To the Class of 2021: Once an eagle, always a part of The Eagle
The Eagle’s Class of 2021 reflects on their time on staff
Editor’s Correction: This article has been corrected with the proper spelling of Fariha Rahman’s name.
As we begin the summer and prepare to transition into a new wave of staff members at The Eagle, it is important to congratulate those who have made this newspaper what it is today. The Class of 2021 has been instrumental in advocating for student media, The Eagle and student journalism throughout their time at American University.
On the last day of her tenure as editor-in-chief, Sophie Austin wrote a goodbye letter to our readers and staff. After graduation, Austin will report local news as an intern for the Dallas Morning News. During her time at The Eagle, Austin was an integral part of the News staff and introduced several new diversity initiatives as EIC, including El Águila, The Eagle’s Spanish coverage section.
“We, the student journalists of The Eagle, have set ambitious goals amid heartbreaking circumstances,” Austin wrote in her letter. “We’ve accomplished so much and set ourselves up to continue to serve the community in the best way we can in the future.”
Taking a page from The GW Hatchet’s “30 final column inches,” we congratulate our entire class of graduating seniors and invite you to read their reflections and tributes below.
Abbie Veitch, Administrative Local News Editor, Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies and Environmental Studies
During my freshman year, when I nervously walked up to The Eagle office for a “meet the staff event,” I almost left before talking to anyone and then Haley Samsel introduced herself to me and told me to apply. Despite being worried I would not get a spot on staff, I sent the application and when I got an email saying I got a position as a news staff writer, I posted a screenshot of my acceptance email from Haley on my private Instagram. The caption said, “I really didn’t think this was going to happen and now I have responsibilities uh ah but also AH!!” At the time when I said ‘responsibilities’, I was thinking about personal responsibilities like meeting deadlines and showing up to meetings. After being on the Eagle for four years, the meaning of responsibilities shifted for me.
Being a student journalist — working and writing about a community that we are so deeply invested in — has been a responsibility that myself and my fellow seniors and staff members carry every day. This experience has taught me so much about what it means to be a storyteller and why this work is important. It has also shown me the very real and tangible consequences of mistakes in journalism and that we cannot take our responsibilities to uphold ethics and consider harm in our reporting lightly. I’m especially grateful to Sophie [Austin], who has consistently reminded us of how to improve and diversify our work in her role as EIC. I have no doubt that the next generations of Eagles will continue to carry this responsibility and do even more incredible journalism in the years to come. On a more personal note, I cannot imagine what my college experience would have looked like without the people I’ve met on The Eagle. The Eagle has been my rock throughout college; I consistently had a place to go and people to be with when things were challenging in the larger AU community and in my personal life. Whether it was help with homework, advice on a story or someone to vent to or laugh with, I could always find that in The Eagle office. Out of everything I’ve missed during this virtual year, I’ve missed being in the office the most.
But despite being apart we’ve continued our weekly staff meetings, where we editorialize on the big news of the week. During every ed-board, I’m struck by the thoughtfulness of my peers, and I’m thankful to be exposed to so many other perspectives. I can’t tell you how much these perspectives have pushed me to grow not only as a writer and a storyteller but as a person and as a friend. Here are just a few of the people I’ve met through The Eagle who have challenged, supported and helped me to grow: Courtney, Haley, Kimberly, Nick, Sasha, Dilpreet, Brandon, Maria, Cordilia, Brianna, Lydia, Grace, Clare, Sophie, Kelsey, Spencer, Fariha and Nina. That list could go on and on and take up this entire letter. I’m so lucky to have had these people to lean on and learn from and I’m hopeful that the next Eagles will have similar friendships that foster the kind of strong newsroom and community that I was so fortunate to be a part of.
Alec Branch, Assistant Sports Editor, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism
My time with The Eagle began in the spring of 2020 as a staff writer for the sports section. I went in with pretty low expectations as to what I would be doing, expecting to just cover some basketball games and not much else. But when I picked up a feature story on a highly ranked wrestler who was chasing a national championship at the time, that was when I really decided to go all in and be fully a part of the newspaper and sports section. At a school like AU where the athletic programs seem to be pretty far down on the list of things that people at the school engage with, it is easy to forget or look past just how many incredible stories so many athletes and coaches have. There could be a basketball player who's chasing the school’s all-time scoring record. There could be a wrestler that's ranked sixth nationally in his weight class. Athletes at the school could be forming coalitions to empower themselves and push the school to be anti-racist. Even in a pandemic, when there are no games actually being played, the sports section will always have fun and interesting stories, and sports at AU is no different.
