EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Alex Tey MANAGING EDITOR Trace Miller DEPUTY Arnav Binaykia Asha Ramachandran Sabrina Choudhary COPY CHIEF Gillian Blum Max Tiefer DEPUTY Ariana Wahab Sam Spray UNDER THE ARCH Publishing Editor Caitlin Hsu Sydney Barragan Senior Editor Ivy Zhu Staff Editor Sunny Sequeira Portraits Editor Kiersten Dugan
Exposures Editor Julian Hammond Santander Voices Editor Aleksandra Goldberg MULTIMEDIA Multimedia Editor Manasa Gudavalli Photo Editor Camila Ceballos Sam Tu Social Media Editor Luca Richman Video Director Edward Franco Audio Director Vaishnavi Naidu
WEB Web Director Ryan Kawahara Web Editor Sho Matsuyama Contributor Jane He BUSINESS Business Manager Yejin Chang Director of Sales Catherine Chen Account Associate Damascus Lee
DESIGN Creative Director Charitssa Stone Susan Behrends Valenzuela Illustration Editor Aaliya Luthra
01 Letter from the Editor 02 WSN’s Seniors 04 Graduating from school and from sports 06 Our NYU admissions essays, four years later 08 Not according to plan: From college major to career path
10 Letter from the (soon-to-be) former editor 2
When you look back on your college years, you probably think of all the long nights, the stressful group projects and the friends you made in unexpected places. For NYU kids, making 2 a.m. runs to Joe’s Pizza and dodging skateboarders in Washington Square Park probably come to mind too. And for the Washington Square News staff, those Sunday productions, special issue nights and chaotic Slack channels are inseparable from the rest. This year’s While You Were Here issue is particularly special to Under the Arch — we’re saying goodbye and happy graduation to two of our staff, as well as several members of the larger WSN family. To honor them, we have a page documenting where they started, where they are and where they’re planning to go. College can make you grow a lot in four years. Throw in a pandemic and continuous sociopolitical conflict, and you may find that who you are now is a completely different person. In this issue, our seniors read their own NYU admissions essays and decided whether or not they held up — cliche Sinatra lyrics and all. Graduation is a time of endings, but also new beginnings. One story in this issue is about graduating NYU athletes, some of whom are continuing to play while others leave sports to their college years — written by Portraits Editor Kiersten Dugan. The other, by staff writer Nikkala Kovacevic, is about seniors who aren’t going into the field they studied. People often evade change, but we hope that these stories prove that it can also be something worth embracing. Thank you to our hardworking staff — Sunny Sequeira, Kiersten Dugan, Ivy Zhu and Julian Hammond Santander, as well as Aleksandra Goldberg, one of the senior members of staff we are saying goodbye to. You have brought so much to UTA in the time you were here, Aleksandra. Not only your incredible writing and natural creativity, but the light you bring just by entering a room. You’ve taken everything this magazine has thrown at you in stride, always doing spectacular work with a smile on your face. We will miss you, but we are so excited to see where life takes you. It’s been a privilege to work with our amazing web and design teams, who came together to pull off our most ambitious special issue yet. Also a huge thank you to Jules Roscoe, who continues to come in clutch for us even though they are technically with the opinion desk. From Caitlin: It’s fitting that While You Were Here 2021 was my first special issue as UTA Publishing Editor, and While You Were Here 2022 is my last. It’s the perfect way to bookend my career at WSN. I’ve already written about my time here, which you’ll see at the end of this issue, so I’ll just thank everyone who has helped me along the way: my UTA predecessors, my editors and everyone on our amazing staff. Special shoutout to members of UTA, past and present — I’m gonna miss bossing you around. Finally, to my co-manager, Sydney: Thank you for being by my side through this wild ride. I know UTA will thrive in your hands. From Sydney: I am so beyond proud of this issue, though it feels bittersweet knowing this our last one together.
STAFF PHOTO BY MANASA GUDAVALLI
Caitlin, you have been a joy to work with since day one. It always confuses me when you say you’re not a natural leader — could’ve fooled me. Your patience and kindness have made you everything a mentor should be and more. I’m going to miss seeing what new funky earrings you have on each day and even the delirium of late nights running special issues. I hope you leave this paper feeling so proud of your work and the effect you’ve had on our staff. UTA will not be the same without you, but I hope we continue to make you proud. We’ll keep striving to tell the big stories.
