Author: UConn Journalism

‘Sound on the Sound’ reported by UConn Journalism, published by The Day

Musicians perform on stage with guitars, drums and keyboard.

Photo by Corina Wallenta / UConn Journalism

The eclectic and powerful music scene in New London has been the topic of study for a small group of UConn Journalism students since late January 2022. They have been researching and reporting on the phenomenon of music in the Whaling City — how music shapes the city and how the city shapes the music scene.

Their reporting led them to make a variety of conclusions. Among these are that music is a great unifier, an economic driver, a vehicle for celebration of patriotism, identity, culture and ethnicity and promotion of social justice causes.

Under the direction of Prof. Gail B. MacDonald and Carlos Virgen, The Day's assistant managing editor for audience development, a small group UConn Journalism students worked all semester to produce "Sound on the Sound" —a series of stories in text, audio and photographs that strive to tell parts of the overarching tale of music in New London.
The students — Corina Wallenta, Gladi Suero, John Leahy, Alison Cross and Madison Gardner — spoke with musicians, businesspeople, city and regional officials, educators and others to inform their work.
Radio station studio

Photo by Madison Gardner

The Last Lecture: “Why You Went To College” by Maureen Croteau

It has become a UConn Journalism Department tradition that when a faculty member retires, they give "The Last Lecture" at our annual student awards ceremony. Here is the lecture delivered on April 22, 2022 by Professor Emeritus Maureen Croteau, who retired in August 2021 after serving as department head of UConn Journalism for 38 years.


Why you went to college.

You've got to hand it to me. I've got a lot of nerve to stand here and pretend to tell you why you went to college.

You would seem to be the expert on that.

Still, in 38 years of teaching, I have listened to a lot of students, and I have learned a few things.

So, I will hazard these guesses about what brought you to college:

  • There was no Grade 13.
  • Everybody expected you to go, so you went.
  • You didn't yearn for a fulltime job at the car wash.
  • Your family would have killed you if had done anything else.
  • You had heard about the parties.
  • And, of course, you wanted to learn something – preferably something that would get you a job that didn’t involve a hose and a squeegee.

So, you ended up at UConn, and now you are about to graduate. Which would seem to be the end of the story . . . which would make this a very short lecture . . . but, of course, you know that lectures are never that short.

It has been very hard for me to put this speech together. The idea of the “Last Lecture” is a bit grim, and it is not something to which I have looked forward. Journalism, students, and this university are important parts of my life. Now that I am retired, I find that I dream that I am teaching.

When I arrived at UConn as a freshman in 1967, I would not have predicted that any of that would have been true. I was in pre-med. But a semester of microbiology, bacteriology and calculus convinced me that I was not exactly a natural. So, I switched to psychology, intending to get a doctorate there.

Journalism was not on my radar. In fact, Journalism was not yet a major. But there was a tiny department, with four courses and two exceptional faculty members, and I had heard good things about it. So, I made an appointment to meet with the department head, Evan Hill, to find out more. He asked me my GPA. I told him rather proudly. He told me not to take any journalism courses because they would wreck my average.

Of course, I signed up immediately -- and my life changed forever.

That, as it turned out, was one of the reasons I went to college. I thought I had gone to college to become a doctor. Instead, I went to have my mind changed. To try new things. To learn the difference between what I could do, and what I would love doing. I suspect that many of you have had the same experience.

We go not just to get a job, but to have the privilege of doing a job that matters to us. Most of the world does not get that. My parents certainly never had that, and no one ever asked my grandfather if he loved operating the drop forge in an ax factory. I once worked in a blender factory, screwing the legs on blenders as they came down the production line. I was terrible at it. Nobody loved that job, but there were lots of women who did that job year after year because it paid the rent. I had deep respect for them, but I did not want to be them.

Being able to do a job that you love, and that matters to you, is a rare privilege. That is certainly one of the reasons I went college, although I’m not sure that I would have said that at 18.

