Notes From Our Graduating Staff Members

Notes From Our Graduating Staff Members

It’s hard to believe that our fourth year is already coming to a close, and what a year it has been. We reported daily at the picket lines of the 2019 Chicago Teachers Union strike, and documented an unprecedented quarter of online classes at DePaul. We covered strikes, protests and marches. We reported from the 2020 Iowa Caucuses — and Chicago’s satellite caucuses. 

We wrote about gentrification in Logan Square. We covered a historic Englewood town hall and explored what the community area’s irregular ward boundaries mean for residents. We launched our bilingual section, Pueblo, started a twice-weekly COVID-19 newsletter and hosted our third annual (first virtual) live storytelling event

None of this would have been possible without our tenacious, dedicated and energetic staff. Always ready to brew another pot of coffee and cancel plans for our reporting, they are the reason we have been able to cover the ground we have this year. And eight are graduating this year, beginning their professional careers. 

Here are notes from some of our graduating staff members, on the cusp of the rest of their lives. 

Marissa Nelson, Editor-in-Chief

Since January 2016 

Favorite story: My favorite pieces are always the stories that involve rallying the staff, canceling plans, tossing out homework and drinking extra coffee to complete. Most recently, that would be our news package the week DePaul moved classes online amid COVID-19 or our daily breaking news coverage of the 2019 Chicago Teachers Union strike. Looking further back, though, I distinctly remember staying up until 5 a.m. in my living room with then Editor-in-Chief Brendan Pedersen and then-Managing Editor Madeline Happold to finish “A Race Without Candidates.” Perhaps closest to my heart is the first story I wrote with Meredith Melland, “The Night Shift.”

Favorite memory: Riding the CTA home with the staff after our Thursday night meetings

In January 2016, I attended my first 14 East meeting, unaware that it would quickly become how I spent my Thursday evenings for the next four-and-a-half years.

At the time, the magazine still had yet to be named and we were in the midst of dreaming of what the publication could be. I joined a handful of upperclassmen and graduate students who were working with Amy Merrick to launch the magazine. In room 1137 of 14 E. Jackson, I don’t think any of us could have predicted what the small but scrappy publication would soon become. 

Week after week, I am in awe of this publication. Our staff has taught me what it means to be a part of something bigger than yourself. Our work this year — and within the past four — has gone beyond my wildest expectations. Our staff’s willingness to dream, listen, try, fail and experiment is an approach to journalism — and life — that I will always carry with me. Even in the thick of the COVID-19 health crisis, our staff worked tirelessly to both inform our community and document history as it rapidly unfolded. 

14 East will always be inseparable from my DePaul experience. I’m going to miss spending our Thursday evenings together in our newsroom, dreaming of what project we’ll take on next. I’ll miss our frantic Slack conversations as we coordinate breaking news coverage. I’ll miss Justin’s highly specific DePaul-journalism memes, and the hours we spent debating our style guide. I’ll miss throwing aside my school work for a story, and seeing each staff member throw themselves into their work because they just care that much about storytelling, documenting and informing. 

It has been a privilege to be on staff at this publication during its beginning, and an honor to have been its fourth editor-in-chief. I am endlessly proud of this staff, and I can’t wait to watch 14 East continue to evolve. 

Thank you, 14 East. It’s been an incredible four-and-a-half years. 

Mikayla Price, Event Planner

Since September 2018

Favorite story: Both of my stories about women rappers! 

Black Women, Billboard Charts and TikTok: The Future Of The Music Industry

In the 2010s Women Won the Rap Game

Favorite Memory: Coffee runs with Dylan, Jenni and Meredith 

I transferred to DePaul during my junior year. The past two years I had spent moving from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to a community college, all in an attempt to find the “right college” and the “right degree.” I had spent most of my time force-feeding myself other people’s recipes on what the perfect college experience is. And I found out there is no perfect one. But what was perfect and meant to be, was me finding my way to 14 East.

In our last meeting, I told everyone that this magazine has led me back to myself. In high school, I was the overachiever with boundless creativity and what felt like a limitless future. As an event planner, I have been able to tap back into that, especially when planning 14 East Live. Three years ago, before I was on staff, I was the class producer for 14 East’s first live storytelling event. Since that night, I have had the honor to help and watch the magazine grow, and as honest and humble as we all may be, it is underestimated by the rest of Chicago. I didn’t just work for a school magazine, I worked for an online publication where we each gave our everything and thought about the bigger picture of what journalism could be. The newsroom has spoiled me, but it has also given me high standards. When I think of journalistic integrity, I think of 14 East. Marissa taught me to think bigger, Chris Silber taught me to question more and Amy taught me to fact check everything. Cody Corrall taught me to believe in myself, and Dylan Van Sickle taught me that everyone has their own path. I can confidently tell myself and others that I am a journalist. 

It is time for me to go and time for me to grow. I am eternally thankful that I had the opportunity to work on investigative stories, cover protests, run events, write personal essays and newsletters, and pursue my passion for music journalism. The staff superlatives said that in 10 years I would be a top music critic (and also find my way into the Grammys) so I am manifesting it here. Leaving 14 East feels like waking up from a dream. Thank you for helping me become the person and journalist that I am today. 

