Senior Stephanie Rodriguez prepares to take the leap into her journalism career
When Stephanie Rodriguez was a high school student, she never thought she would be where she is today.
It’s difficult to imagine now, but the senior broadcast journalism major and Spanish and political science double minor originally wasn’t planning to go to college. However, her mother wanted Stephanie and her older brother to attend college since she never had the chance to.
Rodriguez applied to schools uncertain what her path should be. In a meeting with her high school guidance counselor, Rodriguez mentioned that she loved writing, acting, and speech.
“My counselor had gone to school for broadcast journalism and said I might enjoy being on TV,” Rodriguez said. “I honestly thought it sounded crazy for me to be on TV. I started to mull it over and thought maybe I can do it.”
Rodriguez visited Illinois State with her family and the experience won her over.
“I couldn’t believe how pretty it was and how nice everyone was. At that moment I saw myself living here for the next four years,” she said.
Rodriguez began honing her journalism skills as a contributor to the student newspaper, The Vidette, and Illinois State’s student-run TV-10. Rodriguez has done nearly everything you can do at a television station at TV-10. She has produced shows, been an on-air anchor, and has even done the weather forecasts. This semester, she is focusing on reporting in the field.
“Once I got here and got into the profession through TV-10 and The Vidette, I fell in love with it,” she said. “I love all of it. I love writing. I love producing. Mostly I love going out and meeting people. I like that in journalism you get to meet people you wouldn’t normally get to meet.”
Rodriguez said the welcoming Redbird community and the guidance of her instructors have been major factors in helping her prepare for the professional world.
“TV-10 News Director Laura Trendle-Polus, I adore her,” she said. “She is exactly the kind of educator I wanted when I came to school. I want someone who is going to tell me the truth and help me make my work better.”
Private donors have supported Rodriguez’s studies. She received the Randy Salerno Endowed Memorial Scholarship, which is funded by alumni, faculty, and friends who appreciated Salerno’s dedication to broadcast journalism excellence.
Rodriguez has pursued interests outside journalism at Illinois State, including serving as the president of the Spanish Club. Rodriguez was born in Puerto Rico and moved with her family to Elgin as a child. She grew up speaking English and Spanish in the home. Joining Spanish Club was a way to maintain and strengthen her relationship with the Latin American community.
After graduation, Rodriguez is planning to apply at news outlets across Central Illinois. She said knowing the market and newsmakers in the area through her undergraduate work will give her a great start in her professional life.
Her advice to future Redbirds is that college can be overwhelming, but hard work will pay off.
“It is scary at first. It can be really hard to make that adjustment,” she said. “But it is also very liberating. It is on you to show up to class and put the work in. Illinois State is a great place, and you will find that there are a lot of people that are happy to be here too.”
Tyler Emken can be reached at tkemken@IllinoisState.edu.