Rising Star Q&A: Nedra Pickler

Nedra Pickler, a 1998 Journalism graduate, received the ComArtSci Alumni Board's Rising Star Award in 2006. Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, Pickler currently lives in Washington, D.C., where she is a partner for the strategic consulting firm Finsbury Glover Hering. Prior to that, Pickler spent 17 years at The Associated Press as a commentator on television and radio while also covering the Obama and George W. Bush presidencies.

What was your favorite class at ComArtSci?

Getting to write published articles for the Capital News Service was such a formative experience thanks to the late great professor Bill Cote. My first experience getting published was in Journalism 101 when I got set up with writing for the Holt Community News.

What was your favorite study spot on campus?

I was always in the library. I couldn’t afford most of my own textbooks so I often would use the reference copies in the library. Plus, I really loved the smell.

What was your favorite thing to do around East Lansing?

I loved biking around East Lansing. The campus is the most beautiful place to bike around in all seasons but especially in the fall.

What’s your favorite MSU Memory?

Nothing can beat those Football Saturdays when I would be cheering on the Spartans with all my friends.

So, you earned your degree in journalism at ComArtSci, can you speak about how things have evolved in your industry since you graduated and where you foresee things going from here?

When I attended the Journalism School, there was no such thing as Twitter or any kind of online publishing. So, the industry has just completely changed, but what hasn’t are the same values, skills, and ethics that you learn when you’re earning a journalism degree at Michigan State.

What was your biggest lesson learned during your time at ComArtSci? And what was your biggest lesson after ComArtSci?

The biggest lesson I learned at ComArtSci was really picking up skills that you can use in any job. How to ask smart questions, how to build relationships, how to stay on top of current events, but mostly how to write. I spent nearly 20 years as a journalist covering the White House so of course I used those skills then, but even now in the second phase of my career outside of journalism, I still draw from that J-School education every day.

The thing that I learned after ComArtSci is that a career is not monolithic. I used to think I would be a journalist for life, but I think it’s more important to keep an open mind to change.

Fast forward to the end of your career. It’s your retirement party and everyone is there celebrating your achievements. What do you hope people say about you?

I would hope that they say I taught them something and that I was a generous mentor. I hope they would say that I helped grow a business that would endure and kept  the standards of integrity and quality high. But really most of all I just hope that people would say that I was the kind of person people loved working alongside.

To those students who are confused, overwhelmed, not sure what they want to do, unsure about what a degree from ComArtSci can do for them, what would your message be to them?

My advice would be to follow your passions and really, always say yes. Especially when you’re intimidated. Sign up for the challenging class, apply for the internship, enroll in that extracurricular, just embrace the work. There are so many opportunities that will come to you at ComArtSci and you just need to take advantage of them as they’re placed before you.

By Joe Strother