School of Journalism to recognize 377 candidates at May graduation ceremony

Sara Parker Pauley, Noah Klein and Katelynn McIlwain

The program will begin at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 13, at Mizzou Arena

Columbia, Mo. (May 2, 2022) — The Missouri School of Journalism will recognize 377 May and August graduates at its 7 p.m. commencement ceremony on Friday, May 13, at Mizzou Arena on the University of Missouri campus. Seating is open, and no tickets are required. Guests can enter the arena for seating at 6 p.m.

Graduate degrees will be awarded to 7 doctoral candidates and 38 master’s students.

Of the 332 undergraduates, 49 percent focused on some aspect of journalism; 51 percent on strategic communication. A total of 59 percent earned Latin honors by achieving at least a 3.5 grade point average.

The top 10 percent of the School’s graduates will be inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a journalism honor society founded at the School of Journalism in 1910. The KTA reception will be held before the graduation ceremony from 3-4 p.m., Friday, May 13, in 88 Gannett Hall, Fisher Auditorium. The 32 new members of Kappa Tau Alpha are:

  • Doctor of Philosophy: Fitria Andayani, Elizabeth Bent, Weilu Zhang
  • Master of Arts: Hannah Gallant, Fernando Alejandro Narro Roman, Isabelle Robles, Madison Stephens, Leanne J. Tippett Mosby
  • Bachelor of Journalism: Jessica Blake, Paulina Crum, Bradley Davis, Kelly Dereuck, Danielle DuClos, Emma Eaton, Laura Evans, Caroline Fellows, Connor Giffin, Mingrui Gong, Andreanna Haritopoulos, Mizuki Kuroiwa, Skylar Laird, Kathryn Lewis, Kexin Li, Beibei Liu, Xinyi Luo, Elizabeth Mahacek, Marie McMullan, Andrew Moore, Elyse Schoenig, Xin Shu, Alexandra Widick, Claire Wilkins
Sara Parker Pauley
Sara Parker Pauley

The alumna speaker will be Sara Parker Pauley, BJ ’87, JD ’93. Pauley serves as the ninth Director of the Missouri Department of Conservation since its formation in 1937.  The Missouri Conservation Commission announced Pauley’s selection effective Nov. 1, 2016.  

A native of Columbia, Pauley received both her law degree and bachelor’s degree in journalism, with an emphasis in magazine, from Mizzou, and did post-graduate studies in Australia as a Rotary Fellow. 

She previously served as Director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from 2010.  She has worked as project manager for D.J. Case & Associates, a natural resources communications firm where she worked with federal and state agencies on policy development, marketing and environmental compliance. She has also served as a deputy director for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources from 2001–2005. She has been an instructor at the University of Missouri’s School of Natural Resources, teaching a course in natural resource policy and administration. She also served as the first female President of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies from 2020-2021.  

Pauley has been an executive committee and board member of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. She was a member of the board of the American National Fish & Wildlife Museum, where she served as director of conservation programs. She has published several articles on wildlife and natural resources management.

Noah Klein
Noah Klein

Pauley began her professional career as a Policy Analyst with the Missouri Department of Conservation from 1993-1996. Over the years, though her career path varied, it has never strayed far from her personal desire to be engaged in the stewardship of Missouri’s natural resources.    

The master of ceremonies will be Noah Klein, who studied journalism with an emphasis in radio-TV news producing. He worked at KOMU-TV during his time as a student, producing and executive producing newscasts and the state’s only televised 2020 gubernatorial debate. In August of 2021 he was hired to work full-time as KOMU-TV’s evening anchor, anchoring the 5, 6, and 10pm newscasts. Originally from Stamford, Connecticut, Noah is excited to return to the east coast after graduation. He has accepted a position at WRAL in Raleigh, North Carolina.  

Katelynn McIlwain
Katelynn McIlwain

The ’Thoughts of the Class’ speaker is Katelynn McIlwain. She studied journalism with an emphasis in arts and culture reporting. While at Mizzou, McIlwain has been a resident advisor-peer learning assistant, an intern at the MU News Bureau and a member of Alpha Omega Campus Ministry. In addition to being a George C. Brooks Scholar, she is a Walter Williams Journalism Scholar, the highest distinction of scholarship in the journalism school. Her writings for Vox Magazine have been submitted to national student journalist competitions, and she recently won the Society of Professional Journalists’ Excellence Award for in-depth reporting. She was the 2021 Korva Coleman Diversity in Journalism Intern at KMUW, public radio for Wichita. In the fall, she will be back on campus as a graduate student in the Missouri School of Journalism researching journalistic branding on social media. She will also be the digital managing editor for Vox Magazine.

