Three '05 graduates: Creative thinkers, global citizens
Does Clemson's emphasis on critical thinking and communication skills pay dividends after graduation? We asked three former classmates, all English majors ...
Will Cathcart interviews Georgian President Mikheil
William R. Cathcart Jr.
Will Cathcart has reported from Argentina, from Zimbabwe and from the Republic of Georgia — where he interviewed the president just weeks before the Russian invasion in 2008.
Not what you might expect from a journalist with a biweekly newspaper based in Charleston, S.C. But the Charleston Mercury is not typical and neither is the paper's 20-something managing editor.
"I think it comes down to being confident," Cathcart says. "My teachers at Clemson taught me to not simply accept things but to question, to investigate, to be bold and have the confidence to take on a challenge. So I tend to think, 'Maybe I could get this story.' "
One such story was a firsthand look at the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe's government had banned most foreign journalists. Cathcart's girlfriend Cate has relatives in the country, so he traveled to visit them in the spring of 2009.
"At the time they didn't even have a BBC correspondent there," he says. "I went in as a student and I was able to get a story, come back and write it."
His story was picked up by CNN. Among those he interviewed was the publisher of an independent, anti-Mugabe newspaper whose offices had been bombed and whose trucks had been burned, the drivers beaten. The paper is now published out of South Africa.
Cathcart's reporting from the Republic of Georgia had a similar origin — he had an interest in the country and a European contact with connections there.
"The Russians are determined to keep Georgia out of NATO," he says. "We started running articles in the paper saying this (the Russian invasion) was going to happen. Most people said, 'Why is this little paper in Charleston, South Carolina, doing stories about this country?' My bosses agreed to send me over there and we got an interview with the president."
Two weeks after the interview, Russia invaded.
Cathcart credits his Clemson experience as an English major — and three study-abroad experiences — with giving him the skills of close reading and research, critical thinking and a global perspective.
"I think it prepared me for the work I'm doing better than if I had been a journalism major," he says.
"I am a huge advocate of Communication Across the Curriculum," he adds. "It teaches people to think creatively and entrepreneurially, and that is so important no matter what kind of work you do. Whether you work for a small newspaper, work for Google or become a pharmacist, the future of our economy is going to be based on creativity."
Robert O. Maguire Jr.
Robert Maguire on the streets of Taipei, near his
After living in Paris and Taipei, learning French and Mandarin Chinese, and traveling to a score of other countries, Robert Maguire has embarked on another chapter of his post-Clemson University life: earning a master's degree in international relations at American University in Washington, D.C.
He's driven by a passionate interest in the intertwined and global nature of the major issues of our time, from the economy to climate change to terrorism. And he thanks his Clemson professors, especially English department chair Lee Morrissey, for what he calls "blurring the lines" that traditionally have defined areas of study.
"Dr. Morrissey would have us read books on economics and globalization, books on music and chemistry," he recalls. "He liked to show us that English majors and physics majors and economics majors should not be exclusively studying those areas, because everything is connected."
Morrissey encouraged Maguire's interest in visiting other countries and learning other languages. It's a yearning that emerged after the September 11 terrorist attacks, when Maguire, then 18 years old, realized he knew little about the world outside the United States.
During his junior year at Clemson, while studying the French language at a school in Angers, France, he met a Taiwanese student who would become his wife. They lived in Paris after he graduated. Then they moved to Taipei, where they lived with her family. He studied Mandarin, taught English and published a blog called "The Only Redhead in Taiwan."
Now he's enrolled in one of the most highly regarded international relations programs in the world. He's working at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office, the de facto Taiwanese embassy in Washington, D.C. His wife Fanfan will teach Chinese at a Montessori School.
And after he finishes the two-year master's degree program?
"I'm notorious about not planning things, because serendipity has done so much for me," he says.
His options include working for the government, working for a private organization or continuing his graduate studies to earn a doctorate. His intention, he says, worrying aloud about sounding trite, is to "focus on doing good."
Lauren Sausser interviews Bob Schieffer, host of CBS
Lauren McCallister Sausser
Lauren Sausser figures the poetry she wrote for her biology class at Clemson made her a better reporter.
It's not that her news copy is poetic, necessarily. Nor was it the biology professor's intention to turn his students into poets.
"He graded those assignments, but not for the brilliance of your poetry," she recalls. "He was encouraging us to think creatively, to look at something from a different perspective. It stretched your comfort level to write a poem about a topic like mitosis, and it made the concept sink in better."
As she looks back on her undergraduate days, she realizes she did a lot of writing in all her classes, with an emphasis on clear writing and critical thinking. She had no idea at the time that she might want to write for a living, but after graduating in 2005 she gave journalism a try, first as a general assignment reporter for the Brunswick News in Georgia.
When her husband — Brent Sausser, also a Clemson graduate — went to New Hampshire for law school, she freelanced for the Associated Press during the high-profile New Hampshire primaries in 2007.
"I mainly covered John Edwards and John McCain," she says. "Then during the election year, I got a job as a reporter-producer for MTV's Choose or Lose campaign to get young people engaged in the election process."
More recently she has been writing for the New Hampshire Union Leader.
"I think I'm a much better reporter for having studied English and science and history," she says.
"I may never have to write a poem for a biology class again, but when I come across a reference to mitosis or mitochondria for an article I'm working on, I certainly have a better grasp of that subject for having written those poems. I may never make mention of 18th century English literature in any newspaper article, but I understand the roots of modern-day globalization for having written about that literature extensively in my upper-level English classes at Clemson."
This fall finds her at the respected Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where she will earn a Master of Science degree, specializing in digital journalism.
"The business is changing so rapidly, I'll be unmarketable if I don't stay ahead of this curve," she says.
Her Clemson classmates and professors don't doubt that she will.
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