First, I want to thank Spencer Nusbaum, who has been and will continue to be an incredible managing editor for the sports section. It can’t be easy to lead a sports section in a year where no games took place for 10 months, but he was always a great source for finding new stories, and I also learned a lot from his own writing and reporting. He also edited every piece I wrote, and I can definitely say I became a better writer because of that. I also want to thank Jon Kolodny for helping me out early on and being a great example to learn from when it comes to figuring out how to cover live games and conduct postgame interviews, things I had never done before I joined The Eagle. Lee Clarke and Zeke Cohen started in the sports section during the same semester as I did and being able to work with them on stories, as well as follow the work they have done, has been a great experience. Lastly, I would like to shout out Sophie Austin and Lydia Calitri for being incredible EICs during my time at The Eagle. Being a part of The Eagle has really been a worthwhile experience.
Asher Weinstein worked as a student government beat reporter and features editor in the news section for most of his time as an AU student. He covered SG elections, guest speaker events and wrote a story featuring an AU alumni who attended BLM protests this past summer.
“He was someone I could rely on for breaking news and in-depth investigative pieces, always knowing he would dedicate his time and energy to making sure the story was factual, accurate and expansive of all angles,” News Managing Editor Kelsey Carolan wrote.
Bobbie Armstrong, Satire Editor
Bobbie Armstrong is a staple in The Eagle’s satire column, The Seagle. As a satire editor, she has written over a dozen pieces.
“Bobbie always finds a way to make pitch meetings funny, lighthearted and that really shows through in the work that she produces, specifically for the satire section,” Opinion Managing Editor Riya Kohli said. “She’s just a very funny person, and I know that she’s definitely made me smile in the past couple semesters where it’s been kind of rough for everybody.”
Cameron Fisher, Sports Staff Writer, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism
Being a part of The Eagle was never a thing I really reflected on, but now that my time on staff is over, I can’t help but think about how important this organization was to me. It was the kind of thing that fell in my lap and became the driving force for improving my writing, becoming more connected to campus and meeting some of the most talented and devoted people. In a time when nothing felt normal or constant, The Eagle was there for me and it quickly became one of the highlights of my college career.
Throughout my life I have always viewed sports as a unifying and powerful tool to bring people together, so covering AU’s teams and athletic department during this past year of distance is something I’ll always remember. I am so proud of the work we accomplished and how we were able to adapt to the challenges at hand and make covering games online work. And of course I can’t talk about the sports staff without thanking our incredible Managing Editor Spencer Nusbaum. His editing and own reporting have made me a better writer and I am so grateful to have had him leading the way this past year. Thanks for fielding my many questions and always keeping things interesting.
Probably the most valuable thing I’ll take away from my time at The Eagle is the resiliency of student journalism. Kind of cliché to say, but the odds were really stacked against us this year, and I was consistently in awe of the work that all of the staffers produced and just how dedicated they were to covering such important topics. The future of The Eagle is bright and thank you to everyone for letting me be a part of it even for just a short time. Best of luck in the future!
Cecilia Markley, Style Editor, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Minors in Political Science and Spanish
My time on The Eagle was unique in many ways. I only joined one year ago, so my entire time spent with The Eagle was online. I never met many of my fellow staffers in person, and I never even stepped foot in our office. I wasn’t even in D.C. during the summer and fall of 2020. In the beginning, I felt like an imposter, and I felt guilty speaking up and sharing my opinion. But as time went on, I realized how wonderful The Eagle family is. Fellow staffers encouraged me and cheered me on throughout my time here, making me feel each passing day more and more like a part of the Eagle family. Kelly McDonnell, as managing editor of Life in summer and fall of 2020, was supportive of my initiative to cover underrepresented clubs on campus and was always willing to answer my many questions and listen to me when I was self-conscious about an article. Sophie Austin, our amazing editor-in-chief for the 2020-2021 school year, talked to me during news shifts in the fall about class, The Eagle and just life in general. And then, I was shocked and unbelievably honored when Clare Mulroy, the managing editor of Life in spring of 2021 and our brilliant new editor-in-chief, offered me the position of Style editor.
