04/24/22 Joe with awards

I never expected to be the editor-in-chief when I first came to The Exponent in 2019. I joked about it with my fellow rookie reporters, but it seemed terrifying to me deep down. 

No, I came to be a sports reporter because I knew for a fact that I was going to announce Chicago White Sox games on TV.

I remember walking into the office the summer before my freshman year and sheepishly telling our News Advisor Virginia Black and our then-City Editor Chase Putrich that I wanted to be on the staff in the fall. I then got really embarrassed as my mom rattled off awards that I had won and stories that I had written in high school.

Sports reporting was fun while it lasted, but like so many other things, COVID-19 ruined that. Without covering a sporting event twice a week or sometimes more, my window of opportunity shrank.

And I was scared.

Knowing I had to do SOMETHING to justify getting paid my measly wages, I looked beyond the typical game recaps and previews. So I wrote about reduced jobs and wages for Purdue Athletics service staff workers and interns. I wrote about racial justice within the athletics department in the wake of the George Floyd protests. In the previous semester, I wrote a story about Ernie Hall, Purdue's first Black basketball player. Those stories gave me my first taste of both investigative reporting and storytelling — two things that I've developed a passion for over the last three years here. Two things that led me to the desk in the big, not-so-fancy office that I sit in as I write this. 

Being editor-in-chief is not for the faint of heart. In my two semesters in charge, we covered auxiliary housing in an already crowded campus, sexual assault reports in multiple Purdue fraternities, local restaurants facing worker shortages and closures, a Purdue professor facing charges for domestic battery, a debate over the gender-makeup of Purdue after President Mitch Daniels' semesterly letter was met with scorn, homelessness and the growing number of young people affected by it, the disappearance and death of a transgender man whose family claims police didn't look for him, the war in Ukraine and how it affects Purdue students and their loved ones and, most recently, the arrest of Purdue student Adonis Tuggle and its aftermath.

*Looooooooong sigh*

But it wasn't all bad. Our football team upset two top-5 teams and went to the Music City Bowl. Our basketball team was ranked No. 1 in the nation and went to the Sweet 16. We danced the night away at Purdue Dance Marathon. Purdue graduate students were promised higher wages for their campus jobs. We watched as Big Ten students banded together to create their school logos on a Reddit server. Purdue took in more than dozen Ukrainian scholar refugees. Breakfast Club returned, and we all partied (a little too hard) for the 65th annual Grand Prix. And students, faculty, staff and community members stood up to the powers that be and fought for what they believe in. That, in my opinion, is always good news. 

Throughout this year, I've learned a lot about myself as a journalist, as a leader and as a person. I've grown and matured in ways that I never expected to, and I've made lifelong friends around the way. I never got over the utter terror that this responsibility brings, but I've managed it the best I could, with a lot of help from my co-workers. I'm forever indebted to The Exponent and everyone who has ever walked through these doors. Without them, I am nobody. 

And to you, dear readers, thank you. Thank you for following along and supporting us in so many ways. It's been an honor bringing you important news from Purdue and all over the county. I'm humbled that you would choose us, students who are just doing our best to figure this thing out, as your source for local news. 

I love the Greater Lafayette area. After three years, I think I can finally say I know these cities, through and through. So naturally, I'll be going to a brand new, exponentially larger city this summer to do it all over again for Arizona Republic in Phoenix, where I have a 10-week investigations and climate reporting internship. 

I'm still gonna be on staff next semester — my final semester at Purdue — though no longer as the big man in charge. Instead, my current Managing Editor Emily Primm will be the woman in charge, and I am so excited to watch her be a way better leader than I ever could. 

But for now, I'm tired. I'm going to sleep. Wake me up in a week. 

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