Alexandra Foran (’12), an alumna of ENC, graduated as one of the first journalism and writing majors. She is currently working for the Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center, a military base where she works as the public affairs specialist as lead writer “because I’m their only writer,” said Foran.
This has her doing a variety of writing projects including press releases, research developments, features, and human-interest pieces. She loves what she does, and reflected on how ENC helped and didn’t help her in her chosen field, why she loves writing, and what encouragement she has for others interested in writing for a living.
Writing has always been Foran’s passion and has kept with her in her career.
“As I went through high school, it became something I was really passionate about. It may be weird to say this, but I really like helping people edit their papers because I’m able to help people communicate their own ideas. It’s funny, I never thought I’d be in journalism even in college. I had the stereotype that journalists were kind of aloof and maybe even mean—they just wanted to get the answers to their question, like bloodhounds or something,” said Foran.
“But it’s sort of a natural choice for me because you end up talking to people, which I love doing. You get to hear their stories and when you start talking to someone—whether it’s about life or work—they’ll start to open up a bit more, which is cool. And then being able to share people’s accomplishments and stories with others is pretty exciting.”
This passion led to Foran becoming a public affairs specialist—a mix of hard work and good timing.
“I started working there over the summer and winter breaks, because of their Student Temporary Employment Program. I applied and they randomly called me back. I started working there for a different team doing research support; it felt like a monkey could do it. And I found out it was definitely something I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life or that much longer.”
She continued, “But I found out they had a public affairs office so I went to the people who were managers, brought my resumé with me and I said, ‘look, this is my background’ and I told them I was interested in working for them if they had a position available, and eventually they did. I started working as a public affairs intern the summer before my senior year and then second semester my senior year I worked there part time. So that was awesome. I really liked it. Then they thought I did good enough work that they decided to hire me full time.”
Foran credits many of her practical skills as a journalist to ENC’s course Editing and Publishing.
“I took it in my senior year. It was the first time they offered it and it was great because it was one of the first times journalism was taught in a practical way as opposed to [theory]. And I remember one situation in particular where [Professor Fitzgerald] was writing something and he asked people after class to read it over and give him some advice on it. I thought that was one of the cooler experiences [I had] at ENC, to have a professor who was actually working on something. To share that first of all was cool, and then to have him ask for your feedback not as a student, but as a colleague, that was pretty awesome.”
She then expressed some of the skills she learned from this class.
“I learned deadlines are super important. It’s especially funny because where I work at now its comparable to the Veritas in that sometimes there are stories that are assigned and other times there are stories the writers come up with. I’ll be talking to a scientist or be talking to someone at work, and I’ll be like ‘oh wow, that’s really interesting’ and I’ll dig a little deeper, touch base with my boss, and see if he’s aware of this study or project and more than half the time it’s me coming up with a story. It was good practice at ENC to be able to do that.”
She continued, “Oddly enough, the way it works out at my job now there aren’t any hard deadlines so if I want to get something out there a lot of times it’s on me, which is good, but you also tend to procrastinate. Making sure you have a plan in place is important and just being able to juggle a lot of stories at once. You learn that at the Veritas and through school too.”
And while her courses at ENC taught her plenty, there was a lot Foran had to learn from working herself.
“I’ve taken a lot of writing courses, but a lot of them were intro courses, so we didn’t get deep into the subject manner. It was tough going into because when I started [working there] it was before I took Editing and Publishing and I had never been taught how to interview someone as a junior journalism and writing major; that was a bit intimidating. I didn’t have too many practical skills going in except for how to communicate with people. So that was a little scary.”
But Foran was able to build herself up despite her lack of skills.
“I feel like a lot of my journalism-specific courses ended up being later on in my college career. That’s in part because they switched up the curriculum my sophomore year and I think a lot of the time you don’t really know that much about the field you’re in until you get into it, doing it in practice rather than making it your own is different.”
Despite some of the issues with curriculum Foran has a lot of appreciation for ENC.
“One of the things I really liked was the location—Quincy, the beach, hopping on the T to get to Boston. There are a lot of things you can do in the area and do for free, which is sweet.”
She talked about the class sizes as well.
“That was something I liked a lot, especially because my learning style is to listen and absorb. I was too busy listening to other people and thinking about their ideas and the teachers ideas and I’d get trapped in my own head. But the small class size made it more comfortable to speak out more than I would have when I was in high school.”
And especially the relationships she developed with professors, “Being able to become more acquainted with professors was neat, just to have a relationship with them but also because I had so many weird health issues and injuries during my college career it was reassuring they had my back no matter what was going on.”
One downside Foran found was that she wasn’t able to hear from those actively working in writing fields, “[Other departments] had lectures—at least two or three every semester—and I thought it was unfortunate the [Language, Theater, and Communication Arts Department] didn’t have opportunities for the students to be able to go to [lectures] specific to their majors. That would have been nice to hear from people who were journalists, freelance writers, or people in theater.”
So she had this advice for others interested in writing as their profession: “Just go for it,” said Foran.
“I’m a person who needs to be trying new things. So just try out for something. I enjoy my job a lot, but I haven’t closed myself off to this is what I’m going to do for however many years. I’m looking into different programs. I actually just looked into a couple abroad jobs. So just being open to trying something whether it’s abroad or the local Patriot Ledger, just make sure it’s legit.”
“I don’t think it’s ever too early, I mean personally I had no idea there was a public affairs office on the base I worked at until my internship there. I found people and I went for it. Things sort of fell into place, I mean there’s a lot of hard work involved, but it’s definitely good to just try something new.”
She continued, “And everyone says to blog and there’s always that person who’s like ‘I don’t want to blog for the sake of blogging’ and I think I tried blogging two or three times, and it just fell to pieces, but recently I’ve been blogging at least once a week and that’s been cool and I’ve been making writing friends.”
And for those who don’t think it’s possible to make it as a writer, “there are a lot of opportunities out there, my dad would ask ‘what are you going to do with an English major,’ but it works out. A lot of people need others to write and communicate their ideas. When it comes down to it, if you’re doing a job you enjoy doing, it doesn’t feel like work and every day is different with writing and editing and research. I’m pretty fortunate … pretty blessed.”