Reflections: Honoring Michelle Hedenskoog as she steps down from the CQS program

Chips Quinn Scholars thank Michelle Hedenskoog for her 17 years of invaluable service to the program.

 

Michelle Hedenskoog with Leezel Tanglao

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When you think of the Chips Quinn Scholars program, several key names always pop up: the late John and Loie Quinn, Program Director Karen Catone and, of course, Michelle Hedenskoog.

I met Michelle during the year I was in the program, summer of 2003. She was always helpful and thoughtful, and she always knew how to connect Chipsters with opportunities, even after I had finished the program. When Michelle moved to the West Coast, I was happy because she was a lot closer to my hometown, and I could meet up with her when I returned to visit.

She and her husband Mike are avid world travelers – so she’s always one of the first people I go to when trying to figure out where to go and what to do in a new place. But most of all, she’s been a rock – always there to listen and offer insight and advice – not just on career things but life in general. For that, I’m most grateful. I know I’ll take those thoughts with me wherever I go. And I’ll be excited to tell her all about the next adventure I embark on, thanks to her tips and guidance.

Michelle will forever be associated with the program that changed lives, and I know she will continue to play that role wherever she is.

Maraming Salamat po, Michelle!​

Leezel Tanglao/@leezeltanglao (Summer 2003), assistant managing editor, CNNMoney, New York

 

Tasnim Shamma

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When I got sick in the middle of the night during the spring 2010 session of the Chips Quinn Scholars orientation and multimedia training in Nashville, Tenn. (fortunately it was just a high fever), Michelle didn’t hesitate to wake up and take me to the emergency room in her pajamas. She was thoughtful and caring, and such a comforting presence.

While we were there, a nurse asked if I wanted my family – my hotel roommate and fellow Chipster Alejandra Matos and the fabulous Michelle – to accompany me inside. I started to tell the nurse we weren’t related but realized then that they really were family. I told her they were welcome to come inside if they wanted to, and of course they did. I was touched by Michelle’s warmth and kindness and am forever grateful.

Michelle also goes above and beyond with her professional email newsletters, alerting us to job openings, training opportunities and the latest Chipster news. She helps bring people together and treats us all like a big family, which you would imagine would be difficult, with the hundreds of us out there!

With the late John Quinn, CQS program co-founder, and CQS program Director Karen Catone, Colleen Fitzpatrick, Val Hoeppner and Anne Bailey, Michelle helps bring our CQS family together. Whenever I moved to a new city, she was able to tell me how many Chipsters lived there and where they worked, and give me their contact information. In that way, I was able to connect with many Chipsters who became mentors for me along my journalism career from Washington, D.C., to Minneapolis.

After the orientation program concluded in 2010, I wrote Michelle a letter. In response, she explained how her continuing work with the program grounded her as she and her husband moved from the Washington, D.C., area to the West Coast. She wrote, “CQS IS family. The program has not only been my employer but family, as well. Being a trailing spouse is a challenge in itself and I am grateful for CQS for continuing my ties with them.”

Tasnim Shamma/@TasnimS (Spring 2010), reporter, WABE 90.1 FM, National Public Radio’s Atlanta affiliate

 

***

When I heard that Michelle Hedenskoog was stepping down from the Chips Quinn Scholars program, I felt happy for her and her husband Mike. I imagined they would travel to new, exciting places around the world and explore more eateries around their home in the Los Angeles area. But then I also got sad at the idea of her being gone.

All of the CQS administrators have an important role in keeping the program running. If you did not have the pleasure of knowing Michelle, that is because during our week of training she usually sat in the back of the room, hidden behind a computer screen, working quietly, sending out emails, updating the CQS website and much more. Even after the week of training ended, she still worked from home.

One thing I always admired about Michelle is her thoughtfulness. She constantly kept track of all of us, celebrated our achievements and connected past alumni with newer classes of Scholars. Perhaps you needed a new job; she probably kept you in mind and emailed you about the new position. I can say she did that for me.

Michelle, thank you for all your hard work with the Chips Quinn Scholars program – 17 years is a lot – and for keeping me in mind for cool jobs, connecting me with other Chipsters, and for your friendship. I will forever be grateful. I am sure you will be missed by Karen Catone, Colleen Fitzpatrick and Val Hoeppner. Whoever continues your work has big shoes to fill.

Sending you a big hug.

Noelle Haro-Gomez/@nrhg05 (Spring 2014), photojournalist, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

 

Michelle Hedenskoog with Chi-Chi Zhang

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Michelle, you are a rock for new Chipsters navigating the crazy world of journalism. You’ve been instrumental in my connection to the Chipster community, even as I ventured abroad to pursue my dreams of becoming a foreign correspondent. I still remember your words of encouragement at Yung Kee roast goose restaurant in Hong Kong, when I wanted to move to mainland China but hesitated about taking such a big leap. Thank you for everything!

Chi-Chi Zhang/@chi2zhang (Summer 2003), senior editor, Google, Boston

 

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In her video, Tiffany Williams tells Michelle Hedenskoog that “Chipsters like me are incredibly grateful for everything that you did and continue to do.”

Tiffany Williams/@TwiceMediaLLC (Summer 2010), CEO and creative director, Twice Media Productions, Houston

 

Kristen Go

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It’s tough to think about the Chips Quinn program without Michelle Hedenskoog. She is the kind of person who does things behind the scenes and prefers to do so without fanfare. I would most often be in touch with Michelle when I was searching for intern or job applicants. Michelle was like a human database for CQ Scholars. She knows where everyone works and their achievements. She also knows details about each and every Scholar who keeps in touch with the program. She has been a tremendous resource for every single CQS, not to mention Karen Catone and the late John Quinn, and her work is what has helped make the program feel so special and personable for the past 17 years.

Kristen Go/@kristenrgo (1996 and 1997), special projects director, Investigative Reporting Program, University of California Berkeley School of Journalism 

 

***

I’m beyond fortunate to have had Michelle Hedenskoog as a colleague for nearly as long as I’ve been with the CQS program. One of my duties is to edit the website copy, while Michelle keeps the web schedule and posts the entries. So she and I have corresponded on a near-weekly basis for many years. It may well be the most easygoing relationship I’ve ever had with a colleague. Nothing fazes her, and she always has a plan B. Her deepest instinct, it seems, is to be helpful. Add to that her quiet calm, professionalism, kindness and deep interest in other people, and you have an unparalleled colleague.

Chips Quinn Scholars staff

Our interactions have not been limited to work matters. As noted elsewhere, Michelle is a travel expert (and foodie!), and she has become my de facto travel agent, providing me with reading lists, hiking trips and spending tips. In Portugal, she urged me not to get “enticed by the roast chicken – it’s everywhere in Lisbon (expensive, too) and while good, it’s the same as the Costco $4.99 chicken.” She recommended a hiking trip I might like at a Costa Rica coffee farm. She sent along a story about Paris – though it was flawed, she noted, because it failed to list a convenient and cheap way to get from the airport to the city center. I set up folder that holds dozens of her travel-related emails, which I consult before taking a trip – or as I’m dreaming of one.

When we aren’t traveling the world through emails and photos, Michelle shares news of Chipsters and journalism trends and developments. When tapped for advice, she offers it with directness, compassion and sometimes with a twinkle in her eye. I’m beyond fortunate to have Michelle as a friend.

Happy trails, my friend. May the wind be at your back in this next phase of your life’s journey and always.

Colleen Fitzpatrick, Chips Quinn career coach since 2000

Please share your thoughts and memories of Michelle Hedenskoog by leaving a comment below. 

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