Circling back

Nate Brown returned to MU with more hands-on journalism experience than any of his current classmates. At the Missouri School of Journalism, he discovered he still had more to learn.

Nate Brown portrait

May 8, 2023
Contact: Marcus Wilkins,

As a nontraditional student returning to the University of Missouri to complete his degree after establishing a robust career in journalism and communication, Nate Brown brings added value to any classroom. In fact, multiple professors at the Missouri School of Journalism remember Brown from his days as a cub reporter for the Columbia Daily Tribune “back in the late 20th century,” Brown said.

But when Brown talks about his latest Mizzou stint — decades after beginning his academic journey — he credits his fellow undergraduates for teaching him, too.

“These students were born into the latest technologies and know it like the backs of their hands,” said Brown, who also works as social media manager for the School of Journalism while attending classes. “The fundamentals of newsgathering haven’t changed, but the tools of the trade have come so far. That has been fun to learn.”

Read on for a Q&A with Brown about his Mizzou experience.

When did you become interested in journalism?

I was born and raised here in Columbia. In fact, I was born on campus at the old MU Medical Center. I remember being on Mizzou’s campus as a kid and going for family walks on Sundays near Brady Commons, now called the MU Student Center. I got the journalism bug in fifth grade with a yearlong class project called the Field School Gazette. We produced a weekly newspaper. I still have physical copies.

My beat was our school basketball team — a team I was also a part of. I enjoyed the fact that we were always looking for something new to report every week. My mom was my biggest supporter, and she nurtured my interest in journalism. She got me subscriptions to Time and The Sporting News.

At Hickman High School, I wrote a monthly consumer column for the school newspaper and I produced a weekly radio program on KFRU called “Hickman Highlights.” Then, of course, it was time to go to the University of Missouri. I’d been hired by the Tribune a month before high school graduation, so by my first college semester, I was a full-time student also working a full-time job. My GPA took a hit, and my classroom days were over.

What made you come back to Mizzou?

I lived in Washington, D.C., for 24 years, working several jobs: regional director of community relations for a global IT firm, senior writer at a prison ministry and a communications director at the March of Dimes. Many of these jobs had a writing or editing test as part of the application process, but there were other jobs that looked really cool that I couldn’t apply for because they required a degree.

I attended a Mizzou reception in 2013 when the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference was in Washington. I thought I would say hello to Roger Gafke, professor emeritus and my college advisor when I was in school before. Roger introduced me to Dean Mills, dean of the school at the time, who shook my hand and said, “Why didn’t you finish school?” Roger told me about some openings in the journalism school and that there’s a staff discount. I came back to Mizzou three months later, and the rest is history.

How has the Missouri Method — and the School of Journalism — impacted your life and career?

One of my favorite classes – and a defining one – was Journalism 4180, a course in which you do a little photography, a little video, a little writing, a little audio — everything. My original journalism emphasis area was photojournalism. But 4180 reminded me of how much I enjoyed and missed radio and audio work, so I later spent my capstone at KBIA, our NPR-member station. That’s one of the great things about the School of Journalism and Mizzou at large: you’re taking a range of courses: journalism, political science, atmospheric science, theatre. You’re given the opportunity to discover what truly interests you.

What does finishing your degree mean to you?

I’m proud of this accomplishment. As I said before, my mother was always my biggest cheerleader and supporter. I re-enrolled at Mizzou on the 11-year anniversary of her passing, and I will graduate on May 14, 2023 — Mother’s Day. This whole experience honors her.

What are your plans after graduation?

I’m currently the social media manager for the School of Journalism, and I love what I do. I make pictures and meet students and I get to promote their successes and triumphs. But there’s a part of me that would like to be at an NPR-member station and go back to reporting local news. We’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll even end up in front of a classroom someday.

Meet more spring 2023 graduates

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