Under the Arch Publishing Editor
Under the Arch Publishing Editor
WSN’S SENIORS Aleksandra Goldberg
Major: English Literature on the creative writing track Minor: Creative Writing, Journalism Post-grad plans: Applying to magazine jobs in New York City and freelance writing. Joined WSN: I’ve been contributing since my first semester at NYU, but didn’t join the staff until this semester, Spring 2022. Current position: UTA Voices Editor Major accomplishment: Getting published in Alma!
Major: Media, Culture, and Communication Minor: Journalism, Digital Art and Design Post-grad plans: Editorial Assistant at PaperCity Magazine. Joined WSN: Fall 2020 Current position: UTA Publishing Editor Major accomplishment: Dean’s List all four years and University Honors. Something fun: I got to film an interview with my favorite musician, Will Wood.
Major: Integrated Design & Media Minor: Media, Culture, and Communication; Digital Art and Design Post-grad plans: I will be working at a design agency in Brooklyn as a brand designer starting in June. Joined WSN: July 2021 Current position: Creative Director Major accomplishment: Being the first in my family to graduate college. Also, being able to work in my dream field throughout and after college.
Major: Global Liberal Studies Minor: Food Studies Post-grad plans: Don’t know yet, but hoping to enter media or news production. Joined WSN: Staff writer for the WSN’s opinion desk in fall 2019. Current position: Dining Editor. Major accomplishment: I wrote a trending story for my internship in fall 2021.
Major: Cinema Studies Minor: Creative Writing, Anthropology Post-grad plans: Hopefully stay in New York and continue to write! Joined WSN: I joined WSN as a Staff Writer in 2020. Current position: Deputy Arts Editor Major Accomplishment: Survivin’. Something Fun: In high school, I had a brush with internet fame when I ran a popular Tumblr blog dedicated to “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.”
Major: Film & Television Post-grad plans: Continue to freelance video edit and photograph. Joined WSN: Spring 2020 Most recent position: Photo Editor from Spring 2020 to fall 2021. Major accomplishment: Photographed Megan Thee Stallion for WSN’s Governors Ball coverage.
Major: Film & Television Minor: History, Teacher Education Post-grad plans: Regret going into the arts. Joined WSN: Fall 2020 Current position: Copy Chief, unofficial Rabbi, sin consultant Major accomplishments: Having a play performed at a professional festival, directing two short films, surviving New York Fashion Week, running a New York scavenger hunt, overseeing a copy editing communion, defeating a chess master in tennis, getting cast in a meatball-themed musical, running a school satire page, and discovering that the real treasure was the friends we made along the way. Something fun: Pickle serving sizes are measured in thirds of a pickle when it comes to nutritional information on the packaging. This is transparently manipulative and a clear profit grab by Big Pickle; as educated participants in a democracy, it is our civic duty to strongly oppose such wholesale corporate greed.
Major: Gallatin concentration in National Mythology Minor: French Post-grad plans: This summer, I’ll be working at a program at Sarah Lawrence College for students in grades 8-10, in the programming office and teaching a cinema studies class. After that, I’m staying in the city and looking for writing jobs! Joined WSN: Started as a staff writer for WSN’s culture desk in fall 2019. Current position: Deputy Managing Editor. Major accomplishment: I created the Identity & Equity section at WSN! (The too-real answer: graduating with honors and awards in a concentration I made up during a pandemic.) Something fun: I once got 1,000 likes on one of my memes on the NYU Memes for Slightly Bankrupt Teens page (I know, that’s a second accomplishment disguised as something fun).
Major: Film & television Post-grad plans: Work in the film industry in New York, keep making music, and learn more about programming and web design. Joined WSN: Spring 2022 Current position: Web Editor. Major accomplishment: I led WSN’s Web team to create the NYU Survival Guide special issue. Something fun: I play piano and compose music.
