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Where the Action Is

Alumna Ximena Larkin finds excitement and fulfillment in the heart of Chicago

Things came easy to Ximena Larkin (CMN '09, MA '11) when she was a student at Lyons Township High School in west suburban Brookfield, Ill. “I would test high in high school, but I never did my homework. I did the bare minimum, enough to pass."

Ximena Larkin

People who meet her today find that hard to believe. Founder of her own communications consultancy and a Double Demon with a bachelor's degree in communication and a master's in journalism, Larkin has learned it takes effort to succeed. “When you get to college, you either work, or you don't and get bad grades."

Larkin credits her sister, Isabel Beltran (LAS '07), with her decision to attend DePaul. “Honestly, I came to DePaul because my sister had. The times I had gone to visit her, I really enjoyed the school. liked being in the city."

Larkin majored in communication because it was flexible and because “comms work was just really fascinating to me as interpretation of language, of how people talk." It didn't hurt that her mother, Elizabeth Quan Kiu, was a journalist educated at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México who moved with her children to the Chicago area to work as an associate editor for a Spanish-language magazine. Quan Kiu eventually became editor-in-chief of two Spanish-language publications.

“For my mom to have worked her way up was really fascinating to me," Larkin says. “She was able to guide me, but she never pushed me on this track."

Larkin appreciated the access she had as a DePaul student to working professionals. “Our professors could invite people from the Tribune or CNN or agencies to come in and speak to us. Nothing beats four years of having that access, the professional networking and even being able to navigate the city, understand the dress code, know where to go," she says. “So that's when I decided, 'I'm going to apply to the master's program in journalism.'"

Internships with the Chicago White Sox, iHeartMedia and the Shedd Aquarium helped Larkin broaden her portfolio of skills. When she graduated, the economy was mired in a recession. Sizing up the work environment, Larkin saw that there were opportunities in PR and marketing, and refocused her career path.

As the owner of the five-year-old, Chicago-based C1 Revolution, Larkin has worked with a diverse array of clients, including the Poetry Foundation, the Chicago Marathon and visual artist Hebru Brantley. The Four Seasons in Mexico City also came calling. “They were looking for someone who could understand both sides of the border culturally. I was a bridge, a connector for them, and I'm bilingual," she explains.

She took time away from the business to act as deputy director of communications for Bill Daley in his Chicago mayoral bid. “I wanted to learn from people who had done this before and were knowledgeable on it," she says. Perhaps surprisingly, Larkin has returned to journalism. “I realized what made me really good at PR was the writing I had done early in my career. So I started writing again. I've been published in New York Magazine, Food and Wine, Vice, Cosmo."

Her journalism training has helped her business, too. “It's made me a lot more competitive. I'm able to advise clients about what it takes to shape a story in order to get it published," she says.

Summing up her college experience, she says, “I love DePaul. It was such a transformative time in my life. My best friends came from DePaul. Most of us still live in Lincoln Park, and we look back on our time and are excited about the memories we shared and made here."

Originally published in Conversations (Spring 2020).