Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hit the Road with Kelli Fitzpatrick

When it comes to her career, Kelli Fitzpatrick may not know where she’s going in terms of location quite yet—but it’s clear she’s on the right path.

This New Middleton, Ohio native’s passion for glossy print started at a young age, when she pored over tween go-to titles like Seventeen and Girl’s Life, and only escalated over time. Fitzpatrick knocked off the typical indicators of a budding journalist early in middle- and high school, from designing a magazine in class and proofing friends’ papers “since I was, like, 12” to writing and editing the Springfield High School newspaper and yearbook.

So when Fitzpatrick chose to pursue her editorial obsession à la a magazine journalism major at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, she says it came to no one’s surprise. While typical considerations came to mind in choosing her university—“it was a good distance from home!”—what really drew Fitzpatrick to Kent State was its journalism program. Between its abundance of student-produced publications (everything from general interest to LGBT) and national accreditation, it was the right fit for Fitzpatrick: “With the big, beautiful journalism building and magazine program, I had to do it.”

Fitzpatrick made the most of the editorial opportunities available, honing her voice and reporting skills at Fusion—the campus LGBT interest magazine, for which she’s contributed everything from pre-Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal lesbians in the military cover stories to weekly Glee recaps—and making the Daily Kent Stater’s student finance beat her own with practical feature-style stories covering subjects like making and saving money. Up next? She’ll take over as managing editor of Fusion in the fall.

While her reporting pursuits consume much of her time, Fitzpatrick has another passion in line with her curiosity: travel. She studied for a semester in Florence, where, between “eating a lot of food and drinking a lot of wine,” she soaked in the historic city’s culture and “bopped around Europe” as often as she could. On one trip to Italy’s coast, there was a problem with the track and everyone was ordered to get off the train. “We’re in some random, little Italian town in the middle of nowhere, and no one speaks English,” says Fitzpatrick, who kept her cool and helped get her traveling group to their final destination—a feat that required two “janky white vans” and some vino in the back seat.

Samantha Livengood, a rising senior advertising major at Kent State and friend of Fitzpatrick’s who also studied in Florence, says her friend’s initiative led them throughout the trip. “When we traveled, Kelli was the mom of the group,” she says. “I’m sure without her, the other girls that traveled with us and I would still be roaming around some city in Europe.”

Since Fitzpatrick returned to the states, she’s kept up her penchant for travel. Her ASME Summer Internship Program placement brought her to Reader’s Digest in New York City. Fitzpatrick has spent her days doing typical intern tasks at the magazine and even scrounging up a few bylines. But in her off-time, she’s soaked up all the city has to offer, from the sights (the Punk: Chaos to Couture exhibit at the Met) and sounds (“I saw Kinky Boots with my parents—I cried. I just loved it.”) to the cuisine (“I’ve been to Max Brenner’s chocolate restaurant three times. Just throwing that out there.”).

And while her time in the city is coming to an end, Fitzpatrick’s adventures in travel and journalism are just beginning. She’s accumulated the clips, not to mention journo cred, to make it in a competitive industry—and appears to be on the path to success.

“Kelli will be successful wherever she ends up,” Livengood says. “She will be the one person that I know, without a doubt, who will reach her goals and succeed. She’s the most determined person I know.”

Wherever she ends up is still to be determined. Upon graduation in May, she sees herself road-tripping across America. “This summer I’m meeting people from all over the States, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’ve never been there,” Fitzpatrick says. “I want to see everything.”

As for her career? “Who knows?” she asks. Whether she’s working at a national brand in New York in 12 months or a regional title in the South, Fitzpatrick doesn’t know. One thing’s for certain, though: she’s just enjoying the journey.

By Jeff Nelson, Drake University, People
Edited by Natascha Yogachandra, New York University, Travel + Leisure

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