Looking back, I am very grateful that for 50 years I have worked at jobs that I loved. And I am surprised at how different those jobs have been from the jobs that were available when I graduated. When I started working as a reporter, personal computers did not exist. There were no cell phones. It was important to keep a pocketful of dimes so that you could dictate stories on deadline from pay phones. When I came to UConn as department head, we had no computers. Cameras used film. Students typed on manual typewriters and used carbon paper to make multiple copies. (Some of you who do crafts may know what carbon paper is.)

Evan Hill used to say that his goal was not to prepare students for their first job, but for their fourth or fifth job. At the time, all I really cared about was getting my first job. But UConn taught me to write, to tell a story, to question authority, to verify information, to work ethically and to work in the public interest, which I have done ever since.

Most importantly, it also taught me to learn, which is what prepared me to be where I am today. We have done the same for you. I understand that, now, in ways that I didn’t before. That is one heck of a good reason to go to college.

I grew up in a factory town, and my parents' big dream was for their daughters to have more than they did. Some of their friends told them that it was foolish to spend money educating girls, because daughters would just marry and have children anyway. Luckily, my parents did not share that belief. If they had, I would not be giving this lecture today.

I was 11 years old when I saw UConn for the first time, and it was the most wonderful place I had ever seen. There was a library with a gold dome (not the current library), and a football stadium (not the current football stadium)and one whole building just for life sciences. We needed a map to find our way around.

My oldest sister was coming here as a freshman, which was nearly beyond my imagining. She was the most beautiful, most sophisticated, most intelligent young woman I had ever known. I could hardly believe that anyone so special could be my big sister. And she would be going to UConn. I spent that summer redeeming bottles that I found along the road, wheeling them in a cart to the grocery store near us, saving up enough to buy her a metal gooseneck desk lamp that held two plastic pens. (The pens also had little rulers built into the handles, in case you wanted to measure your mail, I guess.) All three of us used that lamp eventually.

At the time, tuition, room and board were about $500 a semester, not counting books and other expenses. That's about $4,300 in today's dollars. (I did what we always tell you to do and looked it up.) My first year at UConn cost my family $1,500. My mother, a hairdresser, was earning about $3,000 a year before taxes. With what was left after taxes, she bought her uniforms (all hairdressers wore uniforms at that time) and paid for a ride to and from work. The rest of her paycheck went to pay for us to go to college.

All of this seems like yesterday to me, but of course it was not. Many things were different. For example, I did not look like this. I had long, straight hair, which was more or less a requirement for folk singing. I also had a guitar, which was another requirement. I wore fringe. It was the 1960s and 1970s. We all wore fringe. Homer Babbidge was not a library. He was the UConn president, and a very nice man. The Daily Campus sent a reporter to cover the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon was president. Bob Dylan was singing "the times, they are a changin'." Of course, I was singing “the times, they are a changin’,” too. That was another requirement of being a folksinger.

And Bob Dylan was right. I know that you have all weathered the college's extensive General Education Requirements – like it or not. So, I am quite comfortable talking to you about how society has changed during my lifetime, and how that has contributed to why going to college seemed like a natural choice for many of you.

When I was born, college was definitely not an expectation. At that time, only 5 percent of people 25 to 34 had a college diploma. Nearly half of those 25 to 34 had not graduated from high school. By the time I graduated from UConn, only about 16 percent had a college diploma, but graduating from high school had become the norm.

By the time you came here in 2018, about 39 percent of people 25 to 34 had a college diploma, and only about 8 percent did not have a high school diploma. So one of the reasons you went to college was that you were supposed to. As a society, our expectations had changed. And although you could not see it at the time, there was a social stream that was carrying you along.

Were you all carried equally? Absolutely not.

The College Board produces extensive research on who goes to college, and you will find no surprises there. If you grew up poor, if your parents did not have an advanced education, if your school system was substandard, if your first language was not English, the stream did not carry you as readily as it carried others. Is this the embodiment of the American dream?

