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Home Features Alumni Colleen Murphy enlightens the present by reflecting on her history

Alumni Colleen Murphy enlightens the present by reflecting on her history

By Margaret Varrelmann
Staff Writer

From some of her happiest moments as a swimming coach to a writer for Health.com, Colleen Murphy has made her mark on the world. Upon graduating from the College in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and two minors in women’s and gender Studies and communications, Murphy obtained her “first ‘big girl’ job” in October 2016 as an assistant editor at PET AGE, where she would write articles about the latest pet products and trends.

Murphy said the work at PET AGE was the perfect first job. It was a subject that she was interested in that also gave her the opportunity to travel.  The job was supposed to commence in August, but a change in editor-in-chief halted these plans.

“They said ‘let us get another editor-in-chief, because you should be interviewing this new person too. It is not just you we should be interviewing, you should also interview who you are going to be working for to see if you vibe with them,’” said Murphy.

Throughout her time at the magazine, Murphy was able to travel and explore new places while on assignment.

Murphy wore a cap at graduation that said, “Hire me I write good.” The letters were cut out from old issues of The Signal (Photo courtesy of Colleen Murphy).

“There is a huge pet industry show, like a trade show, every year in Las Vegas and I had to go there to cover that.  It was a working trip but I was able to explore Las Vegas a little bit,” said Murphy. “I also went to the Grand Canyon when I wasn’t working for the show.” 

After two years at the magazine based out of Somerset, N.J., Murphy decided to take her talents into the healthcare field and began working at Healthcare Made Practical (HMP) where she spent her time working on a website for doctors,“Consultant 360.”

“I would interview doctors about the latest healthcare trends, how patients can best be treated.  My interviews with these doctors would then be sent back to other doctors. I had no medical background before going into that job so it was a lot of learning especially at first,” said Murphy.  “It was a challenge that was fun. It was nice to always learn new things.”

Her knowledge of the medical field from her time HMP has benefited her in many ways — including being better at “Jeopardy!”

 “A lot of ‘Jeopardy!’ clues are about health.  Because I have the health background now, I do better in ‘Jeopardy!’” Murphy said.

The health background is also helping her out in her most recent job at Health Magazine, where she gets to write articles for Health.com — a website directed towards women. She has the opportunity to suggest stories that she believes readers would appreciate.

The Signal staff in May 2016 (Photo courtesy of Colleen Murphy).

“It is a good combination of health and a focus on how regular people are affected by these things so it is not so clinical anymore,” said Murphy. “After I finish the day, I feel like I helped the world in some way.”

For over a year now, Colleen’s work in the healthcare field has been heavily influenced by Covid-19.

“One of the pieces I just wrote for Health.com was about ‘coronaphobia,’ which is a new term about having the pandemic affect you in such a way where you are losing your ability to function normally,” she said. “Maybe you’re scared to go outside or you’re so anxious that you can’t do things that you would normally be able to do without the phobia.”

Aside from shifts in article topics, the pandemic has also taken a toll on the skills and emotions required for day-to-day work. Her current job at Health.com is completely remote, which has been one of the biggest challenges she has faced in her career so far, she said.

Murphy shows off one of the issues that led The Signal to a third place win for the NJPA awards in the “General Excellence” category (Photo courtesy of Colleen Murphy).

“You’re not in the office anymore to be able to go over to someone and ask ‘Oh, can you show me how to upload this?’” said Murphy. 

Back at HMP, coming to terms with interviewing doctors on the front lines of the pandemic was a hurdle for Murphy. She did not feel comfortable disturbing them when they were already going through so much.

“You could only imagine how tired they are. Burnout is a huge problem for doctors and so burnout compounded by a pandemic, like who wants to speak to me,” said Murphy.

But the doctors did want to speak with her, regardless of how tired they might have been. She said that they realized that having a platform for talking to their peers was beneficial and that it was important to be getting their research out.

Murphy with journalism and professional writing professor, Emilie Lounsberry (Photo courtesy of Colleen Murphy).

As the conversation turned its focus to The Signal, a large smile brightened up Colleen’s face as she was taken back to some of her favorite memories — from staying up all night to hanging One Direction postcards on the walls.

“My favorite memory: the friendships that were developed there [in the office]. You would be there for hours and hours. I would get there at 9 a.m. and not leave until 4 a.m. the next morning sometimes,” said Murphy.

In her first three years at The Signal, Colleen and fellow writers wrote down every time someone said or did something funny on the classroom whiteboard.

“It was just very funny every week to read them and think back to why that was said, what the context was or you forget the context which makes it even funnier,” Murphy said. “I took a bunch of pictures of the board before I left so I still have all the quotes.” 

Her wide range of experiences at The Signal gave Murphy the tools she needed to create a successful life and career. 

The whiteboard filled with quotes (Photo courtesy of Colleen Murphy).

“Writing for The Signal definitely prepares you for other types of writing, especially if you have a good editor at The Signal who makes edits that improve your writing and how you approach a piece,” she said.

Even if the subject matter has changed, Murphy took everything she had learned at the College and applied it to topics affecting the world outside of campus.

“Working at The Signal helped with knowing how an organization runs. I took so much pride in the paper that was produced each week,” she said. “During my time at TCNJ, I interned at Seventeen Magazine and Cosmopolitan Magazine so I did have that experience also. I loved the Signal so much.”

Murphy on her last day at her internship for Seventeen magazine, during the winter of 2013 (Photo courtesy of Colleen Murphy).

To journalism majors beginning the career hunt, Murphy would like to shed some light on the path that lies ahead.

“I think a lot of the time when you think about journalism, you think of New York City in order to have a journalism career. I think it is important for current journalism students to know that it isn’t your only option. There are a ton of jobs you can get with a journalism degree,” she said. “Anyone who needs a writer really.”

The most surprising thing about life after college, said Murphy, is your twenties — everyone finds themselves in a different place in their lives.

“You cannot compare yourself to other people, ever, but especially in your twenties, because there is no right thing that should be happening,” she said. “People have different life paths.”

As for future plans, Murphy is a firm believer in the idea that ‘everything happens for a reason,’ which is why she would not want to change a thing about her time at college.

“As long as I am healthy, my family is healthy, and that I am still as close with them years from now as I am now, I’ll be happy,” said Murphy.

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