Students Explore Personal Stories Through Their Authentic Voices

Students in the School of Media and Journalism are exposed to hands-on class experiences that give them the opportunity to explore their identities through storytelling.

Recent graduates Gabby Jonas, ’23, and Reegan Saunders, ’23, both had the opportunity to craft and share deeply personal stories during their college careers.

In Storytelling with Sound, Jonas, a journalism major, created a podcast titled “Challah at Me” that discussed her life and identity as a faithful follower of Judaism.

“I find my life very complicated when it comes to religion,” she said. “(The podcast is) about how you can find your way through life with your perspective on religion being a different way than most people’s is.”

For class, Jonas pitched and recorded one episode; she went on to record a few additional episodes.

“The elevator pitch is, ‘I’m just a Jewish girl seeking the meaning to life’s meshuggenah purpose,’” Jonas said. “Meshuggenah is crazy; life is crazy, and I just talk about all of the craziness that comes with my life and Judaism as a whole.”

Jonas also said the podcast allowed her to find her voice by incorporating her religion and identity outside of school with her journalism identity.

“The result was a true product of myself that I could show to others,” Jonas said. “I was able to use my voice to portray myself in my rawest form.”

Saunders, also a journalism major, was always interested in freelance writing for a career, so they jumped at the opportunity to take Freelance Writing with Professor Jacqueline Marino in Spring 2022. One of the assignments was to write a story pitch and send it to different publications. Saunders pitched a first-person piece, “Why I am a Black Woman on Sundays,” to Refinery29, and an editor contacted them several months later to write the piece. It was published over the summer.

The story talked about Saunders’s experience as a non-binary person in the Black community and finding spaces where they feel like a woman on some days and a non-binary person in other spaces.

“Working with Student Media, I hadn’t always had the opportunity to talk about my story,” they said. “To have this moment where I actually got to share my story and connect with other people was really cool.”

Saunders credits Media and Journalism professors for preparing students to go out into the real world with the confidence to present themselves.

“They prepare you to go out into the real world,” they said. “They prepare you to take yourself and present yourself as a brand, as a writer, as a human, and do a great job at that.”

The Freelance Writing class taught them hard skills that will be immediately valuable while job searching.

“I feel ready. I feel confident,” they said. “…That process allowed me to be more confident and how I’m writing and to not second-guess what I’m saying. As I’m going through the job application process and I’m writing cover letters, I know how to concisely tell my story and pitch myself as a person rather than just pitching an article or idea.”  

POSTED: Wednesday, May 17, 2023 04:04 PM
Updated: Monday, June 5, 2023 05:23 PM
Blake Serrano, '25