How I plan to lead The Hustler and exchange stories with you this year amid a return to “normal.”


Emery Little

Rachael Perrotta, as photographed on Oct. 1, 2021. (Hustler Multimedia/Emery Little)

Rachael Perrotta, Editor-in-Chief

Dear Vanderbilt,

Welcome to campus! While many of us were in Nashville just a few short months ago, it seems like it took us a lifetime to get here. Just two years ago, I was moving into my Hank double, armed with boxes of masks, bottles of hand sanitizer and barely an understanding of student journalism. Now, I’m honored to be leading The Hustler this year as your Editor-in-Chief.

This year is special for all of us. For me, it’s my first year on campus (hopefully) without stringent COVID-19 restrictions, my first time experiencing Vanderbilt classics such as The Pub and Lights on the Lawn and my first time leading a student organization at Vanderbilt. It may be your first year at Vanderbilt, your first year living off campus or the first time since 2019 that the Vanderbilt you remember is back. 

For all of us, this year marks the beginning of our shift out of a crisis, a time to start over.  

In the 2019-20 academic year, Rachel Friedman (‘21) led The Hustler during the last normal year before the pandemic—before I even arrived on campus. Now, two years later, I step into this role with the responsibility of restarting how we find and report on stories that matter. My job goes beyond writing and editing the content you see every day; I serve to recreate The Hustler and the Vanderbilt experience for every student who does not know or remember “normal.”

In the past two years, COVID-19 has dehumanized storytelling nationwide and on campus, limiting it to Zoom ice breakers, iMessage interviews and topics void of connection and understanding.”

Just like a college student returning to campus after summer break, I started this reinvention by changing our look. Thanks to help from Alexa White, our Graphics Director, I’ve updated The Hustler’s brand (which I hope is taken more positively than Vanderbilt’s recent logo change), including a new website layout, color scheme and logo. This change intends to modernize The Hustler’s look, which hadn’t been updated since we first went online in 2015. Our weekly digests are also formatted differently in an effort to make our coverage more readable for you.   

To rethink what student journalism means at Vanderbilt, I facilitated the addition of two new sections to our content: a magazine and a restructured podcasting section. Charlotte Mauger, our Magazine Editor, and Richard Song, our Podcasting Director, have led the charge on these initiatives, and I’m so grateful for their continuous work in reimagining what The Hustler can be. These initiatives allow us to expand The Hustler’s reach and for it to be a platform for you, regardless of your media experience or interests

As we work to start over, I want to know how best to cover you. Is there something you want to stand up for that you have been too afraid to say? Are there difficulties you have experienced at Vanderbilt about which you can connect with others? Do you have a story you want to share? Are there words or phrases in your culture that are commonly misunderstood, misspelled or misused? Do you feel like you or your organization are portrayed inaccurately or not at all in the media? Expect me to approach you, as campus leaders, with these questions in the coming weeks. 

For all of us, this year marks the beginning of our shift out of a crisis, a time to start over.”

Amid these changes, The Hustler’s commitment to telling your stories truthfully, thoroughly and fairly remains. We’ve already trained over 75 new staffers since May, nearly doubling our organization size! Students have been eager to write about the challenges and idiosyncrasies of life at Vanderbilt and to stand up for the change they desire. The Hustler serves as a platform for us to express ourselves and as an avenue to help us tackle this new phase in our lives; I’ve been honored to read your stories these past few months. As Editor-in-Chief, I hope to engage as many of you in The Hustler as possible—whether through interviews, reporting on your passions, interests and concerns, working with you as a writer or highlighting your content as a guest article. Please give us grace as we tackle this goal while also balancing the workload of full-time students.

In the past two years, COVID-19 has dehumanized storytelling nationwide and on campus, limiting it to Zoom ice breakers, iMessage interviews and topics void of connection and understanding. I’m thrilled to lead you in restarting how your story is told. To me, the most important part of that process is to not only tell stories but to exchange them. So, with that, I’ll tell you a little bit of my story. 

First, the basics: I’m a junior (how did that happen?) and a triple-major in cognitive studies, communication of science and technology and political science. I come from Cranston, Rhode Island—a city where everyone knows everyone, much like Vanderbilt. After graduation, I plan to attend law school and pursue a career advocating for freedom of the press and gender equity. I have a younger brother who is starting college this year, and I’m so excited to get to view a pandemic-free first-year experience only somewhat jealously through his eyes. I’m a devoted cat person, enjoy playing tennis and was the girl always rushing through the halls of my high school with giant paintings for my art class. 

When I came to Vanderbilt, I wasn’t excited; I cried when I stepped foot on campus for the first time. I was scared, apprehensive, homesick and not used to socializing after months of quarantine. Like many of you, the pandemic forced me to reframe my expectations for college. I’ve found that this experience has made me more comfortable trying new things and creating new personal goals to keep up with the world around me. I encourage you to do the same as you start this new year—challenge yourself to start over. 

You’ve heard my story, and now I’d like to hear yours. Join us at one of our general training sessions on Aug. 30 or 31 at 6 p.m. CDT in Buttrick 301, submit a guest editorial or Letter to the Editor by emailing me and our Opinion Editor, Zoe Abel, or contact me directly with any inquiries you may have. You can reach me at [email protected] or find me editing articles outside Suzie’s. I’m looking forward to exchanging stories with you this year.

Good luck, and anchor down!