To the fall Class of 2021: A tribute to our graduating seniors
Letters of reflection from three veteran staff members
On our last day of publishing this semester, The Eagle extends a congratulation to the three graduating seniors of the fall 2021 semester. Sophia Solano, Kelsey Carolan and Riya Kohli have been an instrumental part of our staff for the majority of their time at American University. Student media, The Eagle and AU would not be the same without them.
We congratulate our fall class of graduating seniors and invite you to read their reflections below.
Sophia Solano, Features Editor
When I first arrived at American University as a freshman in 2018, The Eagle wasn’t exactly on my radar. Preoccupied with a massive milestone and the college freshman adjustment period, I felt that I had a lot to learn before I could even consider joining campus clubs. I was involved with my high school newspaper, but college reporting felt different. Bigger. My second semester, I took a class with former student media advisor and professor Chris Young. I felt a pit in my stomach when he asked to speak with me after class one morning – it created far more ambiguous anxiety than I needed at 8:10 a.m. on a Tuesday. But I remember his post-lecture words clearly:
“Your work’s pretty good. Have you thought about joining The Eagle?”
I took on my first Eagle article because an editor side-eyed me during my first meeting as she said that this pitch would be a great first article for a new Eagle reporter. So that Sunday, I gathered my notepad and opened my iPhone recording app as I walked to the quad to cover Holi, a Hindu celebration of spring and rebirth. I thought about the study session I left unfinished in Anderson Hall, almost wishing I had stayed there to finish one last set of statistics problems. But now, as I reflect on my time with The Eagle, I remember more about covering that celebration than I do from my whole freshman statistics course.
As much as being a reporter is about disseminating information to a community, I’ve learned that it also teaches you, the reporter, about the world. Covered in the traditional colorful powder thrown at Holi celebrations, I walked back to my dorm that day with a better understanding of my peers and the joy that the celebration inspires globally. And my learning didn’t stop there. In my time at The Eagle, I’ve laughed and cried while talking to sources, crunched numbers and compiled data, felt that rush of excitement over breaking news and learned so much about how all the puzzle pieces of our campus and D.C. community fit together.
Early in my time at AU, I feared that I didn’t know enough to be a part of The Eagle. I was afraid to make mistakes and take risks. But this organization has taught me that it’s okay not to know everything. As a journalist, you learn by doing – interviewing, researching, editing, editing and some more editing. In a way, it’s a lot like being a college student. As much as I’ve enjoyed my journalism classes, The Eagle has taught me more about this field than any class could. More importantly, it’s given me friendships and opportunities that my college experience would not be complete without. I want to thank everyone in this organization for teaching and supporting me, with an extra special thank you to the news team and editors. It’s been an honor working with everyone, and I leave feeling sure that this organization is in great hands. And to anyone reading this who’s not confident in their journalism skills and unsure of whether to apply for an Eagle position: Do it. You’ll learn more about journalism, community and yourself than you anticipated.
Riya Kohli, Managing Editor for Opinion
I applied to The Eagle my freshman year just looking to get involved in something on campus. Now, 3.5 years later, it’s crazy how little idea I had of the huge impact The Eagle would have on my life.
Writing was always the easiest way for me to express myself. When I started out as a staff columnist on Opinion, I thought my skills would extend pretty easily. As I shared my first few article drafts with then-Opinion Managing Editor Nickolaus Mack, it became quickly apparent that writing an op-ed is much more complicated than throwing together a personal essay. Each word, sentence and point matters. I remember receiving a set of less-than-pleased edits and comments on a draft of one of my first articles which really pushed me to consider what I was trying to accomplish with my words. Ultimately, the guidelines and suggestions inspired in me a respect for the words themselves. 500-800 words, our word range for op-eds, is honestly not a lot of space. It’s limited so that writers push themselves to get across their points in the most concise way possible, and to say that has helped me as a writer personally and academically is a massive understatement.
I have felt really humbled by the trust staff placed in me to write up editorials. Sometimes, we editorialize on general issues with administration, and other times, we discuss more difficult news stories that deeply impact the student body, including members of the editorial board. I’m consistently impressed by people’s thoughtfulness at editorial board meetings and endlessly proud of their commitment to ethics.
By far, the best part of this experience has been working with exceedingly dedicated people. I’m constantly in awe of the commitment each and every person I’ve met on The Eagle has to this work. Thank you to Nick Mack for pushing me to be a better columnist and Sam McAllister for supporting me when I transitioned into the role of Opinion ME. Thank you to Lydia Calitri, Sophie Austin and Clare Mulroy for being inspiring editors-in-chief and just really kind people. Thank you to Owen Boice, someone who never fails to make me laugh with his absurdly creative satire pieces. Finally, thank you to all the writers on the Opinion staff who work so hard to pitch issues that matter to them and are always open to being better writers. I feel really proud to have some part in getting your thoughts published and I hope you feel proud of yourselves.
At The Eagle, I found my voice in more ways than one. I’ll be looking back on this organization as a uniquely transformative influence in my college life and beyond.
Kelsey Carolan, former News Managing Editor
The Eagle will forever be one of the biggest parts of my college experience. I came in as an eager freshman who lacked journalism experience, writing articles before classes even started. I was welcomed by my peers — some of the most amazing journalists I have the pleasure of calling my friends now — and learned every journalistic skill that allowed me to succeed in classes and reporting roles outside of AU.
Three years later, I stepped down from my role as News Managing Editor, quietly, as a burnt out senior, realizing the importance of my own mental health. I felt guilty for leaving the news section as AU was returning to in-person classes after almost two years of being online, but my peers encouraged me to make the decision that was best for me, and that was leaving something I loved, and will always cherish, to better my mind and work-life balance.
For almost a year and a half, especially at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, we reported day and night, breaking news without having time to process how the news would affect our own personal lives. It took a toll on us. I am proud of the work we did and am grateful for the support we provided each other during those times. It drew us closer as a newsroom and friends. However, I wish burnout and exhaustion wasn't the norm in student newsrooms, and in the industry overall. I am appreciative that Sophie, Clare and my other peers recognized that it shouldn't be, and provided the support they did to me and others when we needed it.
The work The Eagle does, along with other student media organizations, is crucial to holding this University accountable. Without newspapers like this one, students wouldn't be informed or aware of what is happening at an institution that is supposed to serve them. I am extremely proud of the stories we produced throughout my time here, and am grateful for every person I interviewed and met along the way. I truly believe that part of the person I am today should be credited to what I learned here, through the ups and downs, and to the peers who made me a better journalist and person — to name a few: Clare, Nina, Brianna, Cordilia, Maria, Lydia, Sophie and Abbie. Thank you.