Final letter from the Editor in Chief

Time is a strange thing, at least for me.

This school year has felt like a whirlwind of the typical college class grind — sometimes in person and sometimes online — mixed with the constant challenges of keeping track of campus news and the sudden shifts of the pandemic’s impact on the world. But for the periods of time I’ve been trapped indoors and at the whims of what technology allows, time has also slowed down for me in a strange way.

While I’d like to blame the pandemic for this weird dichotomy, the truth is the last four years have been the same way for me. And now that it’s time for me to say goodbye to Augustana and to the Mirror, I’m torn.

The last four years have tested me in ways that I never could have expected. I hadn’t even come to Augustana as a journalism major, yet here I am as Editor in Chief of the Mirror. I’ve survived a fire that burned a tapestry in Tuve Hall, a tornado that ripped up a nearby Pizza Ranch and a pandemic that sent the entire campus population into isolation.

While I, and many other students, probably have a right to be frustrated for all we’ve experienced, I’m not. Because despite the tragedies that I’ve witnessed, the anxiety that I’ve felt and tears that I’ve shed during the past four years, I’ve been blessed to have learned the importance of friendship, flexibility and resilience.  

If it weren’t for the wise tutelage of my predecessors at the Mirror, I wouldn’t be where I am today. When I first joined the Mirror as sports editor, I would go week after week pitching sports stories to writers, only to end up with a blank whiteboard and three pages of space to fill. But Jacob Knutson, the Editor in Chief at the time, would come to me after each meeting and ask, “What do you need?”

He had just as much, if not more, going on in his life than I did. Yet he would take on some of my burden. I certainly still had my share of stories to write, but his willingness to help me succeed taught me that leadership and service are intertwined. This year I have tried to lead the Mirror in a similar way. 

This school year has not been easy for anyone, but I am extremely proud of this year’s Mirror staff members for their flexibility and resilience. Whether working from our homes, our dorms, our classrooms or the Mirror office, we’ve been able to bear witness to all of the events that happened.

We’ve certainly had the task of tracking COVID-19 case numbers, but we’ve also had opportunities to witness calls by the Black Lives Matter movement for on-campus and nationwide change. We used fair, balanced reporting to keep voters informed on the 2020 election candidates and issues. Finally, and most importantly, we were able to keep a historical record of what life was like at Augustana during the 2020/2021 school year for future generations to reflect on.

I am proud of each and every one of them for these accomplishments, and it has been a privilege to watch them grow into curious, empathetic journalists. I am certain that they will go far and inspire many.

I’d like to thank Jeffrey Miller, journalism professor and the Mirror’s advisor, for his mentorship throughout the past year. His wisdom has guided me toward the right answers to the constant onslaught of questions that I and the other Mirror editors face, yet he also realizes that ultimately it is up to us to make the decisions. While our mistakes disappoint him, he understands that they are a valuable part of learning, and after we make them, he helps lift us back on our feet ready for more scoops and more stories.

I’d also like to thank journalism professors Janet Blank-Libra and Dennis Gale for the lessons they have taught me. Because of Janet, I now see that in order to report “the full circumference of the truth,” I must view situations from the perspectives of all who were involved. Dennis has taught me how to take a seemingly perfect news story and put it under a microscope to see how it can be improved for the better — one of the most valuable skills an editor can have.

I could continue naming the professors who have inspired me, but the truth is that each one I’ve taken a class with has taught me something. The same goes for all of the students I have had the privilege of learning beside. Because of them, I am leaving with a fuller head and heart than I came in with.

Time may be strange, but it’s never wrong. I may not be ready to leave Augustana for the “real world,” but now is my time to go. While I may never live and work in a community quite like ours, I will rest easy knowing that this college and the student newspaper that covers it are in good hands.

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