Katelynn McIlwain, BJ ’22, ‘Thoughts of the Class’

Good evening, Class of 2022. Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight as we celebrate the end of one of the most formative chapters of our lives. College. 

For many of us, it was one of our first tastes of adulthood. And movies do a great job of portraying college as this glorious, laidback world of fewer rules and a whole lot of freedom. And yes, I’m sure we’ve all had a taste of this rosy world. Some of us more than others. 

But we all know that college also comes with several late nights writing essays that we procrastinate because we’re journalism students, and we can write in our sleep, right? Or hours and hours spent editing videos that make our laptops hot and our brains just as fried. 

Semester after semester, we pushed ourselves and helped each other grow with the Missouri Method, learning what it means to be effective communicators. And each day lugging around equipment and drafting up press releases was so worth it. Because each of those days has brought us here, looking back at four or so years that seemed so long when we first stepped on campus as starry-eyed freshmen. 

And there’s something very special about the journeys we’re embarking on today. Yes, we’re getting our diplomas and turning our tassels just like every other Mizzou graduate this weekend. 

But we’re also about to cash in on the dreams we fostered during our freshman year, when we learned about the importance of journalism and communication in democracy. 

We’re about to start our careers as the storytellers of our time. And before you cringe, because yes, it is certainly cringeworthy to see the words “passionate storyteller” in LinkedIn bios, this role we take on in society is worth celebrating. 

We have the privilege, responsibility and joy of taking this beautiful, messy, world and conveying it through marked-up copy, perfectly exposed images, nat-rich audio postcards, exciting hype videos, thoughtful ad campaigns, hard-hitting Twitter threads, the list goes on. 

No matter what form of media we’re making, we get to create the medium by which all of us, J-School grad or not, understands the world. 

So, may we never forget what we’ve done to earn this role. Whether it was reporting through a pandemic that stripped away a normal world to report about or somehow making it through J2100, which was, arguably, just as grueling, we made it. 

And may we never forget to thank the faculty and staff who patiently taught us every step of the way. And our friends and family who put up with us and our non-negotiable deadlines. 

We’ve already told so many great, important stories. Now, we’re off to tell a whole lot more. And because we’re graduating from the world’s first and best journalism school, we know we’ll do justice to this ever-important task. Thank you.

Sara Parker Pauley, BJ ’87, JD ’93, Alumna Speaker

Good evening, Class of 2022, family, and friends! What an honor to be celebrating with you on this special evening! I’ve been asked to share my story AND some advice to our graduates … in 10 minutes or less! I’m well aware of Shakespeare’s thoughts in this regard: brevity, he said, is the soul of wit. 

I’ll get right to it and start here. I’ve been in your shoes. 35 years ago to be exact. Well, not here in the Mizzou Arena – as it wasn’t yet built – but I have been where you are, feeling the pride of a Mizzou Journalism degree earned and feeling the anticipation of the future. The promise of it, and yet the fear of the unknown and, for sure, the lack of clarity about how I was to engineer it. 

By now, in your academic studies and your training to become professional storytellers albeit truth tellers, you’ve likely come across the works of famous philosopher/academic Joseph Campbell and his thesis that all our stories—across religions, films, books, myths —are really just one. Clearly, we each will have our own details, our own journey, but they often do follow this similar pattern. 

First, there is the main character—or hero, as Campbell puts it—and the hero’s call to adventure. 

Campbell believed – and I agree – that we’re each created to do something special, but we must go in search of what that is, of discovering who we are truly meant to be. So how do we do this?  I’d respond with the words of philosopher Howard Thurman, who said: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

For me it was the outdoors.  Nature. I know that more clearly at this stage in my life. What I knew then was that in nature, I felt alive in a different way— I felt both a sense of adventure and contentment, I felt the allure of the unknown and yet felt completely at home. I had no idea how nature was to be part of my calling or what the future would hold, but I can see now that the connection with nature was a strong one and it captivated me in a way that I couldn’t deny or ignore.  

It’s fun to reflect and remember that when I was in the J-school, I thought how fabulous it would be to use my journalism degree and my storytelling capabilities to write for the Missouri Conservationist magazine. I loved it then and love it even more today! Fast forward three and a half decades, and I get my very own column as the agency’s director. Never could I have imagined that! 

