Stories

5 Internships + Strategic Courses Prepare Walrath to Spur Change Through Journalism

At Nazareth, Mary Walrath '18 discovered a passion for journalism and social justice — and was able to combine a major, minor, electives, and five internships to prepare her well for making a difference as a journalist.

Mary Walrath

Mary Walrath '18

Early Success

The communication and media major and sociology minor has already been recognized for her work. At the end of junior year, she received two journalism excellence awards from the Society for Professional Journalists D.C. for her newspaper cover story about homelessness. She investigated and wrote the article during a three-month internship at Street Sense, a non-profit newspaper tackling poverty issues in Washington, D.C. Her project started with a tip about a 66-year-old blind man in a wheelchair who was found sleeping on a sidewalk after he was evicted from the community's largest homeless shelter after 15 years. "By digging into what happened, it started to uncover everything underneath," says Walrath.

"(James) Jones is only one of many who has complained about the conditions at CCNV (The Community for Creative Nonviolence)," she wrote in the story honored for Best Non-breaking Coverage. "In a shelter where all staff is comprised of other tenants, there have been a number of allegations: donations being siphoned, bodily harm, and general mistreatment and misconduct." The article analyzed cases filed against the shelter and listed government offices that didn't respond to her inquiries.

At the National Press Club in Washington in June 2017, she accepted her individual honor and a Best Series award for her and two other writers. "It was really cool. It was a moment of being really excited and nervous, and kind of surreal."

Tatooed inspiration

"Growing up, I was always that kid who was too impassioned — or too loud, too upset about things," says Walrath. In high school, she felt a responsibility to make things better and was angry a lot — and annoyed about that. Her English teacher told her: "Don't resent it. Use it to change the world." During college, Walrath had that phrase, "Use it to change the world" tattooed on her left forearm.

After winning the journalism awards, she had a tattoo created on her shoulder that shows part of the prize-winning cover story along with a rose.

By elevating the voices and stories of people who are marginalized, and exposing the flaws in policies or oversight that contribute to the problems, she hopes to prompt change. Walrath likes a quote from artificial intelligence researcher and writer Eliezer Yudkowsky: "You are personally responsible for becoming more ethical than the society you grew up in."

A personalized education

Nazareth doesn't have a major called journalism, but professors — including Leah Stacy in the English and Communication Department, who is a working journalist — guided her to majors, courses, and hands-on experiences that suited her individual interests. "You can create a journalism focus for yourself through your choice of electives and internships," Walrath says.

Walrath says she knows that to compete for jobs against other talented candidates in a creative field, "you need to have that experience as an edge."

What's next

During senior year, Walrath is focused on rounding out her training and experience. She's improving her video skills by working for Nazareth's Media Services department. She's freelancing as a writer to get more published clips. And she's taking web design and photography classes.

She feels confident about her future, whether that's going directly into the workforce or on for a graduate degree first. "It feels like the dream is in reach."

“I’ve never had an internship where I was just getting coffee.”

Real-world Experience in College

"Mary is an excellent example of a student who was ready early in her college career to start building experiences," says Emily Carpenter, executive director of Nazareth's Center for Life's Work. "Through the credit-bearing internship program, she was able to gain practical experience and progress in her degree requirements. These internships also allowed her to develop a stellar resume — that now gets the attention of hiring managers everywhere! — as well as explore and reflect on a wide variety of industries and fields where she could use her skills and talents."

People at Nazareth supported Walrath's hands-on experiences by alerting her about opportunities, providing professional recommendations, financially supporting Walrath to attend the journalism award event, and providing internship courses that set aside time to reflect on what she was learning. During her second and third years of college, Walrath completed two summer-long and three semester-long internships:

  • Friends and Foundation of the Rochester Public Library: She created webpages and social media content to promote a year-long commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.
  • City newspaper: She wrote profiles, covered arts shows, compiled event announcements, and researched and reported on resources for a student survival guide.
  • Washington Internship Program (assigned to Street Sense): Walrath covered breaking news, copy edited, and compiled international stories from the news wire.
  • (585) Magazine: The magazine sent Walrath to write about zip-lining on Bristol Mountain, and she worked on the events calendar.
  • Causewave Community Partners: As a research and communications intern, she worked with Health Link NY to create a workplace toolkit for mental health stigma reduction.

Making it Possible

Nazareth's Annual Fund supports great faculty who mentor and connect students like Walrath, as well as great student experiences.

Learn more about the Annual Fund »