Where can a graduate degree from the University of Illinois take you? In this series, we catch up with one recent Graduate College alum and ask the question: “Where are they now?”.
Lexi Shurilla graduated from the University of Illinois in 2015 with an M.S. in Recreation, Sport and Tourism with a Sport Management focus. She currently works for AmPride Communications, Inc. as the Editor-in-Chief of Community Concierge Magazine (CCM), a quarterly magazine featuring the best of the Champaign-Urbana community. She is responsible for the content and quality of CCM by ensuring stories are accurate, engaging and informative.
I understand your BS from the University of Illinois is in Journalism, but I was curious what the transition from graduate student in Recreation, Sport and Tourism to Editor-in-Chief of a magazine was like for you. Is your current role the realization of a long-term goal or were there surprises and changes along the way?
I always loved to write. I went to college wanting to be a sports journalist. Just before graduation, I started thinking about grad school and the idea of wanting to further my career in athletics. While pursuing my master’s degree I worked as a writer and reporter for Illinois Athletics. I worked in Illinois’ Athletics Communication department for over two years as I was completing my master’s program and absolutely loved it. I always had the idea that I wanted to try working in all forms of media at some point. I had worked in print, broadcast, and online before graduating and when the opportunity to head a magazine came up, I knew it was something I wanted to do.
What does a normal day/week look like for you?
Most of what I do as editor of CCM is managing. Whether I’m managing people, copy, or the layout of the magazine, that’s what I’m doing on a daily basis. Once the writers have their assignments, it becomes all about follow-up and maintaining relationships. Once I have all of the content, I also edit and fact-check the entire magazine before it goes to press each quarter. It’s important to keep open communication with the writers and contacts to make sure the articles are accurate and everyone involved is happy with the finished product.
What is the most interesting, rewarding, and/or challenging aspect of your job?
A lot of work goes into each issue of the magazine. It’s very tedious and there are a lot of pieces to each issue and each page that have to be considered. Having strong organizational skills definitely helps with this job.
I always enjoy seeing what each writer does with their topic. There are so many interesting stories in the Champaign-Urbana community, and we get to share them. It’s fun when someone points out something they saw in the magazine that they didn’t know about or they “can’t wait to try.” The best part is when we finally send each issue to press after everything comes together.
What has been the most valuable transferable skill you gained from graduate school?
Time management. As a graduate student, I was doing my master’s program online while working for Illinois Athletics. I was at the office during the day, but there were plenty of nights and weekends where I was working a sporting event and regularly working very long—but very fun—days. But I had to make time for school too so it was a juggling act. I really enjoyed my graduate classes, and most of them went right along with what I was doing at work. I could always apply what I was doing in either of them to the other, so that made it easier. Of course, time management is a huge part of putting together the magazine today.
What is one piece of advice you would give to graduate students at Illinois?
Gain as much experience as you can, alongside school, while you’re still a student. It was invaluable for me to be able to work in the athletic department and work toward my master’s degree in sport management at the same time. There are so many ways to get involved on campus, or if you’re doing an online program, companies looking for interns. Doubling up on your experience while in school will serve you well in all aspects of your life.
This inteview was conducted by Mike Firmand, Assistant Director for Employer Outreach in the Graduate College. He works with employers to connect University of Illinois graduate students to new opportunities and promote the value of graduate education. He previously worked for the College of Business at Illinois State University and has held positions in insurance, marketing, banking, and retail and event management. Mike holds a B.S. in Recreation, Sport and Tourism from the University of Illinois and an M.S. in Communication from Illinois State University.