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An Eye-Opening Experience

Journalism student Nikki Roberts turns her passion for writing into a career

​​​​Nikki Roberts doesn't remember a time when she wasn't writing. The senior journalism major who is minoring in creative writing and professional learning says, “I wrote all the time. I kept journals, and I did really well in my high school English class. I enjoyed writing, but I never thought of it as something that could be an actual career."

Nikki Roberts
Nikki Roberts (Photo by Jay Nelson)

That changed when a classmate said, "Hey, Nikki, I think you're a really great writer, and I think you should think about joining our newspaper staff." Soon, Roberts was writing for the Stampede, the student newspaper at Metea Valley High School in Aurora, Ill.

"That really opened my eyes," Roberts says. "I had so many interests, but I couldn't see myself going into a specific profession. I realized that I could do a lot more with writing than I thought and that it allows me to learn about other things constantly."

Roberts applied to several universities, but DePaul stood out. "I really did fall in love with it," she recalls. "When I visited DePaul, I felt like I could go to school, but I could also have a life here. I could do freelance reporting, have different groups of friends and be involved in this music scene I love."

She is referring to Chicago's punk rock and metal scene, which she has tapped to enrich the DePaul community. "I started a music blog called Locals Only in 2017 because I wanted to interview bands and review shows," she says. "Then I joined Radio DePaul, and I hosted a 'Locals Only' show for two years where I brought in local musicians and talked about Chicago's music scene."

After writing and copyediting for The DePaulia, Roberts decided she wanted to pursue an editor position. Roberts became an associate editor of 14 East, DePaul's award-winning online magazine, a position she still holds. "I've worked with some of the smartest people in our college," she asserts.

Her own smarts earned her several scholarships. She has received DePaul's merit-based Presidential Scholarship for three years, the College of Communication Decade of Excellence Scholarship and the Wilke Family Endowed Scholarship in Communication. The scholarships have helped her decrease her outside work in the music industry to make time to do more reporting and attend journalism conferences.

"I have a little extra padding. I can go to these things, and it's been great," Roberts says.

As Roberts prepares to enter the workforce, she is grateful for the opportunities she has had at DePaul.

"Within the College of Communication and my journalism classes, I truly feel that I have worked with the absolute best professors," she says. "It's just amazing to be taught by people who are experts in their field, like Amy Merrick. She's like, 'Oh yeah, I'm teaching you guys, and I have a deadline at The Wall Street Journal this week.'

"Or when Carol Marin could not come to class because she spent the weekend jumping out of a news van to cover the Chicago Marathon. It's just crazy to me that these professors are active and creating incredible work, yet also taking the time to teach us. That makes me feel very, very lucky."

Originally published in Conversa​tions (Spring 2020).