As Style editor this semester, I often felt out of place. At pitch meetings, I always compared myself to arts and entertainment editor Stephanie Mirah and music editor Thomas Recchio, both of whom never failed to come with a myriad of well-researched pitches. Food and fitness editor Emily Walsh always had creative pitches. Silver screen editor Grace George almost every week had found a new screener for the staffers. I felt like I couldn’t live up to them and was always flailing when presenting my pitches. Several times throughout the semester, however, I reached out to Clare and Steph, and they reassured me that I was doing a good job. I also want to shoutout Grace, who wrote such an amazing Style article for the spring print edition. And a big thank you to Clare for answering my constant texts. I’m so excited to follow her work as editor-in-chief. I want to thank Kelly and Clare, the Life section editors and more broadly the entire Life section, for being some of the kindest, most talented and most genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Thank you to everyone who worked at The Eagle this past year. You all helped me in so many ways. Thank you to everyone who has ever worked at The Eagle for making it what it is today and for everyone who will continue to build it to be even better. Looking back at this past year, I am proud of my work for The Eagle. I started the AU Club Feature series, which I hope to watch grow even more after I leave. I met some of the most incredible people who I never would have known were it not for joining this institution. I grew as a writer more in this past year than in all my years before. I am so happy that I got to contribute to such a remarkable organization. My only regret is that I didn’t join The Eagle sooner.
Daniella Ignacio, News Staff Writer, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Musical Theatre
I’ve done a lot of reflecting on The Eagle over the past year, thanks to The Eagle Explains. For this final bit of writing I have, I want to take the time to reflect on what it has meant to me to be a student journalist and pursue my dual degree. If you know anything about me, you know that I’m doing a double major in musical theatre and journalism at AU. It has defined my work and how I perceive myself over the past four years. I know that I wouldn’t have continued to pursue journalism if it hadn’t been for The Eagle. There are so many aspects of theatre that have made me a better journalist, and so many aspects of journalism that have made me a better theatre artist.
I now consider myself a multi-hyphenate, an interdisciplinary storyteller: words I didn’t fully understand when I first came to AU. There were times at The Eagle when I thought I had to hide how nerdy I am about theatre, there were times in the DPA when I worried that it was weird to write about the department… when I thought that my journalism and theatre lives had to be separate. But being an artist who prioritizes empathy has helped me to be a good reporter, editor and collaborator in general. I understand the impact of covering communities and being the person who is covered. All of these experiences have taught me the sheer importance of reporting on a community and telling stories that matter. So many of the journalistic skills I have are skills I learned on staff. More importantly, the people I’ve met through staff and through reporting on the AU and D.C. community have made it all the better.
Thank you to all the EICs I’ve worked with since freshman year: Courtney Rozen, Haley Samsel, Lydia Calitri and Sophie Austin. Shoutout to Lydia for being there for me through my first print process on the layout and publishing end and for being supportive when I was both Copy and Online Managing Editor at the same time. Extra special thank you to Sophie for advocating for a more diverse newsroom and trusting me with so much intense work and editorial decisions as Online ME throughout everything that 2020 brought us. Thank you to Izzy Wolff for being my right-hand woman through the online work we’ve done over the past year, and for being a wonderful friend even as I’ve taken a step back and spent this last semester focused on writing again. Thank you to everyone who’s ever worked on Life for bringing me into The Eagle and showing me that I can be an arts journalist. Thank you to all the copy editors I worked with in the early semesters of the section, and especially Georgina DiNardo for keeping it going so well. Thank you to anyone who’s ever had to hear me say “I can’t come to [insert meeting here], I have rehearsal” and been understanding, and to everyone who made me feel so passionate about The Eagle that I’ve dropped everything and worked all day and night to get things done, whether it was an article, print edition, breaking news to post on socials or a multimedia project. I’m so hopeful for what the future Eagle staff will bring to this organization and I cannot wait to see you all shine.
