‘The story shifted’

As 2023 spring commencement approaches, here's a feature on one of our UNC Hussman master's students who'll start her career at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Read the full feature below or on the Carolina Graduate School Magazine website.

By Elizabeth Poindexter, Carolina Graduate School Magazine

In mid-May, Kate Slate (MA ‘23) will graduate with a master’s degree from the Hussman School of Journalism and Media and start her career working at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy — the result of interdisciplinary coursework and supportive faculty.

As an undergraduate student in New York City, Slate applied — and was accepted — to UNC-Chapel Hill as a transfer student. Heading into her junior year just prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Slate decided to continue her undergraduate studies at New York University and stay in a more urban setting.

“I still had a community there,” Slate explained. “But I knew that I wanted to explore going to graduate school, and I wanted a more traditional kind of setting. I didn’t want to do that over Zoom.”

During a year working at the Eye Cancer Foundation, Slate researched graduate programs in journalism and landed on an institution already familiar to her: UNC-Chapel Hill and its Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

“The school combined graphic design and writing; those were my two interests,” she said. “I looked at some other schools, but this was the program I wanted. I saw myself there.”

In fall 2021, Kate enrolled in a course taught by Kate Sheppard on reporting and writing news — and a prompt of scientist research became the launch point. EdNC published a final story from that course, authored by Slate, about children who have autism spectrum disorder and roadblocks families may encounter along the way in terms of a diagnosis and care.

“It’s something you physically can’t see — from what I heard from interviewing families, it sounded like children with autism were often written off,” Slate explained. “I found the coursework really interesting, and when it came time to write the narrative, I wrote about topics I was interested in.”

The combination of narrative journalism and Slate’s interest in writing about health and well-being led to her thesis, which focused on storytelling to advocate for children who have developmental disabilities and their families.

“My sources just seemed to come to me,” she said. “The story shifted. It’s not a rich-poor problem; it’s a problem for everyone.”

During her time as a graduate student, Slate taught several undergraduate courses and worked at The Graduate School as a graduate assistant. A trip offered by the Hussman School to the Galápagos showcased the versatility of a master’s degree in journalism. Back in Chapel Hill, Slate also took several courses as part of interdisciplinary study, including a course in child development and disability in the UNC School of Education. and an elective in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in global mental health.

“It was so useful and important to take classes on the topics I was writing about,” Slate said. “You’re on the outside looking in, and I got to be more on the inside when I was in those classes. It taught me ‘Okay, this is how a psychologist talks about the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM),’ It helps me when I’m interviewing people to have that knowledge.”

Following graduation, Slate will work for the Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and Policy at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy with Kathleen Thomas — on a PCORI-funded self-efficacy study for people who have emotional and developmental complexities.

“It’s as if my thesis project came to life in a job,” she explained. “Being at Carolina has been the best couple of years of my life.”