The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

RBEL Recap: Senior Policy Lecturer Charles Wheelan '88 speaks about his transformation into a journalist

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This event was sponsored by the Rockefeller Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership (RBEL), a student discussion group that meets every Wednesday evening. For more information, click here.

Early in the term, RBEL engaged in a discussion with Professor Charles Wheelan '88, who spoke about his transformation from a confused undergraduate to a successful journalist. Wheelan began by acknowledging that his story was marked by both great success and failure. He talked about his studies, travels and extracurriculars as an undergraduate and how he stumbled upon his passion for journalism. Wheelan described how, unlike the rest of his colleagues post-graduation, he convinced his partner–then girlfriend—to travel the world with him. He asserted that traveling the world changed his life and indelibly shaped his professional career. One of his more shocking encounters abroad occurred when he experienced social unrest for the first time. He was stuck abroad in the midst of a regime change, where massive riots and violence were unfolding. He considered this moment particularly influential as he saw how journalists present were crucial to the dissemination of accurate information about the state of affairs, and noted this as a moment that reaffirmed his commitment to journalism and world travel.

During the remainder of his lecture, Wheelan discussed the harsh reality of returning home and struggling to find places to live and work. He explained his job search process and the difficulties associated with entering the field of journalism. Wheelan described the grueling processes he had to undergo as an aspiring journalist, admitting that his first job as a speechwriter was largely due to luck. He spoke about graduate school and running for office, describing the hard work and perseverance it took to pursue his goals. 

Finally, Professor Wheelan opened the talk up to questions from students, candidly answering questions about his own experiences. His final comments were how he lived in Russell Sage Residential Hall as a freshman and now his office looks into his old room, implying that there is as much to be said about the journey as the journey's end.

--Katelyn Walker '14, RBEL Student Assistant and MLDP Winter 2014 Participant

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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences