Graduate Student Highlight: Professional M.A. Class of 2021

By Emily Knepple

This semester, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is proud to celebrate two Professional Track M.A. students who have completed their degrees. Their time in the ProTrack master’s program allowed them to strengthen their skills, discover new ones and grow as creative and engaging journalists. 

Here’s a look at our two graduating ProTrackers and some of the stories they’ve completed throughout the program, as well as skills they’ve learned and other major takeaways.

Arailym Sheraly

Arailym Sheraly headshotBackground: Arailym Sheraly came to UW-Madison from Kazakhstan, with a scholarship from her government to study journalism. Sheraly is a freelance journalist and an AIESEC member, which is an independent organization that allows young professionals to explore and develop leadership potential. Her time in the program has allowed her to explore alternative forms of storytelling, as well as how to work more closely with a camera in broadcast journalism.  

Notable projects

  • The Story of Two,” three episode podcast
    • This story followed two UW students who traveled to China during winter break in 2019 when COVID had first spread throughout the Wuhan province.
    • This story allowed Sheraly to work on choosing compelling audio and finding the most effective ways to tell a story through sound.
  • Homelessness in Madison 
    • When Sheraly saw a tent outside in the winter, it raised a handful of questions. She soon realized homeless people around the city gathered in these tents at night to sleep. She quickly became interested in why this was happening when shelters around Madison existed, especially in such excruciating weather.  
    • This story helped Sheraly realize journalists should always seek stories that are not always being covered. It’s important for journalists to connect with the audience to convey real stories because we are all a community, which is an idea that Sheraly suggests often gets lost.

Skills gained

  • Storytelling through sound, creating podcasts 
  • Broadcast news, working with a camera, wide shot, medium shot, close shot 
  • Creative nonfiction, narrative distinctions as an author, narrator and character

Steven Potter

Steven Potter headshotBackground: Steven Potter came into the master’s program with a long list of experience. Potter has written for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Isthmus and Milwaukee Magazine. His time in the ProTrack program allowed him to find different ways to tell stories and encouraged him to continue digging deep for his stories. Potter also had chances to speak to students in the undergraduate journalism program, which has left him hopeful for the future of the industry. 

Notable Projects 

  • Beatboxer” for Wisconsin Life 
    • This audio story showcased a local beatboxer and looked into the major benefits of this type of music. Through this story, Potter was able to experiment with audio storytelling more. He shares that sound allows for a more intimate experience, one where you’re welcomed into people’s homes or earbuds. 
  • Law & Disorder” for Isthmus 
    • This investigative story looked at issues within the Dane County District Attorney’s Office, after a mounting pile of evidence of wrongdoings and errors became too hard for Potter to ignore. This piece was recognized by the Milwaukee Press Club, where it won first place for Best Investigative Story or Series. 
  • Fellowship with the Center for Journalism Ethics 
    • Potter served as a fellow for the Center for Journalism Ethics, where he was able to look deeper into the ethics of the journalism field as well as interview a handful of people he always admired.

Major takeaways

  • How to tell stories through sound
  • Attended industry conferences
  • Growth in network and friends in Journalism
  • Dig and go deeper with your stories