Many students start college unsure of their major or career goals, but Sarah Gonzalez, who graduated from Mills College in Spring 2009, knew from the beginning.
“I’ve always wanted to be a reporter. People told me I’d find other things, but there has not been a time that I’ve ever wanted to be anything but a reporter,” Gonzalez said.
Having sight of her goal from an early age has paid off for Gonzalez, who just completed her first month as a Kroc fellow at the National Public Radio (NPR) in D.C. NPR awards three recent college and graduate school graduates with interest in public radio reporting the prestigious program each year. The year-long fellowship – named after philanthropist Joan B. Kroc – is divided into four “rotations” at NPR, and includes a $40,000 stipend and health benefits.
Gonzalez started off her fellowship this month with a rotation at the national desk doing spots and features, and her next three will be rotations on the show “All Things Considered” as a production assistant, in digital news reporting for the NPR website, and finally as a reporter at an NPR member station.
As a sociology major and journalism minor, Gonzalez contributes her success to the support she received while at Mills, particularly from Public Radio Professor Holly Kernan. Gonzalez enjoyed Kernan’s classes so much that she took Public Radio three times.
“Holly has definitely been my biggest mentor. She’s the person that I feel got me into professional journalism,” Gonzalez said. “She taught me a lot of what I know and, in my opinion, is responsible for why I’m doing the fellowship in D.C.”
Gonzalez received support from her other professors at Mills as well.
“They knew that my interest was journalism, and they allowed me to take their assignments and approach them with a journalistic angle,” Gonzalez said. “My last two years, I felt like every class was a journalism class, and you only get that at a small school. I got a lot of encouragement and opportunities to be a reporter.”
Kernan appreciated Gonzalez’s journalistic instincts.
“Sarah was a superstar from the moment she first walked into my class,” Kernan said. “Lots of things impressed me about Sarah, [especially that] she always had a notebook and pencil in her hand.”
Margaret Hunter, Gonzalez’s former sociology professor, admired Gonzalez’s eagerness.
“Sarah was an amazing student and she made a lasting impression on all of us in the Sociology/Anthropology department,” Hunter said. “She began all of her academic work with enthusiasm and zeal. Sarah had a passion for local news stories and always applied her sociological imagination to social problems. She was an amazing student to work with and I know I’ll see her name in many future publications.”
Gonzalez, who was the Features Editor for The Campanil from her sophomore through senior year, is well remembered by current staff who worked with her.
“The very first time I came to a pitch meeting, I pitched a story and she asked me my name. After I told her she said, ‘All, right Christina!’ and applauded me. She was very vibrant….She always had a smile on her face,” said Christina Macias, current Assistant Design Editor for The Campanil.
Gonzalez has been making good use of the encouragement and opportunities she received during her time at Mills. The summer after graduation, she interned for KALW, the NPR member station in San Francisco. There she worked on “The Fault Lines Project,” a documentary on violence in Oakland that earned her a Murrow Award for achievements in electronic journalism. Prior to moving to D.C. for the Kroc fellowship, Gonzalez spent 10 months working as a production assistant and fill-in producer at the NPR member station KPBS in her hometown of San Diego.
“I’ve had a lot of public radio experience in a short time. I felt so prepared when I came to NPR from my time working at a member station and by my time at Mills,” Gonzalez said. “This internship might be a challenge because I’m used to taking national news and making it local and now it’s the opposite; I’m making local issues national.”
As for the future, Gonzalez says she doesn’t have any definite plans.
“I don’t have anything lined up, but I’d like to work at KPBS again. And if not there, any place where I can be a reporter,” Gonzalez said. “My end goal would be to be a host on a morning news show, something like The Today Show, but right now I’m more interested in investigative news.”
For now, Gonzalez is enjoying her time in D.C. – for the most part.
“D.C. is different, but it’s a great place to be for journalism. It’s such a lively place and there’s so much to do. It’s been the biggest transition of my life, but besides the lack of Mexican candy,” said Gonzalez. “It’s all been good.”
You can check out her articles for The Campanil here.