Senior Standouts: Erin Bell ’15

Senior Standouts: Erin Bell ’15
Lucas Fahrer '11

By Lucas Fahrer '11

Erin Bell

Erin Bell took advantage of each opportunity at Doane, and now she's starting a promising journalism career.

Erin Bell ’15 is good at getting answers.

Good student journalists are.

But when it came to looking forward to her new career or looking back on her Doane experience, she realized the best part of her path was the opposite.

She never had the answer for what came next. She just rolled with it.

“That’s always a hard question for me to answer, when people ask me ‘What do I aspire to be?’” Erin said. “When applying for jobs, that was definitely something I was thinking: ‘Well, what kind of job should I take because what job is that going to lead to?’ But I never had the answer to the ultimate place that I wanted to be at, and I don’t know if everyone really does, because things are always changing and things are going to happen that are going to lead you in a different direction. I’ve already learned that in my four years.”

So when Erin prepared for that inevitable question in job interviews, she realized the essence of what she was saying—that she could roll with the punches—was more important.

The ability to cover breaking news stories as a writer, the leadership talents she developed as editor-in-chief of The Doane Owl and the savvy she showed as a Scripps Howard Foundation intern in Washington, D.C., prepared her for what came next.

It paid off when she interviewed.

Before graduation, Erin secured the first job of her burgeoning journalism career, becoming an education, breaking news and multimedia reporter for the Norfolk Daily News.

“With this interview, it was so much about my experience and I was definitely able to draw not only from my Doane experience, but my internship experience,” Erin said. “It’s always great to give examples about how you can handle situations, and I definitely feel like, because of my experiences, I was prepared to answer those questions because I had those experiences to back it up and that taught me lessons that have prepared me for a job.”

Erin grew up just south of the Nebraska panhandle in Julesburg, Colorado, with intentions of becoming an English major and following in her brother’s footsteps by seeking a liberal arts education.

“After watching his experience, I definitely wanted to go to a liberal arts school,” Erin said. “I liked the close-knit environment, and even just watching the recruiting process for him, it just appeared that liberal arts schools were more invested in their students.”

While her brother chose Hastings College, she chose Doane to “go somewhere different.” In her first year, at the behest of her English advisor, she enrolled in a journalism class: Basic Newswriting and Reporting with David Swartzlander, associate professor of practice in journalism.

Writing for The Owl in that class was the foothold she needed to begin her climb toward a career path. The attention and mentoring she received from Swartzlander and Dr. Lee Thomas sparked her growth as a reporter. Erin said her “story conferences,” where students meet with faculty to evaluate their reporting process, was pivotal.

“A strong foundation was laid for me because of the one-on-one interactions with professors,” she said. “I wouldn’t have seen the areas that I needed to improve in or felt encouraged to do so if I hadn’t had that experience. … I think that’s a really great thing that our journalism department does.”

Opportunities to grow were abundant: Editing and writing for 1014 Magazine. Operating a camera for DCTV’s broadcasts. Producing story packages for 91.9 FM KDNE. Writing front-page stories for The Owl. Managing Doane Student Media's news website. Becoming a leader in the department and editor-in-chief for two years.

Taking her learning off campus only confirmed her progress. Trips to the National College Media Association conferences in New Orleans (2013) and Philadelphia (2014) were as inspiring as they were validating.

“Working for student media is difficult and it can be taxing, so those kind of trips to rejuvenate you and make you see that there is a purpose behind what you’re doing is great,” Bell said. “You get to interact with other student journalists. Coming from a small school, you can always get a little intimidated, but when we’ve gone there, another thing that I’ve noticed is that Doane really stacks up. I’ve never felt inferior to the other students.”

That was apparent last summer when she landed her prestigious internship in Washington, which she’d learned about on a journalism trip to the 2012 Presidential Inauguration. A visit to their office swayed her to apply.

“One of the interns said you actually get hands on experience there: ‘If you’re getting coffee for someone, you’re getting it for yourself,’” Bell recalled. “It wasn’t an internship where you shadowed someone or watched as people did the real work.”

It was an unforgettable summer covering stories on Capitol Hill, and it confirmed that she wanted a career in journalism.

One thing simply led to the next.

Weeks before her byline began printing in Norfolk, Erin finished her college career. During Doane’s Commencement weekend, she received two of the Class of 2015’s Student Awards, as a Doane Scholar (top eight percent of class’s grade-point average) and one of two Zenon C.R. Hansen Leadership Award.

And now that she’s found her career, she might be on her way to finding that elusive answer.

“I plan to be a journalist and I’ll start a job as that and we’ll see where that leads me, whether that becomes an editor position or whether I stay in the field,” Erin said. “I really don’t know where I’ll end up, but I kind of hope I can start figuring that out in my first job.”

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