Chronicle senior farewell

By Lisa Wardle

I first heard about Columbia three years ago when I was a sophomore at Lake Land College. As a student ambassador for the college, I worked one night at a high school job fair in Taylorville, Ill., and saw Columbia’s table, adorned with a tabletop sculpture of interlocking cards. Though I was looking to transfer within the year, I’d given little thought to where I was going after graduating from LLC.

At that point, I was looking to attend Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Ill. It was 20 miles from my house and was where many area kids went. But I wanted to move away, and knew the last half of college as my ticket out. My expectations of my major and the kind of college I would attend were foggy, but I knew I wanted a skill set beyond working as a newsroom beat reporter.

Instead of being attracted to LLC’s robust agricultural and business programs like other seniors at the job fair, I looked for nearby institutions that might, by chance, have just the “kick-ass” journalism program I was seeking. When I saw the Columbia table behind the LLC table and asked the representative about the peculiar sculpture, she explained it was a pamphlet “you build yourself,” which was reflective of Columbia’s ideology of an artist’s growth. She handed me a business card with a lime green disc on its edge that read “Create … change.” Damn straight.

I wanted to create a change that would shape my career, and I wanted to do it in a place that would enrich my life better than my 250-population town (that’s 250 people, not 250,000) provided me in my 19 years of living. What better place to do this than at the largest arts and media institution in the country?

When I came to Columbia I quickly learned my education is what I would make of it. If you aren’t passionate about your field while attending this college, you won’t last a week in your profession. I pushed myself in my education, deciding if journalism wasn’t for me, at least I received my tuition dollars’ worth in draining the faculty of its energy by asking dumb questions and giving my menial opinion toward world issues.

I realized I loved journalism and, interestingly, all its disadvantages. I learned this in my journalism classes and discussing the industry’s state with my peers and professionals in the trenches—discussions that should have scared me away but only entranced me. But a healthy helping of education also came from working at The Chronicle. Through 48 issues, countless interviews and lots of hours lost in the newsroom (that’s not like the real world, right?), I love what I do. As of this issue, I have no job prospects but I still can’t imagine doing anything beyond some variation of journalism, like creative non-fiction or documentary filmmaking.

In short, I fulfilled the promise I made to myself in moving to the city two years ago. I would make the most of Columbia, though my career will show if I create change in my industry. In the meantime, I’ve created change in my life.