I will leave that question for you to ponder because -- as it turns out -- that, too, is one of the reasons you went to college. You came here to learn to question beliefs, to think independently, to recognize injustice and to have the tools that you need to change the world. I am sure that you know that already. I'm just reminding you now because you are at the point in your lives where you will be making lots of decisions, and those decisions will affect not only you, but others.

Do you remember that social stream that carried you to college? You are now in charge of where that stream goes. That is certainly one of the reasons you went to college, and it is an important one.

I believe that there is a force for good in the world, and that anyone can be part of that. You don’t need a college degree to work for justice, to show compassion, to be kind. But, for those of us who were fortunate enough to attend college, I believe there is a responsibility to use what we have learned as a force for good.

In journalism, this happens all the time. I was once fortunate to tell the story of an intellectually disabled man who had been locked in a ward for the criminally insane for 25 years because he had stolen a car as a teenager. With no family to care about him, his case was never reviewed. Because of a newspaper story, he was released to a group home, where he was free to go on walks, to take shopping trips, go to the movies and have friends. What I learned here allowed me to make that difference in his life.

I have never won a Pulitzer Prize, but my students have. And one of them, who won a prize for stories about women who were victims of domestic abuse, had the kindness and grace to write me a note when he won the award, to tell me that he would not have gone into journalism if not for me. He was just about to graduate, with no professional experience, and he was going to take a job doing landscaping. I knew that he was incredibly talented, with a great heart, and that he needed to be sent in the right direction. I told him that I would not allow him to leave UConn without an internship, and I set him up in a reporting job for the summer after he graduated. He has been a journalist ever since.

What I learned here allowed me to make a difference in his life. And what he learned here allowed him to make a difference in the lives of so many others.

It is not easy to get a college degree. For some of us, it is much harder than for others. Worldwide, only about 8 percent of adults have such a degree. In many countries, even attending primary school is an impossible dream. In Niger, only about 25 percent of children attend school.

So why did you go to college? My feelings will not be hurt if you tell me that you heard that the parties were really great.

But I trust that now that you have a degree, you will also have learned that a very important reason for getting a good education is to recognize that there was more to it than you realized at 18. There is a force for good in the world – and what you have learned here can allow you to be an important part of it.

———

Maureen Croteau was the first woman to lead an academic department at UConn’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and was its longest-serving department head. Through her leadership, UConn Journalism has become New England’s only nationally accredited journalism program. She is a graduate of UConn and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, the co-author of two books, and a director of The Day newspaper in New London. In 2014, the New England Newspaper and Press Association named Croteau the New England Journalism Educator of the Year. She was inducted into the Connecticut Journalism Hall of Fame in 2017.

UConn Journalism collaboration with The Day wins recognition from NENPA

"Spirit of the City" is a 2020 project reported by UConn Journalism students and faculty and published by The Day.

Congratulations to Profs. Gail B. MacDonald and Maureen Croteau, The Day newsroom and the team of UConn Journalism students who worked on “Spirit of the City,” a series of stories about New London's diverse faith communities and the extensive outreach and social justice work they perform.

"Spirit of the City" was awarded first place in "Excellence in Newsroom Collaboration and Partnerships" at the 2022 New England Newspaper & Press Association awards.

The judges noted that the successful collaboration between the Southeastern Connecticut news outlet and UConn Journalism gave students the opportunity to work with professional journalists and have their work published. The added resources and relationships built made this a winning partnership, the judges wrote.

The students (now alumni) who worked on the project were: Kevin Arnold, Olivia Hickey, Daniela Luna, Allison O'Donnell, Maxine Philavong and Joseph Villanova.

Photo Gallery: 2022 UConn Journalism Student Awards

Prof. Mike Stanton awarded Jia Stolfi with the Charles Litsky Memorial Scholarship at the 2022 UConn Journalism Student Awards Ceremony on April 22, 2022.

