Never loved anyone like Columbia

By Patrick Smith

It is probably impossible for this sort of exercise to not sound self-serving, cliched and cloying, so rather than try too hard to avoid those things I’m just going to reassure myself that this piece is unlikely to be read by many people besides those who I thank within it.

I have only spent the past two years of my too-long college career at Columbia, but the classes I have had, the work I have done and the people I have met have had a far greater impact on me as a person and a professional than either of my other educational stops at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. and Harold Washington College. There is a lot about this college that doesn’t really fit with my personality. I took a Fiction Writing class my first semester here and though the teacher was wonderful, the class was definitely not for me. But the Journalism Department has felt like home since I took my first classes.

Before I started at Columbia, my idea that I would like to be a journalist was nothing more than a hunch, but after the first semester, I knew that news writing was what I needed to do. I thank the faculty of the department for showing me what makes an exceptional journalist. It was the example provided by all of my professors and advisers that kept me motivated to be as good at journalism as I could be, and it was their understanding and encouragement that helped me move beyond my failures.

It is probably not a surprise that the professors who asked the most out of me had the greatest impact. Without the encouragement and expectations of Suzanne McBride, professor and associate chair of the Journalism Department, I would not be half the journalist that I am today. It is her sterling example that makes me know I need to be two times better. Through all of my over-scheduling and under-performing, Suzanne was understanding but never too forgiving, always pushing me to be better. I did my best work because of Suzanne, either in her classes or because of the lessons I learned.

The first instructor I had at Columbia, Dodie Hofstetter, was as scrutinizing as a grader as she was inspiring as a professional. I wince thinking she will read this, and wonder how many grammatical errors she will find. Investigative Reporting with her Chicago Tribune colleague Sam Roe was a revelation. Had it not been for Sam’s instruction and dedication to investigative journalism, I might still be satisfied chasing the daily story. Sam’s work lets me know that news writing can make a difference in the world.

Probably most important to my development has been my time at The Chronicle. Under-read and over-maligned, The Chronicle is a publication I am proud to be a part of. The students and advisers who work on our paper are a dedicated, hard working and intelligent group. I am just glad they let me work with them. Advisers Chris Richert and Jeff Lyon are both unsurpassed in their commitment to the newspaper and the students who work on it, and the management team of Bethany Reinhart and Jazzy Davenport did a fantastic job. I’d also like to thank anyone who has taken the time to read any of my stories.

I can’t say I’m sorry to be leaving the school, not because there aren’t things I will miss, but because what I’ve learned in the Journalism Department is important and I need to go put those skills to use.