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Chelsea Schmidt
Experiences

Three Years Later: Farewell From The Editor-in-Chief

I before e, except after c. You would think after three years, I would have gotten that down. Yet, sometimes I find myself slip and suddenly, I am the Editor-in-Cheif. While this may not mean much to anybody else, what kind of an editor is someone who doesn’t know that overused and overexaggerated rule. In fact, most of the time, it isn’t i before e. In this job, I conceive a ceiling of foreign obeisancy for my writers, and yet I receive deceit. I need caffeine.

That’s beside the point. The simple fact of the matter is that despite my struggle for three long years to place i before e, except, of course, after c, I will no longer have to think about this on a daily basis. My time has come and gone, and my autocorrect will thank me. I took this spelling very seriously, as you can tell. Perhaps that bled into my work or vice versa. Whoever spilled into whoever is moot when I am faced with the reality that no matter how seriously I took my job, it was hard.

Any of my writers, from my entire time as Editor-in-Chief, will tell you that I’m a tad neurotic. Not in a bad way; I just love paperwork. While others lament as they write their first name, last name and VCU email for the 40th time on the same d*mn form, I enjoy it. It’s like a test you can’t get wrong. You know your name, right? Maybe that’s what made me so good at this job. I could get any form, report, google doc or user application in front of me and joyfully fill it out.

That’s just one of the concrete things that being the Editor-in-Chief (see, I did it right!) taught me. I have also gotten strangely good at grammar. When I became Senior Editor, I could do basic grammar and had a good working memory of both AP Style and the Her Campus exceptions. Now, I put in commas out of instinct. I know how to use a semicolon, which I have come to learn most people do not. I have changed one too many en-dashes to em-dashes when a semicolon or colon really should have taken their place.

I have capitalized titles that were strangely all lower case despite my never publishing articles without proper titles. I have taken a bullet point list and over an hour and a half, copied and pasted it into the listicle format and added images to make the content glow, only then to find out that they didn’t use any tags. But, what did it matter? I had read their article four times trying to put it in the listicle format, so I know what tags are needed. Apostrophes, pronouns, proper nouns, incorrect hyperlinks, no section listed, where is her teaser? Someone else already used this hero image… it is a themed content week, after all. I’ll make it this image and text her. Hopefully, she doesn’t hate it. OH. I forgot to text her. I hope she doesn’t hate it.

Welcome to my inner monologue from 8 a.m. Monday morning to 8 p.m. Monday evening and again from Wednesday morning at 8 a.m. to Wednesday evening at 8 p.m. Still, this is only a fraction of the work I completed. It’s hard to list it all because in three years, my responsibilities have become more like nature and less like work.

Maybe I should start at the beginning and work my way up to the present like those tacky coming-of-age movies we all know and love.

Aug. 2017. Four years ago. I was sitting in my dorm room in Rhoads. Lovely little 1810. I had my desk, my bed, a side table and my alarm clock, which blared All Things Considered presented by NPR at 9 a.m., before my 11 a.m. Lyric Diction course. I was a music education major, set to perform Opera on the biggest stages of the world, then settling down and becoming an elementary school music teacher. 

It was the night of the Student Organization and Volunteer Organization Fair, or as VCU students colloquially call it, the SOVO fair. I wasn’t attending because I was focused on perfecting my route to class in the morning. The only organization I was even slightly interested in joining was American Choral Directors Association or ACDA, and they had an interest meeting in a few days that I was planning to attend. So I stayed at my desk during the ordeal and waited for time to go faster so that I could just get to class in the morning.

Then my roommate walked in. She was going on and on about this great club she found at the SOVO fair called Her Campus, and she really wanted to join. It was a journalism group that hosted an online magazine written by college-age women for college-age women. I perked up. You see, before I turned my blinders on and focused only on music, I was a writer. Everyone told me that I had a gift, and I wrote and published my first novel by 16. I had two published by my 18th birthday. But when I went to college for music, that’s all I was going to do. Just music. Focus.

But this group was made for everyone, not just journalism majors. My roommate was a biology major, and she was planning on joining. I thought maybe I wanted to join; then, my roommate said that she didn’t want to join alone. I agreed, and she sent me the application. It sat on my computer for two days. I wanted to join, but I wanted to focus. It was due in two days. The due date was 11:59 p.m. I turned it in at 11:50 p.m.

Two days after that, I got an email. I had gotten an interview, so did my roommate! I signed up on a google spreadsheet to be seen at Rodney’s, just under Shafer Hall. I wore my black choir dress because that was the nicest thing I had brought to college. I met Logan Bogert and Ashley Luck. I was so excited. They asked me if I had really published two books, which I excitedly told them yes and gave them writing samples of the books. 

Only a week after that, I received another email. I got in. I was officially a writer for Her Campus at VCU. So was my roommate. I loved being part of that group. There were tons of writers from all different backgrounds, meeting in Virginia Room A every Tuesday at 7 p.m. Logan would pull up her slideshow, and we’d follow along. Then we would pitch aloud to the whole group. Ashley would quickly type our pitch on her MacBook, and Logan would ask any corresponding questions about our pitch to make sure we had a concise angle. I fell in love. Hard. I had never been part of such a whole creative process and felt so included in the result since I was singing in choir in high school.

