What do you get when you mix nine Castleton University students with New York City, Krispy Kreme donuts, mind-blowing Italian food, Madison Square Garden and the College Media Association conference?
One unforgettable weekend.
Each year, as an educational experience and also as a reward for working hard on The Castleton Spartan, communication professor Dave Blow takes some of The Spartan’s writers, photographers, designers and editors to a journalism conference in New York.
Students are required to go to at least five of the many sessions offered at the conference, held in the Sheraton Times Square hotel. This year the group also went to a critique where two advisors from Moraine Valley Community College in Chicago looked at and critiqued The Spartan.
Besides a few ideas to get more content online, the comments were all very positive and the critics were impressed with the professionalism and design of the paper.
“The critique on our paper was awesome, considering we’ve got such a strong team that’s grown a lot in the two years I’ve been a part of it,” said Spartan photographer and Web Editor Sara Novenstern.
Students also got a lot out of the keynote speaker, Byron Pitts, an Emmy Award winning reporter who currently works for ABC Nightline.
“Byron Pitts was an amazing speaker and probably the highlight of the academic aspect for me,” said Spartan writer and former editor, Callie Ginter.
Sports Editor Jordan Lumsden also liked Pitts’ speech.
“He told us to be thankful and to never quit, which can be hard to do sometimes,” he said. “The one thing that resonated with me was when he said ‘when you tell people your dreams they should laugh at you.’ He also mentioned that ‘if your dream only includes yourself then it’s not big enough.’”
He added that the speech made him “stop and truly appreciate the talented and passionate group of writers we have one staff.”
After Pitts’ speech, Novenstern had the chance to ask him a question.
“The coolest part, in my opinion, was the keynote speaker. Not only was he eye opening and inspiring, but somehow I mustered up the courage to ask him a question I was curious about,” she said. “I get very nervous with public speaking so getting up in the aisle and asking my question on the microphone was nerve racking. It's probably something I wouldn't have done two or three years ago.”
Spartan page designer Sara Harrison really enjoyed having the chance to develop her understanding of journalism.
“The sessions were extremely helpful. I haven't taken any writing or editing courses so when designing, I'm sometimes lost, and I felt the sessions helped further my understanding and knowledge of journalism and newspaper publication,” she said.
Senior Jimmy Britt enjoyed the sessions and left the conference with the understanding that film school will be challenging, but totally worth it. Senior Casey McGraw especially enjoyed a session by Luis Miguel Echegaray, a writer for The Guardian who told a story about an underprivileged soccer team he wrote about. McGraw left the session with the understanding that even writing for a small paper can have a big impact.
But the trip wasn’t all business. The group also had plenty of time to bond and have fun.
Saturday night, several members of the group had the chance to go to a Big East Tournament championship basketball game at Madison Square Garden. Sunday night the Spartan staff met up with Castleton alumna and past Spartan editor Molly DeMellier for dinner at Forlini’s, an Italian restaurant downtown, which has become a group favorite.
“I would say a couple of my favorite parts were the critique, since they loved us so much, and the food. Oh my gosh! That was the best Italian place I have ever been to,” said Co-Editor Jadie Dow.
Successfully navigating the city was an exciting part for many students.
“I'm typically very wary of the city and am uncomfortable while I'm there, and I felt this trip helped my confidence in navigating foreign places and being less scared of taking the subway or going to areas of the city I'm unfamiliar with,” Harrison said.
Some of the best bonding moments happened just hanging out in the hotel rooms or wandering around the city. Thanks to Blow for making the Spartan and the staff what it is, the trip was about bonding and growing together as a team, as much as it was about learning.
“My favorite part of the trip was spending time with my fellow Spartan students and Professor Blow. I got to bond with them, and by the end of the trip I felt a lot closer to all who attended,” Britt said.
“I really loved how the group bonded this year. We are a tight, driven group and we really owe most of that to Dave.”