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Farewell, UVM Student Media

August 2, 2020
There they are! January 2020.

One of the most wonderful things about working for and advising a student media organization is that it’s like teaching a class of people who want to be there, and new people arrive every year, and they want to be there, and then people from previous years who still want to be there stay there. And you get them at the beginning of their time, wherever they are in their educational and personal development, and see them till they are ready to go, either because they want to move on to other activities or because they graduate. You often get four years with them, and most of the students you meet are eager to learn, and you have the privilege of being the person whose job it is to teach them.

UVM President Dan Fogel created the position of student media adviser in 2006 to address the educational needs at The Vermont Cynic, where students worked to be the best journalists they could be but didn’t always have the tools they needed. The first new issue I saw in my first year, in August 2006, included stories and photos merely clipped from other publications. As a journalist and educator, I let the students know not to do that and helped them develop the skills they needed to do their own work. They took right to it. Within a few years, The Cynic had been recognized repeatedly as one of the best college newspapers in the country. UVM students are that good.

Although I was brought in to address journalistic and leadership challenges at the Cynic, I quickly fell in love with advising my other two student-led organizations: WRUV-FM and UVMtv. I’d taught broadcast news before, but I’d never been a DJ, so my WRUV students taught me. At UVMtv, the students and I worked to grow the organization, watching it increase in popularity and presence and grow to three times its original size.

All work was led by students. I merely advised. It was an honor.

I’m heading out after 14 years to start work as a clinical assistant professor of journalism at the University of Illinois, where I’ll build a program connecting College of Media students with Illinois Public Media. Again, I’ll get to work with students across the platforms of print, online, radio and TV. Everything I’ve learned at UVM I’ll take with me.

And the students at UVM will continue to do fantastic work in Vermont.

This blog will go dormant, as will our related websites and social media channels. Because of the economic chaos caused by COVID-19 and the resulting hiring freeze at UVM, my replacement might take a while to arrive, but I have no doubt that our student leaders will continue to lead. I will watch them from afar and, no doubt, be impressed.

If I had one last bit of advice to offer, I’d probably borrow it from Rep. John Lewis, who said, “Get out there and get in the way, get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and be yourself.”

The following quote comes from the Children’s Defense Fund.

“When I would ask my parents about those signs they would say, ‘That’s the way it is. Don’t get in the way. Don’t get in trouble.’” But his experience in the civil rights movement taught him a different lesson that he wanted to share with today’s young leaders: “I got in trouble. I got in good trouble, necessary trouble. I say to you, you’re more than lucky. You are blessed, and you have to use whatever you see to pass it on to someone else. Bless someone else. Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous. Speak up. Speak out. You must get out there and push and pull and help change things and bring about a nonviolent revolution, a revolution of values, a revolution of ideas . . . Someone must put out and say what is going on is not right, it is not fair, it is not just, and we are here to do something about it.”

Students o’ mine, heed his words. Make necessary trouble. Change the world for the better. You have the power to do it, and, if you put your minds to it, you will.

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