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Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2016 commencement. See the rest here .
Erica Lang will have the final word as student speaker at the convocation ceremony at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on May 10.
It wasn’t long ago that she had a similar task, speaking at her graduation ceremony at Shawnee Mission South High School in Overland Park, Kansas. For Lang, she said her love for journalism started in high school with an elective radio broadcasting class.
Since then, she said it has been a natural progression toward her goal of becoming a reporter — working as a breaking news intern for The Arizona Republic, traveling to Nicaragua for the Cronkite Southwest Borderlands project and reporting on border issues for Cronkite News, the student-produced news division of Arizona PBS.
“Some of my favorite experiences go back to the simplicity of telling a good story,” said Lang, who is graduating with a master’s in mass communication and a bachelor’s in journalism. “It’s the simple moments that have really stood out … noticing the details when you’re speaking with sources and being able to include that into the story, and really just connecting with individuals and telling their story accurately.”
Lang, who recently received the ASU Faculty Women’s Association Distinguished Graduate Student award, plans to channel her experiences at the Cronkite School as a professional borderlands journalist. She said she is spending a year abroad at the Universidad De La Salle Bajio in Mexico to become fully bilingual.
But before she heads to Mexico, Lang has one more graduation speech to write. She sat down with ASU Now to answer some questions about her experiences:
Question: Why did you choose ASU?
Answer: I came on a visit, and I just realized that students really were getting involved right from the start, and that was something that made the Walter Cronkite School stand apart. They weren’t taking two years of theory classes. It was getting students really involved freshman year.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: What I didn’t realize — and this is continuing to evolve — are the ways in which stories are able to be told. So before coming (to ASU), I had a very particular idea of what journalism was, which was a pad and paper. Throughout my academic experience, I’ve really come to realize that there are visual ways to tell stories, and you can really enhance the way stories are told through audio and through video and all of these new platforms that are developing as we speak.
While technology is changing how stories are told, I still do believe at the core of journalism is good reporting. It always goes back to the root of good journalism.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Take advantage of your surroundings — to know that college is a time to explore all of the possibilities available to you and it’s a resource. The piece of advice would be don’t feel like you’re on a very specific track and you can’t try new things. That kind of speaks to how I approached my experience here.
Freshman year I had the broadcast emphasis, but I really wanted to try to take a diverse approach.
Q: What is your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: One of my favorite spots is the First Amendment Forum. From watching “Must See Monday” speakers to enjoying (Cronkite director of student success Mary Cook’s) popcorn during movie night, the forum has been a great place to spend time. It's definitely an important place in the Cronkite School where students can share and learn.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I think I would fund a nonprofit organization to actually solve some of the problems that our society faces. I think an important introduction I had to journalism was my experience in high school. Sometimes there are additional fees associated with elective classes and activities that discourage students from enrolling. Therefore, I would like to create a nonprofit organization that would take care of any costs for students who would like to get involved in their high school's extracurricular activities.