Student experience helps Penn State alumna 'unearth' magazine career

Rebecca Marcinko
January 18, 2021

Katy Koontz always had a passion for writing and chose Penn State for its journalism program. As a student, she also discovered and developed a love for anthropology, which led her to pursue and earn degrees in both anthropology and journalism.

Today, the 1981 graduate credits her pursuit of both degrees for shaping her career as a writer and editor. Building on experiences she had in both programs, Koontz says she was able to develop a “holistic view” of the world, and to learn to ponder – and ask – more thought-provoking questions.

“On an archeological dig, you’re digging, you hit stone, you clear it away, and you pick up this projectile point that hasn’t seen sunlight in thousands of years,” she said. “[You think about] the last person who touched it, or made it, or used it  – it creates a real human connection to other cultures and peoples.

“How are things different, and why are they different; how are we the same?” Koontz continued. “It’s sort of a reporter’s [way of] asking this question about common humanity.”

Koontz was able to apply this approach to her advantage as a freelance travel writer, saying it allowed her to examine different locations and cultures through a lens of commonalities connecting all people.

“When you’re getting an education and you’re young, it’s so much better to be able to have a broader education in things,” Koontz says about her dual degrees. “It makes you more interested in the whole picture – knowing more about how other things in the world work helps you understand how everything in the world fits together.”

Today, Koontz is editor-in-chief of Unity Magazine a periodical that describes itself as a magazine “for people who might call themselves spiritual but not religious” on its website. She has been the editor-in-chief for seven years.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity and just a huge blessing,” Koontz says. “We have grown and changed. The circulation has quadrupled, and I’ve gotten to meet so many people.”

Koontz credits connections she made while a Penn State student with opening doors for her within the profession. While here, she interned at Philadelphia Magazine and participated in the American Society of Magazine Editors’ (ASME) internship program as an intern for Architectural Record.

“Both of those internships were really valuable to me for different reasons, Koontz said, adding that her internship with Philadelphia Magazine was particularly noteworthy because it was her first time working for a publication that was not student-run. “

Koontz says she keeps in contact and networks with people from all stages in her life — including some from her ASME internship program. “No matter what the situation is, making those contacts and having that experience is just invaluable,” she shared.

She also stresses the importance of sharing one’s experience with others after entering the workforce. “As a student starting out, you’re always asking people for help,” Koontz says. “But be aware that as soon as you start out, you’re also able to help other people coming up. Kind of repay that as much as you can, because you never know when those people that are younger may someday be able to help you in some way. We’re all connected in this crazy world, so keep those connections.”

Koontz says she loved her time at Penn State and encourages current students to take full advantage of their time at the University.

“Stay curious,” Koontz added. “It makes life much more interesting.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 18, 2021