Thursday, May 26, 2005

My Great Experience at UIS

By Heather Shaffer

My name is Heather Shaffer and some of you may already know me from my time as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper here at UIS. This summer, I’ll be interviewing students, faculty, and staff about their experiences at this university and writing about it for others to read on the UIS website. Since I plan to be out and about during the next couple of months asking a lot of people a lot of questions, I thought it was only fair to tell you a little about myself first.

Three years ago when I was searching for a college, UIS stuck out in my mind for many reasons -- the small class sizes, the housing options, and the Capital Scholars Program to name just a few. I know now that I made the right choice -- the classes are the perfect size, the housing options are probably the best in the state, and the Capital Scholars Program was a great way to spend my first two years on campus.

During my first semester, I started looking for a job to earn extra money. In the financial aid office there was a posting for an office assistant at the student newspaper, The Journal. I went to an interview for that position and walked out with a reporting job!

I was a reporter for The Journal for three semesters and loved every minute of it. As a reporter, I was able to attend events and meet people that I probably would not have been able to otherwise. It was also exciting to see my pieces published each week and I took great pride in my work.

In spring 2004, I was promoted to managing editor. In that position, I assigned stories to other staff members and worked with them on those assignments. I also helped with miscellaneous things that needed to be done and still wrote one article a week.

That semester, I learned that the editor-in-chief position would be open in the fall and I decided I should at least interview for it -- if for no other reason than to get my foot in the door. Much to my surprise, I was offered the position for the 2004-2005 school year.

Serving as editor-in-chief of The Journal has been an amazing experience that gave me the opportunity to learn about every aspect of putting together a publication. I learned about layout and design and photography and further developed my skills in reporting and management. I also had the opportunity to meet and work with some great people.

My academic work at UIS has also helped me develop as a journalist, since I’ve been able to mold my studies to fit what I think will help me in the future. Capital Scholars courses such as What is Power? and Writing for the Humanities helped me gain critical thinking and writing skills. Communication course such as News Writing and Gathering, Photography I, Graphic Design I, and Persuasion have also helped me gain skills that will be helpful someday soon when I start the search for my dream newspaper job.

However, these experiences have already paid off because this summer I was offered a copy editing internship with the Daily Herald, a suburban Chicago newspaper based in Arlington Heights. During the internship, I’ll be able to use and further develop the editing, design, and writing skills I learned at The Journal and in class.

Outside of work and the classroom, living on campus has enhanced my overall experience at UIS. They say that most of what you learn in college, you learn outside the classroom, and I have found that this is true. Living on campus, attending classes, and participating in various campus events, I’ve met people from all walks of life. Through events such as the International Festival and Springfest, I have been able to interact with people from a variety of cultures. I think the diversity of UIS’ student population is definitely a plus because it allows us to learn from one another.

I am incredibly grateful for the path my life has taken and I think my time at UIS has helped me develop. Choosing UIS as a college was probably the best decision I have ever made. Through my studies I’ve gained valuable knowledge and experience that I know will help me land a great job. Living and studying here has been something that I’ll remember forever.

Now, since I’ve had such a great experience here myself, I’m interested in finding out what other people think about UIS. If you’d like to share your campus experiences, please e-mail me at hshaf01s@uis.edu.

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