Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Catching Up with Kayla

Kayla Elam has always been a magazine fanatic. Since she was a kid, she dreamt of magazines in her Missouri town of 11,000. 

"I used to carry around my grandmother's Family Circle magazines in my little purse because I loved how visual they were and I loved reading the stories," she says. 

Having grown into a strong writer and self-proclaimed "huge nerd," Elam is taking her passion and applying it to a summer internship at Smithsonian magazine in Washington, DC. 

Elam’s love of magazines is deeply rooted, and despite knowing that she has wanted to work in journalism since she was a child, some from her hometown wrote it off as more of a pipedream.  

“People would go ‘oh sure, you want to work for a magazine, doesn’t every kid want to do something huge.’ But I stuck with it; I was and am very serious. I think that would surprise some people back home if they looked back,” Elam says. 

Her parents, on the other hand, never doubted that she would go after her dreams, encouraging Elam to embrace her driven nature and follow her ambition, even with the occasional cleanup.

“They did have to move my magazines downstairs because they were afraid the papers would break through the floorboards. I refuse to throw them out," says Elam.

The stacks of magazines pointed to a promising future for a student with striking curiosity and a knack for writing. Interested in art, literature, and international relations, Elam likes to curb boredom by staying well rounded and learning a little bit about everything. 

"My twitter bio says I'm an all-around eclectic, and I really am," she says. 

Smithsonian is the perfect place to feed her appetite for knowledge.

"One day I'm learning about fish, and another I'm interviewing a band, and another I'm looking up waves, and another I'm writing about pop icons and pop culture," says Elam. "I'm interested in all things, so it's great."

Elam’s natural curiosity and passion for learning new things led her to take art history courses at the University of Missouri to see what it was like, despite having never taken an art history class in high school.

After exploring the subject for a year and discovering a new-found love for it, Elam added art history as a second major during her sophomore year (her first is journalism, naturally). 

Photo of the Smithsonian castle
“Majoring in art history has been a good compliment to my education,” says Elam. “Journalism classes are more training-based, and a liberal arts background allows for lots of different types of classes, which has helped me as a writer.”

Elam also credits the University of Missouri’s esteemed journalism program for strengthening her writing. The program serves as a perfect fit for the Missouri native and prepared Elam to try something new with an East Coast summer.

"DC reminds me a lot of the Midwest. I think a lot of Midwest transplants come to DC to work or intern," says Elam. 

For Elam, living and working in DC has been a positive experience so far, and learning to thrive in the US capitol hasn’t taken her much time at all.

“Politics are huge here, but apart from that, so much is really going on behind the scenes, and that’s been exciting,” says Elam.
Smithsonian is a fitting first step for a passionate journalist working diligently towards her future, perhaps in international relations or her dream magazine, Harper's Bazaar.

"I'm definitely not getting anyone's coffee," says Elam.

And that's the way she likes it. 

--by Alexandra Whittaker, Marquette University, InStyle

Edited by Anna Hensel, Creighton University, Inc.

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