At Sports Illustrated no one blinks at a schedule that involves working all night, working through the weekend or hopping a plane at a moment's notice to work in a different time zone. But even by the unorthodox standards of a weekly magazine, the schedules that have regularly been endured by Joy Birdsong, Amy Nutt, Tracey Reavis and Pam Roberts are dizzying. This month, all four are graduating from New York City-area universities, all with degrees earned while they worked full time at SI.
"I spent hours after class here in front of the computer and slept many a night on the office couch," says Nutt, a writer-reporter who is graduating from Columbia University with a master's in journalism to go with her B.A. in English and philosophy from Smith College and her master's in philosophy from MIT. "It got a little scary when I mixed SI stories with Columbia stories in my head: The French sailor and the Queens undercover narcotics cop became the French sailing undercover narcotics cop." Nutt's article on sailor Christophe Auguin nevertheless made it into our May 8 issue without confusion, as did her story on golfer Helen Alfredsson.
Like Nutt, Birdsong could work and study in the office. A two-year veteran of the SI library, Birdsong is receiving her master's from Pratt Institute's Graduate School of Information and Library Science. Her work at the magazine actually helped her when it came time for term papers. "There are deadlines, and then there are deadlines," says Birdsong. "I came here and found out what real deadlines are."
While Reavis worked toward her B.A. in media studies at Fordham, it seemed only fitting that her favorite class was writing for magazines. Her final project for the class was a 3,000-word feature story about the Negro baseball leagues, focusing on Buck O'Neil, a first baseman from 1938 to '43 for the Kansas City Monarchs. In addition to working as a full-time administrative assistant at SI and being a student, Reavis worked part time on the sports desk at Newsday and wrote stories for the biweekly Fordham Observer.
A multicolored origami mobile hangs behind Roberts's office door as a reminder of an art course, the one that resulted in her only sub-A grade in five years of pursuing her master's in elementary education at Hunter College. But Roberts, a deputy copy chief at SI, needs no reminder of the rigors of working full time while student teaching. When she taught first- and second-graders on Manhattan's Upper East Side and fourth grade in East Harlem, Roberts says, "Some days, I'd be in the classroom from 8:30 in the morning until 2:30, then work here from 3 o'clock until 1 a.m. I'd plan my lessons on my lunch hour, and sometimes here when it was quiet."
Roberts is the only one of the four whose degree may not be immediately put to use. Although she plans to do substitute teaching in her neighborhood in Queens, she has no plans to leave SI. Birdsong, Nutt and Reavis all took classes to learn more about their current profession, and all are glad of their decision. But, says Nutt, enough is enough. "Oh, god, yes, I'm done. My parents could write a book of graduate school dos and don'ts." Nutt, however, has no time for a book. As she spoke, she was getting ready to leave for Wilmington, Del., to cover a golf tournament.