Office Hours: Kaylah Jackson


Kaylah Jackson @Kaylahchanel

Journalism M.S. Student at Northwestern University

B.A. in English from Florida State University


What inspired you to attend grad school?

I didn’t decide I wanted to get into journalism until my junior year of undergrad and I knew I wanted some type of secondary degree because the job market was so competitive. I wanted to attend a graduate journalism program because I didn’t feel confident in my writing abilities after leaving Florida State.


Tell me about your proudest grad school moment. Why was it special for you?

I had the opportunity to report on The Hill in Washington D.C., during my last quarter and I covered my first story about the Department of Defense. I was proud both for the sheer fact that I navigated my way to the a hearing room in The Capitol without getting lost, but, I also was proud of my ability to attend such an important conference and turn my story around within a few hours. In that moment, I finally felt like a journalist, and all the training that I had received came together at once.


What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten while in grad school?

Use your support system. My family and friends were extremely supportive during my entire grad school experience, whether it was me needing to vent or needing a couple extra dollars to get through the week. Having the chance to talk to people outside of my cohort also gave me an opportunity to share my learning experience with family members and tell them about grad school, which was extremely important to me being a first generation student.


If you had to describe your Black grad experience with one song, which one would it be, and why?

“But God” x Issac Carree and James Fortune. Faith is the main reason for my ability to get through grad school in spite of every trial that persisted while I completed my program.


What has been your biggest obstacle in grad school? What strategies have you used to try to overcome it?

Comparison was a big thief of my joy in grad school. I consistently struggled with not feeling to par with what the rest of my cohort was doing, worry about who was getting clips in a certain publication, who had mentors, even who knew what they wanted to do after graduation.I tried to reach out to fellow students and ask them for advice because I admired the work they were doing. It helped me to find my own lane and use inspiration from classmates to really dig into learning what I did well and what I could do better.


What has this experience (pursuing a graduate degree) taught you about yourself?

There is absolutely nothing that I can’t accomplish.


If you could go back to the first day of grad school, what advice would you give to yourself? Why?

Take each day, one step at a time and make time for yourself because it gets increasingly harder. The farther along in my program, that more challenging the coursework became and I wasn’t necessarily surprised but I was so overwhelmed I often was prepared to have an outlet to relax and deal with the stress I was experiencing.


How do you think your identities have informed your graduate experience?

Being a first-gen student I think was a larger part of my graduate experience, at times, it felt more prominent than my identity as a black women. I went  through undergrad without a guide to really give me first-hand advice about what college was like and grad school became an elevated version of that same experience. Many times, my family was learning along with me. In essence, me earning a secondary degree almost gave my family the opportunity to earn one as well. As a black woman, especially in the field of journalism, the news I read and the stories I tell are always seen through that lens. So I, along with other black women felt the need to be “that student” so that our perspective was raised in the classroom, which was increasingly trying, but necessary for the type of work that I’m in.


How do you intend to use your degree in the future?

To tell people’s stories, in the most honest and ethical way I can.


What’s something that you would tell someone who is interested in pursuing a similar path?

It’s challenging, it’s competitive, and you will constantly get told “no.” People will tell you the industry is dying and you won’t find a job. But, if you love it enough to write as a career, it will repeatedly give you the most rewarding moments of your life.

Follow Kaylah on Twitter: @Kaylahchanel, and Instagram: @Kaylahchanelj