Involvement at Iowa brings journalism career into focus
Thursday, March 26, 2015

"The Student Experience" showcases University of Iowa students who excel academically—inside and outside the classroom. This is our latest entry in the series.

That Celina Carr became a Hawkeye was not much of a surprise. She comes from a family full of University of Iowa grads, and she participated in UI activities during her middle school and high school days.

The portion of her path that wasn’t so clear was the career she would choose. After almost four years at UI, having taken advantage of numerous opportunities and wonderful experiences working with the faculty and staff in the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Carr looks forward to pursuing her passion in broadcast journalism.

“I want to be in a newsroom: reporting, producing, and pursuing my passion, which is telling stories,” Carr says.


Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

 Areas of study: Journalism/mass communication, political science, entrepreneurship

Expected graduation date: May 2015 

Co-president and executive producer, National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ); executive producer, NABJ’s Perspectives; reporter/editor, NABJ’s NURU 

anchor, Daily Iowan TV 

Newsroom intern, KCCI 8 News (Des Moines)

Lead writer, Iowa Journalist Magazine (School of Journalism and Mass Communication)

Diversity Committee co-chair/at-large senator, University of Iowa Student Government

Black Student Leaders, UI Center for Diversity and Enrichment

Phi Alpha Delta (Pre-Law Academic Fraternity)

University of Iowa Wishmakers

 Honors Program

Student office assistant, Office of the Vice President For Research and Economic Development 

Summer resident assistant, Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education-Summer Programs

Journalism was always on the radar—she attended a journalism academy over two summers when she was 11 and 12. The academy was a joint venture between Des Moines high school journalism teachers and students and UI journalism faculty. Her second summer included a memorable encounter with Vanessa Shelton, adjunct assistant professor and executive director of Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists, headquartered in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“I consider Vanessa one of my most influential mentors guiding my career path in journalism,” Carr says. “Vanessa and I often chat about how I got my start in journalism during the academy, and where I stand today as a journalism student. It’s a good feeling knowing that such a brief connection I made with Vanessa when I was young remains intact and strong to this day.”

All the same, journalism wasn’t a slam-dunk decision come Carr’s first year on campus. Business and political science were considered as well. But a friend invited Carr to join the UI chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), and she had her pivotal moment toward journalism.

“NABJ was a small group of people talking about news, enjoying each other’s company. I was interested in covering stories related to culture and diversity, so I stuck around,” Carr says.

Her friend, Muriel Konne, took Carr along to help film a news package about the dearth of options for African-American hair care. “Muriel handed me questions, and I became a reporter!” Carr says. “It was the first step toward taking on a project like Perspectives.”

Perspectives came about during Carr’s first year. Journalism faculty Charles Munro and Angela Looney helped NABJ create the public affairs program, which airs each semester and tells stories from a minority perspective. It provided Carr a steep learning curve about TV journalism, but it also confirmed her career choice.

“When I joined Perspectives, everything was new—I learned how to use a camera, report, and anchor in front of a camera in a matter of weeks,” Carr says. “I liked that Perspectives opened a new door and challenged my writing, reporting, and technical abilities. It was an awesome feeling knowing that people were watching my hard work come together on screen.

“If I was never introduced to Perspectives or NABJ, I think my career interests in journalism as a whole wouldn’t have been as strong.”

It should be noted: Carr didn’t abandon her other academic interests. She is getting a minor in political science and an Entrepreneurial Management Certificate from the Tippie College of Business. She also served as a senator in UI Student Government her sophomore and junior years; her second year she served as the chair of the Diversity Committee, where she helped lobby for the Latino studies minor that was recently implemented.

“I wanted to make a difference in how other at-large senators recognized the importance of diversity, as well as implementing proposals and legislation that could make a difference,” Carr says.

With Perspectives and an internship with KCCI (the Des Moines CBS affiliate owned by Hearst Co.) under her belt, Carr joined Daily Iowan TV her senior year. The daily routine has created a rhythm, and Carr serves in numerous roles: producer, anchor, and reporter.

“With Daily Iowan TV, I’m using my skills daily to become a better journalist before I enter the professional world,” Carr says. “I’m constantly applying skills and news judgment when I’m reporting or producing. I feel more prepared for finding a job after I graduate, because I’ve had a great learning opportunity at Daily Iowan TV.”

And while she gains technical expertise every day at DITV, she’s also discovering that the core element of journalism is storytelling.

“I interviewed a young Dance Marathon cancer survivor and his family; I had technical problems with the lighting and sound, and my visuals didn’t turn out the way I wanted,” Carr says. “Ultimately, that didn’t matter. What mattered most was the emotional connection, and letting my audience feel the same emotional impact I had when listening to them. Though I was working with fewer visual elements for my story, my storytelling turned out well and I was able to capture the family’s emotion and share it with the community.

“During this interview, I began to see just how important my job is as a journalist.”