When I was first looking for colleges to apply to, I remember how impressed I was that UCR had a student newspaper. I was so excited because, frankly, writing for a newspaper seemed like fun. My high school didn’t have a newspaper and I had found myself enjoying the process of writing, investigating and telling stories in my English classes. The existence of The Highlander greatly influenced my decision to come to UCR and I never looked back.
I still remember the first time I walked through those doors week one of fall quarter. I was a timid freshman from far away, and I still remember the faces of the people I met for the first time who welcomed me with open arms. I remember the furniture, especially the raggedy couch with the red cover which we only replaced a couple of months ago. My first article that week was on Proposition 51, a billion-dollar bond measure that would help California upgrade its K-12 system. Barely a month later, I sat in the prod room as the results for the 2016 presidential election rolled in. It was pitch dark outside, and we watched silently with the stunned CNN anchors as Trump slowly took state after state. That was a night I’ll never forget.
The next three years that followed is hard to sum up in a few paragraphs. At first, I thought I would go to UCR, get a degree and leave. It never dawned on me really that most of my education would take place outside of lecture halls and discussion sections. Most students have an organization they’re drawn to, and The Highlander gave me the opportunity to witness so many profound things. I was able to shed light on UCR’s dynamic student body and learned more about society by interacting with my fellow students than I did writing any essay. I ultimately think these lessons were far richer and I can safely say my college experience wouldn’t have been the same without each person I had the opportunity to meet through my work at The Highlander.
The friends I’ve made sharing a workspace with dozens of other students have been invaluable additions to my life. I remember the first conversation I had with future 2018-19 Editor-in-Chief Andreas Rauch when he came to write for news — and we still talk. I remember the hilarious conversations with the future 2019-20 Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Fernandez on which music genre is better and if radio is truly dead or not. I remember marveling at how our Production Manager Kerry Mulia could take literally any idea and turn it into a beautiful front page. I’ve had many more memories, but if I listed all of them, it would be far longer than my editors would allow! Nonetheless, my friends also taught me that I’m not always right (and that’s ok), how to think a little differently on things and more importantly, how to write like my life depended on it.
By the time this is published, I will graduate in a week. I went through several drafts of this article trying to find the right words to use, the right moments to highlight, the people to thank. I kept looking out the window hoping the birds would give me an answer, or a place to start. I spent four years at this organization but never got a chance to sit down and reckon with the end and how I felt about my experiences. I spent the last two years as managing editor, and I can’t thank everyone at The Highlander enough for all of the lessons, memories, and experiences. My undergraduate education wouldn’t have been the same without them.
Evan Ismail was the managing editor of The Highlander from 2018-2020. Previously, he was the news editor from 2017-2018, assistant news editor from 2016-2017 and a contributing writer in 2016.