it’s something bigger. To make lives and see what it all meant later has been the greatest fulfillment for me professionally. If I am able to help teach a student in a way that what they are going through is about their lives and not just passing the final exam then that’s my definition of success for teaching.
What advice do you have for young women who are looking to succeed in any aspect of their lives?
I was so lucky that in my first five years that I had such great mentors and that they were women. This is really something that people don’t understand about working for women’s magazines; there were very few places in the media industries where you would see women in senior positions and women’s magazines were among them. The top editors at these magazines were all female. So I had these bosses that had twenty or thirty year careers and were very senior and they were females. The fact that I had those roles models, it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it. It’s important to have a sense of and a respect for the women who have come before you, who have paved paths that you are working on. At the same time, your future belongs to you and the future is now. You have not only the freedom, but also the power to chart your own course.