Sparks Magazine Editor-in-Chief Cresonia Hsieh

Name: Cresonia Hsieh
Age: 21
Year: Junior
Major: Journalism
Minors: Business administration and Spanish

Her Campus: What was your first experience writing for a publication at UF?
Cresonia Hsieh: “My first experience writing for a publication at UF was The [Independent Florida] Alligator back in Summer B my freshman year. I wrote for 'The Avenue' because it was more laid back and lifestyle-related. I thought I wanted to become an entertainment reporter, but pretty soon after that I decided I wanted to follow hard news. That was my first experience. I was awful at it, but I did get better with time. I don’t know how they kept me around.”

HC: What encouraged you to begin writing for Sparks, UF’s Asian American magazine?
CH: Sparks Magazine is an interesting story. I was actually one of those kids who didn’t like to hang out with other Asian Americans. I was really lonely Summer B, so I didn’t have that amazing Summer B experience that everyone talks about. Then I started getting involved with the Chinese American Student Association, and people there encouraged me to do Sparks. I kept saying no. I probably said no to four different people. I remember always being trapped in these long car rides, and people kept telling me to do Sparks, until I finally caved and did it. I hated it. I wanted to drop out. I talked to one of my mentors about it, and he encouraged me and told me to go for it because he felt that I could be a leader. I still was not convinced, but then the managing editor at the time approached me because she wanted me to fill her position the following year. I decided I could turn this around, make the publication more efficient and have a good time doing it. Through Sparks, I decided to combat the bias within myself toward Asian Americans, and I gained an appreciation for my Asian culture that I never could have imagined.”

HC: How have you seen your writing evolve from freshman year to now?
CH: “Oh my gosh. I did not take a single newspaper class while in high school because I wanted to be a doctor. However, I always enjoyed writing, so my plan was to retire early and finally get to write my book. About halfway through my senior year, I realized I shouldn’t wait until I retire to start doing what I love, so I decided to follow my heart, which was to pursue a career in writing. I came to college without having written a single article. I went from never reading the news, never interviewing anyone to interning with the Miami Herald this coming summer. I still can’t believe my writing is being recognized as the work of a legitimate professional journalist. I mean, it has been a wild ride.”

HC: What do you want Sparks to teach people about the Asian American community?
CH: “I think the most important thing is that Asian Americans are much more nuanced than people believe. They are more than a stereotype. You know, even though the perceptions are positive and well-intentioned, such as the ideas of Asians being smart and obedient, it is always dangerous to group people in a way that labels them all as the same. We have to stop looking at people in terms of ethnicity and start looking at them in terms of their unique characteristics that characterize them as individuals. Since Asian Americans have made great strides in history, it is understood that each of them will be successful and become a doctor, lawyer or engineer. There are so many Asian communities that are struggling in life, and people cannot stereotype them all into one homogenous group.”

HC: When did you realize you wanted to expand your photography into a small business?
CH: “I had not picked up a camera ‘til I got to college. I realized that The [Independent Florida] Alligator not only wanted us to be able to write, but also to be able to take quality photos. I worked in the bookstore my first semester to save for a good camera, and I bought it my second semester. For a while, it was just sitting there in a box because I didn’t know how to use it. I was just shooting in 'auto mode,' and the photos looked worse than iPhone photos, to be honest. Then I took a class with Professor John Freeman, and I really started to enjoy photography. The next photography class taught me that I had potential. My professor inspired me to never do anything without going all out. I figured, I’m doing journalism, why not go all the way? The business was a way for me to practice my skill, while taking it to the next level and pushing the boundaries of what I could do. On a softer side, I notice that people always worry about how they look, and there is no greater joy for me than when I finish up a shoot and people say, ‘That was fun.’ They love the way they look, and I love being able to tell them that I barely edited the photos. I tell them, ‘That’s just you.’ There is nothing more beautiful than that.”

HC: Do you have any specific future plans in the fields of photography and online media?
CH: “My dream would be to work as a daily newspaper reporter during normal business hours and then work as a wedding photographer on the weekends. I would love to continue giving back to my church and my community through service during my leisure time. After five years, I want to go to graduate school and get an MBA so that I may rise to be the director of marketing for a multinational corporation. That would be the dream, but we’ll see. Talk to me in five years.”

Photo Courtesy of Cresonia Hsieh