One last note — I would like to thank my dear friend Agathe Muller, who introduced me to 14 East and what would become the highlight of my college experience. 

Nikki Roberts, Associate Editor

Since January 2019

Favorite story: It’s a tie between “Kesha’s Animal Made Me the Trashy Party Girl I Am Today” and “I Never Came Out— I Just Started Listening to The Runaways.” I love when I can tell a story about my personal connections to music like I did with the Kesha piece, but writing about The Runaways was powerful because it was the first time I wrote about my sexual identity and, naturally, I used music as a tool to find the courage to do so. 

Favorite memory: The day we published “Our Favorite Albums of 1994.” This was my first byline as an associate editor, and I was so excited to share a byline with so many people I had looked up to on staff. To make it even better, I got to write about one of my favorite bands and one of their best albums — Dookie by Green Day. 

Christopher Silber, Managing Editor

Since September 2018

Favorite story: I’m partial to my two “walking stories” — “A Walk Up Michigan” and “Walking Western: A 24-mile Journey.” The Michigan Avenue journey was probably one of my favorite days ever spent in Chicago. I learned so much in the process of writing these stories, and I hope for someone out there they’re fun historical deep dives into the city’s diverse streets and neighborhoods.

Favorite memory: Hoarding Oreos at the Friendsgiving meeting

Joining 14 East helped push me get out of bed every day to be a part of something constructive, and for that I will always be grateful. It feels good to be surrounded by people who want to put in the time and energy to build something together, and as an editor it’s been rewarding to see the magazine grow over the past two years.

I didn’t exactly plan on becoming managing editor when I joined the magazine, but taking on the role this school year was probably the best decision I made at DePaul. The year was certainly full of surprises, from strikes and protests to a pandemic and elections. I’m humbled by how the staff met these challenges head-on and produced fantastic work. 

I’ll remember drinking extra large 7/11 coffees at night and editing stories in the wee hours of the morning. I’ll remember spirited Slack conversations about journalism ethics, laughing at memes at the weekly meetings and wearing Halloween costumes in the newsroom. I’ll miss the community of talented, caring students who helped create an outlet to share some of Chicago’s unlimited stories, and I’ll miss letting new writers know that their first story is about to be published. 

It can be good to miss things. It means you did something worth missing. I’m excited to watch and read as the magazine evolves in the future.

Natalie Wade, Multimedia Editor

Since September 2018 

Favorite story:Braids” in my opinion was one of the best stories I produced for 14 East. FIlmmaking being one of my strong suits and creative outlets, I feel like I was truly able to express myself as while giving reviewers a glimpse into the world of Black hair.

Favorite memory: Experiencing Pop Up Magazine with the staff.

I wasn’t completely sure of myself when I started working at 14 East magazine. I wasn’t sure about what I wanted as a future career, my abilities, or if anyone would care about what I have to say. Being accepted by a community of wonderfully kind, talented and invested journalists brought out the best in me. I think joining this team was one of the best decisions I have ever made and was one of the highlights of my college career.

Before I became involved with the magazine, I was a little bit lost. The type of work I was doing didn’t feel impactful or reflective of who I am. I was still on the fence about journalism because I was drawn to a variety of different media, but when I realized how I could use those skills to tell meaningful stories, I was sold.

In two years, I have grown into a more thoughtful and driven journalist who doesn’t plan on letting her voice go unheard and for that, 14 East, I thank you.

Jenni Holtz, Illustrator

Since September 2018

Favorite story: My favorite story was my first for 14 East, “There’s No Place Like the Grocery Store.” It was the first piece of writing I’d ever published and it rekindled my love for writing. I had a version of the story saved on my computer for almost a year, thinking I may never get the guts to pitch it. I wrote it for myself during a critical time in my journey of self-acceptance. Cody Corrall, the managing editor at the time, asked me if I was going to pitch anything for the Pride Issue. I took the leap and it was one of my best decisions.

Favorite memory: Overpriced coffee purchased at 7:30 PM, talking about life on the car ride home after recording a podcast with Dylan and checking the “inspo” channel every day to find the perfect thing to read.

My college experience would be completely different without 14 East. I always loved writing and could see myself working as a journalist but pursued a different path when I came to college. Through my artwork, I was asked to join the staff. I never thought I would also find community and a place to pursue writing. The people I’ve met and worked with at 14 East are some of the absolute best people I know. Their passion, kindness and commitment to community-focused journalism continue to inspire me. I’m incredibly grateful for my experience. Thank you for seeing my potential and being the best part of my time in college.


It has been quite the year. From reporting at 6 a.m. to editing into the wee hours of the morning, the work we’ve done would not have been possible without our entire staff. As we look forward to the coming school year, we also bid farewell to our graduating staff members who are moving on to the next chapter of their lives. 

We are so grateful for their work over the past few years, and we can’t wait to see what they do next.

Header photo by Annie Zidek