When I started my first year at WashU, I had very little experience with student newspapers. I wrote a couple articles for my school paper, but never got too involved. So I was shocked to find out just how easy it was to get involved with the student paper here at Wash.U.
Our newspaper is called Student Life and has been printing since 1878, making it the oldest independent college newspaper west of the Mississippi River! I knew I wanted to get involved with Student Life when I got to campus in August, but I wasn’t sure to what extent. To my surprise, all I needed to do was add myself to the email list, which I did at Student Life’s booth at the Fall Activities Fair. A couple weeks into the semester I received an from the editor of the Arts & Entertainment section, called “Cadenza,” that listed a few story pitches writers could take.
One was to cover a 24-hour-play festival put on by student theatre group “Thyrsus.” Participants spent an entire day creating 10-minute plays before performing them for audience members. I got to visit rehearsals to interview organizers as well as attend the performance for free in order to review it. I enjoyed the experience so much that I even auditioned for and was cast in a Thyrsus play a few days later, which I performed in in November. It’s weird to think about how much that email from the Cadenza editor serendipitously brought so many wonderful people and activities into my life since then.
After that article, I kept writing for Student Life, exploring multiple sections including Cadenza, News, and Scene, which is the features section. I did everything from review films, report on St. Louis environmental politics, and interview Antoni Porowski from Netflix’s “Queer Eye.”
At the end of the semester, I learned that the position of Co-Senior Scene Editor would be opening up in January and that anyone interested could apply. I had written a lot for Scene throughout the Fall and really enjoyed writing features on WashU students, events, and communities, so I decided to apply.
I was beyond excited when I was offered the position at the beginning of second semester. My responsibilities included coming up with story ideas to pitch at our weekly section meetings as well as helping writers to develop their own ideas, editing all articles for the section, and attending full Senior Staff and Editorial Board meetings.
I now spend Wednesday and Sunday nights in our office in the Danforth University Center, as those are our production nights since we publish the following mornings. I attended production nights occasionally in the fall to help copy edit and am now always excited for them, as they are always a great time to laugh with fellow staff members and listen to great music (I may be biased since we have recently been listening to my Spotify). A few weeks into my time as Senior Scene Editor, the Editor-in-Chief at the time took out time during a busy production night to teach me how to design pages of the paper, and I recently took on an additional position as a Design Editor.
I never expected to become so involved with Student Life so fast. In just a year, the paper has provided me so many incredible opportunities, from making close friends to interviewing notable figures such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I feel incredibly lucky to be a part of such a strong community and have the opportunity to explore my passion for writing and media.
Whether you served as your high school paper’s Editor-in-Chief or have never picked up a newspaper before, I encourage all new Wash.U. students to stop by the Student Life office. There are so many ways to get involved, including writing, copy editing (perfect for those who love fixing other people’s grammar but don’t want to be judged for it), and designing. What’s so great about the paper is that you can be as involved as you want, from writing one article a year to writing for every issue, coming into design/copy edit every so often or every production night. It’s all up to you.
We often tell prospective staff members, “Come as you are.” Looking back on my experience with Student Life now that we’ve published our final issue of the year, I realize that that saying has rung true every step of the way, and I can’t wait to see what next semester brings.