Pratika Katiyar, DMSB/CAMD'25, is used to writing headlines, but it's her work in press freedom and human rights that's now making headlines. 

Katiyar, a longtime student journalist, was recently named to the Her Campus 22 Under 22 list, a who's who of women game changers, trailblazers, and trendsetters. The email announcing the honor—sponsored in partnership with e.l.f. Cosmetics—took Katiyar by surprise.

“It's a culmination of the work I've been doing throughout college—advocacy and a lot of journalism that started in high school—so that was really exciting,” says the Business Administration and Communications Studies combined major. “And to be honored with so many amazing college women across the country and to represent Northeastern, too, I thought that was a great opportunity.”

With the rise of book bans, mis- and disinformation, AI and deep fakes, and censorship, Katiyar has only amped up her yearslong fight for First Amendment protections for students and fellow student journalists across the country. And amid the widespread shuttering of local news outlets, she also sees student journalists as critical to filling in reporting gaps and shaping the future of journalism.

Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Katiyar was always immersed in the world of politics, fascinated by the interplay of government and the role of the media.

I knew I wanted to do something public interest focused, and because corporations have such a vested interest in public policy these days, it's so important to understand how business works and (how) these decisions are being made.”

Pratika Katiyar, DMSB/CAMD'25

“That was something I was passionate about, and I was very vocal about social issues,” says Katiyar. “I found that journalism was an outlet for that.”

While attending Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va., Katiyar became editor-in-chief of the high school newspaper and nabbed her first professional bylines penning opinion pieces about the importance of protecting free speech on high school campuses. 

“In my high school, we didn't have censorship, but teachers would refuse to talk to students and were worried about the optics of the story,” says Katiyar, who assigned stories on everything from the role of diversity in her school's admissions process to the Women's March. “I realized a lot of these hurdles were impacting students across the country. And I think it's gotten even worse post-COVID with a lot of education legislation.”

Katiyar dug deeper into advocacy work, joining forces with the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), an organization fighting for state legislation to restore and protect First Amendment protections for students.

With SPLC's help, Katiyar testified for the New Voices bill, which reinforced free speech protections for student journalists in public institutions across Virginia, and today she's the youngest and only student member of SPLC's Board of Directors.

“Being on the board of a nonprofit is a cool hands-on experience that's so valuable and really complements my business education,” she says.

Katiyar's Business Administration major does raise some eyebrows among her peers who know her as an outspoken activist with plans for law school post-graduation. But for Katiyar, who came to Northeastern at the urging of her high school counselor who said the university's interdisciplinary curriculum might appeal to her, a business degree isn't so far-fetched. 

“I knew I wanted to do something public interest focused, and because corporations have such a vested interest in public policy these days, it's so important to understand how business works and (how) these decisions are being made,” she says.

As for her business concentration, which is finance, Katiyar says her classes are about social and impact investing, so she's getting a truly holistic understanding of how businesses operate, all through her social activism lens.

“People don't believe it when I say I'm a business major,” she says with a laugh. “But I feel like I'm embodying what Northeastern values, which is being a changemaker and taking advantage of interdisciplinary education. I think, if anything, more people with different backgrounds need to be going into these fields.”

When she's not in class, Katiyar works two jobs as a research assistant for Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and Harvard Law School's Initiative for the Representative First Amendment. She also regularly publishes her work, including a recent Q&A for Teen Vogue with journalist and Extremely Online authorTaylor Lorenz, and an impassioned op-ed for CNN.

This broad communications experience has been a significant boon in her co-ops. At Amazon, where she worked as a Privacy Program Manager, Katiyar's supervisor said her resume stuck out because of her journalism and writing experience. “She said, ‘I liked that you were a strong writer, even though this is a tech company,'” she recalls.

Katiyar admits that she never thought she'd work for a Big Tech company, but when the opportunity came, “I thought that it would really help me get this view into tech that most students at other schools would get just from a summer internship,” she continues. “And it was in a department that worked on an important issue—privacy is everything for tech companies right now.”

Working at Amazon cemented what Katiyar wanted to do in the future: keep writing, keep fighting, and continue her activism work on the legal side of things—hopefully in a dream job with the ACLU.

“When I was growing up, I didn't see that much representation—whether it was journalism, or even law or public policy—of women who looked like me,” she says. “So I wanted to be that representation, whether it's in law or journalism, because I still feel like there are not enough women of color, and our voices are really important. There are so many voices that need to be heard and so many things that still need to be said.”

Pratika Katiyar at TED.
Pratika Katiyar at TEDx NU.