Serena Deutch, a recent grad, uses SolutionsU

to inform her work as a Story Fellow and do research in the areas most important to her, like career preparation

“the stories that stand out the most to me are the ones where I didn’t know there was a problem and the solutions seem so important that I can’t believe that I hadn’t heard about it or someone hadn’t thought of it sooner”

Serena Deutch recently graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in human and organizational development. She is also the Community & Economic Development Story Fellow for the Solutions Journalism Network. Like many students, Serena used SolutionsU in her courses as well as to thoughtfully engage other people in her life.

Nevertheless, she says she recently discovered another way solutions journalism stories can be valuable: in her career prep process.

Job interviews can be stressful, especially for one’s first post-graduation position. Serena says that as she was preparing for interviews with startups in the Philadelphia area, she remembered that she had seen stories in the Solutions Story Tracker about the region. She typed “Philadelphia” and “start-ups” into the Search on SolutionsU and found stories on current projects and innovative solutions in that area. Serena is apart of the Venture for America cohort and knew that she was looking for jobs in the entrepreneurship sector in cities like New Orleans, Detroit, Birmingham, and Baltimore.

“As I was getting ready to interview in those places that I didn’t really know that much about or hadn’t visited, I could learn about the entrepreneurship space in those cities weren’t dominated by traditional big investors that you might hear about in Silicon Valley…Those searches gave me a really good foundation to understand what the startup world looks like in cities the news doesn’t talk about that much.”

As a Story Fellow, Serena spends hours a week sifting through stories about economic development and community improvements. Due to the community aspect, it is more effective for her to create collections around a theme or location. She often begins the process of creating a story collection by searching the database for stories using key words and phrases.

“I plug ‘Detroit’ into the Story Tracker and see what comes up,” she says. Her areas of interests require knowledge about a particular place within a certain sector (e.g. Detroit’s health non-profit sector) and she is able to get both the macro and micro view of the sector and its issues through solutions journalism.

Detroit Skyline

When she was a student, Serena says she often shared stories with friends she felt would be interested and could use the stories in their own courses. One friend in particular used the stories Serena sent her in a local government and politics course. She says her friend told her that the stories often incited “thoughtful and powerful reactions” from both her classmates and her professor.

Serena says that she used solutions journalism stories in a course on entrepreneurship, both for class discussion and in the initial research for her final paper.

As she reads numerous stories per week, she continues to share stories with co-workers, or friends in different fields sometimes as specific as “special education in Washington D.C” or as broad as “primary education in urban areas”. She says,

“I end up telling a lot of people what I’m working on and I think they’re interested but don’t actually know how to use the resources online. So, what I’ve taken to doing is thinking through a topic that my friend would be interested in, doing that search myself, and then sending them the specific link to a search that is [directly] relevant.”

Check out Serena’s favorite story: “Thousands of Poor Young People Are Using Minecraft to Redesign Their Cities”, Apolitical, Odette Chalaby