This afternoon, students and guests attending The Bobby Hawthorne Experience were given the opportunity to have all of their journalistic inspired questions answered by Cheryl Pell, the former director of MIPA among other past positions.
Pell was asked a series of questions to which she answered to the best of her ability, covering topics such as the various careers she has pursued, her experience working at MSU, what has inspired her throughout her life to pursue journalism, and the impact she hopes she has had on others through her work.
Did you feel it was a good time to retire from MSU?
“Yes, let me explain – I officially retired last year in August, but then they still wanted me to teach because they didn’t have anyone in place – so I taught online. I really liked it, but not as much as face-to-face interactions. I studied abroad and that was officially my last activity here.”
What did you learn from being an English teacher?
“I love young people. It gives you hope as an intern to see young people do what they do in and out of the classroom. I really love feeding off of that. I taught for about eleven and a half years of high school english.”
What was the most touching moment you had while travelling abroad in Spain?
“In Barcelona, Antoni Gaudi is a fantastic visionary architect – he’s a wonderful designer and has such vision. I fell in love with his design of the buildings, the parks and also a cathedral- everything he designed just fascinates me.”
What made you retire after 25 years as the director of MIPA?
“Twenty-five years is a long time to do anything, and I thought it was time to get someone more hip than I – which is Jeremy. He’s a very good designer – he was in my design class when he was a student here. I knew that he was very technologically savvy. I just wanted to give someone the chance who was into social media.”
Was there ever a moment in your career when you know you made a difference in a student’s life?
“You don’t always know it when it’s happening while teaching, but when your class is over and someone writes you a note telling you they enjoyed the class, it is just really gratifying. Not that all teachers do this, but some keep in touch with their students. You become their friends, really – it’s not a teacher-student relationship anymore. I know in some of the college level classes I taught, I’d invited some of my past students back to speak. It’s gratifying to know someone once thought you were really great.”
How exactly did you get involved in the programs with journalism at MSU?
“I taught english for eleven and a half years, which means I quit in the middle of the year. It was a real shock, but it’s the best thing I ever did in my life. It was a huge risk and I remember a replacement officer telling me that no one would hire a teacher who quit in the middle of the year, but that just made me mad and motivated me to find something. I got a call from the person who was the director of Michigan International Press Association, and I was told this woman was leaving. Her boss called me and twisted my arm to join and I just decided to take a chance! I did it and in fact started by coming to the workshop. Since then, I’ve never looked back.”
Do you think you’ll stay involved in journalism?
“I’m one of those people that don’t try to impose themselves. I speak in conferences once in awhile, but I don’t really know. I hate to say it, but sometimes I think after you retire you become sort of a has-been.”
Has there ever been a moment when you want to stress a certain lesson of journalism to students?
“I love to teach students how to organize info so that it’s accessible. During the three years after I retired from MIPA, I worked with students to create ipad magazines and I found great joy in that because we found a theme and found stories to write under the that theme. I really loved working with students who were not only writing but designing a digital product.”
What is journalism all about?
“It’s about free democracy, that’s the bottom line. That’s why journalism is so important. A lot of students at the University now want to write about the Kardashians, and that just makes me sick. Real journalism is when you dig and dig and dig to find the right story.”
How would you define a journalist?
“I would define it as a person who seeks answers to questions and provides those answers to their audience and the rest of the population.”
Was there a moment in your career when you knew journalism was the right thing to pursue for you?
“Journalism is such a people-oriented arena, it’s all about talking to people. I even do this with relatives and friends and they ask me why I ask so many questions, and the bottom line is that i’m just curious…I want to know!”
Your favorite quote is said to be one by Maya Angelou where she says – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel” …what is a feeling you are hoping to leave as a legacy?
“Two years from now, you might not remember anything about me except that I was short, I laughed a lot and I’m self conscious, but we all hope people don’t forget us. You return to the place you left and feel like you belong there, but you have new faculty coming in who have no idea who you are, and no one says ‘hi’ as often as they used to; but it’s just a part of life. I hope to I’ve found some successful ways to gauge with people.”