As a high school student, the term “entrepreneur” always drew up an image of the Bezos-prototype: white, male computer science major. Essentially, in my head, entrepreneurship represented everything I wasn’t. As a black woman and journalism major, I don’t tick off a single box on that checklist. Now being a part of The Garage, the piece of my identity that makes me feel most like an outsider is weirdly my major. And today, at an event hosted by The Garage, I was confronted again by a feeling of inadequacy.
The event was titled “Building a Bridge to Lasting Success through Emotional Intelligence,”and reeled in a diverse crowd of undergraduate and graduate students, professors and NU staff. To my shock, out of an audience of around 40, I was one of the few non-engineering majors. In the midst of the talk, the speaker Joe Holtgrieve, assistant dean for undergraduate engineering, asked all engineering students to raise their hands — and about 60 percent lifted a hand up, and that was engineering alone. Sitting there, I thought to myself, “Wow. Little high school me was kind of right.”
There’s an interesting sense of self-inflicted exclusion being a journalism major, as entrepreneurship aren’t common themes laced throughout Medill’s curriculum. When we think of journalism, we think of creating articles or podcast — not creating a company or carving a new lane. Past classes have proved that to me.
In Medill’s mandatory freshman classes, entrepreneurship isn’t touched on once, excluding journalism students thinking beyond being photographers writers or so-on for established publications. Winter of freshman year, I took “Journalism 201-2: Multimedia Storytelling,” and on the last day of class, the professor prompted us to start imagining our future. We were each instructed to tear out a sheet of paper, write our name, and answer the question “What organization do you want to write for after college?” The professor started listing off examples to get us started — and I just sat there blankly.
I was stuck staring at the piece of paper, wracking my brain for what company would qualify as my “dream publication.” And for the first time, I starting doubting my decision to be a journalism major. I grew up dreaming about interning at big publications, but I truly couldn’t imagine that being my life and career. And to be honest, that realization scared me. My mind raced to the question, “Well, if I don’t have this dream of writing for an already high and mighty publications, what does that say about me? Is the journalist life not for me?”
But that’s the thing — although my professor was implying the sole route for us journalists is working for an already well-reputable brand, it’s false. Entrepreneurship is an option even if it may not be mounted in the journalist image. In her eyes, a traditional journalist may be the expectation and may be the goal. But it doesn’t have to be my goal, or anyone else’s for that matter.
And with innovation more and more becoming intrinsic to our world with social media, a person of any educational background, any major, any race, any gender can be an entrepreneur. Whenever I go down this path of thinking, I immediately think of “Humans of New York” creator Brandon Stanton. Stanton has created a whole new style of storytelling, and anyone has the potential to do that.
If you have a dream of steering innovation in this field, your dream is valid and pursuable. Whether you’re a journalism major, computer science major, philosophy major or whatever else major, entrepreneurship and innovation can be a piece of your path.
Last spring quarter, I did the start-up program Launch through the Garage, and I will never forget what the student-interviewer told me. In the interview, I felt like a total fraud not being a tech-related or engineering major, and he stopped me in my destructive tracks and told me that start-ups want journalism majors, and any major has a place in entrepreneurship. So, my entrepreneur checklist has changed, and I fall into it.
Cassidy Jackson is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.