Introducing Medill’s latest group of Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship students

Clockwise, from back left: Austin, Olivia, Isabella, Ashley, Wuqiu, Zoey, Star, Louis, Elaine, Danny, Melissa, Alexandra, Isabel, Prerna and Nicki.

Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism welcomed its third group of Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship master’s students in June 2018. With 15 students ranging from fresh-out-of-undergrad to having several years of business, journalism and engineering experience, it’s the largest and most diverse cohort yet.

Hi, I’m Elaine. I’m one of those 15, and I’ll be your guide to share the next few months of our experience.

After a whirlwind first quarter in Chicago learning the fundamentals of local news reporting, media ethics, interactive journalism and the modern journalism industry, we’re in San Francisco to study business models, mobile web app development and design thinking, get real-world experience working at local media and tech companies, and meet with people at the forefront of innovation in the media industry.

In the coming months, we’ll dive into each of our individual stories, and we’ll share our own experiences along the way.

Here’s a bit of who we are and why we’re here:

Alexandra Holterman

Alexandra Holterman

A native of San Mateo, California, Alexandra studied magazine journalism as a Medill undergraduate, joining MIE this fall through the school’s Accelerated Master’s Program. She has interned at Billboard Magazine, Refinery29, the San Mateo Daily Journal and Healthline.

Why I chose MIE: “I’m fascinated by intersection of traditional media with new technology and a rapidly-changing media environment.”

San Francisco internship: Content strategy and product management, Outsell Inc.

My goal: “To live in the area I love (Bay Area!) doing what I love — writing, in any capacity.”

Ashley Austin (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Ashley G. Austin

LinkedIn: @asaustin1

An English major from the University of Michigan, Ashley wrote for The Michigan Daily and interned in the Senate and for Koch Industries before joining Ballard Spahr LLP as a finance project assistant.

Why I chose MIE: “I’m interested in pursuing a career that combines tech skills with my passion for writing.”

San Francisco internship: Content strategy, Rally Health

My goal: “To work in corporate communications or in an editorial capacity at a media organization.”

Austin C. Ryan (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Austin C. Ryan

Instagram: @austinryan9411

Austin graduated magna cum laude with a history degree from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and interned for Congressman Andy Barr. He did social media advertising and marketing for Glick Strategies and Xpats Travel Shanghai.

Why I chose MIE: “I chose MIE because it fit exactly what I wanted to do as a journalist and entrepreneur. I haven’t been wrong so far!”

San Francisco internship: Product research for Ken Doctor (Newsonomics)

My goal: “I would eventually like to create my own media company. I’m using this program to better prepare myself for a successful run at owning a business one day.”

Danny Hwang (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Danny Hwang

Twitter: @DannyHwang1231 | Instagram: danny.boy_movement | LinkedIn: @inhodannyhwang

Danny has always been interested in making and delivering great content. As a Medill undergrad, he immersed himself in the craft of storytelling, founding and hosting the “K-Sound” on-campus radio program and interning at the NPR-affiliated WLRN in Miami. But he wanted to couple these skills with the ability to deliver stories within a dynamic media environment.

Why I chose MIE: “Considering the range of learning opportunities offered by the program, MIE was naturally the next step for me to take.”

San Francisco internship: Content strategy, Zignal Labs

My goal: “I want to be part of a team that creates content that enriches people’s lives. I’m a big music fan, so hopefully I will be able to take the skills I’ve acquired from my Medill education and help tell stories related to music.”

Elaine Ramirez (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Elaine Ramirez

Twitter: @elainegija | LinkedIn: @elaineramirez | Medium: @elainegija

I studied journalism and economics at New York University, where I also studied in London and Ghana. After cofounding an online magazine in Chile, I worked as a journalist in South Korea at a national newspaper, monthly magazine and global digital outlets before returning to the U.S. this year to join MIE. Lately, I’ve specialized in entrepreneurship, startup culture and technology including blockchain.

Why I chose MIE: “After leading three magazines with limited financial success, I knew I had to learn the business and tech skills to operate a digitally savvy media product. I joined MIE because its curriculum has all those components.”

San Francisco internship: Product management, Meedan

My goal: “I hope to keep gaining experience to operate a growing, dynamic media company.”

Isabel Miller-Bottome (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Isabel Miller-Bottome

Twitter: @isabelmb415 | Instagram: @isabelmillerbottome | LinkedIn: @isabelmillerbottome

The MIE specialization first stood out to Isabel for its emphasis on audience engagement, product development, and user research — which are increasingly important for reporters and news organizations today to understand.

