Carol Schmidt



University of Wyoming - Bachelor's Degree, Social Work/Sociology

University of Wyoming - Master's Degree, Journalism

Meet Carol Schmidt, editor-in-chief of Mountains and Minds, Montana State University’s magazine. Carol also serves as the assistant director of the MSU News Service. In her job she gets to conceptualize the magazine from start to finish. This means she can shape stories and watch them come to life on paper, which she will tell you below is one of the best parts of her job. Before her current role, she was a newspaper reporter for years. Carol even used to work in the newsroom with Millie Benson, the ghostwriter of Nancy Drew. Talk about learning from the best …

Support the women around you.

How did you discover your current job?

I was given the assignment after our institution developed the concept for a flagship magazine following a re-branding effort about three years ago. I had edited special sections when I was a newspaper reporter, and have been a long-time feature writer. I had no idea, however, that I had a passion for magazine work until I was given the assignment.

What has been your path so far to get you where you are today?

I was a long-time newspaper reporter. When my family moved back to Bozeman, there were only a couple of writing jobs in this community. Either I worked for the newspaper that I had worked at a decade before, or I got a job at the university. I didn’t think I would stay long at the university, but it has proven to be a good fit.

Was there any one situation that helped you along your way?

I think that if there was one situation that was a turning point for me, it was a niggling graduate school requirement that led to my taking a beginning communications class, which in turn led to a journalism class, which launched an unplanned career and a love affair with journalism. While I had been a life-long avid reader of books, magazines and newspapers, I had not worked on a high school or college newspaper and couldn’t imagine myself as a journalist. Now, I can’t imagine what life would be like had I not been forced to take that class.

What is your typical day like? Does it ever change?

Working for a university means that there is a consistency in the academic year. There’s always the first day of school, homecoming, commencement, a fall and a spring issue. But within that framework, there’s the opportunity to learn something new and meet new and interesting people every day in this job. Today I’m editing a piece about stem cells and tomorrow I work on a package about art in a villa buried by Vesuvius. And, I do that while living in gorgeous Montana. It’s a pretty good gig.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The creation of something that is thought-provoking, beautiful and lasting from truly nothing more than ink and paper.

What is the most challenging part?

For me, editing scientific copy is challenging. I cover the humanities for our news service and have an interest in the arts. Our university, however, excels in science and engineering. That requires me to do a lot of back grounding when I edit a scientific piece. On the other hand, I’m a pretty good baseline. If I can understand scientific copy, our many readers with non-technical backgrounds are likely to understand it as well.

What is one lesson you’ve learned in your job that sticks with you?

Never put away the pen and notepad until you’re back in the car. Some of the best quotes and insights into personalities come after the interview is seemingly over.

What do you feel is the biggest challenge for women today, particularly females in your industry?

With as many advances as have been made for women in journalism and public relations, the challenges for women remain remarkably constant through time. Do I choose children or career? How does one combine a profession with a family? How do I time having children with career advancement? Do I take a few years off to raise my children? There are no easy answers. I think we all find our own ways to figure it out for ourselves and our life situations. Time hasn’t seemed to change that essential balancing act for women.

Who are your role models?

I think the great thing about journalism and PR is that we do have a lot of great role models in our profession. I was fortunate to interview Claire Booth Luce once, who was a great pioneer and role model for female writers. And, when I worked at The Toledo Blade I worked in the newsroom with Millie Benson. Haven’t heard of her? She was a pilot, a mother and a pioneering newspaperwoman. And, in her spare time, she ghost-wrote the Nancy Drew books. She was 75 and still writing newspaper stories by day and books at night when we worked together.

Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?

“Knowledge is power.” -Sir Frances Bacon.

What advice do you have for girls who want to be in your industry?

Attend a good journalism school and become adept at old-fashioned copy editing, reporting, writing and ethics. Of course, you may not need to take those courses to land a job in our evolving media industry. But, writers who ask probing questions, have an ethical foundation and are skilled at quickly writing a graceful piece in an inverted pyramid still have an advantage.

What other advice do you have?

Support the women around you. I think we are all lifted up, or dragged down, by women who either support women in the workplace, or who use their fellow women as stepping stones. That’s what I love about this website -- it advances female achievement in the best ways.