By Becky St. Clair
Bethany greets everyone who enters her office with a warm smile and an enthusiastic handshake, immediately establishing herself as a confident, approachable professional. You may never guess she was only a freshman when she was elected to the position.
Many characteristics set Bethany apart from other students, not the least of which are her thoughtful eloquence, competent leadership, and gracious demeanor. One of the few non-seniors to serve as the editor-in-chief for the Campus Chronicle, Bethany filled her role with gusto and poise, framing a vision and skillfully guiding her team as they made that vision reality. Here, Bethany reflects with us on her year serving PUC as its lead student communicator.
What inspired you to pursue being the CC editor?
Since 2015, I’ve intentionally taken a yearly risk or challenge to learn a new skill, travel somewhere new, or understand a subject. So, selfishly, I had so many ideas and plans for what the CC could become it was impossible to resist the challenge.
What did you find most rewarding about your CC work?
It is incredibly rewarding to see writers hone their craft, learn to edit and critique their work, and publish articles with which the campus resonates. It’s a really special thing for the CC to be the platform from which to affirm students’ hard work and accomplishments. As a campus, we’re stronger when we support each other, I believe, and I love that the CC can be a part of that process.
You’ve talked about growing your team and your vision for building the CC; tell us about your own personal growth as editor.
I’m a very evidence-based person and I like to know something is certain. Being editor is very uncertain. Last-minute things happen, budget changes, writers drop out, deadlines are missed. Having faith that things are possible even through uncertainty makes it possible to achieve a desirable outcome.
I have also gained a sense of self-assurance in this job. Being pushed to do something foreign and difficult shows me what I’m capable of doing, and I see my team members experiencing this as well.
Who is someone who has had a major impact on your leadership?
Professor Lynne Thew, as the CC faculty advisor, is a stickler for details and holds herself and our editorial team to a very high standard. Through example and mentoring, she’s taught me that a leader sets vision but also steps into the nitty-gritty process of seeing that vision through. I’m deeply indebted to her, both as a friend and role model.
What are some things you’d list under “accomplishments” as editor?
- Growth of editorial team: from 5-10 members to 20-25 members
- Consistent schedule this year: 12 issues
- Competitive in the David L. Apple Awards
- Transitioned to traditional newspaper format
- The majority of stories published are on-campus news
- Recognized by faculty in Letters to the Editor
- Increased social media recognition on campus
- Increase in both alumni and on-campus donor support
In what ways would you say this position gave you confidence and strength as a person and a leader?
It’s not easy to take on opportunities that look too enormous to manage, but as a result, I have a greater dignity in and understanding of my capabilities, as well as a greater measure of self-respect. So, as a female leader, I’ve also felt more empowered to inhabit a space of leadership without feeling like an imposter.
This experience also taught me the power of a hard-working team. We have incredibly talented students from many departments working on the CC, and as a leader I recognize now that our strength lies in unity and common vision.
Why do you think it is important to allow student voices to be heard—even when those voices may be challenging the status quo and making some people uncomfortable?
Freedom of speech is an incredible privilege Western journalism has had a right to for some time. In the age of “fake news” and constant ideological propaganda, I think it is important for students to develop an ability to think critically, compose an evidence-based argument, and approach an issue from a valid angle. Proverbs says, “in a multitude of counselors lies wisdom.” I like to think that a variety of opinions, albeit sometimes uncomfortable ones, helps us collectively to arrive at a measure of truth.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Stay humble. Leadership is not a status symbol but a call to serve. You’re there to make your team shine and call out their potential to accomplish a worthy goal. Admit your mistakes, seek advice from trusted mentors, and don’t recklessly dismiss their wisdom for the sake of novel theory. Also, be kind and love your team. If you care about your team members beyond what they can do for the team, that’s the definition of love.
We’ve come a long way in the last couple of decades toward gender equality in the workplace, but there are still some challenges women in leadership positions face. Which challenges do you think are the most crucial to address?
It is crucial to address the imposter syndrome many women feel in positions of leadership—myself included. Especially if women come from a religio-social conservative background, they feel their position of leadership is not valid, is not recognized by their spiritual community, or is tangential to their expected social role. It will be a continuous challenge for women to boldly inhabit their space of leadership, and serve their team with poise.