Danielle Mistretta, Assistant Copy Editor, Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Sociology
While I recently joined the staff in the past year, I have really enjoyed my time working at The Eagle and meeting fellow staffers. I started working for The Eagle at the start of the pandemic and it gave me a sense of community during a time of isolation. While I wish it could have been in-person, I want to thank the staff for being so welcoming and for introducing me to the world of journalism. It was inspiring to work with staffers who are so dedicated and passionate about the work they do. I first joined The Eagle to gain more insight into the field of journalism and to gain more experience writing and editing. I have learned so much through this experience and have taken away many skills I will use in the future. Specifically, I want to thank Sophie Austin for her leadership and dedication and for indirectly encouraging me to apply, Georgina DiNardo for creating such a welcoming environment and for teaching us everything we needed to know and my fellow copy-editing team for all of your hard work. Best of luck to everyone!
Emily Walsh, Food and Fitness Editor, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Transcultural Studies
I think I joined The Eagle late in the game, but I’m so happy I decided to do it. I’ve stayed within the Life Section throughout my entire Eagle career and I could not ask for a more fun, welcoming group of people. The Eagle has given me so much freedom as a student and as a journalist to write and cover issues important to me and AU’s campus. Some of the people I’ve met in my time here have been some of the most passionate people about this school and journalistic writing. I’m constantly so impressed by the stories written by my peers here at The Eagle, and I know we will go on to do incredible things.
If I were to list the people that I met through The Eagle that made an impact on my time writing here, that list would be too long. This newspaper has become such a positive space for growth and learning in my academic career that I will be forever grateful. To the editors I’ve had, the friends that I’ve met and our incredible EICs — past, present and future: thank you for making The Eagle what it is today and thank you for making my time being here so positive. When I look back on my years at college, the memories I have from The Eagle will stand out. I’ll be wearing my cord at graduation with pride because I cannot wait to see what’s in store for everyone. I cannot thank everyone enough for such an incredible time.
Emmanuel Boardman, Assistant Copy Editor, Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government
Throughout the past year at The Eagle, Boardman copy edited dozens of stories in the news, sports and life sections. He said that during his time at The Eagle he has enjoyed looking at others’ stories. According to Copy Managing Editor Georgina DiNardo, Boardman was an “amazing addition” to the team, and a dependable copy editor that DiNardo said she can count on to edit quickly, thoroughly and correctly. DiNardo said that, despite not getting to meet him in person because of the pandemic, Boardman was still extremely helpful and she is very happy to have had the chance to work alongside him.
Gabriela Menendez Alurralde
As an Instagram and social media editor under the Online section, Gaby Menedez Alurralde was an essential part of getting published stories out to our social media pages every day. The online team often operates under stress and quick notices to post stories to social media. As an Instagram editor, outgoing Online Managing Editor Grace Newton said Alurralde was consistently “on top of” posting to The Eagle’s instagram. As a senior, Alurralde was also a natural leader on the online staff, Newton said.
“It was always nice to have upperclassmen like Gaby on staff to lead everyone else,” Newton said.
Grace George, Silver Screen Editor, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Religion
College forces you to make hasty decisions about your life from the first day. Making those decisions is easier when you’re surrounded by people who remind you who you are and who you want to be. As a freshman, I came into AU as a journalism major, unsure if my courses would point me towards a different field of study. I joined The Eagle and, like many, I was intimidated and unsure of where I could fit into this unfamiliar space. The wonderful people I have met and had the privilege to work alongside at this publication pulled me in like a gravitational force, and I found myself reapplying each semester and continuing to enthusiastically pursue journalism. Everyone whose time at The Eagle has overlapped with mine has helped me grow over the past four years as a writer, revealing to me the everpresent good in this work. I hope to preserve that optimism for my future as a journalist.
