Historian reflects on value of having varied interests

It is traditional for graduating UP management staff to pen a column as their Lamar story ends (dubbed a “-30-” column in recognition of the symbol to end stories in the old days of typesetting).

If you had asked me freshman year whether I thought I would ever work for the University Press, I would have said no. I was a music major, an area of study that had next to nothing to do with journalism. Sure, I’d seen the papers in the little kiosks around campus, but I never thought about actually going to the office and putting in an application.

caitlinIf you had told me that one day I would be Editor-in-Chief, I would have looked at you like you were crazy.

That changed dramatically my junior year.

Working at the University Press wasn’t even my idea. In the spring of 2016, I had just been appointed the student information officer and campus liaison for the marching band. Our director, Eric Shannon, decided that a good way for me to make sure the campus community was aware of information about the marching band — and, in turn, make sure the marching band was aware of what was going on around campus — would be for me to come write for the UP. I had no expectations going in. As far as I was concerned, it was just part of my job.

It was a job that I wound up really loving, and decided to stick with. The UP has basically been like a family — a crazy, fun family that I’ve enjoyed working with immensely. I’ve found out first-hand just how nice it is to enjoy your job, and to be able to laugh with your coworkers.

However, the University Press has only been one part of my experience at Lamar. During my time here, I’ve also had the privilege of working with some amazing professors who have helped me and mentored me. Their assistance and support has made my experience at Lamar so much richer, by allowing me to do things I never could have without them, like my undergraduate research or my honors thesis.

Now that my time at Lamar is ending, my advice to other students is to find professors you can work closely with, and take advantage of any help they have to offer — whether it’s facilitating your research, giving you guidance about your future career, inspiring your interest in a particular subject or just writing you letters of recommendation. Sometimes those relationships can be among the most fruitful aspects of your academic career. It is my sincere hope that everyone can find at least one mentor who proves as invaluable to them as some of my professors have been to me.

I’d like to talk about a few of them and thank them for everything they’ve done.

First, Eric Shannon — thank you for convincing me to come write for the UP in the first place. You have been a great band director, not just in terms of how much you’ve taught those of us in the band, but how fun you’ve made the experience. Thank you for always being willing to give advice to your students and laughing with us. Being in band is just somehow better when the director is just as big a nerd as the members — and I mean that in a good way.

Second, Bryan Proksch, who oversaw both my undergraduate research and my honors thesis. Having the professor who teaches the subject I want to pursue as a career as my mentor has been enormously helpful. I have probably learned more about academic writing from you than anyone else on this campus, and can now basically do Chicago-Turabian style citations in my sleep. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that my prospects of getting into graduate school are a lot better because of the things you taught me, so thank you.

Finally, Mark Mengerink, who taught me, above all else, never to take myself too seriously. Write an honors thesis about heavy metal, host an event for the history honor society that involves professors getting whipped cream thrown on them, wear steampunk gear to class… and don’t stress unnecessarily. When life hands you frogs, eat them (yes, he was that professor). Thank you. I hope the future Dr. McAlister is as awesome and cool in the eyes of her students as you are.

I am going to miss you all.

Story by Caitlin McAlister, editor

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu

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