2021 Senior Reflections

Erin McClelland, Sports Editor

Unlike many college students, I have had the same major throughout the duration of my college career. When I committed to SLU, I knew I was going to be a double major in Marketing and Sports Business, and here I am three months from graduation still with that same double major. The difference between my 18 year old self and my current 22-year-old self is in what I plan to do with them after graduation. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do when I first came to SLU, but I knew that I was a strong communicator and that I had a passion for sports.

I thought maybe I would end up starting my own field hockey club to combine a background in business with my love for my sport. Then I thought maybe I would work in sports sponsorships at some big company like Anheuser Busch. For a brief moment, somewhere around sophomore year, I thought I might go to law school and study sports or contract law. But throughout these ebbs and flows of what the heck I was going to do after four years, I definitely saw myself entering corporate America in the spring of 2021. 

It took until late in my junior year to realize that the best way to capitalize on my passion for education through athletics was going to be working in higher education, whether in college sports administration or student affairs. It took a lot of networking and informational interviews with people from all over the place to figure out that this was probably my best bet. The kicker was, to get that entry level position I wanted, it was going to require a master’s degree. Not just any master’s degree—one in education. 

Yes, I did just spend four years in business school to decide I wanted to work in higher education. For someone who has never wavered in their decision to be a business major, this one was definitely a shock not only for my parents and my friends, but also myself. So now I’m here in February preparing for copious amounts of graduate school interviews (thanks business school!!) and trying to decide which of the schools I’ll be attending later this year, hopefully in person. I never saw a post-graduate degree in my life plan, but I’m really starting to like the idea of “M.Ed.” at the end of my name. Who knows, maybe in four more years it’ll turn into a Ph.D. 

My friends said I was always the one who had her life all figured out, yet here we are four years later and that could not be further from the truth. I thought going to business school was going to prepare me to figure out what my career would be. Instead, I got something even greater. I figured out what I’m passionate about. Now, I’m going to graduate from SLU, potentially without walking across a stage, to get a really expensive piece of paper, with no job lined up. As sad as I am that my SLU chapter is closing, I am so excited to know that I get to stay a college student just a little bit longer, and better yet, hopefully stay in the college bubble for my career because when they said, “it’s the best four years of your life,” I decided that wasn’t nearly enough. 

Sydney Compton, Arts & Life Editor

I look back on my young freshman self with a mix of nostalgia, laughter and just a touch of embarrassment. I came into my freshman year of college, right off the bat thinking I was strides ahead of my peers. I had taken a gap year after my senior year of high school, and honestly, I thought I was ready. I thought I was ready to forge a new path on SLU’s campus and fight for everything I believed in. Ready to look SLU in the eyes and say “give me your best shot! I know who I am!” 

I entered my freshman year and knew I wanted to study social work. As many of us say our freshman year in Intro to Social Work, “I just want to help people.” Yes, I knew I wanted to help people, but that is so incredibly vague. I thought maybe I’d work with kids. I liked kids well enough, why not? Social work just seemed like a given. My parents both worked in the missions  and in helping professions. I had lived abroad and seen first hand the effects of sustainable, global social work, but I did not know why social work meant for me. My next four years would bring a lot of reality checks. I had to work hard to discern why I thought “helping people” was my calling, and figure out what the broader meaning of that phrase meant for me. 

Now, here I am senior year and I have changed my perspective and realized a few things. First, I had to do a lot of unlearning. I had to acknowledge the white savior complex in me and come face to face with the fact that I am entering a profession that is filled with other individuals who look and come from backgrounds very similar to mine. There are a lot of ways that I can be helpful in this profession, without a doubt. But I also know I could do a lot of harm if I let my biases, privilege, and complexes get in the way. This process of unlearning won’t end when I get my degree. 

Second, I needed to understand that my growth in this field can ebb and flow. That is the beauty of social work: there are so many avenues you can pursue. I don’t have to limit myself, I can work directly with communities or I can work on policy and coalition work. I went from wanting to work with kids my freshman year to working with adults senior year. I will continue to grow in my interests and should have an openness to go where my passions take me. 

And third, if I want to “help people” I have to do my dang research. I have to unlearn my biases and invest in learning the history and struggles of the population I chose to work with. I need to figure out my boundaries and lean into my strengths. Freshman Sydney was not focused on the preparation needed before entering a community. I had been so eager to get to work and “help” that I ended up feeling lost when I entered any community having done zero competency work. 

Three and a half years ago I would never have expected to be where I am now. Taking steps to get my masters with a desire to work with adult survivors of gender-based violence. I figured after four years of undergrad I would be done with school. But here I am, looking to spend more time in school and wishing I could stay there forever. I would have never thought that I’d be leaving my undergrad knowing that I possess so little information, but having cultivated a strong desire to continue my education forever. 

Celia Searles, Arts & Life Editor

I made a lot of choices in my four years at Saint Louis University. Some of them were stellar (studying abroad, living with and near my best friends, joining the UNews and lacing up my sneakers on West Pine a few times a week for four years), while others weren’t so much (early morning classes in Madrid, forgetting a warm jacket on a windy day on campus or waiting so long to try Fresh Gatherings). The most impactful decision I made was, without a doubt, what I chose to study.

I was accepted into Saint Louis University in the nutrition and dietetics program in October of my senior year of high school. Shortly before I packed up my life and moved into my dorm in Spring Hall, I switched to psychology, thinking maybe that would be a better fit for me instead. I only made it two months before I switched majors to communication with an emphasis in journalism and media studies. Thankfully, that one stuck.

I started by just dipping my toe in the water: a human communication and culture class. I fell in love. From there, I took newswriting, media and society, feature writing, theory of free expression, interpersonal communication, research and more. I sat next to students who quickly became my friends in and out of the classroom. All of them are bright, funny, kind and (unsurprisingly) chatty. Not only did we get to learn about communication—we got to practice it with each other.

Aside from the kids I took my classes with, the professors who taught them had an equally large impact. I took classes taught by accomplished academics who are as entertaining as they are passionate about what they taught. To see someone really, truly give a shit about what they are teaching is a magical and rare thing. It is because of professors who went the extra mile to create engaging projects, lead insightful discussions and be available for extra guidance whenever necessary that I came to love what I studied so much. It is because of my professors that my coursework was never something I trudged through, but rather something I genuinely enjoyed. I wish I had more time in the classroom ahead of me than behind me.

What’s next? Hopefully a vaccine, in person graduation and job. In a perfect world I would be buying a one-way ticket to New York City to work for the New York Times. I would be setting up my tiny apartment with a random roommate and eating as much one dollar pizza as I could. In this non-perfect world, I will be applying to journalism jobs all over the country until something sticks (hopefully in New York). I’ll move in with my family to save some money for whenever the right opportunity does come along. I’ll probably take my dog on a lot of walks, visit my friends who will be scattered around the country as soon as it’s safe to do so, and look back on my time at SLU fondly.

There is a misconception that we have to have the next best thing figured out before we have even finished the stage of life we are currently in. If the past year has taught me anything, it’s to live in the moment we currently have and take things one step at a time. I’ll still be looking at Manhattan real estate and applying to jobs like a mad woman, but I’m okay with where I’m at. It was a series of a few wrong fits to the right fit with my major. I am approaching life the same way these days. 

Thank you, Communication, for being my perfect match these past four years. Thank you for all the lessons you taught me in the classroom, but more importantly, thank you for teaching me the important lesson of knowing that it might take a few imperfect fits, a few moments of stalling—even a wrong turn or two—to get to whatever my next perfect fit looks like.