Role: Education Reporter, KERA News

1.       What’s the best professional decision you’ve ever made?

Returning to journalism after a two-year break. Some people might say I’m crazy for leaving a steady, well-paying job to jump back into the business, especially after going through a layoff in 2009. But I had to do it. I missed journalism and storytelling. I would sit in meetings in my previous job and want to write about the things I was learning and the people I was meeting. I’d never worked in public radio before but figured I had nothing to lose if I applied. Three years later, I don’t regret it. I’ve learned so many new skills and met so many wonderful people. It hasn’t been easy, but I work with a great team that helps get me through the tough times.

2.       What’s something you’ve learned from a professional setback or challenge?

I hate to use a cliché, but it’s true that you should never give up on your dreams or goals. It’s also important to keep learning new things. I didn’t dream of working in public radio, but I wasn’t ready to leave journalism after getting laid off from my newspaper job. I learned so much about myself during that time I was out of the business. I started a blog. I took up running and cycling. I spent more time with family. In other words, I took the opportunity to do things I wasn’t doing as much before. I also experimented with different types of writing and kept myself busy with activities that fueled my creativity and satisfied my curiosity. That kept me going during what was a painful and uncertain time. And it inspired me to not give up as a storyteller.

3.       What is one thing you wish you would’ve known “then”?

I wish I would have developed certain skills at a younger age, pushed myself to work harder to learn the skills in which I feel I’m lagging.

4.       How have you leveraged experiences you’ve had and connections you’ve made at NABJ/NAHJ conferences?

My first newspaper job and others since have come about in part to connections made at NAHJ conferences. Over the years, I’ve developed some wonderful relationships – some people have become great friends and others great mentors. I’ve also learned a lot from training, like the student newspaper project way back when the conference was held in El Paso. I was in awe of the professionals I got to meet and learn from then.

5.       What’s one of your favorite public media stories, podcasts, shows or series? Why?

I love Radiolab – I learn so much every time I listen to an episode. It’s consistently interesting and often leaves me pondering different issues long after the episode has ended. I’m also a huge fan of Radio Ambulante. The stories are often very moving and touch my soul in a way other podcasts don’t.

Follow Stella: @stellamchavez