14 years of greatness post graduating from WSC

Aubreanna Miller, News Editor

Since her time at Wayne State College from 2003 to 2007, alumna Jonna Huseman has taken her journalism major and double minor in history and political science and turned them into an exciting and successful career.

Right now, Huseman lives in Washington D.C. with her partner Cliff Starkey, who also graduated from WSC, and her cat Piper, but her Lincoln, Nebraska beginnings still hold roots within her heart.

Huseman chose Wayne for the same reasons that many do, the small class sizes, affordability and a great location not too close or too far from home. WSC recognized the young journalist’s talent immediately as Huseman walked onto The Wayne Stater as the front-page editor her freshman year. Later, she served as photo editor, co-editor in chief and worked as an investigative reporter.

Huseman expressed two specific ways that WSC set her up for a fruitful career. First, the hands-on experience gave a solid foundation to build on as she moved into the working world.

“We had the opportunity as students to brainstorm the stories that we wanted to pursue and then follow through with them,” Huseman said. “Max McElwain, our advisor at the time, was very involved in making sure students had access to the resources they needed. One of the first stories I did for the Wayne Stater was a profile on then president Richard Collings, who sadly, recently passed away, but that was sort of my welcome to Wayne State, to suddenly be interviewing the President of the College. So that was really cool.”

The second aspect that aided in shaping her future plans included connections through WSC that helped her land her first job right out of college at the Aurora News-Register. The year spent at the Register provided her with experience covering local government and writing feature stories. Huseman remembers the supportive team and mentors who gave her a launching pad into the world of journalism.

Huseman grew up attending labor union meetings with her father and even covered a strike for that union in her column for the Wayne Stater. This background transitioned smoothly into her next position with the union the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The Nebraskan packed up her life at age 24 and moved to Washington DC to work for the union for four and a half years. There, she wrote for the Teamster magazine, which delivers to 1.4 million members across the United States and Canada, according to Huseman. She also received countless opportunities to travel including marching in Former President Barack Obama’s first inauguration parade.

Looking for new experiences and challenges, Huseman moved her talents to another labor union known as the SEIU. During this time, around 2012, technology took on a new and crucial role in spreading the organization’s mission. She navigated the new age of digital work using Facebook, Twitter and other platforms to connect the union with its members.

After more than five years in politics, Huseman wanted a break. This led her to work for one of the largest health nonprofits in the country, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. There, she met and befriended another WSC alum, Sean McCabe, who unfortunately lost his battle to cystic fibrosis a few years ago.

Jumping back into the world of unions, Huseman accepted a position as a communications director for the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, which acts as a coalition of unions whose members all work in modes of transportation. In this position, she wrote and drafted press releases, managed relationships with reporters, live tweeted, headed their social media platforms and much more.

“I launched a campaign during the pandemic called COVID Transportation Stories,” Huseman said. “It was referenced by a member of Congress. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg got involved with it. We got tweeted by the President and the White House. So that was a really cool job where I was running an entire program and it was really just myself. It was a lot of fun and I would’ve stayed in that job, except that my work was noticed by some other unions.”

Huseman now works for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, one of the oldest and most powerful unions in the country, Huseman said, as their national strategic communications coordinator.

To those studying journalism, Huseman advises to push yourself to become well rounded and involved.

“Push yourself at different interests that sort of comingle with journalism,” Huseman said. “Maybe take some graphic design classes. Maybe you take some editing classes. Do photography. Do things that sort of complement skills outside of journalism. I know podcasts are so popular now. So, maybe learn how to use a recorder and put a story like that together. Don’t limit yourself, but also be careful not to stretch yourself too thin. There’s sort of a balance there.”

She also noted that having or not having an advanced degree does not decide the success of a person’s career. Especially in Washington DC, pressure to receive a higher degree continues to dominate the industry.

“I don’t have any advanced degrees,” Huseman said. “My degree is from Wayne State College [and] it has served me incredibly well. I’m often in the same room, sitting around the same table as people with degrees from Ivy League universities. So, my message is: You don’t always need those advanced degrees. You don’t always need to go into debt and spend all that crazy money just to get ahead. In my entire career, experience is what has gotten me into different doors and different spaces.”

To diversify her craft, Huseman has a small photography side business. Her interest in photography started in college at Wayne. Now, she photographs families, engagements and more. Recently, a wine store in her city hired her to photograph several wineries around the area as a promotional activity.

Huseman’s makes her busy lifestyle work for her by keeping a focus on her philosophy: to have fun. She added that work may not bring great joy every day, but it should prompt feelings of comfort and satisfaction.

“If something I’m doing isn’t serving me or I’m not finding joy in it, then that’s a good sign that I need to kick it off my plate,” Huseman said. “Generally, just try to have fun and if it’s not fun, then maybe it’s time to look for something else.”

Huseman’s photography business, Jonna Michelle Photography, can be found at http://www.jonnamichellephotography.com.