As you think back on your time at Sacred Heart Academy, what would you say are your fondest memories?
Do they still have the juke box in the cafeteria?! My best memories are in that lunchroom with my big, fun group of friends – playing Rolling Stones and The Who on that juke box. We were a group that had a variety of interests – National Honor Society students, athletes, etc. – but we just had such a great time with each other and are still in touch today.
Which teachers or administrators had the greatest impact on you at SHA, and why?
Mr. Gallagher was one of the teachers who had the biggest impact on me. I remember he asked me to help him with a project because I did calligraphy, and he wanted to create placards around the his classroom, and one (that he placed above the clock) sticks with me. It said “Know Thyself”. Mr. Gallagher wanted to really get to know who his students were, what they were about and what they thought. He helped students figure out who they wanted to be and that quality made him such a special teacher. He taught me that without a true north or purpose, you are lost. Knowing what that is, is so important in high school.
You have a strong SHA family legacy with your mother, sisters, nieces and more, having attended or attending SHA. What is it about the Ursuline education that drew your family to Sacred Heart?
My parents saw the importance of a values-based education and the Ursuline education fit with their values. They too benefitted from a values-based education – my father, grandfather and great-grandfather all graduated from St. Xavier, and my father’s mother also attended Sacred Heart.
In what ways did your SHA (Catholic) education prepare you for college, graduate school & life beyond your formal education years?
For me, the experience during high school was all about the community and the friendships, but it also opened my eyes to the challenges that women face in our society.
I remember learning in Mr. Lawler’s class about wage disparity between women and men and there was a discussion about women earning $.60 on the dollar compared with men. I was outraged! How could this be? I had grown so accustomed to seeing women in leadership positions – students and faculty – at Sacred Heart, and I was truly stunned that this was a fact of life. It prepared me for the reality of the world beyond my time beyond Sacred Heart.
What advice would you give you your teenage-self, attending Sacred Heart? What words of encouragement may you give you a young woman at SHA in 2019 about the world we live in, and how they can make a positive impact?
Surround yourself with people who share your values. Don’t get caught up in the “small talk” or gossip. High school is full of trifling setbacks and petty disagreements and they are a big deal at the time! But set goals and think big; try not to get caught up in the disappointments in life. Those never go away. If you are working toward something – whether you get there or not – have direction and a path that you are heading towards and it’ll help you to not get caught up in the chatter of the day.
In your career, you’ve likely had the opportunity to interview some fascinating individuals – do you have a favorite story or interview that you’ve worked on?
Here is why I do what I do. The world is full of tragic and empowering stories. My goal as a journalist is to shine a spotlight on what is wrong with the world by trying to show the changemakers who are trying to change a particular issue being covered. My motto as a journalist is to outrage – and then inspire. It’s a powerful combination because you can’t inspire people until you show them what is wrong with the world. There are still so many problems in the world – intractable poverty, a wage system where people cannot pay their bills. Around the world there is great division between haves and have-nots.
About five years ago I traveled to Guatemala and did a story about a female coffee farmer - Miguelina - who was on the verge of going out of business because the commodity price for coffee had become so low. She was able to tap into direct importers in the U.S. and elsewhere, to begin growing specialty coffee and importing it directly. When she began doing this, her employees could put their children through school, and she was able to support that school, too. She could do this because she turned the business model on its head. Instead of selling beans to the commodity market where she was essentially losing money, she found a way out and it enabled her to help provide a better life for her employees, and the greater community. It’s an inspiring story, but also a good example of how our consumer choices are often political and can have great impact in one direction or another.
I also cover other stories that are more stories “du jour” – breaking news, political issues, etc. – but the big stories I work on are generally of that “outrage and inspire” type.
I made a conscientious decision to focus on food & health stories (after having covered politics in the past), because food is an awesome lens to cover given that we all eat! I like stories that provide actionable opportunities to help people become better citizens. I like news you can use that can help people become part of the solution.
I have great pride in being able to cover stories that focus on people in the world working to make positive change; I think that the exposure at Sacred Heart to the work that the Ursuline's did around the world and in our community definitely influenced the work that I do today.
You graduated from SHA in 1986 – do you remember what the major news stories were during your senior year at SHA?
The Challenger disaster. We stopped class, and turned on the TV to watch the coverage, but I remember Sister Louise Marie came on the PA and we said prayers as a school. I’ll never forget it.
Is there a special place you’ve visited or a culture you were exposed to through your career, that captivated you or made you want to go back?
I travel a lot and I have wanderlust! I have been to China, Central America, and many other places for work. It’s not so much a place, as it is a type of person that I am attracted to in my travels…because no matter where you go, there’s a “Miguelina,” and people who are doing good, important work. I can’t say that there is a place that has captivated me, but it’s really more that my world view has been influenced to see that no matter what tensions or disputes are happening in the world, there is good happening in all corners of the world. We are all more alike than we know. As a journalist, I immerse myself in the culture and community and when you travel enough, you come home with the understanding that there are people everywhere struggling with the same challenges you are, and many people working to make the world a better place.
What is your “happy place”? Home? Vacation spot? Meditation?
My happy place is more of a mental state of mind than a “place." I do a lot of yoga, meditation, deep breathing to stay centered. I am Type A so it’s essential for me to have quiet time to find clarity. Life is all about finding the balance between pleasure and purpose. When you are goal-driven, as I am, you spend a lot of time in the “purpose” place. There’s never a time at home when I’m not falling asleep with a script in my lap. I have to pull myself away from that at times, to be present with my family and be in the moment.
When working on a story, what is your process when it comes to an interview?
I very rarely have a list of questions prepared, but I do prepare a lot for interviews by doing the research ahead of time. From there, the questions flow quite easily. The process of writing the story itself can be the more difficult piece to work through. My main goal in an interview is having the subject make the audience care about what they have to say and understand why they are doing what they are doing.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
I do something different every day. I get to dive into other people’s worlds and tell others about it, then dive into something new. I am catching people at these pivotal moments in their lives and I get to tell their stories!
What does the word “leadership” mean to you?
I live my values and that to me, is a form of leadership. My idea of leadership is more on the “quiet leadership” side of things; paying attention to the people in our community and beyond, who are doing good things.