And the winners are….

UConn Journalism hosted its annual student awards ceremony on April 22, 2021 Congratulations to all our scholarship and award winners and to all our seniors in the graduating Class of 2022!

  • John Breen Scholarship: Amaree Love
  • Sheehan Family Memorial Scholarship: Julia Gintof, Colleen Lucey
  • Donald & Jewell Friedman Award: Jake Kelly
  • Dave Solomon Scholarship: Jalen Allen, Dipty Bhuiyan
  • Charles Litsky Memorial Scholarship: Esther Ju, Samantha Miller, Madeline Papcun, Jia Stolfi, Gladi Suero
  • Barbara K. Hill Journalism Award: Christie Wang
  • TC Karmel Award for Sports Journalism: Julia Gintof
  • Phi Beta Kappa: Katelyn Ariano, Alison Cross, Grace Seymour

 

Pat Sheehan presented the Sheehan Family Memorial Scholarship to Julia Gintof at the 2022 UConn Journalism Student Awards Ceremony.

 

Seniors Will Cronkhite and Kate Ariano at the 2022 UConn Journalism Student Awards Ceremony.

 

Samantha Miller, center, was one of five recipients of the Charles Litsky Memorial Scholarship. The other winners were Esther Ju, Madeline Papcun, Jia Stolfi and Gladi Suero.

 

Associate Prof. Julie Serkosky presented Jalen Allen with the Dave Solomon Scholarship. The scholarship was also awarded to Dipty Bhuiyan.

 

Prof. Mike Stanton, legendary Connecticut news anchor Pat Sheehan '67, senior Alison Cross of Phi Beta Kappa, and Department Head Marie Shanahan '94 pose for a picture at the 2022 UConn Journalism Student Awards Ceremony.

Ty Reeves ’22, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

Ty Reeves in front of Gampel Pavilion

Ty Reeves watched UConn basketball growing up, but never imagined that one day he’d be accompanying the women’s team to two Final Four appearances as one of the players the Huskies practice against. And that’s hardly the only opportunity he seized during his time at Storrs.

Whether working as a student journalist at UCTV or the Daily Campus, or as an intern with the Athletic Communications Department, Ty was determined to make the most of his four years at UConn, in every venue from the classroom to Gampel Pavilion.

Now, as he heads off for a job in New York City, he leaves behind a piece of advice for the Huskies following in his footsteps: time goes by quicker than you think, so make the most of it while you can.

Why did you choose UConn?
UConn was always my dream school. I watched the men’s and women’s basketball teams growing up, but I didn’t get to actually visit the campus until my sophomore year of high school. I fell in love with the campus and the atmosphere. Even though I was still in Connecticut, it felt that I was in a new place. After that visit, I knew this is where I wanted to be. So when I got my acceptance letter, it was a no-brainer that I was coming to UConn.

What’s your major and why did you choose it? 
I’m graduating from the University as a Journalism and Communications double major but when I came to UConn I was just a Journalism major. Most students nowadays, I feel, choose to study Engineering, Business, or something in the STEM fields. But for me I knew that wasn’t my calling. I’m not good at math, I didn’t really enjoy sciences, but I knew I enjoyed writing and loved sports. I felt Journalism would set me up to achieve my goal, which was to work in sports media. I got a lot of criticism about choosing it as my major. Many told me it was a dying field and that there was no money in it. But what I’ve learned studying the field here at UConn is there are tons of opportunities and fields you can pursue with a Journalism degree. You don’t have to just be a print reporter. The industry is evolving, and it has created so many opportunities in the field for Journalism students to consider as they head towards the real world with a Journalism degree.

Read Ty Reeves full Q&A on UConn Today »

Professional headshot photo sessions for UConn Journalism seniors

Need a professional headshot photo? Sign up to get one taken on Wednesday, April 20 or 27 in OAK460.