Senior Column: Forever Grateful

The author, then and now.

Welp. Here it is. After four years, the time for my senior column has finally arrived as has graduation, a new beginning and a whole lot of unknowns … Including how to write this thing.

This is a moment and an article I’ve been thinking about since last year’s seniors wrote theirs back in May. But as has been the case for the last decade of my life, we put it off until right before it was due. Classic.

So instead of going into this with a plan or outline like I normally would, I’m just gonna talk. From here on out I’m going to try not to pause, think or edit (mostly) anything I say to get the most genuine experience out of this as I can. So here we go.

Back in 2017, I came to UConn as a pre-teaching math major, hoping to graduate and become a high school teacher and soccer coach. But after getting the worst grade of my life in Calculus my first semester, I quit. Doing poorly in a course I had taken my senior year of high school and considered to be an introductory course was enough for me to call it quits and move on to something new. After all, UConn always flaunted the number of majors they had and that it wasn’t a big deal to be in their ACES program up until your sophomore year, so that is what I did. Now, all that was left was for me to figure out what I would move on to.

Math or any related topic seemed to be out of the question due to my sudden inability to understand complex derivatives, but I wasn’t quite ready to call it quits on the teaching gig. So I texted a couple friends, did a little bit of my own research and ended up with the potential of going into SLHS with the hopes of becoming a speech pathologist, but I never even got to declare the major.

At the same time I was doing research on SLHS at UConn, I got a text from my buddy Jorge (you’re gonna come up a few times pal) that he had written a fantasy football article for the school newspaper and that I should reach out to the current editors. I had always thoroughly enjoyed sports but wasn’t sure I could make a career of it. But with nothing in the works aside from the research I still had going on toward speech pathology, I figured why the hell not.

Here’s how that went:

Subject: Interested in Joining the Sports Column (bad start)

Dear Mr. Keating,

My name is Conner and I am currently a freshman Sports Management major (liar) at UCONN (bad). Along with this, I am also interested in a career in sports journalism, so I was hoping to join the sports section of the daily campus (oof). Thank you, hope to hear back from you soon.

Why Tyler even responded to that email I have no idea, but thank god he did. Ten minutes later I was sent the information I needed to join the section and headed to the meeting. What happened when I got there, I honestly can’t tell you because I probably blacked out from anxiety of being in the same room as so many people I didn’t know, but Tyler and Chris did a good enough job of making me and all the other new guys feel welcome where I decided to stay, though that feeling of genuine belonging didn’t come until a bit later.

After a picturesque junior year in which I joined the digital team (shoutout Kim, Courtney and Grace), the design team (shoutout Alex, Dan and Brandon) and became more involved in the sports section, I finally felt like I had made a home out of this place.

But then, right on cue, COVID swooped in and took everything heading into senior year. Classes were online and extracurriculars were being canceled left and right, the one string of hope I had left for much of the summer was that there would be sports in the fall. Wrong.

Fall sports were officially canceled pretty early on in the semester, leaving myself and Danny to be (someone fact check me on this) the first UConn sports editors to not have UConn sports to write about. But with a little creativity and hope that the section full of new writers would be understanding, Danny (you’ll also pop up once or twice) and myself worked out a plan for the fall semester that more or less went off without a hitch. Thank god the spring was better.

I had gotten to cover some really cool sports during my time at UConn, but nothing felt more surreal than being one of 20 people in Gampel Pavilion on a random Tuesday night to watch the women’s basketball team play. In some ways it made everything that had happened in the past year okay, because there I was, watching a top team in the country making history before my very eyes … and I was one of the few people that get to be there in person. What a crazy experience that was (P.S. that South Carolina game will live rent-free in my head for as long as I live).

But for as valuable as the in-office experience was for me, it has always been and will always be the people that made it feel like home, so here are some of the heavy-hitters I have to thank:

Courtney Gavitt! CLG2! Thank you for letting me sit next to you in our class for orientation. If I hadn’t done that I never would have learned about DC life outside of the sports section and how truly amazing it can be. At least for this column, you are the better CLG.

Alex Houdeshell! Another orientation homie turned DC colleague. Thank you for putting up with my very bland Life designs for the majority of my time at work. Even though I don’t think I had an eye for it you always supported what I put on the paper and convinced me it looked great.

Andrew and Kevin, y’all were the best editors I could’ve asked for heading into my senior year. You trusted us staff writers with anything and everything and were a huge reason we were able to grow so close as a section heading into many of our own final years. Without you both I’m not sure how my time at the DC would’ve turned out, so above all else I am eternally grateful to have had you guys to look up to and learn from.

Danny Barletta … we had one helluva year my guy. Thank you for being a level-headed and motivated-beyond-belief person that carried this section to everything it was this year. I know it wasn’t what either of us wanted but I can honestly say you made it as good as it could have been. I genuinely could not have survived this year without you at the head.

Alright Jorge and Mike … I’m grouping y’all together because of course I am. I honestly have stared at my laptop for a good bit of time now trying to put together the words for how much y’all mean to me but ironically, I am speechless. Just know that you two made the DC everything it was meant to be for me and gave me a couple of guys I know I will never lose touch with and can always shoot a text when I’m fiending for an Arizona. We got robbed for best trio a year ago and I’ll never forget it. May Zona Hour live on after Mike graduates.

The Daily Campus did a lot of things: It stressed me out, kept me up late and didn’t give me much room to breathe. But it also helped me find a career path, taught me some really important life lessons and above all else connected or re-connected me with people that meant the world to my entire college experience.

And for that I am forever grateful.

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