Next Campbell said that the hero will go through many challenges and trials in search of finding one’s true selfYou will be tested, you will question yourself – that’s likely happened even before you’ve left the J-School – and you will be tempted to live someone else’s life or live the comfortable life. But resist! Stay true to your calling, regardless of the temptations to do otherwise, or the judgments that others may render. 

Two quick vignettes here. During my time on campus, I was socially and academically active in many of the typical ways, including playing on the MU women’s tennis team and being in a sorority.  But perhaps I was not your typical athlete or sorority member, whatever that may conjure up in your mind. For example, as some of my sorority sisters would be coming home in the wee hours after an evening socializing, I would often be leaving the sorority house decked out in camouflage clothes to go waterfowl hunting with my boyfriend. My sisters and I would shake our heads as we crossed paths on those occasions, each passing judgment in our own way. 

So, after getting my journalism degree (alongside my dear friend and like-minded sorority sister Professor Jen Rowe), I did seek adventure! I studied abroad, practiced my trade, explored the world, and eventually came back to Law School. Those experiences changed me and deepened my understanding of who I was. By then I thought perhaps I would be an environmental attorney, one who would use my capabilities and trade to defend and protect the natural resources I felt so connected to.  

Life’s experiences also teach us who we are not! I have plenty of these examples. During law school, I tried my hand interning with typical (civil) law firms, practicing traditional types of law. My goodness, that didn’t make me come alive. Quite the contrary. Those days were long, no energy, and very little joy. 

And then I interned one summer with a wildlife law center in New Mexico, and THAT made me come alive. It led to an opportunity to take a semester off from my third year of law school to go to northern Canada and live and learn from members of a Cree tribe who survived off the land by trapping, fishing, and other pursuits. I would graduate late, which deviated from my original plan, but the adventure was mine for the taking. And so I did. New adventures, new opportunities, new perspectives.

Some friends in law school shook their heads at my choice, much like my sorority sisters, and questioned why I didn’t graduate first or try some more traditional paths with my law degree. To this I say: Beware of the temptation to divert from your true path for the safe and secure path, as it will not lead you to the life you were intended for. Campbell says it this way: “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” 

Interestingly enough, years later, several of those law school colleagues came seeking advice after practicing law in the traditional way. They talked of being lost, of feeling as though they were living without purpose, and were in search of what would bring them alive. And several of them did make career and life changes at that point. I’ve done the same throughout my career. It’s never too late to question or change paths.

And yes, I’ve had to forge my path in a male-dominated profession, rise up and believe I could lead organizations as the first female director of MDC in its 85-year history and the first female president of the association of fish and wildlife agencies in its 120-year history. I’ve had to passionately commit to change a legacy organizational culture to embrace more diversity and inclusivity. The path has not always been an easy one, and I didn’t always know what would come next, but I knew I would learn and grow with each new opportunity and challenge. 

Lastly, says Campbell, after the hero has sought adventure, has not only survived life’s trials and tribulations, but has been transformed by them, the hero returns to use his/her calling to the benefit of others, their community and the world. 

Now, more than 30 years into my professional life, I can see so much more clearly. How grateful I am for the opportunities to work in the pursuit of protecting and managing public trust resources: water, air, land and wildlife.  My route has not been linear. I’ve had adventures, misadventures, successes, hard lessons, steps forward, missteps.  I certainly never imagined leading the agency where I started 30 years ago fresh out of school. But I wouldn’t change a thing about the road I’ve taken or the story I’ve been living.  And it’s not lost on me that the skills I learned at this J-School – to tell stories, to connect people to the outdoors, to nature, and to one another through word or image— have served me well throughout my career and hopefully served others in this community and beyond.

You’ll hear lots of advice at this stage from others who have journeyed longer and farther than you. I agree with much of it, such as: Learn to be excellent at your craft, never stop learning, keep your eyes and heart and mind open, and don’t waste energy on the past but learn from it. I’ll add two more pieces of advice to the list of how to journey well: First, be present and intentional each day as they go quickly. And next, surround yourself with trustworthy fellow travelers who will encourage and uplift you, yet challenge and sharpen you. But I’m going to close where I began. Find what makes you come alive and go do that!

So, Class of 2022 … go now, your journey awaits. Go find who you were meant to be and how you were meant to serve this world. The path will be full of challenges, trials, lessons, surprises, and rewards, but it will be your story to live. And it will never happen unless you take that first step toward life and uncertainty.  And then have the courage to take another.  And watch as the light extends just beyond the step you have just taken.  With that, you’ll be on your way to finding your true purpose in this life.  Good luck, graduates, and congratulations. 

Updated: May 17, 2022

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