Meredith Dietz is a graduating senior with a combined major of Communication Studies and English. She entered Northeastern planning to study biochemistry, but soon joined the Explore Program and after going on an Honors Dialogue with CAMD Professor Michael Hoppmann, Rhetoric and Justice in Central Europe, felt confident pursuing a degree in writing. Now, she has held positions at Hasbro and The Onion, has traveled to Cambodia to help mentor college-aged women, and has had multiple papers accepted to the Eastern Communication Association (ECA) Conference. We had the chance to catch up with Meredith and find out more about her experiences at Northeastern. Read more in the Q+A below.
You’re currently a Headline Contributor at The Onion. What are your responsibilities there?
The Onion story: So, The Onion offers six month editorial fellowships twice a year. In December 2018, I submitted my application packet, which primarily consisted of 25 headlines, along with some sample article write-ups. Since the position begins in January, and New Year’s came and went with no response from them, I correctly assumed that I didn’t get the gig. However, in mid-January, one of the editorial assistants reached out to let me know I had made it into the final ten candidates considered for the fellowship, so they extended a trial period to become a “headline contributor” (not the same thing as a “contributing writer,” or even “contributor” or “writer”).
My role is to submit ten headlines every week. No article copy; just headline jokes. This experience has been transformative for me personally. My writing process is non-stop. Whether I’m people-watching, on a run, or grocery-shopping, I’m constantly capturing observations that could become satirical headlines. The notes app on my phone looks like I’m deranged and potentially illiterate. What’s more, getting jokes accepted by The Onion has affirmed my passion for pursuing comedy post-graduation. It’s a scary leap, but now I have the confidence that I need to give it a shot.
What work were you doing while in Cambodia?
As the Leadership Resident with the Harpswell Foundation, my dedication to women’s empowerment was reinforced each day. For six months, I lived and worked with over 40 Cambodian women attending university in Phnom Penh, where my responsibilities were grounded in the foundation’s mission of empowerment through critical thinking. I facilitated leadership training and the constant analysis of international current events for female Cambodian students in Phnom Penh. You can read about my experience (and other travels) on my personal blog.
What was the most rewarding part of your Cambodia trip?
It’s difficult to articulate the most “rewarding” aspect of my time at Harpswell without sounding selfish. Nevertheless, to make it about me: The point of going abroad is to feel a little smaller. That smallness, rather than being debilitating, is part of the growth process. It’s perspective-building. Think of perspectives like muscles. When you exercise, your muscles rip and tear before growing bigger. Our perspectives likewise need to be ripped and torn in order to become stronger. The Harpswell Leadership Resident is unique in that I didn’t feel like a “mentor” or “teacher” as much as I got to feel like a sister. And that relationship is not a reflection of me in particular, but of the inspirational Harpswell girls.
You worked at Hasbro for one of your co-ops; what were your responsibilities there?
For my Hasbro co-op, I was the Creative Writing Intern for the Games Team (specifically assigned to Monopoly). I wrote, edited, and brainstormed package copy, rules, and creative content for games like Monopoly, Speak Out, and Pie Face. I even got to research and create trivia questions for a kids’ game, as well as take on an independent project for a kids’ mix-n-match card game. Basically, where game designers “invent” the games, writers are responsible for communicating the rules of gameplay and the tone/voice of the game to the players. In order to best convey gameplay, this co-op involved a ton of “playtesting.” I lost my fair share of Monopoly on the job.
Can you speak a bit on your on-campus involvement?
I’ve had a lot of fun going to a casual comedy sketch writing group, and monthly “Lady-prov” sessions (all girls improv jam). Whenever possible, I’ve also attended Professor Michael Hoppmann’s “Disputation Club,” which is a logical argumentation training group.