I have so many people to thank who have impacted me while passing through The Eagle’s office. Thank you, Courtney Rozen, Haley Samsel, Lydia Calitri and Sophie Austin. Your work ethic, leadership and warmth as individuals inspire me each day and make me proud to have been a part of The Eagle family. Thank you Brianna Crummy, Brandon Ermer, Cordilia James, Dilpreet Raju, Sasha Jones and Kimberly Cataudella for sitting next to me in the office when I was new and awkward. Your friendships and support have made me a better person. Thank you Olivia Kozlevcar, Spencer Nusbaum and Abbie Veitch for making me smile at meetings and in Google Docs. Your presence will always be a comfort to me. Thank you, Kelly McDonnell, Steph Mirah, Clare Mulroy and Isabella Goodman for being an amazing network of support for story ideas and innovation in the Life section. I value my relationship with each of your creative selves. And thank you to the wonderful freshmen I’ve worked with closely this year: Tristan Au, Zoe Bell, Sara Winick, Annmarie Melsheimer and Mary Kett. I will be eagerly watching your creativity shape and mold the future of The Eagle.
You have each made The Eagle office — or virtual Zoom rooms — feel like home. I am so grateful to have grown alongside each of you over the past few years. To those who still have time left with The Eagle: welcome new staffers warmly, appreciate the moments in the office that you share in person, pick up stories that challenge you, write and report with ethics at the front of your mind and take care of Zac for me.
Kelly McDonnell, Life Staff Writer, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism
My freshman year of college, The Eagle intimidated me. The application proved high standards of expectations, and my fear of being rejected bested me. When I finally did join the summer after freshman year with a bit more pep in my step, I regretted not having joined sooner. The most important thing I felt with The Eagle was proud. I was proud of myself and always more proud watching my fellow staffers publishing amazing stories.
My first big moment with The Eagle was my infamous “Wonk Rat” piece. I covered the fateful video that exposed Megabytes’ sorry infestations, then the breaking news piece when locks had been placed on the cafe’s front doors. As much as the story became a kitschy joke on campus and during ed-board, I loved feeling included, I loved contributing to the laughter and the lore that still pervades AU culture. Besides Megabytes stories and dining investigations that bolstered my journalism voice, The Eagle helped me realize my true passion for culture writing and film writing. I loved writing film reviews for Silver screen and pieces about local arts happenings for the Life section. I discovered from opportunities from The Eagle that my creative voice lies in film and entertainment and all the personal and cultural storytelling that comes with it. My favorite project was interviewing the directors of “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” an amazing opportunity my sophomore year that excited me about future opportunities to interview filmmakers and other creatives. I also loved writing my retrospective pieces this past year, about “Paris Is Burning” and “Moonlight.” Being able to creatively and journalistically review those films while commenting on contemporary culture is exactly what I want to continue doing post-grad, and I am so grateful for The Eagle’s gift of space, patience, encouragement, trust and dutiful editing.
I’m thankful for the people who surrounded me and led me through college, who made me laugh and feel excited to go to every Eagle meeting or event. Grace George, you are such a great friend, and I am obsessed with your laugh. Dan Papscun, your passion and encouragement helped me in so many ways. Sophie Austin, thank you for your trust, for teaching me, for forgiving me, for supporting our whole staff. Stephanie Mirah, Clare Mulroy, Thomas Recchio, Grace George, Lizzy Tarallo, thank you for being wonderful section editors last semester and working so hard with me to publish amazing stories all throughout summer and fall that transformed the Life section, your work is unmatched. I am very lucky and grateful to have had so many pals help me. I’ll see ya real soon.
Sophie Lampl, Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with specializations in Marketing and Spanish
It’s been a great four years for me working with the Eagle. I remember walking into the Eagle office my first semester with my resident assistant at the time who was already on multimedia and it was great meeting upperclassmen who were so kind showing us the ropes and being very welcoming. It’s been a wonderful experience working with everyone on The Eagle, and a special shout-out to the multimedia team, it was great working with you all!
Stephanie Mirah, Arts and Entertainment Editor, Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Creative Writing
As a freshman, I joined The Eagle as an opinion columnist, knowing next to nothing about the inner workings of a newsroom. At the time, opinion columnists were not expected to attend ed-board meetings since we already spent all of our time sharing our opinions. On my first day as a new writer, I arrived early for a “new hire” meeting and found myself unexpectedly at an editorial meeting. Our then editor-in-chief, Courtney Rozen, always started each meeting with personal check-ins. When my turn came, I remember my face turned red, and I said in a shaky voice, “Um, I am actually not supposed to be here yet.”
