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DSU Alum Works on Pulitzer-Winning Article

by Paige Hawk Aug 9, 2021

When Taylor Rojek ’12 graduated from DeSales University with a bachelor’s degree in English, she had no idea that she would eventually work with a Pulitzer-winning team. 

Rojek, now a features editor at Runner’s World magazine, worked with her team to produce the piece “Twelve Minutes and a Life” by Mitchell S. Jackson. She was involved throughout the process, from the first steps of researching writers to crafting the display copy and reviewing the print layout. 

The piece, a moving reflection on the killing of Ahmaud Arbery and the connection between running and systemic racism, went on to win the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. 

“From the beginning, we were really focused on getting this piece right. Ahmaud's story is gutting and all too familiar for Black people, and we had to find a writer that could encapsulate those emotions. When Mitchell S. Jackson turned in his copy, we knew we had found the exact right writer for it.” 

 Taylor Rojek ’12

Although Rojek knew that the piece was special, she describes the experience of being on a Pulitzer-winning team as a “total surprise.” She was unaware that the piece had been submitted for consideration, and hadn’t expected a special interest magazine to receive such prestigious national recognition. 

As a result of the win, Rojek’s perspective on the scope of her work has been transformed.  

“This (piece) was a huge reminder that the themes and experiences we cover can have a much bigger audience than just people who are looking to run marathons or do a 5k,” she says. 

While a student at DeSales, Rojek took advantage of the Career Center, which helped her find internships that directly related to her future career aspirations. Juilene Osborne-McKnight, MFA, professor of English and director of the MFA in Creative Writing and Publishing, notes that Rojek, “worked hard all throughout undergrad, constantly improved her writing, and chose very specifically-targeted internships, all of which led to her current success.”

Like all DSU professors, McKnight loves seeing past students excel in their career. 

McKnight says of her students, “In my mind, these are ‘my’ kids. I love them and I root for them and I try to help them every step along the way. I see each success as a legacy, something good and wonderful that improves the world, and it makes me so proud to have been their teacher.”