Graduating from school and from sports By Kiersten Dugan | UTA Portraits Editor
THE NYU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM DURING A FALL 2021 GAME. STAFF PHOTO BY MITESH SHRESTHA
“We call it the sisterhood,” said NYU women’s basketball co-captain Meghan McLaughlin. “I’m gonna walk away with all these new sisters.” McLaughlin and her co-captain, Bianca Notarainni, have spent the last four years making friends and learning the value of hard work throughout their time with NYU Athletics. NYU is not necessarily known for its athletics department, but we have 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports teams with 450 students participating every single year. Many of these students have upheld academic achievements while simultaneously competing in a collegiate sport, and 135 of our college athletes across nine different sports have been recognized for their academic achievements this past season. Friendship is one of the many benefits of participating in university sports. NYU Athletics fosters tight-knit groups of students and offers them the opportunity to be a part of a competitive, ambitious atmosphere both off and on the court. “I think NYU brings together a bunch of student athletes that are very dedicated to being successful, which is why we’re so competitive,” said Notarainni, a CAS senior. “We want to win, which was shown in our amazing season this year.” NYU’s women’s basketball team just finished a historic season, taking home the best field-goal percentage in program history. This is also the sixth Elite Eight appearance ever for the program. Their season came to an end with the team winning the UAA title for the first time since 1997 and even advancing to Elite Eight of the NCAA Championship Tournament, where they ultimately lost to Hope College. Both Notarainni and McLaughlin played their final game with NYU on March 12. This March, NYU’s baseball team began their first season since March 2020. Since then, they have proven themselves to be a strong team with an even stronger team morale. For NYU baseball catcher and SPS senior Grant Berman, one of the highlights of being on the team was the friends he made. “One [memory] that stood out to me particularly was developing a relationship with my fellow senior
Zane Baker,” Berman said. “We entered the program together and virtually have done everything on this team together through the ups and downs. Developing a bond like that is a testament to the culture we have created here.” When it comes to athletics, practice is everything. According to the NCAA, college athletes dedicate an average of 30 hours a week to perfecting the game and preparing, both physically and mentally. Committing one’s time to both rigorous academics and competitive athletics teaches a sense of responsibility, time management and hard work. Berman joined the team his first year at the bottom of the depth chart, the roster that shows the placements of starting and secondary players. With one semester of dedication and tenacity, he worked his way to the top. “I found myself at the bottom of the depth chart in the fall, but as I worked and developed, come springtime I was our everyday catcher,” Berman said. Notarainni credits being a student athlete for teaching her the value of perseverance. “One of the biggest things that I’ve learned is hard work, you really have to work for everything,” Notarainni said. “It’s not just going to be handed to you. Which comes with just being at NYU — you have to work hard at just crossing the street.” The friends made will never be forgotten, nor will the lessons learned. Hard work and common goals promote a unique environment of productivity and aspiration. “I think that’s kind of like my biggest takeaway is that we’re all very dedicated women,” Notarainni said. “It was great to find a group of women that were striving for the same goal.” Berman credits his time on the baseball team for fostering his own personal growth and tenacity. “Playing a sport, specifically baseball, has taught me more about myself and about life than any class or book has ever,” Berman said. “Playing a game of failure teaches you how to stay even with your emotions, to trust the work that you put in everyday, and that everyday is another chance to succeed despite the results the day before.” The transition to postgraduate life is something every senior thinks about as they approach May. The college lifestyle of classes all day, the NYU Daily Screener, weekly games with your teammates and late nights in Bobst will come to an end. Notarainni will be continuing her education this fall with a Master’s in Public Health at Columbia University. “The thing that’s going to be weird for me is I’m going to do more school. So it’s going to be weird to do school without sports,” Notarainni said. McLaughlin will be working with public relations firm Ruder Finn starting this summer. “I’m going to be in the city without playing basketball,” McLaughlin said. “I think that’s going to be weird, especially because the whole team is going to be a couple blocks from me, but we’re just gonna have completely different lives — I’ll be at a nine to five, and they’ll be at practice.” Berman, on the other hand, will be playing in the MLB Draft League after graduation in the hopes of continuing his baseball career. “My lifestyle [after graduation] will stay the same yet with more time. I plan on prioritizing loved ones that sacrificed a lot to allow me to play the sport I love,” Berman said.
