By Taylor Delehanty
Emily Leayman, a professional writing graduate of 2015, has made an immense impact in the world of
journalism. Since graduating from KU, she has been using her degree to its maximum potential. From traveling to Washington D.C. daily to monitoring state tax and budget policy for her new career journey at Americans for Tax Reform, she certainly has kept herself busy.
During her time at KU, Leayman was an active writer in the campus community. She spent all four years of her undergraduate career writing for the Keystone Newspaper and freelancing for the Kutztown Area Patriot.
In her first year writing for the Keystone, she was chosen as the assistant news editor.
Throughout the semester, her peers took notice to her efforts and in the following semester, she was elected as the news editor.
After dedicating countless hours of work to the paper, she was elected the next semester as editor-in-chief.
“I wasn’t the most outgoing person at that point, but I think my dedication to the paper got me that position. I probably spent more time working at the newspaper than I did completing class assignments,” Leayman said.
In addition to her writing involvement, she was also a member of Lambda Pi Eta, the national communications honor society, and the KU honors program. Being a member of the honors program gave her the opportunity to live in a “tight-knit” community with other students with the same academic capabilities.
On top of their coursework, professional writing majors at KU are required to complete an internship that counts toward their graduation requirements. Leayman went above and beyond what was expected of her and landed a highly regarded internship at the Washington Examiner.
At the Examiner, she wrote commentary stories for the website several times daily and helped research topics for opinions articles based on trending news and legislation that was being considered at the time. Although the internship eventually came to an end, she was still afforded the opportunity to conduct research to earn extra money and maintain the connections she made with the Examiner staff.
Leayman also took on many opportunities to enhance her journalistic writing abilities. She attended journalism training sessions on Thursdays at the National Journalism Center, the same organization that placed her with the Examiner. There, she learned extremely helpful tips from journalists in Washington D.C. and was given the opportunity to attend book signings. A notable signing was for a Holocaust survivor that has also tailored for presidents.
Since graduating, Leayman has been interning for the Americans for Tax Reform. She monitors state tax and budget policy in the news and helps write and send letters to legislators about particular bills, such as gas tax increases or plastic bag bans. She also writes blog posts about tax policy and government spending.
“The biggest project is sending out pledges to legislators. The pledge, which is a vow to not raise taxes, gets sent to all legislators in 50 states. I help mail out the pledges and follow up with emails and phone calls. Some days I also answer phones at the front desk and take notes at Wednesday policy meetings,” Leayman said.
Unfortunately, graduation means saying good-bye to afternoon naps and saying hello to that large cup of coffee every morning. “The days are not as relaxing as they were in college. I have to get up pretty early to take the train into D.C. from Maryland, I usually keep myself busy throughout the day, so they do not usually drag on. One day I could be mailing out hundreds of pledges and another I am taking notes for the weekly meetings for members of Congress and policy groups.”
Outside of her busy work life, she is given the opportunity to attend at least one networking event each week. Some of her favorite events include state of the union debate watch parties, CPAC and networking happy hours.
Many writing majors fear graduating because they’re unsure of what lies ahead. Leayman offered a piece of advice to those who are worried.
She said, “Don’t be afraid to settle for a not- so-ideal position at first. It gives you time to gain experience, try something new out and make connections that could land you that dream job. I would have never imagined I
would work for ATR, but few experiences could match it. Not only am I thrown right into the busy world of policy, but I get to hear from a variety of policy experts and journalists. Also, do not be afraid to move to a new place. Get outside your comfort zone and don’t stress about your loans. If you’re in a big city, there are so many opportunities available, many not known until you’re actually there.”
She also discussed the importance of constant writing post-graduation. “It will not only help to continually strengthen your writing, but the editors can be great resources for career advice and will help you in any way they can. Like internships, freelancing is a good way to test out working for a company while boosting your resume. I couldn’t begin to think how long my resume would be if I put all of my writing pieces together.”
At the end of a long exhausting week, Leayman can still wind down and enjoy her weekend strolls through Baltimore or treks along the windy mall in D.C. She might even throw on a jersey and enjoy a good game of hockey.