University of Nebraska Journalism - Lani Hanson

by Adrienne Brown

This interview is with Lani Hanson, a journalism major at the University of Nebraska, expecting to graduate in 2017. We recently spoke with her and asked her about her experience within her program and what she's planning to do with her professional future.

What has your experience in the journalism program been like at UNL?
The size of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications provides a small-college feel on a state university campus, which is one of the biggest factors that influenced my decision to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. When I toured campus as a senior in high school, its size intimidated me, but I quickly found a home in Andersen Hall among passionate students and faculty whose interests complemented my own. The classes I've taken thus far in my academic career have been challenging and rewarding, and I can't think of a single class I've taken in the college that wasn't valuable to me. 

Were there other schools you were considering?
I seriously considered a small state school in my home state of Minnesota, and looked at a handful of other small colleges, as well, but as soon as I set foot on the UNL campus, I knew I was where I belonged. One thing that made CoJMC stand out was how quickly freshmen are able to start taking classes in their major with few prerequisites or required general education classes that need to be taken first. Though I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in a communications-related field, I was unsure exactly the direction I wanted to take, so knowing that I'd be immediately placed in classes that would help me figure that out was a big plus for me. Almost all of the classes I took my freshman year were directly related to my major, which helped me to refine my interests and define my path as my academic career progressed. 

What influenced you to pursue a degree in journalism?
I was introduced to journalism through a journalistic writing class I took as a sophomore in high school. I went on to become editor of my high school newspaper, and when it came time for me to start thinking about my next steps in life, I decided journalism would be, at the very least, a good place to start. I was also interested in design and creative fields, so I started my freshman year as a double major in both journalism and advertising and public relations, knowing advertising would provide a creative outlet and opportunity to develop my design skills. I'm thankful that I was able to take the introduction to advertising and public relations class right away my freshman year and concurrently with the introduction to mass media class, because I quickly discovered that my interests and passions were much more journalism-focused. The courses I've taken both inside and outside the journalism department have only confirmed my decision to pursue a major in journalism. 

What is your favorite class so far, and why?
It's difficult to choose just one class, but I think the one I've enjoyed the most so far is Advanced Editing, which was taught by associate professor Sue Burzynski Bullard. I took Sue's beginning editing class as a freshman, and though I didn't need the additional elective credits the advanced editing class provided, I knew the class would both interest and challenge me – and that it did. While the beginning editing class focused more on grammar, spelling, word usage and AP Style, I was excited to learn more about the role of an editor in a newsroom. The advanced editing class introduced me to newsroom responsibilities I'd never really considered before, and the hands-on work we did left me with several work examples I can include in my portfolio. 

What is unique about the nature of Journalism classes?
The size and structure of classes in CoJMC are much different than those I've taken outside the college. Most of the journalism classes I've taken have had fewer than 25 students, which allowed me to develop relationships with my peers and instructors alike much more easily than in large lecture classes I've taken to fulfill general education requirements. Very few of the classes at CoJMC are lecture-based. Most require hands-on work, discussion and collaboration, and many imitate the real world of journalism: forcing students to learn how to work under tight deadline and teaching them the skills they need to succeed in the professional world not through a textbook, but through real experience. 

What have you found to be the best and most effective ways to network with your peers within this major?
There are more than enough active student organizations within the college for students to get involved, and I've found this the best and most effective way to network with my peers, as well as professionals. My interests led me to The Daily Nebraskan, UNL's independent student newspaper, where I currently serve as editor-in-chief (while The Daily Nebraskan isn't directly associated with CoJMC, without the encouragement and support of my peers and professors in the college, I would never have joined the paper to begin with). Because of the collaboration required of students in many of the classes at CoJMC, and the relatively small number of students in the college, I'd say simply attending class is also a great way to get to know other students. 

Have you participated in any internships?
I currently serve as the editor-in-chief of The Daily Nebraskan, UNL's independent student newspaper, where I started as a general assignment news reporter. I also worked as a student government beat reporter and copy editor before assuming the role of online news editor. Especially as editor-in-chief, I've found my current and former professors at CoJMC to be great resources when I need tips or advice, and I'm confident that I can go to them for guidance when needed. 

I work as a student graphic designer with the communications team at CoJMC, which has provided me some basic experience in public relations work. As part of an advanced reporting class I took this summer, I also had the opportunity to work as a summer intern at the Seward County Independent, a small weekly newspaper in Seward, Nebraska. 

Did it give you a helpful picture of what your job will be like upon completing the program? 
The summer internship, especially, was helpful in showing me what journalism looks like at a small weekly paper, which was a new experience for me. Though I'm not sure yet what exactly my job will be upon graduation, I'm thankful for the diverse opportunities the college provided me to explore the many options available in the journalism field. 

What are your future career plans and aspirations?
I'm interested in editing and graphic design, so I can see myself working in either of those facets of journalism. I've also recently discovered an interest in publishing. 

What has been the most challenging aspect of this area of study, and was this something you had originally anticipated?
Deadlines. I anticipated that deadlines would be one of my biggest challenges, but learning to multitask and juggle several different deadlines at once was a challenge I wasn't prepared for. 

What advice would you give someone else trying to break into this field?
Take advantage of every resource available to you, and develop relationships with your professors. 

Is there anything you wish you had known about this major ahead of time before choosing this career path?
I was initially apprehensive about majoring in journalism, because I've never been confident in my reporting skills. I wish I'd have considered the many other facets to the field a little sooner. 

What is the best piece of advice related to your field of study that you have received?
Take advantage of every resource available to you, and develop relationships with your professors. 

Finally, with schooling at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, do you feel confident and prepared to begin your career?
Though I'm unsure where my career will lead me, I'm confident that my education at UNL has prepared me for whatever lies ahead."

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