Only 2% of NCAA student-athletes pursue a professional athletic career. That leaves the other 98% facing a huge shift in their daily routines. The shift from consistently working out with teammates and juggling classes in between practice and games to working full time or pursuing further education is bound to leave athletes feeling like something is missing. Luckily, the three athletes mentioned in this article spoke with confidence and certainty about their future endeavors and routine after graduation. McLaughlin will conclude her collegiate athletic career come graduation, but plans to keep basketball in her life.
“I think it’ll be good because I plan to do women’s leagues and stuff like that,” McLaughlin said. “So I don’t think basketball will ever be too far away.” The NYU community will watch as our athletes take their hard work, determination and resilience with them as they continue on their journeys. The last game, the last play and the last moments of being a team will surely stick with them forever. “I would say it’s one of the best and hardest years of your life,” said McLaughlin. “I’m so happy I went to NYU, I wouldn’t change my college experience for anything.”
NYU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL CO-CAPTAIN BIANCA NOTARAINNI. PHOTO BY JOSHUA BECKER
NYU WOMEN’S BASKETBALL CO-CAPTAIN MEGHAN MCLAUGHLIN. PHOTO BY JOSHUA BECKER
Contact Kiersten Dugan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our NYU admissions essays, four years later (1) This intro sets the tone of the essay really well — in terms of how kitschy and unbearably corny it will be. Well done.
UTA Publishing Editor
I never knew what it was to fall in love with a city until I met New York (1). From the moment I first laid my eyes on her (2), I knew she was special. Maybe it was the way she shone brightly in the darkness, blinding me with dreams of grandeur and greatness. Maybe it was the way she made everything alive - (3) with her, there was never a dull moment, never a second to waste. Maybe (5) it was the way she loved all people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation (4). She brimmed with culture, stories to tell from every walk of life. I wanted to be a part of it; to kick off my vagabond shoes and find myself king of the hill (6). She was the embodiment of a dream, and from the moment she first welcomed me into her arms, my heart was hers. When I first heard about NYU, I was immediately drawn by the prospect of getting to live in the city I loved, while furthering my education. The information seminar that I attended at my school only served to increase my interest. As someone whose dream is to visit countries all over the world (7), I was pleased to learn that NYU is ranked first place for having the most students who study internationally (8). The wide variety of majors offered by NYU’s College of Arts and Science intrigued me as well. I chose to study psychology (9), because I’ve come to realize that the human mind is quite possibly the most intricate and powerful machines (10) there is, and, as I am controlled by one, I strive to understand its functions. NYU would be a remarkable place for me embark (11) on this endeavor. To me, there is no better city in which to spend my college years than New York. Maybe it’s because NYU’s highly regarded curriculum can enable me to achieve a top-tier education, and its diverse community would allow me to immerse myself in many different cultures and lifestyles. Maybe it’s because NYU embodies the spirit and character that I find most appealing in a university (12). Or maybe it’s because NYU is only fifteen minutes away from Times Square (13). Either way, I know for sure that NYU can provide me with a welcoming home for the next stage of my life, and that if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere (14).
(2) I see you’ve been misleading people about your sexuality for a while now. (3) This should be an em dash. Good thing you didn’t apply as a journalism major.
(4) Oh, you sweet, innocent summer child. (5) Maybe it’s Maybelline.
(6) Believe it or not, this is just one of TWO references to Sinatra’s “New York, New York” in this essay.
(7) This is a blatant lie. Your dream at this point in life was to marry the 2001 version of JC Chasez from the band ‘NSYNC.
(8) You really tried to use as many words as possible to say this, huh? (9) You’ll end up changing your mind about your major four times. Just scrap this entire section, honestly. (10) You kiss your journalism minor with that subject-verb disagreement? (11) With these mistakes, it’s truly a miracle you’ve gotten as far as you have as an editor! (12) What spirit and character? Loneliness? Elitism? Vaping as a personality trait? (13) You’ll end up going to Times Square on purpose maybe seven times in your entire time here. Pick a different example. (14) Frank Sinatra is rolling in his grave! After reading this NYU-admissions-essayslash-love-letter-to-New York City, you may be wondering why I have chosen to move back home to Texas after graduation. In the words of Stevie Budd from Schitt’s Creek: “I realized I didn’t need to live in a big city. I guess I just needed to know that I could.”
(1) This is still partly true; I’m my best self in NYC.