She studied literature and creative writing in college, spent two years as a freelance journalist and writer in Paris, and worked as an analyst and client engagement specialist at an advertising technology company in Los Angeles.

Why I chose MIE: “The MIE program was an ideal next step for me, merging my curiosity about technology and innovation with my passion for news and writing. What I love about the MIE program is it prepares students for a variety of different career paths.”

San Francisco internship: Content strategy, BestReviews

My goal: “A dream job of mine would be to report for a news organization based in Paris or London, but I am equally as interested in working in research, product development or content strategy for an exciting media company in the U.S.”

Isabella Jiao (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Isabella Jiao

Twitter: @JiaoYawen | Facebook: @jiaoyawen.isabella | LinkedIn: Isabella (Yawen) Jiao

Isabella has worked in content creation as a multimedia journalist, producing written and video content for news organizations including AJ+ and Al Jazeera’s flagship Asia documentary department, 101 East. She received a College Emmy Award in the short documentary category in 2017, and studied journalism and economics as an undergraduate at Northwestern University before joining MIE.

Why I chose MIE: “I believe it’s important for any content creator to also understand content strategy, product development and audience engagement. This is what MIE can offer. Also, I’m really excited about the opportunity to create our own startups because there can never be too much entrepreneurial spirit in this world!”

San Francisco internship: Content strategy, Wealthfront

My goal: “I’d love to work in content creation or content strategy, or I’d love to work at or build my own startup. I’m always seeking adventures and uncertainties because I believe that’s where excitement and new opportunities lie. Therefore I’d love to leave my options open and see what life has to offer.”

Louis Oh (PHOTO: Olivia Obineme)

Louis Oh

Twitter: @Louis_E_Oh | Instagram: @leohwashere | LinkedIn: @louis-eunsang-oh

Louis cofounded the weekly radio program “K-Sound” and directed NuAsian Magazine as an undergraduate at Medill. He also interned at NeonCRM, Idea Booth LLC and Groove Korea magazine in editorial, marketing and creative and strategy roles.

Why I chose MIE: “Delivering important stories to the eyes, ears, minds and hearts it must reach is the messenger’s burden. And the messengers of our age need tools fit for the times.”

San Francisco internship: Product management, BestReviews

My goal: “My ambition is to incorporate technology, design and storytelling to solve problems, empower communities and enrich organizations.”

Melissa Hovanes (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Melissa Hovanes

LinkedIn: @melissahovanes

After working as a software developer for over five years, Melissa found enrolling at Medill to be a big career shift. But the MIE specialization was an obvious fit. As someone with undergraduate degrees in English, Women’s Studies and Computer Science, she was drawn to MIE’s interdisciplinary nature.

Why I chose MIE: “The MIE specialization will provide me with the necessary experience and coursework to transition to a career within a media organization or startup. The opportunity to study and intern in San Francisco also made this program stand out. With my internship at The Information, I’m excited to have the opportunity to learn about product management within an innovative media startup.”

San Francisco internship: Product management, The Information

My goal: “I hope to combine my interests in human-computer interaction, mobile-responsive design, and agile development, as well as my enthusiasm for storytelling, to build tools to facilitate the creation of interactive stories and data journalism that inspire others to action. Building on my software development experience, I hope to transition to a leadership position on a software team, either as a development or product manager.”

Nicki Kaplan (PHOTO: Olivia Obineme)

Nicki Kaplan

Instagram: @nicolakaplan | Facebook: @nicolarosekaplan | LinkedIn: Nicki Kaplan

Nicki is a multimedia journalist in Medill’s Accelerated Master’s Program, as well as author of children’s book “A Golden Miracle” and former president of Northwestern University’s equestrian team. She has interned for NBC Los Angeles, WGN-TV and Rivet Radio and worked with The Mom Project, Evanston Animal Shelter and Canter Chicago on marketing.

Why I chose MIE: “I greatly enjoyed my journalism and integrated marketing courses during my undergraduate career at Northwestern University. They inspired me to further my education through a program that allows me to combine principles from both fields. I am very excited to build on the foundation of my undergraduate studies by pursuing a master’s in Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship.”

San Francisco internship: Product development, Studiotobe

My goal: “I would like to pursue a career in the realm of marketing, business and/or strategy that allows me to grow as a professional and be near family and loved ones. There is nothing like the satisfaction of being part of a team and helping to further the mission of a great organization (in the media and digital realm!). I also plan to continue to pursue my dream on the side as an author of fiction literature.”

