By Nathan DiCamillo
Whenever Ali Stratton is presented with a challenge, she rises to the occasion. When she was looking for a journalism internship after junior year at the University of Oklahoma (OU), Stratton applied to openings on the east coast’s competitive news market. When she wasn’t accepted, she kept applying. During her senior year, she gave a Wall Street Journal reporter a tour around OU’s campus. At the end of the tour, the reporter suggested she apply to the Journal’s internship program. This time Stratton was accepted as an intern for the Journal, but to a track in which she had no experience: Business reporting. The Journal accepted Stratton as a summer 2017 Dow Jones News Fund Business Intern.
“If you look at what I’ve done, it’s certainly not something I’ve focused on,” Stratton said. “I knew I definitely lacked a base of financial knowledge, but I was absolutely thrilled to be able to work for the Journal.” At the time, her mentor and journalism professor, John Smeltzer, encouraged her to take a macroeconomics class and a business journalism independent study. Throughout the semester, the 22-year-old journalist sat down with her 71-year-old mentor and former Chicago Tribune business editor and reporter to pore over Wall Street Journal stories, earnings reports and financial statements.
Stratton met Smeltzer when she took a Community Journalism class with him sophomore year. Smeltzer took note of Stratton’s talent when he read an article of hers in OU’s campus newspaper and recognized the maturity of her writing skills after she told him that the editors had barely touched the piece. “She was an exceptional writer,” Smeltzer said. “She came in without needed to know how to structure a story.”
Stratton switched from International Affairs to Journalism her sophomore year. The summer after her freshman year, she interned at the U.S. House of Representatives under representative Steven Pierce from her home state, New Mexico. The summer after her sophomore year, she worked as a staff reporter for her hometown paper, The Albuquerque Journal, where she got to write stories about her the city in which she was born.
In preparation for her internship, Stratton began to anchor the business segments of her school’s television station, OU Nightly, at the beginning of her senior year. Smeltzer was heartbroken watching her switch from print to broadcast. “I couldn’t believe that she would want to go over to just sit and read something,” Smeltzer said. “But she showed there that she could go and learn that quickly as well.” The next semester, Smeltzer convinced her to switch back to the print site.
The seasoned Tribune reporter was delighted to see a byline by Stratton on the Journal’s site in late March. The paper reached out to OU and asked if they could send a reporter to cover a speech being given by the Kansas City federal reserve president. Smeltzer sent Stratton. “I can’t wait to see her byline in the print edition,” Smeltzer said.
Stratton graduated from OU in May. She left behind students who consider her a friend and mentor. “She went above and beyond and made me feel at home,” said sophomore journalism student Sarah Beth Guevarra. Since the beginning of Guevarra’s freshman year, Stratton helped her with school and college life. Both journalists are half Hispanic and are National Hispanic Merit winners. Stratton is also half Cherokee.
Guevarra had dinner every Monday with Stratton last year. While she’ll miss Stratton’s presence around campus, Guevarra believes her mentor will change the world. “She doesn’t leave a stone unturned, asking questions where you don’t think there are questions,” Smeltzer said. “She’s really on top of what she wants to do and has a pretty good plan. She is truly exceptional.”