The story of a young storyteller
Journalism student grateful for UNL and the people who’ve helped her along the way
Posted: Mon, Oct 10, 2016
Since the fourth grade, when she first fell in love with paragraphs, Natasha Rausch has wanted to be a writer.
In high school, she realized she wanted to become a newspaper writer and wanted to tell people’s stories.
“I saw so many people every day and realized everyone has a story and that’d be really cool if I could tell a lot of them.”
Rausch grew up in Cincinnati. She never thought her own story would lead her to Lincoln, Nebraska, to study journalism at UNL. She’d applied to eight colleges across the Midwest. But after one tour of the UNL campus and its College of Journalism and Mass Communications, (COJMC), she knew.
She felt welcomed by the COJMC’s students and professors. She liked the professors’ open-door policy and the emphasis on hands-on learning. She could tell the college was focused on helping students find internships. She told her dad that night at the hotel after the tours that UNL was “absolutely” the place for her to learn how to become a writer.
But the story of her freshman year was one of a struggle.
Since she’s an out-of-state student, tuition was more expensive than she thought it would be. It was hard for her to see making it through three more years without help.
“My parents and I were a team,” she said. “We decided when I went to college that we would work together to get me through it.”
One night, at the beginning of her sophomore year, something changed that. She was walking back to her apartment after finishing a project at the library and received an email offering her the Harold W. and Marian B. Andersen Honors Scholarship Fund. The scholarship would give her $12,000 a year for her last three years.
The first thing she did was cry because she was so tired and excited.
The second thing she did was call her dad.
“He was just completely astounded and happy and thankful.”
Later that year, Rausch got to have lunch with Harold and Marian Andersen and thank them. Harold, now deceased, is a former Omaha World-Herald reporter, editor, president and publisher. Marian led several local and national charities, including the National Red Cross, and was the University of Nebraska Foundation’s first female board chair. Both are alumni of UNL’s COJMC.
Their scholarship helped her not have to worry about how she was going to make it through college.
“They were honestly two of the greatest people I ever met,” she said. “How do you thank someone for funding you to reach your goals? It’s cool to know that someone out there I don’t even know believes in me.”
The summer after her freshman year, Rausch worked as an intern at the Norfolk Daily News – her first professional newspaper job. She helped write stories about a major tornado that hit Pilger, Nebraska.
“I got to meet all of these people whose lives had been completely changed from this 15-minute storm, and it was just a life changing experience.”
Last year, she worked as a reporter intern for the Omaha World-Herald through the Omaha World-Herald Fellowship.
This past summer, the day after finals, Rausch drove 27 hours by herself to Portland, Oregon, to work as an intern at The Oregonian. She wrote about the presidential election’s impact on the area. She helped cover the Orlando shooting by going to vigils and attending police news conferences and posted stories nonstop. She also wrote about an NPR photographer named David Gilkey, a man from Portland who was killed in Afghanistan.
“Sometimes it’s so surreal that I’m doing exactly what I’ve wanted to do for such a long time,” she said. “Those few moments that I remember where I was at three years ago and where I am now – it’s just phenomenal.”
Rausch has also taken a trip to Nicaragua with photojournalism professor Bruce Thorson for a multimedia project which was funded by Howard Buffett. She reported on the different stories on poverty and ways the communities there were accessing healthier nutrients from their trees.
“I met all these people who had four wooden poles and a sheet as a home and it completely changed my life.”
From these opportunities, Rausch has learned that it’s OK to make mistakes and learn from them because that’s what college and internships are for. After graduation, Rausch doesn’t have a dream job in mind, but she knows she wants to write for a newspaper and write books in her spare time.
She’s grateful for all of the opportunities and for all of the people who’ve helped her along the way – people like her professors and people like the Andersens. She’s grateful also for the other scholarships she’s received: the Howard Silver Scholarship and the George Beadle Scholarship, which is awarded to superior out-of-state students.
This fall, Natasha Rausch entered her last year at UNL.
“It’s really awesome that I’ve gotten all of these internships and then had all of these opportunities,” she said. “I really have to recognize all the people who have gotten me here: my professors, my scholarship donors, my parents.
“I definitely wouldn’t be here without any of them.”
Natasha is just one example of how the University of Nebraska’s “Our Students, Our Future” fundraising initiative will help make better futures for us all. The two-year, $200 million initiative runs through 2017. If you would like to help promising students like her, please contact the University of Nebraska Foundation at 800-432-3216.
This story was written by foundation intern Jennifer Rooney, who is studying journalism, advertising and public relations and English at UNL.