Jillian James: The Ultimate Collegiette

"Well-behaved women rarely make history.” That quote, emblazoned with vibrant fabric paint on the back of a jean jacket we gifted to her at our end-of-the-year banquet, perfectly sums up Jillian James. As our president, editor-in-chief, and all-around fearless leader, she guided Her Campus UCF through one of our most successful years yet. We watched as she pulled on the jacket and, with tears in her eyes, thanked us for our hard work this semester. “I really hope I’ve been able to inspire all of you as much as you inspired me,” she told us. The funny thing is, that probably isn’t even possible; her dedication to empowering the community of women writers at UCF has left an impact that most could only hope to replicate.

Jillian James was always going to be a writer. Her passion for writing emerged from an early love for reading - a love that was fostered by supportive English teachers throughout the years. In high school, Jillian decided to join the staff of her school’s newspaper – a decision that would have a huge impact on her future career goals. “I was hooked on the fast-paced, high-energy world of journalistic writing,” she explained. The hybrid art of the opinion piece especially fascinated her - “Fiction writers and poets are supposed to capture the emotional aspects and journalists are supposed to just cover the facts, but my favorite type of writing blends the two together,” she told me. When the time came to enter college, Jillian knew just which publication she wanted to take her writing to: Her Campus UCF, the campus chapter of the number one online magazine for college women. She had already emailed the president of the chapter to inquire about joining before even stepping foot on campus, and she became a staff writer during her very first semester.

In just two years, Jillian rocketed from her position as a staff writer to single-handedly serving as the UCF chapter president and editor-in-chief: no small task for just one person. The passion Jillian felt, and continues to feel, for Her Campus was the driving force behind her meteoric rise to the top – “For hundreds of years, women’s voices were stifled, and they didn't have the outlet to share their voices. Having an outlet to lift up the voices of collegiate women and create a sense of community is a wonderful and vital addition to UCF’s campus community,” she passionately shared with me. As president and editor-in-chief, Jillian made uplifting the voices of collegiate women (or, as Her Campus refers to them, collegiettes) a top priority. She organized editorial workshops for our team of staff writers, led campus-wide empowerment activities, and made it a priority to publish stories that focused on the experiences of college women.

Beyond Jillian’s commitment to elevating the voices of women in college journalism, she also went above and beyond to foster a positive environment for the entire Her Campus UCF team. As the incoming chapter president, Lena Daniels, told me, “Jillian inspired me to write when I was in a slump or had writer’s block. Sometimes, getting the words out of my head and onto paper isn’t always the easiest, and she has always provided a space where I can talk out my ideas and find my direction.” Jillian also dedicated herself to elevating the reputation and quality of Her Campus UCF as a publication – something that her time interning with the national office in Boston, Massachusetts certainly helped her achieve. According to Lena, “This year, we held almost triple the number of events as in past years, and we were able to partner with name brands such as Aéropostale, Foster Grant, and Grubhub. It gave all members of Her Campus UCF the chance to grow and experience new opportunities in the industry, and it provided a valuable learning experience.”

The year Jillian spent as president and editor-in-chief for Her Campus UCF was one of the most successful in the chapter’s history, and on a personal note, it was by far the highlight of my college career. As I step into her role of editor-in-chief, I can’t help but feel overwhelming gratitude towards her and her work. From political activism to empowering the women of Her Campus UCF and UCF as a whole, she has certainly left an indelible mark that most can only hope to replicate. She has indeed lived up to the quote painted on the back of her jean jacket, and I suspect she’ll only continue to do so in the years to come.