Shawn Sloan

Get to know some of our College of Media students! Shawn Sloan is a Class of 2024 journalism major.

Why did you choose the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, specifically the College of Media?
I started to look at their journalism program, and I noticed that there are so many people who are at the top, like [Illinois journalism alumna] Taylor Rooks. Once I saw the campus landscape—the proximity of the buildings evoked this sense of a calm and safe environment difficult to find during my senior year with COVID-19—I knew this was the place for me, my number one option. With the College of Media, there’s a lot more hands-on stuff that you can do, and it gives you a platform to be yourself and be creative. The college allows you to go out and look for a story, trying something new, and it pushes me to another level.

How did your admiration of sports help you become interested in journalism?
I got interested when I was younger, around 10 or 11. My best friend, who I started playing wheelchair basketball with, and I always had this dream where we wanted to be just like Shaq or Charles Barkley. We wanted to talk to people about sports in any way possible, and I dreamt about that for the longest time, but I didn’t think it was achievable. When I got to college, I immediately went into communication for two years but finally realized that I wanted to take the initiative and go for my dreams with journalism. Junior year started, I switched to journalism, and I’ve been loving it ever since.

What about the sports side of journalism captured your attention?
Since I’m a student-athlete myself, the atmospheric moments you see on the TV, like the final minutes of the NBA Finals or March Madness, are the things that cause me to get chills in my body. When I watch TV, I recognize that I could be there for those experiences, and I’m like, “Man, I could be doing something like that.” Even if it's something like social media that I'm doing for somebody, I can still be a part of that, and it's something that I jumped on board for.

How involved have you been in journalistic opportunities throughout college?
The summer before sophomore year, I worked at Motorola Solutions as a part of their communication team, so I was doing social media with them. Junior year came, and I started working in the Sandage Social Media Lab and The Daily Illini while working for Illinois Athletics in their communication department. Over the summer, I got offered a position at Chicago Sky; when I got back to school, I started my Fighting Illini Productions position and got offered a Big 10 marketing position.

You had an internship this past summer with the Chicago Sky, a professional basketball team based in Chicago. Tell me about your experience with that.
When I worked with Chicago Sky, I got to do a lot of stuff in the community and used my journalism skills with the team, where I would create press conferences; I even created an event with wheelchair basketball in the community. Early in the season, I was doing stuff at the games, like raffles, giving out merch or jerseys, and engaging with people. That was really cool because whenever people thought about the Chicago Sky, they thought about me.

What is one piece of advice you would give to other students majoring in journalism?
Be intentional with everything you do, even though there might be an assignment that you’re doing for a class that you don’t want to fully put effort into. See the benefits through everything; there are a lot of times when you can go through the motions, but if you take the initiative and try to do your best, you’re going to have the best portfolio you could possibly get once you leave college.

—Interview by Chloe Barbarise, New Voices Intern