LETTER FROM THE EDITOR: Finding courage in unlikely places

In serving as Editor-in-Chief, I learned that student journalists are not just observers — we’re storytellers, tasked with capturing the heartbeat of our campus community.
Graphic of a woman sitting on a bench with a newspaper covering her face. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Graphic of a woman sitting on a bench with a newspaper covering her face. (Hustler Multimedia/Lexie Perez)
Lexie Perez

Dear Vanderbilt, 

As a sociology and education double major, I spend my classroom time studying the intersection of education and public policy. In my role as a student journalist, I frequently get to chronicle how these theoretical discussions manifest on our campus. Just a few weeks ago, I was in a criminology class discussing the nuances of criminal justice systems when Hustler editors began mobilizing for the next round of coverage for the Kirkland Hall sit-in. Suddenly, my bag was packed and I was driving to the Nashville jail to await the release of the four arrested students. In moments like these, I find that the importance of student journalism feels even more pronounced. 

I can’t say I always feel qualified to serve in that role — imposter syndrome is a constant struggle. I do not study journalism, I do not have an impressive internship or job lined up and overall, I struggle to accept myself as a legitimate journalist. My path to leadership at The Hustler was not conventional. I started as a lifestyle writer and never viewed my silly, first-year articles as “hard-hitting” news. I wanted to write about the things I loved — coffee, music and social media. Even when I became Editor-in-Chief in January, I still felt like the scared, first-year writer that stumbled into the newsroom nearly three years ago. 

When the Kirkland Hall sit-ins began nearly a month ago, my anxieties of being an “imposter” washed away. In moments like these, the gravity of our roles as student journalists hits home. We’re not just observers — we’re storytellers, tasked with capturing the heartbeat of our campus community. We are telling the lived experiences of the students in our classes, the people behind us in the dining hall and those that cross our path on the 21st Ave bridge. 

I will be the first to admit that perfection has never been the goal of my reporting and leadership. As student journalists, our mission is to authentically capture the experiences of our peers and to provide a platform for their voices to be heard. It’s about embracing the novelty of the college experience — the messy, imperfect beauty that defines our campus community.

Those moments have truly helped me understand what makes student journalism so special. But more than that, I found something within myself — an unwavering commitment to truth, to amplifying voices that might otherwise go unheard. It’s a realization that continues to shape my journey as an editor and as an individual.

In the midst of our journalistic endeavors, it’s important to acknowledge the personal struggles we may face. I recently wrote about my journey to finding my answer to “Why Vanderbilt?” and sticking it out even when I didn’t feel at home here. But I actually left a big part of my story out of that narrative. 

I became Life Editor of The Hustler on April 16, 2022. Being a part of The Hustler shaped my first-year experience, and I was so excited to start a leadership position in a student organization that made me feel at home. But just a week later — on April 22, 2022, my stepdad passed away unexpectedly. For me, navigating his loss was a profound journey. I considered taking time off from school, or transferring to a college closer to home to stay near my family as I navigated this change. But ultimately, one thing — one group of people — kept me at Vanderbilt for my second, third and fourth year — the amazing staff behind The Hustler. I knew that I would feel great comfort in being near my family during this time of tremendous grief. But I also knew that I had a team of writers and editors that I was anxiously ready to lead. I was not ready to give up this goal that I set for myself long before setting foot on campus. Maybe throwing yourself into student journalism isn’t the magical answer to dealing with grief, but it certainly helped me grow as a student, journalist and individual along the way. 

The great J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote that “courage is found in unlikely places.” I was reminded of this quote when a fellow student journalist recently asked why I decided to dedicate a large portion of my college career to student journalism. Being Editor-in-Chief has required near-constant availability, Slack messages and many sacrificed nights of sleep. But Tolkien’s quote has served as a reminder that resilience often emerges from the depths of grief, shaping us into stronger, more empathetic individuals.

As I reflect on my time at The Hustler, I will remember not only the top headlines and breaking news stories, but the late-night editing, the laughter in the newsroom and the little moments in between that remind me why we do what we do. I know I found my courage in the walls of the newsroom — sharing the stories of our campus community. I am also incredibly grateful to share that my time at The Hustler is not over. As I look toward my senior year, I will be serving as a Senior Advisor, where I have the opportunity to assist with editor turnover and staff relations. I also hope to return to writing more of the longform lifestyle pieces that first helped me find my voice on campus years ago. 

Each of us carries our own stories, our own struggles and our own sources of courage. Whether through journalism, art, activism or simply by sharing our truths with those around us, let us find the courage to tell the stories that matter to us and uplift the voices that deserve to be heard. May we find the courage to navigate the challenges that lie ahead — to embrace the power of storytelling. 

Thank you for reading. Thank you for letting me share your stories, Vanderbilt. 

Jorie Fawcett

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About the Contributors
Jorie Fawcett
Jorie Fawcett, Senior Advisor
Jorie Fawcett ('25) is from Tiffin, Ohio, and studies secondary education and sociology in Peabody College. She previously served as Editor-in-Chief, Managing Editor and Life Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, you can find her teaching, reading or pretending to study at Local Java or Suzie's. You can reach her at [email protected].
Lexie Perez
Lexie Perez, Graphics Editor
Lexie Perez (‘26) is from Northern Virginia and is majoring in climate studies and human and organizational development and minoring in business in the College of Arts and Science. She enjoys listening to 70s and 80s pop music, doing the daily Wordle and rooting for the Nashville Predators and Cincinnati Bengals. She can be reached at [email protected].
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George Albu
1 month ago

We’ll miss you here, Jorie! 🙂