Master’s Alumni Profile: Jerald Pierce G’18

Jerald Pierce G’18 

Newhouse Master’s Program: Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications 
Current position: Chicago Editor at American Theatre Magazine, Chicago, Illinois 

What set you on your career path?

Well, I got my undergraduate degree in acting and realized fairly quickly that that life wasn’t for me. I still loved theatre, so I wound up looking for other ways to stay involved. I saw a (now defunct) website advertising that it was looking for theatre reviewers who were also theatremakers themselves. I had strong opinions about theatre and it was a pretty low risk opportunity, so I gave it a try. I wound up running that site for a bit when the editor needed to step away, and I realized that I absolutely loved criticism, both writing and working with other writers on their reviews. So, when I got to the point in my life where I was thinking about getting a masters degree, Newhouse and the AJC program were one of a few different paths I was interested in, and I let the admission fates decide what was next. That’s all to say, basically I just kept following open doors until I made my way to my current path.

What skills did you acquire at Newhouse that you use in your work now?

I came into Newhouse with basically zero reporting or journalism knowledge beyond what you can glean simply from reading a lot of news. I could form complete sentences to give my opinion on art, but everything I know about journalism, reporting and editing I got from Newhouse.

What experiences or activities that you took part in outside the classroom stands out from your time as a graduate student at Newhouse?

The easy answer is to point to any of the trips I was able to take while at Newhouse that I never would have been able to take on my own. Attending the Toronto Film Festival, traveling to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston and spending time in Israel were all life-changing experiences that I never would have had the opportunity to do, and now they’re all foundational in one way or another to who I am as a reporter and editor.

Jerald Pierce
Jerald Pierce (Photo by Dominique Hildebrand)

What does it mean to you to be a Newhouse alum?

Newhouse has been a great support system for me so far in my career. I’m not a big “networking” person, but Newhouse comes with a built-in network that continues to pop up everywhere I go (American Theatre Magazine’s current managing editor is also a Goldring alum, for instance). Over the years, I’ve leaned on folks I met at Newhouse for career advice and job references, so being an alum has been a real support system during my career journey.

What advice would you offer someone thinking about pursuing a graduate degree?

Take the leap. I went to graduate school at 27, marking a complete change in career path. It can be hard to find time and opportunities to solely focus on skill-building post-college. Grad school gave me a chance to hyper-focus on what I wanted to learn with minimal distractions, and that’s incredibly valuable.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Ideally, I’d love to be the lead theatre critic at a publication somewhere in the country. As someone prone to walking through any door that is open, I’ve learned that I never really know where life is going to take me. But if I could shape that path, I’d want it to lead to being a trusted source of theatre criticism for a community.