Olivia Obineme (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Olivia Obineme

Twitter: @oliviaobineme

Olivia, a freelance multimedia journalist, reported at 16 News and The Towerlight newspaper while studying mass communication and journalism at Towson University in Baltimore. She writes and produces photo and video for Chicago outlets including Chicago Reader, South Side Weekly and The TRiiBE.

Why I chose MIE: “I’m interested in learning more about the intersection of journalism and innovation, and I think I can gather some additional education and even implement the information I receive while enrolled in this program.”

San Francisco internship: Product management, KQED

My goal: “I want to get back to the newsroom environment, but explore more abstract methods of contributing to storytelling.”

Prerna Sharma (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Prerna Sharma

Linkedin: Prerna Sharma

Prerna earned a bachelor of commerce and master of business administration from the University of Delhi before running her father’s beauty supply manufacturing company. She founded Fluence, a weekly newsletter on business, tech and culture, and led content and strategy at The Designer Labels in Delhi.

With experience in business and management, Prerna wanted to learn about media products and technology.

“Learning about media trends and how these trends are shaping media products is an important process that prepared me for future coursework on building media products in the upcoming quarters,” she says.

Why I chose MIE: “MIE provides an interdisciplinary training at the intersection of media, technology and business. Very exciting work is being done in media and technology. Having prior experience in business and management, I wanted to learn about media products and technology and MIE promises to cover exactly this interest.”

San Francisco internship: Product strategy, Healthline

My goal: “In the long run, I would like to run a media business covering personal finance and careers for women. Content on money and personal finance is rarely targeted at women and does not cover issues that concern them. I think there is a good opportunity in this field. In the short term, I would like to gain experience in product management with respect to media and journalism.”

Ruge (Star) Li (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Ruge (Star) Li

Facebook: Star Li | Instagram: @starli1217 | LinkedIn: Ruge Li

Star has reported in China and Illinois as an assistant director intern for Chongqing City Channel, Shanghai Live News intern at the International Channel Shanghai and news reporter and anchor for U17 News. After studying journalism and public relations as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Star became intrigued by the business side of journalism.

Why I chose MIE: “I was trying to find a master’s program that can answer my questions such as how the media business is working and how it will shift by taking those technology changes into account. MIE touches on those three aspects together.”

San Francisco internship: Product marketing, Healthline

My goal: “Having a degree that intersects business, journalism, and technology, I am hoping to work in product development or marketing in the media/journalism industry.”

Wuqiu Sun (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Wuqiu Sun

Instagram: @Woochoone | Facebook: Wuqiu Sun | LinkedIn: Wuqiu Sun | WeChat: 627674926

Wuqiu graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in film and television from Boston University. She also worked at NBC Universal and CNBC Asia in Singapore, NBC Sports Group on the Golf Channel in Orlando, Florida, and Pumpkin Films in Beijing, China.

Why I joined MIE: “To pivot my career path to technology and marketing roles in the media industry.”

San Francisco internship: Audience and editorial development, Alpha Group, product incubator for Advance Digital

My goal: “To be a media specialist in an international media/tech company.”

Zoey Ren (PHOTO: Jenna Braunstein)

Zoey Ren

LinkedIn: @zhaoqianren | WeChat: Alan_RR0321

Zoey, who studied journalism as an undergraduate at Missouri School of Journalism, is passionate about graphic design and has contributed art to Adzon and the Council for European Studies. She founded OWL Communications Academy to teach Chinese entrepreneurs to communicate effectively and volunteered for the Central Missouri Stop Human Trafficking Coalition.

She is particularly interested in visual communication and curious about how technology can contribute to storytelling and shape the way we consume news and information in the future.

Why I chose MIE: “MIE has been an incredible program, providing instructive resources, internship opportunities, and space for creativity and media innovation, which allows me to bring my interests and skills together and paves a foundation for me to achieve my career in media and technology industry.”

San Francisco internship: Content strategy,

My goal: “It is difficult to picture where I will be in 10 or even five years, because the media landscape has been changing so fast. But one thing I am sure about at this point is that I want to stay in the media and technology industry and continue exploring the opportunities and possibilities of the intersections of these two. In the near future, I’m hoping to work in product development in a media company or content strategy in a tech company.”

Follow our journeys on Medium and Instagram, and email us at

About the MSJ Media Innovation & Entrepreneurship Specialization

Medill website | Video | Sign up for Medill Media Innovation newsletter | Rich Gordon’s guest column (Entrepreneurial Journalism Educators Network)



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