ALEKSANDRA GOLDBERG UTA Voices Editor
I never feel more myself than when I stand in the heart of Washington Square Park (1). Every part of NYU feels right. From the only private street in New York City that seems to have the whole world wrapped up in it, to the live piano in the park at two in the afternoon, (2) it’s as if someone broke open my brain and made a college campus just for me. When I met with a representative this fall (3), he described NYU as a “community of microcommunities.” I like the sound of that. I like what it implies. I like that anyone from anywhere could live her four years of college knowing that she belongs and that there’s a place for her (4). I especially like the sound of a place into which anyone could fit. It is hard to connect with people. It’s a lifelong search to find a tribe that matches your vibe (5), and somewhere that (6) makes that journey a little less rocky is the place for me. There’s no one student for NYU; no matter who you are you can find your corner of campus to call home (7). I’d like to find my home within the journalism department (8). NYU is one of the few schools in the country that offers my dream as a major (9). Of these, only NYU offers everything I seek in a university including strong academics, professors working in the industry (10), and unique internships (11) to match. Journalism can take you anywhere. Culture and experience is an important part of the job (12). A global understanding makes a good reporter great. I’ve always loved to travel. I went on every school trip that would take me far away. The experience (13) of other cultures have changed and shaped me into someone better than I was before. Studying at NYU would let me further my travels (14) and allow me to continue to grow into a person I want to be (15). A few weeks in Israel, a semester in Paris, a year in Florence would change me for the better and I don’t want to miss out on the chance. I don’t want to miss out on the chance to be in my perfect place, the place that was made just for me.
Was this really all she (I) wrote?? I forgot how short the word limit is. 500 words?? It’s so crazy to look back and think about how nervous and excited I was for it all. It’s funny to think about how I haven’t really changed that much. Obviously I’ve changed, but at my core, I’m still the same person. I still want to write and travel and meet cool, interesting people. I recognize the girl in these paragraphs. I’m proud of her.
(2) This is funny because I haven’t been to Washington Mews since my first year to take photos like one time. But I will never get tired of this.
(3) Shoutout Liam!
(4) Who hurt you??? ...Like, I know who, but wow.
(5) Good one, girlie.
(6) This should be a new sentence SMH.
(7) I hate to be cheesy… but NYU really lived up to this one, shoutout to the same five besties since my first year, y’all are my family <3 (8) This is funny because I dropped my Journalism major sophomore year after being frustrated with the class choices but I added the minor back last semester. Now I’m working as a journalist so mission accomplished, I guess? (9) This cannot be true — how did this slide? (10) Again, I have to tip my hat to NYU on this. I’ve gotten to work with some amazing professors who have done amazing things. Their wisdom and experience have shaped so much of who I am as a person and writer. I cannot be more grateful for the education I’ve had here. Shoutout to Jen Ortiz and Matthew Rodriguez, your electives changed the way I approach writing forever. (11) COVID-19 canceled the only internship I’ve ever gotten <3 (12) This should be “are important parts of the job.” OMG, so embarrassing. (13) *Experiences (I’m screaming at myself!!). (14) This is knee-slappingly hilarious because I got sent home a month into being abroad and then never had the opportunity again because of — you guessed it — Miss Rona :( (15) All I can say is, we’re all still growing. I hope I never stop.
