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A photo from Sierra\'s personal blog.
Original photo by Sierra Petro
Career

Why Becoming a Student Journalist Helped Me Get Acquainted On Campus: A Letter From the Editor

Transferring to Purchase College from the large state school that is University of South Carolina my sophomore year was a big change in so many ways, but the biggest change was getting used to how much smaller Purchase’s campus is. I didn’t realize a major benefit of this change was how much easier it is to get involved on a small campus. 

Before starting Purchase’s Her Campus Chapter, I got involved in student journalism by completing a minor in journalism, writing for the college’s newspaper, starting a fashion section of the Purchase College newspaper and starting a blog. All of these things inspired me to introduce Her Campus to Purchase as a place for students to get acquainted with the campus by reporting for and on the campus community and discuss their work with other students involved in the publication. 

My favorite thing about being a student journalist is having an excuse to talk to people about the things they are passionate about. I started to realize that this is a passion of mine when I started a blog while at my other college. I started college a semester late, after pursuing modeling full-time with an agency in NYC. My modeling experience took a heavy toll on my self esteem, but it inspired me to see the importance of developing passions that relied on way more than appearance. I started my blog by going up to students on my campus and asking them to participate in photo shoots, which always turned into fun hangouts. I loved connecting with other students over fashion and ending up learning so much more about them, like what made them passionate about what they were studying. 

What started as a passion for taking photos of students having fun in eccentric outfits turned into a passion for capturing experiences. I started conducting interviews with students whose fashion choices intrigued me. The first Q & A I conducted for my blog was with a classmate in my sociology class who I’d always admired the outfits of before class, named Aya Ahmed. I learned so much from her during our interview about what wearing the Hijab meant to her. I continued writing for my blog by collecting more experiences and learning from more women, like one woman who owned a shop filled with an eclectic mix of fair trade and ethically sourced fashion products, a woman who owned the oasis that was the vintage clothing store I worked at while at my other school and another woman whose traditional Indian fashion store has a heavy emphasis on spirituality. 

I’ve heard so many people say that there is a story that can be found anywhere, and I think that is particularly true when writing about people’s passions. As a person who is on the shy side, I like that people are often willing to volunteer information about their passions once I show interest. With all the extra free time people have now to engage in their passions, getting them to chat about them has felt like less of a risk. Going to school on a small campus also makes reaching out easier, since it’s easy to run into the same people, see familiar faces in classes or have mutual friends. Identifying myself as a student journalist gives me the excuse to start a conversation with people, like “that guy who always looks so put together.” He was also the same guy who I noticed would usually only talk when prompted by our French professor and who I’ve only talked to during an interview. Expressing interest in something I could tell he was passionate about was how I found out his style secret… his grandma’s tailoring. 

Becoming a student journalist hasn’t just helped me approach students on campus; it also helped me get acquainted with the faculty, staff, and administration at Purchase. I joined the campus’ newspaper after my first journalism professor mentioned that she was the faculty advisor. Attending meetings with Professor Cornachio meant that I got to call her Donna, pet her dog and ultimately chat with her about articles that I was writing. As I worked my way up to become the most frequent contributor to the newspaper, I felt more confident that I was showing my journalism professors that reporting was not just an academic interest, but a personal one as well. Adopting this idea into my work encouraged me to really care about taking it upon myself to get answers from the people in charge on campus. 

The first article that required me to do this was a follow-up on records that showed there were trace amounts of lead found in the college’s water supply. I heard concerns about this during my first days on campus from other students and wondered whether or not the problem should still be a concern. There was a lot that I didn’t understand about what the director of facilities was explaining about the campus’ water supply during our interview. As I’ve reached out to more people on campus, though, I’ve become less embarrassed to ask questions about things that may seem easily understood to someone who is in their field. I force myself to ask these kinds of questions sometimes by keeping in mind that if I’m unsure of what someone is saying in an interview, the average reader will be too. 

I think of journalism as the service of sharing information, so I enjoy staying up to date on things happening on campus, like events, activities and student accomplishments. With all the options of places to go to hear about these things, like the college’s website and Facebook, there is a need on campus for a centralized place for students to hear about news regarding the campus and students. There’s also an added need for this information to be readily accessible now that we’re online this semester. Student journalists can make themselves more inclined to participate on campus and reach out to new people by having the motivation of going into these scenarios and interactions with the intent of writing about them. 

During my time with writing for the college’s newspaper, I started a fashion section of the Purchase College newspaper to try and create the community of student journalists that I didn’t find in the classes for my minor or at the newspaper’s meetings. I put up posters from the photo shoots from my blog and didn’t get the turnout I expected. I did, however, continue posting weekly through the end of the school year. Whether it’s reaching out for an interview, getting used to virtual learning or asking others to look over my writing, perseverance is the number one thing that has helped me grow as a student and a journalist. It is something that is also a crucial value of the community that I’m starting with Her Campus at Purchase, which is a place for students to share their stories, passions, and works in progress. 

Sierra Petro

Purchase '21

Hi, I'm the Campus Correspondent for Purchase College's Her Campus Chapter. I am a second-semester senior who majors in media studies and minors in journalism. I joined Her Campus to create a place for students to contribute to a publication that values community, female empowerment, news, and storytelling.
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