A portfolio full of various features, covers and reward winning content belongs to Debra Gibson, associate professor of practice in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.
Gibson teaches contemporary magazine publishing, where she has students discuss the aspects of published magazines. Gibson said she is fascinated by magazines and has the chance to teach her students about her passion each day.
Her fascination with magazines has allowed her success and has helped her guide students here at Iowa State to their own passions, Gibson said.
Gibson is an Iowa State graduate with a bachelor's degree in journalism. After graduating, she worked for a newspaper in Spencer, Iowa, and then returned to Ames to work for the ISU Alumni Association. There, she created the magazine titled Visions.
“Everybody has a story,” Gibson said. “[...] I’m just naturally a really curious person.”
Visions has gone on to receive more than 80 regional and national awards, including best alumni magazine, according to Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication website.
Visions has also presented Gibson with unique opportunities. Gibson said one of her most memorable experiences was the time she was able to visit Washington D.C. with a doctor from Des Moines who was chosen by then-candidate Bill Clinton’s campaign.
Clinton had been working on a new health care plan, and Gibson said she had the chance to travel alongside the doctor as he prepared for his meetings in D.C. and to tell his story.
After seeing the success of the Visions publication, Meredith Co., headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, reached out to Gibson and offered her a freelance writing position. Gibson said the position allowed her to stay home with her children while writing for Better Homes and Gardens and other special interests.
For years, Gibson said she worked for Meredith Co., interviewing people over the phone and producing content from her own home.
“I got really lucky,” Gibson said. “It’s a great opportunity for women journalists who want to stay home with their kids.”
Gibson said the experience she gained while at Meredith Co. has been put to use each year since 2004, as she now works as Iowa State’s Meredith Professional in Residence for the Meredith Apprentice Program.
The students have a chance to work as apprentices in a professional setting at the leading media and marketing services company in the U.S., according to Iowa State’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication website.
Gibson said the long standing relationship between Meredith Co. and Iowa State has been going on for decades and has helped many students make connections after graduation. The program started out with only five students each year in the editorial field. Now, the program has up to 10 students in a variety of areas such as editorial, social media and graphic design.
“You have to send down somebody who is able to do the work,” Gibson said. “[...] Some of these students continue to maintain leadership positions, are editor-in-chiefs of student magazines, or some even maintain jobs.”
After applying for the apprenticeship, students are given an hour-long interview with the same script of questions and a dinner with current Meredith Co. apprentices. The students are then scored on how well they do, and Gibson said she is able to decide who will receive an apprenticeship for the upcoming year.
This year-long apprenticeship requires 15 to 20 hours of work per week. The apprentices are given real deadlines and responsibilities. Gibson said the student apprentices have an impressive work ethic.
In her personal life, Gibson said magazine piles are spread throughout her home. She said it drives her husband crazy, but there isn’t a better way to treat herself than sitting down with a magazine and her Diet Sunkist as she gets “caught up in that world” of magazines.
Throughout her journey at Iowa State, Gibson said she hopes to keep expanding the connection Iowa State has with Meredith Co. and to continue to support students as they find their places in the journalism world.