NOT ACCORDING TO PLAN: FROM COLLEGE MAJOR TO CAREER PATH By Nikkala Kovacevic | Staff Writer
TANDON SENIOR PHOEBE TAN. IMAGE COURTESY OF PHOEBE TAN
CAS SENIOR LAURA DERBONNE. PHOTO BY KIRAN KOMANDURI
“I just think it’s really difficult to know what you want,” lamented Phoebe Tan, a Tandon senior. Many college seniors can relate to this. For most American college students, their careers begin the day they fill out their college applications. While there are other driving forces that push a student toward a certain career path, there is nothing quite as daunting or humbling as clicking the button to and decide on a major. Now, this is usually not the be-all-end-all decision in one’s career trajectory, but it is certainly a monumental step. Such a discussion could easily devolve into a criticism of capitalistic structures and the pressure to be thinking about a lifelong career at the ripe age of 18. But acknowledging those pressures doesn’t erase the fact that for many college students, major means career, and career means life. At least, that’s what it feels like everyone is saying. In reality, only 27% of graduates have a job related to their major. This number contradicts the popularized notion that changing paths post-major declaration, or even post-graduation, is almost impossible. Toward the end of her college career, Tan switched from the pre-med track to the entirely different world of finance and is now working in equity research for biotech companies at an investment bank. The jump from studying chemical and biomolecular engineering to working in finance might seem big for some, but for Tan, it happened naturally. During her junior year, Tan began looking for in-
ternships with the eventual goal of becoming a dermatologist. Feeling the pressure as her peers secured science-related internships, Tan started having doubts about her selected career path and decided to branch out with her internship search into other scientific fields. “I definitely didn’t think I was going to get a job in finance,” Tan said. “I was just trying it out.” After landing an internship at a biotech company doing sales, Tan was able to find a balance between her skills in science and the corporate world, which she was less familiar with. “If you ask me something about science or something about engineering, I could do it, but if you ask me something about finance, literally the most basic thing, it would not have worked,” Tan said. “So the places that I ended up getting interviews for were workplaces that were merged between finance and science.” In many ways, Tan’s hesitation to decide on a clearcut career path left room for her to explore interests she wouldn’t have pursued otherwise. Tan described how she decided on engineering only as a result of her apprehension toward going to medical school. “I don’t really know what I want, but obviously I’m gonna start working when I graduate,” Tan said. “So there is a path that I’m heading down and I’m very lucky.” Tan said. For others, like CAS senior Laura Derbonne, the college-to-career path is determined by external factors. Derbonne discovered that a key aspect in identifying what she’s passionate about lies in finding a place within
her community. For the first half of her college career, Derbonne did not have a medical diagnosis of autism and felt like an impostor in communities of individuals who did have one. “I never felt like it was my place to be in any sort of advocacy groups or in a very visible role because someone that has always had this diagnosis might grow up facing all kinds of discrimination,” Derbonne said. “I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes.” Derbonne found a passion for advocacy and representation after receiving a medical diagnosis. The only problem was that this happened well into her college career, after she had already declared her major as English. “When I got that [diagnosis] was when I really started thinking; ‘This is something that I could see myself doing,’” Derbonne said. “I could make a career out of fighting for people, more than just using my words but using the law and real actions to effect that change too.” This realization steered Derbonne toward law school in order to hone her interests into something more meaningful to her. Having already been inspired by disability advocates before her diagnosis, Derbonne finally felt as though she had the right to speak up on behalf of the autistic community. Now, she plans to attend law school after graduation with a focus on disability rights and advocacy. “It became more of something that was at the forefront of my mind as a career,” Derbonne said. “So even though I have kind of cycled through a lot of different things, I guess in the back of my mind, I figured I’d probably be doing something in the legal field.” For many, deciding on a major can be a convoluted experience that extends way beyond the individual. There is the matter of parents and family, plus school requirements
and timing. These factors make the direct major-to-career pipeline a difficult one to follow. “I feel like most people that don’t end up super happy with what they’re doing probably stay with it because the concept of switching, especially to a completely different department or school, would just be so much stress,” Derbonne said. Despite her decision to pursue law, Derbonne values her English degree and the wide career options it gives her. “I had all these different interests, but [did not know] how to place them into a career,” Derbonne said. “English was something that was safe for me. I’m happy with my English degree, because I guess all that really matters is that I enjoyed it.” Any college student can testify that from the application process to job hunting, your business is everybody’s business. Fortunately, Tan didn’t have to worry about losing the support of those around her. “I think people already knew that I was looking to go out of medicine, but I think that they were surprised that it was finance because it’s so different,” Tan said. “They’re always really happy for me and very congratulatory, but some people are just very surprised.” In any situation, moving away from what you were planning to do is a bold decision. There is a certain stigma against deviating from what we’re pressured to believe is the norm. But these seniors – as valuable as their previous paths were — knew that they could only realize their goals if they diverged from them. Contact Nikkala Kovacevic at email@example.com.
