by Jessica Mathews
It was Rachel Ramirez’s first day at her internship at Willaneppe Week, and her Editor wanted someone to report on a protest happening across the river in Portland, Oregon. She didn’t have a car, so Ramirez jumped on a bus and ran there in her heels. She is always chasing the next story.
Ramirez is 22-years-old and a graduate of the University of Portland, originally from the United States territory of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. Moving to Portland for college was Ramirez’s first visit to the mainland. As the return flights were too expensive to justify her parents joining the trip, she recalls being one of the few freshman students who moved in alone.
“It was a little bit of a culture shock,” Ramirez said. While Saipan had been very culturally diverse, the University of Portland was a private Catholic, predominately white institution of about 4,250 students.
Ramirez wanted to study journalism. There was no journalism major at the college, but the University of Portland gave her the best financial package, so she joined the Class of 2018 as a Communications major with a minor in French. She started applying to work for the student newspaper, The Beacon, her freshman year.
“Rachel applied for The Beacon three time before she got on staff,” said Nancy Copic, the adviser of the newspaper. “That alone tells you a lot about her persistence.”
In 2015, a typhoon occurred back in Saipan, destroying homes across the island. Ramirez was frustrated that none of the major media outlets were covering it, so she wrote an article herself and submitted it to CNN. While it wasn’t published, it was shared extensively online. Soon after, Ramirez was finally offered a position at The Beacon and became the senior reporter multimedia producer—she published ten articles and made multimedia content including videos, infographics and podcasts during her time there.
Ramirez was accepted to the prestigious Dow Jones News Fund internship program for the summer of 2018. She will be training at New York University, and then working at the Advertising Specialty Institute in Pennsylvania for the summer, where she will be looking at trends impacting the apparel, tech and sustainability markets.
Ramirez said it was her work at the student newspaper that gave her the journalism experience she needed through training and boot camps.
“Joining the Beacon... It opened a lot of journalism opportunities for me,” Ramirez said.
Throughout her undergraduate education, Ramirez served as an intern for the Oregon Business Magazineand Willamette Week before being accepted into the Dow Jones program. Ramirez was also one of 15 students in the nation to get accepted into the Asian American Journalists Association VOICES Program, for whom she traveled to Philadelphia to present an extensive project.
“I’m pretty sure she was chronically tired all the time,” Copic said.
Copic described Ramirez as “inclusive,” and said she has a heart for making sure that everyone’s voice is heard. Many of her articles featured stories of refugees, immigrants, minorities, and anyone who might feel like an outsider. Copic said Ramirez used to walk around campus with one question in her mind: is that a story?
“I’m just really looking forward to seeing what she does with her future,” Copic said.