But something was missing for me. The longer I stayed in my music classes, the more I felt out of place. I had found such a passion in Her Campus, and I knew that writing was what I wanted to do, not performing. I eventually grew so depressed in my position that I stopped doing all of my work altogether. I let my classes slip, I let my relationship with my roommate slip, I let the boy who I think I was falling in love with slip (spoiler alert, I would marry him and have a son with him). I even let Her Campus slip. And Logan was so understanding. She didn’t shame me for being unsure about my future career. She didn’t ask me intrusive comments about my mental state. She just offered support and gave me extension after extension after extension. 

This dynamic lasted for that semester. When I returned to regularly writing for Her Campus, Ashley Luck had graduated and Emily Gerber became Senior Editor, which was surprising because we all thought it was going to be Emily Borst, but that’s a story for another time.

Logan graduated, Emily Gerber became Editor-in-Chief, and I put my hat in to be Senior Editor. This may surprise my current writers, but I did not get the position of Senior Editor the first time. Madison Bambini became the Senior Editor. When Emily graduated, Madison became the Editor-in-Chief, and you have no idea how badly I wanted to be Senior Editor. But I didn’t get it. Paige Wise became Senior Editor. You are probably now thinking, how the heck did you become Editor-in-Chief? Well, when Paige Wise became Editor-in-Chief, I applied again. The third times the charm. Paige enthusiastically gave me the position, and I stepped up with full force. I wanted it so badly. I had such a passion for helping every girl possible to feel as included as I did. I wanted to give every single girl on the VCU campus a chance to feel as supported as I did by Logan. I wanted to create the safest creative space for anyone of any major, race, religion, age or gender. 

I was told in May that I was to be the next Senior Editor. Come August, when my position was to begin, Paige decided to step down. Suddenly, I was Editor-in-Chief of the greatest organization I had ever been in. I sat down and started working.

I made new spreadsheets, I made new forms, I revitalized the pitching process, I pushed and pushed and pushed. Just as my deadline for the application that would change my life was due at 11:59 p.m., all of the deadlines became 11:59 p.m. to remind myself every day that I too began as a writer. I abruptly gave the Senior Editor position to a new member who had an immense amount of potential. I was unable to reserve rooms through the student commons because the paperwork for Paige’s abdication had not been processed yet. So we met in the library study rooms. I projected my laptop on the screen, and they followed along. We were bronze level with only eight writers when I was given this position. By the end of my first semester, we had jumped to Platinum. 

Then people started quitting. I wasn’t the same as Madison. It was a lot of change, very rapidly. Most of the old team that I had grown to love was disappearing either by graduation or uninvolvement. 

Then I started interviewing more and more girls and more and more girls joined. I reworked the meeting layout and started making more interactive meetings. People got out of their seats and played games together. We learned together. We partied together. Our small group of girls boomed to a group of 30 writers, all impassioned by the purpose of Her Campus at VCU. For college-aged women, by college-aged women. We quickly grew from Platinum to Diamond. I stayed up on Sunday nights until midnight, watching the submissions pour in and pasting them on my spreadsheet. I tried different ways of organizing the publication schedule. I was figuring it out. The writers were figuring it out.

COVID-19. I had to stop in my tracks. No more in-person. No more playing games. No more team bonding. No more tabling. No more team pictures. No more pitching to a group of eager writers. I had to rework everything. My process changed again. I added a Managing Editor position to help ease the load on myself and my Senior Editor. The group went through growing pains. We shrunk by ten or fifteen writers. That’s ok. Those who remained had gone through the thick of it and weren’t about to give up. I tried to shift my expectations and give grace to writers as Logan had given me. We all worked and worked and worked. By the end of the next semester, we hit Elite. The primo. The best. The highest level we could be. I was so insanely proud of my writers and of the Public Relations team, who worked just as hard as the writers to help us all achieve this status.

Then I got pregnant. Remember that boy I was talking about? I was letting him slip? Well, he came back, and we eloped in November 2018, right before I would become Editor-in-Chief. We were having a son now, two and a half years later. I was still helping my writers and upholding my promise to create a safe space for the writers of VCU. My senior editor decided to leave at the end of that semester and my managing editor transferred schools.

I had to find a new editing exec team. I found that in Emily Richardson. She shares my passion for helping women be the best writer they can be while helping them understand how important they, their work and their mental health is. She flies around my spreadsheets, filling them out faster than I can. She is fantastic, and this is who I leave my three-year-long history with. This is who I give my first baby to, as I tend to my son. 

Goodbye to the greatest organization I have ever had the honor of not only joining but leading. You have done more for me than we both will ever understand. No number of words can ever express what this group of girls means to me. I wish I could stay forever, but I know that my time has come, and I must leave. I love each and every writer who has come and gone. I love each and every article I have written, edited and published. C’est la vie. Goodbye to you all.

Farewell from the Editor-in-Cheif

Mary McLean (née Moody) is an avid writer and is the former Editor in Chief of Her Campus at VCU. She wrote diligently for Her Campus at VCU for two years and was the Editor in Chief for three years. You can find her work here! She double majored in Political Science and History at Virginia Commonwealth University and graduated in 2022. She loves her son, Peter, and her cat Sully. You can find her looking at memes all night and chugging Monster in the morning with her husband!
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