Ph.D., Michigan State University
B.A., The State University of New York at Binghamton
Emily Elliott is the Managing Editor of East Lansing Info.
When did you first develop an interest in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian studies?
My interest, particularly in Russia and the Soviet Union, began in childhood. I wanted to become an astronaut and learned all about the Space Race as a result. I also saw the animated film Anastasia and frequently read about the Romanovs. After that, adults also fed my interest by giving me books about Russia and even some matryoshki.
Tell us about your career trajectory.
I was a history major in undergrad at SUNY Binghamton and thought about going to law school. I reconsidered after working in a courthouse and turned to Russian Studies. I started a doctoral program in history at MSU the semester after I finished my undergraduate degree, and I assumed that I would pursue a career in academia. After defending my dissertation, I had three short-term visiting assistant professor positions elsewhere in Michigan. I also worked as an independent researcher, after-school program organizer, journalist, and editor for various nonprofits in my area. Working multiple jobs was exhausting, but it really helped me discover that I was most passionate about local journalism. Today, I am the Managing Editor of East Lansing Info, a local, nonprofit news service.
How has your knowledge of the East European and Eurasian regions, languages, and cultures assisted you in your career?
My work is not directly related to Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies, but I still use the same skills that I honed while in graduate school, such as asking the right questions and finding documents and sources that help answer them. I file Freedom of Information Act requests, sift through data related to the pandemic, and take interviews with a variety of sources. History served me well in teaching me how to balance telling a story and getting to the point quickly.
What advice do you have for those interested in a similar career?
You definitely have the skills to be a journalist, it’s just a matter of looking in the right places. I tended to have better success in applying for jobs with smaller organizations because someone actually read my cover letter and résumé.
I recommend applying for jobs where you have the skillset but where you might not check every box. I previously worked as the Special Sections Editor for the Historical Society of Michigan’s magazines. Even though I don’t have a background in Michigan history and was unfamiliar with some of the software used for layout and data management, I did get the job in the end because I had strong editing skills and track record of learning new skills quickly.
Mostly, I learned to keep both my eyes and mind open. In the end, I found my current position through a post in a Facebook group for MSU history grad students.
What is your current work project?
East Lansing Info is a community-based nonprofit, so I actually have three major components to my job: my own reporting, assigning and editing work to other reporters, and community engagement. I report on public schools, public health, and community disparities. My recent work has focused on tracking down where vaccines are available and interviewing those who contracted COVID-19 and medical professionals. While editing, I get to read pretty much every story we publish and learn about my local community.
My community engagement work takes on various forms, but we try to organize at least one event a month for our readers. This week, we sponsored an event about our city’s budget to let readers know how their tax money was being spent and discuss ideas for how money might be better spent. We’ve previously held trivia nights and an open forum for readers to discuss what we should value when reporting the news.
What does your ASEEES membership mean to you? How has your involvement with ASEEES helped to further your career?
As a graduate student, my ASEEES membership allowed me to meet and collaborate with scholars. I hope one day that my career will lead to something that involves both journalism and Russian, so ASEEES membership allows me to continue to network and keep a handle on what’s going on in the field.
Besides your professional work, what other interests or hobbies do you enjoy?
I have always been interested in traveling, reading, and cooking and baking. During the pandemic, I have also explored new hobbies, such as calligraphy, gardening, and painting – both the interior of my home and pictures on canvas.