How not graduating college on time turned into opportunity

My Editor in Chief office was my home for an entire year!

Spring of 2011 was my spring semester of my senior year. I had ambitiously signed up for 22 credit hours because I was determined to graduate in May with the rest of my class. Unfortunately, I had a stressful habit of overfilling my college plate by A LOT and things did not necessarily go as planned. But in the end not graduating on time opened up valuable opportunities to learn about the field that I am going into.

Shooting video for a company at a shipyard.

During my final semester not only was I a full time student, a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority, but I was also running a full time wedding and event videography business, so I was constantly scheduling in person consultations with my new 2011 clients, editing fall weddings, and going on corporate shoots for a company in Chesapeake.

Sending the PDF's to our printer at the business desk.

I was also the Editor in Chief of my college newspaper which was a full time job–running 4 meetings a week, being responsible for an entire organization, in charge of 13 interns, responsible for all of the content published every week, and the problem solver for a staff of 15 editors, assistant editors, the business team, and CNU TV. Luckily I had an extremely capable and talented staff that were for the most part pretty self sufficient. We also had the help of Dr. Lee, our newspaper advisor, who held us accountable for the quality of our content.

That semester however, our hard hitting journalism was also hard hitting on the nerves of the administration which landed myself and the news editor, Sam Thrift, in the hot seat of meetings several times. Not to mention the slew of meetings that I had to attend with the incoming Editor in Chief, Emily Cole, when the administration decided we were damaging the tightly controlled image of the university and attempted to take away the paper edition of the paper, but that is a whole different story.

Manning the camera during an interview in Kansas.

During that semester I was also working with a team of students to produce, shoot, edit, and premiere a documentary about the newspaper at Virginia Tech during the massacre in 2007. That required trips to Kansas, Virginia Tech, Washington DC, and northern Virginia. Because of my experience with my production company I was the main cameraman and editor during the entire journey.

Shooting broll at the Virginia Tech campus

We would shoot and I would edit “video blogs” documenting our entire journey putting together a documentary. The editing process was rushed in 3 weeks to meet our deadline of premiering it on the 4th anniversary of the shootings on April 16th.

Shooting with Cassie Vinch in the building where the shooting took place.

Filming with Cassie Vinch in the building where the shooting took place.

I literally edited 10 hours a night, with the rest of the staff helping with their input, for three weeks straight. You can read more about that arduous experience in the interview about us here. We premiered the documentary at Christopher Newport University on two nights and a couple hundred people showed up. We also posted the documentary online, which you can view here and since posting it online it has been viewed over 2,000 times in 34 countries around the world. We have been told by countless journalism professors that they are implementing the documentary into their class curriculum this fall.

Here is a teaser video of our documentary:

So needless to say I realized after weeks of not having any time to sleep, it became glaringly obvious to me that I couldn’t stay on top of my ridiculous 22 credit schedule. It was a difficult day for me accepting defeat as I dragged myself to the registrars office and handed in the form requesting to drop 3 of my classes. My graduation evaluator kindly told me by completing this action I wouldn’t graduate on time and couldn’t walk with my class in May. I nodded knowing this was the only way I could preserve my sanity and continue dedicating my time to the documentary and the newspaper. I’m not going to pretend that after that I didn’t spend a day in my room crying because I wouldn’t get to wear a cap and gown to accept my diploma. But once the pity party for one concluded, I knew I had to re-strategize with knowledge that I had to take summer classes. I needed to fill a communication elective, a math class, and my final senior seminar class. I decided to use the communication elective by taking my third television internship at WTKR news channel 3.

Posing with one of the old WTKR signs

This turned out to be one of the best decisions I had ever made. Before my WTKR internship, I didn’t feel quite ready to take a job as television news reporter. I’m not sure why but I just didn’t feel as prepared as I should have been in the broadcast journalism field.

After spending 3 months of being an intern at WTKR, I felt like I learned so much about the things I needed to know to prepare me for my first job that by the time I completed the internship I felt 100% ready.

My summer at WTKR gave me the polishing I needed to get a job!

I wrote my final senior seminar paper on WTKR and wrote a case study about. The topic was public interest journalism vs. sensational rating driven journalism and what is better for the public. During my research for this paper I read countless material about the television journalism industry and developed a solid journalism philosophy that I’m sure will improve in the future.

In researching and writing that paper, I realized the type of journalist I want to be and really increased my passion and love for the industry.

So in the end not graduating on time turned into a blessing. Through my internship and writing my senior seminar paper, I truly found what kind of journalist I want to be and the one that I hope I’ll never turn into.


2 thoughts on “How not graduating college on time turned into opportunity

  1. I loved your article. One of my friends is not graduating tomorrow after finding out he didn’t get the grade he needed for one class. He is really upset since he feels like a failure. I’m trying to encourage him but it is difficult. So a story like yours gives me hope to keep trying to motivate him.

    Thank you and God bless’

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