Class of 2020 Reflections

The School of Journalism invited the Class of 2020 to share their memories and reflections about their time at KU and in the school. See the list of Fall 2020 graduates and Spring 2020 graduates.

Denita Victor

Denita VictorMy 4.5 years at KU were filled with the best memories. Many of those moments came from the J-School. Each day was something different and exciting. The professors whom I have been surrounded by have continuously encouraged me to strive to be my very best. Without their support, I would not be filled with the success and confidence I have today. KU also introduced me to many hands-on opportunities to help me be successful. I was always being pushed to work hard and aim for my goals. My time at KU did not end the way I pictured, but I could not be any more grateful for my experience. I have met many wonderful people and will cherish all the memories I have made. Rock Chalk! 

Olivia Nichols

Olivia NicholsMy time as a Jayhawk has been nothing short of incredible. One aspect of my four years at KU that stands out is the connections I have made through the journalism school. This tight-knit community of students and teachers provided me the opportunity to grow in ways I never expected when I started my academic career at the University of Kansas. Each day, I was surrounded by students who challenged me to think critically and professors who urged me to engage in thought-provoking discussions. It is such a rewarding feeling to build relationships with professors who genuinely support you in meeting your highest potential. It’s been so fun to connect with peers both in and out of the classroom, and I can’t wait to see what these creative minds accomplish in the future! I am forever grateful for the experience I had as a journalism student at KU. Rock Chalk!

Saria Peterson

Saria PetersonWhen reflecting on my time at KU, if there’s one aspect that I continued to rave about during my college career, it was my experience at the School of Journalism. I could not say enough good things about the J-School. In high school, they tell you to appreciate your teachers because in college you won’t have the same relationships with your college professors. The KU School of Journalism proved this theory completely wrong. I was taught by some of the most intelligent, passionate and understanding individuals in the industry. Every single semester, I was amazed by each new professor I was introduced to. I could genuinely feel that every professor and staff member wanted me to do better and genuinely believed in my potential. I will be forever indebted to the professors, staff and students who surrounded me at the J-School. If someone asked me if I wanted to do it all again, I would take up the offer in a heartbeat! The J-School is truly the reason I am so proud to be a Jayhawk for life.

Mackenzie Weider

Mackenzie Weider, Fall 2020 graduateI came into college as an indecisive freshman with no clue about what I wanted to do. Strategic Communication was the fourth major I decided to try and I am so glad that I did. I found a home in the J-School, along with a passion for storytelling. Throughout my time in the J-School, I realized that I have the ability to write something worth reading and create content that fostered a human connection. While I am sad that my time at KU has come to an end, I will forever be grateful for the professors who taught me, the peers that became friends and the school that helped me realize my true potential. Rock Chalk forever!

Sam Goldman

Sam Goldman, Fall 2020 graduateI want to dedicate my section to the hardest working woman I know, my Mother. As the world we live in changes every day, one thing will never change. The love and appreciation I have for her. She has always been my pillar of support, from moving me into Naismith Hall all the way to graduation. Even though the diploma will read my name on it, this accomplishment belongs to her just as much as it does to me. So, thank you Mom, I love you. 

I also want to thank my Grandma for making me laugh every Sunday, my Aunty Nancy for teaching me how to enjoy life and my Uncle Bob for embracing me. I am beyond lucky to be able to call these cast of characters my family. This section wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t honor the man I’ve looked up to my entire life, my Grandpa. So, to my family, I guess I also love you, too!

Emily Beckman

Emily BeckmanThe skills I’ve gained as a journalism and women, gender and sexuality studies student at the University of Kansas will benefit me for years to come.

Being the editor of CHALK magazine has been my favorite academic experience, and I have learned so much through the position. When I first started at KU, there wasn’t a student magazine to write for, and having the opportunity to write and edit for CHALK has truly been a dream job. CHALK will always have a special place in my heart, and I hope it will continue to grow and provide the same opportunity to other students as it did for me. I especially want to thank Carol Holstead for her support and mentorship –– I feel so lucky to know her. 

Through the journalism school, I have met mentors that I will always cherish. I was connected with Stephanie Blackwood, a KU journalism school alumna and communications professional whose work has centered on women and the LGBTQ+ community. Before meeting Stephanie at William Allen White Day last year, I didn’t realize there were other Jayhawk journalists who were doing the work that I hope to do after graduation. Stephanie has supported me in my endeavors and I am thankful for her.

