Entering the Publishing Industry: Alumni Spotlight Series

Jessica Thelander, an Alumnus of Emerson’s Publishing and Writing MA program, shares how she made the leap from student to professional by entering the publishing industry.

Jessica Thelander

Publishing & Writing (MA) 2016

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and have had a passion for books for as long as I can remember. I’m thrilled to be working in the publishing industry and can’t wait to see where my career takes me.

Describe your career path since graduation.

When I graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BA in English, I started working at Prime Publishing as an editor for MrFood.com. I worked on the digital side of the company to create eNewsletters, use SEO techniques to update our website, write blog posts, and more. After graduating from Emerson, I moved over to a new side of the company as an editor for our cookbooks and craft books. Because it’s a new side of the business, I also have my hands in putting together the production schedules, creating ads, handling publicity opportunities, and creating royalty reports, among other tasks.

Why did you choose to attend Emerson?

I wanted to find a way to shift my career from digital publishing to print publishing, so I looked into what programs existed that could lead me on that path. Of all the programs I looked at, Emerson had the most diverse class selection. The fact that the classes were offered at night, allowing me to work full-time during the day, was appealing as well. And when I looked into the professors who taught at Emerson and the credentials they had, I knew I didn’t want to go anywhere else.

It was tough deciding to move across the country and throw myself into an environment that was unfamiliar with people I didn’t know. It was a risk. I was leaving something comfortable behind, the place where my friends and family were, to try to further my career. It ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made, and I’m so glad I wound up finding Emerson.

Tell us about your Emerson experience.

I really enjoyed my time at Emerson. I went to a large school during my undergraduate years, so the small class sizes was a bit of a shock–but one I enjoyed! I had the opportunity to take classes that were so specifically tailored to my interests, and they were taught by professors who had valuable insights into the industry, hailing from reputable magazines, newspapers, book publishing companies, and more. The students were generally very open-minded and eager to discuss and dive into the challenges and opportunities the publishing industry is facing. From this program, I now have connections to people in all different areas of publishing and made some wonderful friends along the way.

Describe Emerson in 3 words.

Open-minded, Experienced, Connected

Describe your most memorable experience with Emerson’s faculty.

I was so fortunate to have learned from such knowledgable and experienced faculty at Emerson. I was someone who wanted to take full advantage of the time I had in these classes and was actively involved in discussions and projects every single class. Because of that, I feel like I had meaningful interactions with almost all of my professors. There would be an active and consistent dialogue through projects and homework assignments outside of class, and when I was in class, we were encouraged to share our own opinions and ask questions about our professors’ experiences in the industry. It was valuable having them as a resource, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from them.

Tell us about a memorable project / internship that you worked on as a student.

My most memorable project was in my magazine publishing class with Benoit Denizet-Lewis, when the students needed to come up with a concept for a new magazine and see it to fruition. My class decided to create a magazine geared toward young, geeky, liberal women called Minerva Magazine. I was the Managing Editor. The whole class became super passionate about the project, likely because by and large, we were the target audience. We felt like we had a good grasp on the types of articles we wanted to feature and utilized all of our talents beyond what we expected to put out a quality product. We enjoyed it so much that several of us maintained the website for quite a while after the class ended, and I made some wonderful friends in the process. The project was so empowering to work on because we got to see how collaboration between like-minded, driven, intelligent students could yield something pretty great.

How did Emerson help you get to where you are today? 

My education at Emerson showed my company the drive and commitment I had to being successful in book publishing and demonstrated why I was qualified to help them pave an uncharted path. Having a working knowledge of every part of the publishing process along with the modern-day challenges the industry is facing has been essential in giving me the leg-up that I need.