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Stegen, who graduated cum laude in May with a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, is well-known on the Downtown Phoenix campus for creating a month-long holiday in which everyone wears gold in support of the ASU football team, every day in September.
At graduation she received the inaugural Cronkite Spirit Award, for creating the “Goldtember” celebration and for sharing her Sun Devil pride as a community assistant in Taylor Place residence hall.
Not so well known is that she has honed her technology skills to a fine point through the coursework at the Cronkite School. Working in the New Media Innovation Lab, she is a lead project manager for a group that created a new app, “AZ State Trails,” for the Arizona Parks Department.
A tech-lover since she taught herself how to create web pages in elementary school, Stegen plunged into C++ and Java programming at ASU and has produced sophisticated multimedia news packages through her advanced online media courses.
Stegen represents the new breed of multimedia journalist who can code, write, take photos and video, and put them together in an attractive package. She has been tagged to be a marketing consultant for ABC15 this summer and will then move to Bakersfield, Calif., to be an online content producer for 23ABC for six months.
“A lot of media outlets are looking for journalists who can write and take videos and photos on the go and use social media efficiently,” says Stegen. “At the Cronkite School we get a toolbox of skills, the kind that are hard to learn because there are no textbooks on them, since innovations in the digital realm come so fast.
“We have professors in the field who have their fingers on the pulse of digital journalism and can guide us with their insights. It’s hands-on. I feel lucky to be in a top-tier program, in a field that’s moving so quickly.”
Stegen grew up in Phoenix with a tech-savvy mother and got involved with her high school newspaper, trying her skills at news writing, graphics and layout. She hadn’t considered journalism as a career until her senior year, then began looking at colleges and learned that one of the top-ranked programs is at ASU.
She has especially enjoyed learning how to tell compelling stories in digital form, through her advanced online media course with faculty member Nancie Dodge. One of her favorite stories she produced is on YouTube.
Her work in the New Media Innovation Lab for Arizona State Parks came about after the parks department approached ASU professor Retha Hill with a problem: Arizona has dozens of hiking trails that people don’t know about and don’t use. Popular trails such as Piestewa Peak summit get overused and worn down, while other trails nearby get little use.
Stegen and a team of students worked with a map of trails and interviewed avid hikers about the conditions and challenges of each. Over multiple semesters, they have created a smart phone app that features a map of 1,600 Arizona hiking trails, the difficulty of each and the estimated time to hike it. The app lists the current temperature at each location and shows the hiker where he or she is, when hiking the trail.
The app soon will be submitted to the Apple App Store, pending transfer of the database to Arizona State Parks. The department is eager to introduce it to the public.
As the president of the student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, Stegen also is known for having spearheaded a 2013 “Men of Journalism” calendar project to raise funds for the organization. The calendar featured male student journalists in different locations around the Valley – fully clothed. It sold quickly and garnered national media attention.
Stegen, who owns 25 gold ASU shirts and has attended almost every home football game, says she’ll miss ASU when she graduates. But she’s eager to see what her future holds.
“The station position in Bakersfield will be a great stepping stone. I can see if I like TV news, if I like California, and see where it goes from there.”