Marginalia, Graduate Blog

A Journalist of All Trades

Danielle Dwyer

Christa Smith outside Harpo Studios. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

Christa Smith outside Harpo Studios. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

What does a young mother, a yoga instructor, a journalist and an assistant television producer all have in common?

Would you believe me if I told you they described one person?

If so, would you believe me if I told you that one person is a current graduate student who completes her degree in December?

Believe it because it’s true. Christa Smith is all of the above and more.

Within less than a year of beginning Columbia College Chicago’s Journalism MA program, Smith has already been hired by Harpo Productions as a production assistant for the OWN television show “Where Are They Now?”

Among the various aspects of her job, Smith will be doing everything from researching guests and creating shoot outlines to pitching ideas for future guests and writing scripts for the show.

How did she find and obtain this position before her final semester of the program?

She used something Columbia prides itself on…connections.

Smith held a production internship at Windy City Live during the spring semester—a position she was recommended for by Jennifer Halperin, internship coordinator of the journalism department, after building a relationship and sharing her goals with her throughout the first semester.

Christa's Windy City Live ID. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

Christa’s Windy City Live ID. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

During her time at Windy City Live, Smith not only showed her work ethic, but also built a similar relationship with the production team—something she said helped push her application along at Harpo Productions.

“I originally applied for this position on Harpo Career’s website, but was referred by one of the producers and the executive producer at Windy City Live,” Smith said. “You can’t be ashamed or shy about what you want in life, because people are more willing to help you than you would suspect.”

Christa with her son Chris at his first birthday party.  Photo Credit: Christa Smith

Christa with her son Chris at his first birthday party. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

While Smith’s keys to success in both Columbia’s program and landing a job before graduation are similar, she said knowing what you want your end goal to be is essential.

“The key to my success in this program is trying to stay focused on the finish line and just simply getting everything done in the most efficient and timely manner,” she said. “The key to my success in landing a job before graduation is knowing what I wanted out of this program and life, and not being afraid to go for it. I voiced what I wanted on several occasions and because of that people were able to help me meet my goals.”

As Smith continues to add to her resume, her various titles—mother, yoga instructor, graduate student, Fox 32 weekend intern and production assistant—are enough to intimidate others and spark the question of, “How?”

Christa Smith at Fox 32 Chicago. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

Christa Smith at Fox 32 Chicago. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

“The way I juggle all my various ‘balls’ in life is by time management and efficiency,” Smith said. “Having a plan helps me stay on track and know what the next step will be.”

By having a plan, staying focused, using her resources and handling everything life has thrown at her, some may say that Smith could be the poster child for the statement, “You can do anything you put your mind to.”

Christa Smith showing her yoga poses. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

Christa Smith showing her yoga poses. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

While Smith said she would agree with the statement, she added that “you have to be willing to make the sacrifices and put in the work that the goal you’ve set requires.”

As Smith reflects on what got her to this point and embarks on the next chapter in her life, she offered some advice for future students and recent grads.

“Ask for help and use your connections,” she said.

Christa with her 1-year-old son Chris. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

Christa with her 1-year-old son Chris. Photo Credit: Christa Smith

A Journalist of All Trades

What does a young mother, a yoga instructor, a journalist and an assistant television producer all have in common? Would you believe me if I told you they described one …

Journalism MA Danielle Dwyer, danielledwyer14@yahoo.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605