A 65 year-old Scholar?

December 19, 2008

By hammersmith

It was hard to escape Brian Indrelunas (’04) this fall, even if we never saw him.

Everywhere the State Press was, there was Brian, who just finished a semester-long stint as editor in chief of ASU’s independent student newspaper. Not a word appeared in print that he didn’t scrutinize. The way we hear it, it’s one of those 26 hour-a-day jobs for which you might as well give up your apartment lease and plan on sleeping–occasionally–on an office couch.

No surprise that after twenty-some weeks of deadlines, Brian’s feeling… wiser than his years. We’re happy to see, though, that he’s fighting back against his inner 65 year-old. Snatched from Brian’s website, here’s the address he delivered, as the outstanding undergraduate student, at the Cronkite School’s convocation yesterday:

‘We can’t let our inner 65-year-olds get the best of us.’

Thank you all. I’ll be addressing my remarks to my fellow graduates here today.

Fellow graduates, I remember the first time I set foot in Stauffer Hall, and I suspect many of you do as well.

We all have our fair share of memories from Stauffer, Tower Center, Matthews Center and so many other places in Tempe.

And yet, here we are — in Phoenix.

We have been among the first students to pass through the Cronkite School’s new downtown home, and we are the first class to graduate here.

But regardless of where we took any given class, whether it was in Tempe or downtown at the new Cronkite building, as we leave this journalism school, it’s really not what we’ve learned in those classes that has set us apart. As journalism students, we’re expected to take courses in newswriting, ethics, production, media law.

What makes us different as graduates of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication is how we’ve put what we’ve learned into practice with professional-level work experiences.

Whether it’s working for a Student Media outlet or one of the Cronkite School’s professional programs, what we’ve done outside the traditional classroom is what makes each of us unique. That, of course, includes the many internships we’ve completed both near and far from home. And some of us have also put what we’ve learned into practice internationally through internships or Cronkite School projects.

Now, going forward, some of us will continue on in school and seek another degree, while others — myself included — will head out into our chosen profession and find that, in the so-called “real world,” that which has set us apart these past few years will become just the baseline expectation.

Of course, at a full-time job, we’re expected to work, to put into practice all that we’ve learned here at the Cronkite School.

What, then, will set us apart?

What will make us different from the reporter in the cubicle to the left or the public relations specialist in the cubicle to the right?

It’s simpler than you might think; it’s learning.

Yes, the very thing that was just part of the gig here in academia can be the key to our success if we keep it up out there in our professional lives.

Now, on a day like today, it’s easy to look back at all the impressive things we’ve done while in school and all that we’ve learned thus far, and to reach the conclusion that “we’re done.”

It is a time for celebration, but don’t for a second think that you, or I, or any of us, know it all.

Certainly, there are plenty of people in the fields of journalism and public relations who we can still learn from. So when you get to that first job, swallow your recent-graduate pride and recognize that yes, there are people out there who know more than you — and then go and find one of them. It may be a supervisor, a coworker or even a competitor, but whoever it is, make that person your mentor and learn from him or her just as you have from the Cronkite faculty.

And while learning from those who have gone before us and will agree to walk beside us is important, that’s not the only type of continuing education we’ll need. I think it’s clear to everyone that our profession is changing rapidly. This journalism school in particular is staking its identity on that very fact, putting emphasis on existing “new media” and encouraging us to create even newer media.

So as young media professionals who will one day grow into older media professionals, we have to keep pace with our changing industry — to embrace and to seek out and to learn about the innovations that will be created here and elsewhere in the decades to come.

In short, we can’t let our inner 65-year-olds get the best of us. (No offense to any actual 65-year-olds in attendance.)

Graduates, I don’t know if you all have an inner 65-year-old, but many of the Cronkite faculty, including people sitting behind me, will attest to the fact that I have an “old soul,” the age of which varies. But this is the inner voice that says I should just brush off something like Twitter because it has a funny name and it’s new and I don’t quite understand it and I don’t want to. Or I should disregard the possibility of delivering content to mobile phones because I remember, back in my day, when we used our telephones just to talk to each other.

But consider yourselves warned: If you start to resemble your inner 65-year-old, you will likely — as many 65-year-olds do — find yourself facing a forced retirement, even if you’re only 35 — or 25 — on the outside.

Instead, we need to keep a piece of our inner college students alive — now, not necessarily the stay-out-until-four-in-the-morning piece of our college lives. (I can tell you from my most recent internship experience that when you’re working full-time, that can be a very bad idea.) Rather, we need to hold on to the curiosity and ability to change and to grow and to move — whether that’s with our school to a new city or with our profession to a new medium.

You see, as many of us head out into our professional lives, the tables have essentially turned. Up to this point, we’ve been expected to learn and grow, and our work experiences have made us unique. As professionals, we’ll be expected to work hard, but what will truly set each of us apart in our ever-changing industry is our ability to learn from the past and grow into the future.

I think we’ve all been well equipped for that journey by the Cronkite School, so I extend my congratulations. Thank you.