After graduating from Emporia State in May 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in journalism, Kelsey Ryan, former editor-in-chief of The Bulletin, took a job as the education reporter for The Joplin Globe in Missouri, the same paper she held an internship at two years prior. She also married Kellen Jenkins, former multimedia editor for The Bulletin, that June. Today, she is a business writer for The Wichita Eagle, one of the state’s largest newspaper.
But on May 22, 2011, a massive and damaging tornado swept through Ryan’s future residence, making it a hectic transition into her first, professional job.
“I was coming back from Kansas City from my bachelorette party when I found out about the tornado,” Ryan said. “We asked our friends for canned goods and water and things…we packed and left the next morning.”
Thrust into her new job, Ryan and her fiancée had to frantically search for an apartment. She worked there the week following the tornado before returning to Emporia to prepare for her wedding.
“It was pretty depressing to be in that area the day after it happened, but it was something that when you’re a journalist in a new town, you need to experience the town in the way that everybody else does that lives there,” Ryan said.
As a student at ESU, Ryan was a Bulletin staffer for nearly the entirety of her studies – three and a half years. She started as a staff writer in the second semester of her freshman year and worked her way up to editor-in-chief by her junior year.
“As soon as I started working for The Bulletin, I knew I wanted to get at least a minor in journalism,” Ryan said.
As editor, Ryan was faced with problem of choosing a new printer when the Emporia Gazette shut down its printing press, and the paper switched to the Lawrence Journal World. She also revamped the paper’s website, started social media accounts, hired someone to handle the programming aspect of the website, redesigned the fonts used in the paper and redesigned the logo.
“It basically got a complete makeover as far as the design of the paper,” Ryan said.
In her senior year, The Bulletin won the All-Kansas award, the highest honor given by the Kansas Associated Collegiate Press.
Max McCoy, associate professor of English, faculty adviser for The Bulletin, and one of Ryan’s former instructors, said Ryan was an exceptional researcher, and with her leadership skills, set the tone for her staff and all the staff of The Bulletin that has followed.
“Being the editor… it’s no easy task,” McCoy said. “Everything you do is very public. It’s a very steep curve. Overall, Kelsey did a great job, and I think, like other editors, she probably learned as much from her mistakes as she did from her successes. When people criticize student newspapers, they need to remember that it’s published by students.”
Ryan’s dedication to journalism is also somewhat ironic because she is, in fact, allergic to newsprint ink. On a field trip in the fourth grade, her class visited the local newspaper office. When they reached the printing press, she passed out. She said she still needs to be careful when dealing with ink today, but that doesn’t stop her.
“She certainly demonstrated a talent for journalism and a passion for it as well,” McCoy said.
Ryan said she enjoyed her position with the Globe, but that being three and a half hours away from her family in Topeka was challenging.
“Being in Joplin and hearing people say time after time, ‘We lost our house, but at least we have each other still,’ it was a reminder to me that my family is here in Kansas,” Ryan said.
At the Eagle, Ryan will cover stories on health care and retail on the business end of the paper.
“It’s a whole other area that I’ve never covered before,” Ryan said. “When it comes down to it, the basic skills are still the same…the subject matter is new, so I’m having to research that. I’m also going to have to do extra thinking now in order to do more investigative reporting.”
Ryan said she suggests three things for students who desire a good job after college – get an internship, learn a second language and study abroad. Those experiences set you apart from competitors, she said.
“One of the advantages of ESU is that students develop contacts with their professors,” said Rob Catlett, professor of economics and director of the Center for Economic Education. “Professors can sometimes open doors (and) help students in the internship market. I’m positive that Kelsey’s internship helped because I remember when she came back after that and she was just really excited and pumped up about it…it’s kind of like a pre-employment.”
Catlett also said that he is pleased that ESU has another successful graduate.
Jenkins is currently a videographer for a reality television show with a rural theme, “Tough Grit,” which premiered last week on RFDTV.