The concept of New York City, full of energy and creativity, was an alluring one for one Ball State graduate who found opportunities and connections after overcoming the toughness of the city.

Natali Cavanagh, who graduated from Ball State in 2018 with an English major and a concentration in creative writing, came to Ball State in 2014 seeking an anthropology degree. Soon after, she realized, like many other freshmen do, that the degree she set out for wasn’t the right fit for her.

Cavanagh enjoyed literature and storytelling, so she decided to take a creative writing class. Because of that class, she said she realized a career in writing would be more attainable, so she changed her major. 

During her sophomore and junior year, Cavanagh developed an interest in the New York Arts Program, which provides undergraduate students pursuing education in the arts and creative industries the opportunity to spend a semester in New York City in order to build writing skills and professional behavior. 

It also helps students find jobs and internships. After applying for the program her junior year at Ball State, Cavanagh found herself starting her senior year of college with the program in New York City.

“It’s just such a unique environment, and in such a short amount of time I did so much stuff,” Cavanagh said. 

The New York Arts Program helped her apply to internships in her field and provided her with a variety of lectures, activities and tutorials.

After the application process, Cavanagh was accepted to two places: Guernica, a non-profit arts and politics magazine, and Writers House, a literary agency.

“Together, they gave me plenty to do,” Cavanagh said.

Cavanagh helped work on various social media and day-to-day tasks for Guernica. At Writers House, she was an editorial intern, meaning she supported two different agents that represent a wide variety of literature. She also assisted with manuscripts reading and provided editorial feedback, which she said helped her learn discipline and professionalism.

“Starting to learn that discipline, especially as someone who wants to work as a creative, if you want to get it done, you’re the only person who is going to get it done,” Cavanagh said. “That was a really important skill to start learning.”

Cavanagh said her parents are from Long Island, and after visiting, she always wanted to live in New York City. After living there for a semester, she said while the city is unique and full of creative people, it only gives opportunities and success to those who work for it.

“Probably the biggest thing I had to come to terms with was, like, it is a really surreal place and it still is a very creative place, but at the end of the day, it’s still just a place,” Cavanagh said.

The New York Arts Program was originally brought to Ball State in 2010 by acting chairperson and associate professor English Cathy Day who was part of the program in college herself. Day became the program liaison and was able to to place 10 Ball State students in the program who were then able to transition to other opportunities. 

“It helped to give ambitious Ball State students a chance to get the kind of experiences they need to make it in certain types of industries like publishing,” Day said.

It’s important to push students to find and apply for any opportunities they may be qualified for despite their major, Day said. She encourages students to seek opportunities and utilize the Career Center on campus to their advantage.

“We have to work a little bit harder to teach students what kinds of things they are qualified to apply for,” Day said. “Getting them started on that process, even while they’re in school, really helps.”

Cavanagh, now completely graduated from Ball State, is returning to New York City to intern again this summer at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a children’s book publisher, as a marketing and publicity intern.

 Contact Andrew Harp with comments at adharp@bsu.edu or on Twitter @adharp24.