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Letter from the (soon-to-be) former editor By Caitlin Hsu | UTA Publishing Editor
STAFF ILLUSTRATION BY SUSAN BEHRENDS VALENZUELA
In February 2021, I sat in my childhood bedroom in Houston, Texas, trying very hard not to freak out. It wasn’t because of the ongoing pandemic that had already claimed millions of lives, nor the disastrous winter storm that had wiped out water and electricity in most of Texas that week, though those things didn’t exactly help. It was because then-Editor-in-Chief Alexandria Johnson had just informed me that — after our very public mass resignation from the Washington Square News — Finley Muratova and Mands Montes, my former bosses, had decided not to return to the paper. This left me, the preresignation Under the Arch senior editor, as the single most viable candidate to lead Under the Arch. I’d had one month’s worth of experience. Part I
I’ve always been a writer. “Wherever life takes me, I’ll always depend on my words,” I had written in my college application essay. In grade school, English was always my best subject. I prided myself on my prodigious vocabulary and textbook-like memorization of grammar rules. I participated in the spelling bee every year — once, I even won second place. Words have always been easy for me. What hasn’t always been easy for me is leadership. Anyone who has seen me attempt to make a simple executive decision can vouch for that. I buckle under pressure, balk in group scenarios and panic when faced with interpersonal conflicts. The idea of giving commands and expecting people to actually follow them was unfathomable. When Alex Johnson asked what direction I saw UTA heading in that semester and what goals I had for the magazine, I couldn’t come up with a definitive answer. After our call ended, I reassured myself that, surely, somebody on staff would step up and save me from this responsibility. A
week before production restarted, Vaishnavi Naidu, a preresignation UTA deputy editor, offered to co-manage with me. I felt a few ounces of the hulking weight lift off my back, and our reign as UTA co-managing editors began. I now write this in my third and final semester in the position. I wish I could tell you I experienced a meteoric rise to success, but the reality was more akin to a haphazard, unwieldy stumble towards semi-competency. Mistakes. I’ve made them. A feature that ran over 3,000 words — twice our usual word count — with language so abstract and complex that I simply gave up on cutting it down. A poem and accompanying art collection that I accidentally ran without the poem, upsetting the artist so much that she pulled her work from the piece entirely. Miscommunications. Oversights. I knew the basics of UTA, but there were glaring blind spots in my understanding. I didn’t know that it had originally been created to focus on features and that creative writing had come later. I was unfamiliar with the magazines it was based on. Everyone on my staff was a brand-new hire, and I had no idea what to do with most of them. On the last night of production for While You Were Here 2021, Vaish and I both went to sleep before the PDF or landing page had been finished. Perhaps it should’ve been common sense that we needed to oversee the production of our special issue to the end. On the other hand, there was no precedent. We had never produced a special issue before. I don’t know how much of that can be attributed to my total dearth of experience and how much to me simply being an idiot. At times, I was extremely frustrated that I’d been thrown in the deep end after only dipping my toes in the pool. Sure, I had a co-manager, but often it felt like I was dealing with the brunt of the work completely on my own. Yes, I had mentors, but there was only so much they could do
after having already been separated from the paper for so long. And of course, there was the fact that everything was online because of the pandemic, making it nearly impossible to keep track of what was happening. Pamela Jew, the founder of UTA and someone that I desperately hope considers me a worthy successor, wrote a Voices piece back in 2019 that mentioned her experience running UTA. I read it again at the beginning of this — my final semester — and was shocked at how uncannily relatable it was to my experiences, from treating my co-manager “more like a therapist than an editor” to watching my hires “dropping like flies” — a lot of them for the same reasons, even. But there was one line that stood out to me the most. “We were determined to stay afloat.” Part II
The resignation had thrown me in the deep end. My repeated failures were sacks of sand tied to my feet. But I was furiously thrashing and kicking, grabbing at anything and everything in a last-ditch effort to keep my head above the water — perhaps pulling a few people down with me in the process. Vaish stepped down a week before the production of the Fall 2021 Arts Issue. For a couple weeks, I became the sole managing editor of Under the Arch. I relished the newfound freedom — I could make whatever decisions I wanted, whenever I wanted. I could fully embody the responsibilities without having to share the title. And of course, it meant I had full responsibility for all executive decisions. My leadership woes quickly returned. I hadn’t expected Sydney Barragan to apply, but I was very glad she did. Like Vaish, she had been UTA deputy editor, and I