“It doesn’t require much work, just 500 words a week about anything that happened that week in history.”
Those are the immortal words of Seamus McKeever, a man whom I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting, who probably doesn’t even know my name, yet ultimately had a bigger impact on my college career than anyone else I’ve crossed paths with over the past four years.
Mr. McKeever, the UConn Class of ‘19 graduate, founded the Life section’s “This Week in History” column in 2016, a tradition that I would eventually have the pleasure of carrying on from September 2019 through May of this year.
Before graduating, he contacted the history major advisor — the seemingly closest contact line to the university’s history-inclined population — and thus with her final email of the 2018-19 academic year came a ‘help-wanted’ plea for a new columnist for The Daily Campus, which I had previously been unaware was UConn’s student-run newspaper. Maybe my vast and seemingly useless knowledge of history had finally found its purpose!
Having been overwhelmed by the sheer size and scale of the UConn Storrs campus, I postponed my extracurricular involvement until the beginning of my sophomore year. While I never reached out to Seamus in regards to his column, I went to the fall involvement fair and cautiously approached The Daily Campus table to give it a go. Lo and behold, who would be there but my future bosses, Julia Mancini and Melissa Scrivani, the dynamic duo that ran the Life section. Their friendliness, but truthfully their persistence, roped me into the first Life meeting of my college experience, the first of many Sunday nights spent schlepping over to The Daily Campus building on the edge of campus. At the end of the meeting, I pitched my column idea as a reboot of Seamus’s and the rest was history — literally.
Flash forward a couple of Sunday night meetings later and my weekly column was joined by a few TV and movie reviews. While I did not know the first thing about Hollywood — except for the fact that it was consolidated as a neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1910 — I decided I would give it try, beginning with a review of the season 4 premiere of “This is Us.” The review was hardly a review at all, and frankly spoiled the entire episode for people hoping to watch it, but nothing was more exciting than seeing my writing on the front page of the Life section, with a stunning portrait of the show’s stars to add that extra layer of excitement and professionalism. I was hooked and each week I slowly began volunteering for a few more stories each meeting, and for everyone’s sake, my writing improved with each passing issue.
“The Daily Campus has, in more ways than one, altered and impacted my college experience for the better, being the place on campus where I could feel part of a community that seeks to create something important. “
The COVID-19 pandemic, while the thorn of my college experience, did not manage to stop the Life section, nor my desire to be a part of it. I took “This Week in History” abroad with me for the few COVID-free weeks of the Spring 2020 semester and then continued writing even once my dorm became my bedroom in my parents’ house. Even over Zoom, the Sunday-night Life meetings were still the place to be, and my editors, Hollianne Lao and Rebecca Maher, thought my writing was good enough to join the ranks as a staff writer. So to be clear, not only was I enjoying what I was doing but I was being paid to do it as well. If I wasn’t hooked already, I had no means for leaving anymore. Flash forward to my senior year, and who would have thought I would sit next to Hollie as a Life editor, the very writer whose work my first editors referred me to for guidance three years ago.
It’s now May of 2022, graduation has come and I’m ending my tenure at The Daily Campus as associate Life editor, a copy editor, a designer, a member of the board of directors and of course, author of “This Week in History” — suffice it to say, something the likes of freshman-year Gino could never have imagined when he first read his advisor’s email. The Daily Campus has, in more ways than one, altered and impacted my college experience for the better, being the place on campus where I could feel part of a community that seeks to create something important.
While I am sad to say goodbye and move on from something that has so deeply defined my life for the past three years, I can only hope that another hesitant freshman will find their way into The Daily Campus building, and find a place where they can develop their talents that makes the big UConn campus a little homier. Congratulations to the Class of 2022 and thanks for the memories!