It’s funny looking back four years later. Today, The Eagle is going to struggle to get rid of me. Four semesters as an opinion columnist. Another four as a life staff writer. Two as the arts and entertainment editor. This organization and its people have been nothing but good to me. It has been challenging at times but rewarding. Some people who made this experience especially rewarding are Samantha McAllister, whom without, I think I would have played my newspaper experience safe. Her willingness to think big encouraged me to do the same (not to mention the importance her friendship played in my personal growth.) Dan Papscun, whose commitment to journalism is something I strive for. Ayelet Sheffey who is not only my roommate but the kind of beat reporter I dream of being. Clare Mulroy for her endless support and grace. Sophie Austin for showing me what it means to lead a newsroom effectively and efficiently — online, I may add. To all my fellow seniors who are so well-equipped to mold the future of journalism, I consider it a privilege to have had this opportunity to call them my colleagues before they become too famous. Mostly, thank you to everyone in the arts and entertainment community at AU and around D.C. who have trusted me to tell their stories. You help make our paper succeed.
I haven’t cried yet — shocking, I know — but I am not sure I ever will. That’s how confident I am that this newsroom will thrive even as us seniors take our leave and how secure I am in that my time meant something when I was here. I don’t need to mourn it, I guess. To our current staff, know you have a strong network of people who want to support you. To The Eagle staff of the future, the same goes for you. After all, once an Eagle?
Thomas Recchio, Music Editor, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Minor in Justice
I started working at the Eagle in spring 2020 as a life staff writer with absolutely no experience in journalism whatsoever. My thinking at the time was that this was going to be a complete fluke and a last resort in case I did not get an internship. Well, it turned out that I got both an internship in journalism and worked at The Eagle that semester all the way until now. This amazing experience taught me a lot about myself and has brought out the best in me. I am a bit of a socially awkward guy who had never really had to put myself out there before. Journalism helped me overcome some of that. At my first ever pitch meeting, I was not sure what to expect and I came in with a completely open mind. From that day forward, I got to know people who became friends and mentors from the very beginning. I especially want to thank Clare Mulroy, who has been a friend and colleague from the very beginning of my experience at The Eagle. She has really helped me grow as a journalist and always knew how to get the best out of me. Her continued friendship and mentorship mean a lot and I definitely will apply what she has taught me going forward in my future endeavors.
I discovered as time went on that journalism really does a good job in allowing for creative freedom and in providing a platform for many different subject matters. As my time at The Eagle continued, I enjoyed a very productive summer in 2020, where I started to write more about music, which has been an integral part of my life since childhood. I took piano lessons from Kindergarten until the end of high school. I still play occasionally to this day. Writing about music was extremely rewarding for me and it allowed me to feel more comfortable expressing a part of myself that I had largely kept quiet about. I continued as a staff writer in the fall of 2020 where I built on my productive work in the summer. I deepened my connection with music and the arts, writing articles almost exclusively on those subjects. When I became the music editor this semester, I learned about the many additional responsibilities that come with being an editor while continuing to share my passion for music with others. I learned about what kind of content I can focus on and how I can get creative with it during a pandemic. This job helped me grow not only as a writer but as a person and a leader. I look forward to what lies ahead in the future after graduation.
To the D.C. music community, thank you for everything you do. You continued with great events and programming even during the COVID-19 pandemic and I enjoyed being able to cover some of those events. Covering Bruce Hornsby’s concert at the Strathmore last year made me cherish in-person concerts more and I look forward to when in-person concerts can return safely. To my colleagues at The Eagle, thank you for everything this last year and a half. I wish I could have gotten more of the in-person experience but getting to know you all has been amazing. If there is one word to describe everyone, that word would be resilient. The pandemic brought out the resilience in us and we accomplished a lot of great things together. I am confident that you will do great things now and in the future and I am excited to see where The Eagle goes moving forward.
Having written and created over a dozen pieces for the Sports section, Zeke Cohen is instrumental in the production of “Angle on the Eagles,” The Eagle’s newest podcast for the Sports section. According to Sports Managing Editor Spencer Nusbaum, Cohen has taken a lot of initiative in hosting and running the podcast.
“He’s really a sponge in a sense, he really wants to soak up a lot and I think it’s going to benefit him in the future and it definitely benefited our section,” Nusbaum said.