Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Student newspaper memories

It's fitting that I'm writing this on a Wednesday night (and Thursday morning). Seven years ago, I spent many Wednesday evenings with a dozen or so college kids in the basement of a university building.

Today, I had a wonderful chat with a friend who was one of those students I met when I was the adviser to The Observer, Case Western Reserve University's student newspaper. We reminisced about those Wednesday production nights where we ate pizza from Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood and the students put together the weekly campus newspaper.

Serving as an adviser to The Observer was among the most rewarding experiences in my career and led me to write about it for the CWRU alumni magazine. I went to work at CWRU, my undergraduate alma mater, 10 years after I earned an English degree there. It was exciting being on campus again and I loved my job. The university used to be known mainly for science and engineering, but now attracts students from all over the world for its arts, humanities and social science programs as well. When I was a student there, there weren't any any journalism classes. Today, the English department offers classes taught by faculty including Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Jim Sheeler and bestselling novelist (and former journalist) Thrity Umrigar.

The student body has changed dramatically too. It used to be that CWRU students were perceived as nerdy academic overachievers and little else. The students I got to know at The Observer were also supersmart, but they were multidimensional. Predictably, they fretted over homework assignments, research papers, exams, lab reports. But they also packed their days full with student leadership roles, Greek life activities, sports, performing arts, volunteering. They were bright, inquisitive, conscientious and committed. I adored them.

They enriched my life by sharing their lives with me. They welcomed me and my toddler son into their domain and didn't seem to mind that he ate the most pizza week after week. (It should be noted that the copy editor was exceptionally gracious when Nico powerfully filled his diaper while sitting in her lap.) Nico was two years old then, right at the midpoint between my age and that of the newspaper editors. So while these students were developing as young adults, they could still relate to my little boy. Sometimes, the sports editor would take a break to play with my son and his Thomas the Tank Engine toys. The cartoonist drew a special dinosaur illustration for him to color. The photography editor played movies on his laptop to keep him entertained. I loved that Nico was surrounded by so many caring, positive influences. 

Where are they now? Some of them are married and have kids. One former editor-in-chief, who was a first-generation college student, finished a Teach For America stint. Another is an internal medicine resident. The features editor is a pediatrics resident. The sports editor graduated from law school. The cartoonist is studying geology in graduate school. The production manager is a software developer at CWRU. One of the photographers is a Facebook engineer. (Thanks to Facebook, it's been easy to keep tabs on everyone after they graduated!) They are leading active, full lives and finding their way in this world. 

They inspired me then and still do today. 

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The student body has changed dramatically too. It used to be that CWRU students were perceived as nerdy academic overachievers and little else. The students I got to know at The Observer were also supersmart, but they were multidimensional. Predictably, they fretted over homework assignments, research papers, exams, lab reports. But they also packed their days full with student leadership roles, Greek life activities, sports, performing arts, volunteering. They were bright, inquisitive, conscientious and committed. "

Uh, this described The Observer staff back in the 90s, as well.

turducken said...

I was on The Observer staff back in the mid-90s, and it's true we didn't have any journalism classes. But back then my fellow staff members were not only doing homework, research, exams, and labs, but also student leadership, Greek life, sports, performing arts, and volunteering. Perhaps there was a reputation outside of CWRU that we were only "nerdy overachievers," but it wasn't true then any more than it is now, or seven years ago.

Lisa said...

Thanks for reading and leaving comments! I'm guessing that Observer folks from every era have been among the most active, involved students at CWRU. As a student body, though, I do think the undergrads today are less nerdy than they were when I went to school there in the late '80s/early '90s. Also, I don't think there's anything wrong with being a nerdy overachiever!