Editor’s Note season 2 episode 9: The people of WashU

| Senior Multimedia Editor
A graphic with two large blue quotation marks in the center in front of an orange background. In the upper right hand corner, orange letters read "Editor's Note." In the lower left hand corner, green letters read "The people of WashU" and "The Student Life Podcast."

Graphic by Christine Watridge / Student Life

Just in the past week, the Scene section of Student Life, which explores the people, places and things that make up the Washington University community, featured stories about Sakeenah, a living learning community for Muslim-American students, WashU students who got married in college and a faculty fellow. Senior Multimedia Editor Kamala Madireddi spoke with Senior Scene Editors sophomore Olivia Poolos and sophomore Julia Robbins about how they’ve been leading the section this semester. Theme music by Copy Chief JJ Coley.

You can also listen to this week’s episode of Editor’s Note on Spotify or Apple Music

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity.

OLIVIA POOLOS (0:10-0:11): What is your name?

DAVID KICKLIGHTER (0:11-0:13): David Kicklighter.

DOMINIC THEDFORD (0:14-0:15): My name is Dominic Thedford.

HARESSE WILSON (0:16-0:17): Haresse Wilson. 

OP (0:18-0:20): Where are you coming from today?

HW (0:20-0:23): Oh, my job. We had a Halloween party at my job.

OP (0:23-0:25): Nice, what are you dressed as?

HW (0:25-0:29): Oh, I’m not dressed as anything but my daughters are a princess and a unicorn.

OP (0:29-0:30): Oh, I love it.

KAMALA MADIREDDI (0:31-1:42: That was Senior Scene Editor sophomore Olivia Poolos. She spent a Saturday afternoon on the MetroLink Blue Line interviewing passengers, like Haresse Wilson and her daughters, as they went about their day. A compilation of these interviews resulted in the story, “Humans of the St. Louis Metro Blue Line,” one of the many features in Scene, Student Life’s section that explores the people, places and things that make up the Washington University community. 

I’m Kamala Madireddi, and you’re listening to Editor’s Note, Student Life’s weekly podcast breaking down our biggest stories with the reporters and editors that covered them. 

Just in the past week, Poolos and Senior Scene Editor sophomore Julia Robbins edited features on Sakeenah, a living learning community for Muslim-American students, WashU students who got married in college and a faculty fellow, William Tolman. 

I spoke with Poolos and Robbins about their experience this semester of leading the section with profiles of the different student experiences on campus. 

JULIA ROBBINS (1:43-2:42): On the editing side, there’s been a bunch of pieces that have been really fun to read this year. One that stands out was a piece that followed an EST [member] on campus. And first of all it’s really exciting to see new writers take on these really engaging pieces and do such a great job reporting and writing. So that’s one aspect of it. And secondly, I was just really able to learn a lot about what it is to be an EST at WashU, both just like the technical side of it, like what is the day to day life of it, but also, but also what the significance of being an EST is to someone. And I think that’s one of the great things about being a writer or an editor for StudLife, or whatever newspaper you’re a part of, is that you really start to understand the inner workings of your community in a way that for many people, is slightly out of reach just because you’re not necessarily speaking to as many students with as many different experiences.

KM (2:43-2:50): Both Robbins and Poolos emphasized that this diversity in pieces is a common theme for this semester’s Scene reporting. 

JR (2:51-3:16): I think a common theme for Scene pieces this year has been trying to really understand the unique experiences of students on our campus. You know some of that has been students who work jobs at the University or who are part of different organizations on campus and just really digging into what those experiences have meant to them and how they’re contributing to the greater Washington community.

OP (3:17-4:13): The only common theme wasn’t really a common theme, it was just that everyone is working through the work-life balance differently. So a student that works a job multiple hours a week is going to have a different work-life balance than a student who doesn’t have to have the obligation. Or a student who’s on EST spends a lot of their time thinking about that obligation and de-stressing from that part of their lives, whereas other students on campus don’t have to think about it. So a common theme is just what students have to think about in their day-to-day lives and how they’re balancing those obligations with work. Like in the piece I wrote about Sakeenah, students there were expressing that in the time where there were some Islamophobic threats on campus or a lot of discussion about Islamophobia, that the stress of that was something that they had to balance with academics. Like when they didn’t feel safe going to classes, how are they going to get those notes?

JR (4:14-4:52): I would also add that it’s not really seen as, “Oh, I have to make time for this other obligation, or like I’m trying to juggle it with my work” or something like that. The parts of their lives that we are focusing on in these articles are equally, if not more important to them as their academic lives because oftentimes it’s the organizations that they’re a part of that they are so incredibly passionate about and that have real-world applications. And so it’s just part of them and part of like their experience as a human.

KM (4:53-5:07): Although most Scene features focus on students and faculty and other aspects of life at WashU, Poolos mentioned how interesting it was to go outside the WashU bubble while she interviewed people for the MetroLine story.

OP (5:08-5:42):  I really enjoyed that piece, because it was just so in depth of what I feel like the St. Louis community is, whereas we mostly focused on WashU students and WashU groups. But I really enjoyed this feeling of breaking out of the bubble and talking to people that I never would have approached typically. I think, on the Metro a lot of times people are just sort of in their own little world: earbuds in, not looking at anyone else, just trying to focus on where they’re going. And it was really lovely to actually figure out that people just enjoy talking about themselves and enjoy sharing their stories. So I got little snippets of people’s lives that I otherwise would never have known about.

KM (5:43-5:47): Is there a particular feature that’s coming up that you’re looking forward to?

JR (5:48-6:01): There’s a writer currently working on a piece about accessing therapy, and I’m very excited about that piece just because mental health is clearly a huge issue of importance on college campuses and in general in life.

OP (6:02-6:26): We have a writer who’s working on accessibility on campus, and he’s been great at really getting into zoning laws and talking to the architect and asking those hard questions about whether the school is really doing all they can for students who need extra physical or mental help. And I think that piece when it’s ready is just going to be really fantastic and really well reported.

KM (6:34-6:57): Editor’s Note will be back in two weeks to break down another developing story. Head to studlife.com to check out more of our recent coverage, like a look into the history of WashU’s founder, a profile of a three-time paralympic champion and WashU alum, and the stakes of the recent SU fall election. For Student Life Media, I’m Kamala Madireddi.

Listen to more episodes of Editor’s Note:

Editor’s Note season 2 episode 8: Mental health crisis response deal falls through

Editor’s Note season 2 episode 7: Student dance groups need more space

Editor’s Note season 2 episode 6: The arts are back on campus

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