hadn’t known what to do with her either. She was promoted in mid-November, right before Fringe production and a few weeks out from the Influentials issue — prime time for a major staffing change. For her first meeting as co-managing editor, Sydney Zoomed in from a New Jersey train that she’d rushed onto that morning in order to return to Manhattan on time. I watched her jumping from train to Uber to foot, finally bursting into the office, clearly exhausted and suffering from a lost voice — and immediately getting to work. Time and time again over the past semester, I’ve seen her dedication to the publication. From taking up the mantle in the first place, to staying late on special issue production day despite having a 6 a.m. train the next morning, to brimming with ideas for UTA’s future. From the moment she was promoted, she has been right alongside me, sacrificing time, energy, sleep and sanity for this little magazine. I’ve stayed at UTA for as long as I have because I enjoy it, but also because, until now, I’ve been afraid to leave it in someone else’s hands. In April, near the end of my final semester, I missed a pitch meeting for the first time in my entire term as publishing editor, leaving Sydney to run UTA by herself for the day. I realized that, despite my control freak tendencies, I knew things would run just fine in my absence. When I returned to the office that day, I saw that I was right. Part III In a lot of ways, I’ve been drafting this eulogy since my first day of in-person Sunday production back in fall 2021. I remember finally stepping foot in the infamous Third North C3 office, meeting and hugging people whose faces I’d only seen on Zoom for the past year, basking in the glow of the glorious #EA422D red wall. Around noon, I stepped out of the office for lunch, feeling like I’d emerged from an underground chamber, and received a Slack message: “Where are you
guys? Like, physically?” And in that moment, it was real. There continue to be moments like that. Moments where I stand in the middle of the newsroom, between writers yelling across the table and brandishing papers and frantically tapping away at their keyboards, relishing in the absolute sensory-overload-mind-fuckery of Sunday production. Where I look to my left and see the editors I hired diligently revising articles, and I look to my right and see web editors I’ve just met designing a landing page for our special issue. Everyone pooling their talents together to bring a publication to life. Conversations about everything ranging from the best synonym to replace a word, to laughing at an email reply, to small talk about the best place to order dinner. During the rare moments when things quiet down, I can faintly hear whatever odd music someone has queued up on the community playlist. In those moments, I feel incredibly privileged to be part of this team. WSN, and journalism by extension, have done far more for me than anything else I was involved in at NYU. It has helped me become a better writer, editor, collaborator and leader, discover a career path I am genuinely interested in, and make the bank-demolishing expenses of NYU a little bit more worth it. It was because of WSN that I chose to take on a minor in journalism. It was because of a review I wrote for WSN that I got to film an interview with my favorite musician, Will Wood. And it was because of my experience at UTA that landed me the editorial assistant job that I’ll be starting after I graduate. I can’t describe all of my feelings about the UTA publishing editor role — it would take a whole other special issue. The satisfaction of seeing a first draft in its budding stages, riddled with odd word choices and incomplete ideas but brimming with potential, and helping it blossom. The stress of trying fruitlessly to make a difficult piece work, negotiating with writers, letting them down. The euphoria of reading through a shiny new special issue after weeks of frenzied emails and Slack back-and-forths, late-night hair-pulling and hair-splitting. The impending doom that inevitably returns with the next special issue. The excitement of seeing new faces at pitch meetings. The struggle to retain members and validate our place in the newspaper. Getting ignored over and over, having to push people again and again. Feeling inadequate, incompetent. Realizing I can make things happen. Ideas yelled fervently across the room, words scribbled in red marker on the conference room whiteboard, chicken-scratch galley printouts littered across the table. My face on the staff page, my name in a byline, my signature immortalized in an Issuu PDF. From the moment I first joined WSN, I wanted to become more involved. I remember seeing inside jokes in the Slack channel and memes taped to the office walls and wishing I was privy to them. I grew up an only child, terribly socially awkward and too individualistic for my own good. Much of my life has centered around finding a community and a place where I belong. Now, I can’t say that ambition was wholeheartedly fulfilled by WSN. This organization is far from perfect. I’ve seen that in my year and a half here. But I will say that working at WSN has added something to my life that my college years would not have felt complete without. I can say I fit right in, and I think my grammar-policing, spelling-bee-runnerup-placing, SAT-vocabulary-word-using younger self would agree. Contact Caitlin Hsu at firstname.lastname@example.org