Micaela Riley

My time as a Jayhawk has been incredible, and I cannot believe it is coming to an end. It seems like just yesterday I was walking into J101 as a clueless freshman. I have not only learned so much about media, communications and the world of journalism, but I learned so much about myself. I am forever grateful for the opportunities the J-School and KU as a whole has given me to allow me to grow as a person and gain loads of knowledge that I will take with me to become successful in my future endeavors. These last few weeks of school have been a roller coaster of emotions, and in a way anti-climatic. Reminiscing on the last four years inside and away from most of the KU student population is unfortunate and something that no one could have ever predicted. As I enter the professional world, I am unsure of what the future holds for me. I am hopeful to find a job that not only is enjoyable but allows me to showcase all that I have learned at KU. Cheers to an awesome four years, class of 2020!

Alexis Barnes

Alexis BarnesI am so thankful for the J-School and everyone that has helped me in every way possible. I have made lifelong friendships and connections through the J-School that have helped me through these past few years. As a freshman walking into Stauffer-Flint, I was little overwhelmed and very lost, but after just a few days and a little help from my friends and professors, I knew that I was exactly where I needed to be.

Although I am sad that my senior year has ended so abruptly, I am comforted by the fact that I was able to accomplish so much and create memories that will stay with me forever. This semester, I did really miss watching March Madness, the beautiful flowers that bloom during the springtime on campus, and especially the craziness that comes with campaigns class.

I am so lucky to be able to continue on at KU in the fall and get my master’s in Sport Management. While this is not how I thought that I would be ending my senior year, I am so happy and proud to always call myself a Jayhawk.

Rock Chalk and cheers to the class of 2020!

Payton Leiker

Although things are looking a little different right now, it is still impossible to not rejoice in the amazing four years we have had. When I checked journalism as my major four years ago, I had no idea how much that word would come to mean to me and how much pride I would develop in this school. Stauffer-Flint is home and always will be. I will miss walking the halls and running into some of the most amazing professors I have ever met and working with some of the most talented up and coming journalists out there, but look forward to all that’s to come. Rock chalk, Jayhawks!

Kaylie Opskar

“Remember your nest, return to it often, and never forget this unique bird that set you free.” - David Ambler 

Growing up, I always wanted to be a Jayhawk. I dreamed of walking down Jayhawk Boulevard every day, waving the wheat in the stands and one day proudly walking through the campanile and down the hill. The day that I became a Jayhawk is still one of my favorite days, and now I can proudly say that I’m a Jayhawk alum! 

The J-School helped me to be the best Jayhawk that I can be. Thanks to all of the amazing professors and classmates, I had the best four years that I could’ve asked for! I was pushed to be my greatest, and the J-School wouldn’t settle for anything less. I’m forever grateful for the skills, laughs, memories and friendships that the J-School gave me! I wouldn’t trade my time at KU for the world. 

Now that I’m leaving the nest, I plan to get a job in corporate event planning! I finally found my passion, and I’m so excited to start this next journey. I’ll miss Jayhawk Boulevard, having panic attacks about KU football, and working out at my favorite place the Ambler Rec Center. 

Thanks for everything that you’ve done for me, J-School! I’ve been taught by great minds and know that I can go out and do great things. ROCK CHALK!

Hannah Lederman

Hannah LedermanI will forever be grateful for my time at the J-School. I am so thankful for all of the friendships I have made, the alumni that have taken me under their wing and all of the professors that have made me who I am today. I have such confidence and pride knowing that I am graduating from a place that has brought out the best version of myself, and for that, I will always be grateful.




Andrew Fern

Andrew FernComing in I wasn't sure if I should have chosen Film rather than Strategic Communications. But after my first day in Journalism 101 with Kerry Benson, I knew the decision I had made was the right one. Throughout my four years here, I have met some of the most inspiring and thoughtful instructors as well as classmates. I felt challenged in different ways each semester, getting better at each skill, and by the end being able to put them all together in Campaigns was a very rewarding feeling of success to be able to see how much we have learned and applying it in a real world situation. I know I would not be where I am today without the J-School, and I am grateful for everyone who has helped me along my journey!

Rebecca Phelps

Rebecca PhelpsI feel extremely blessed to have found the incredible support system of teachers and friends in the J-school. The opportunities I was given to learn and grow as a journalist have been invaluable throughout these 4 years, both in the classroom and during internships. My time as a reporter, anchor, and producer at KUJH have given me the tools and confidence to graduate knowing that this is what I love to do, and I can’t wait to start.

Evan Parsons

Evan ParsonsI will never forget the moment I discovered my passion for strategic communications at the J-School. As I began taking journalism courses, I realized I actually enjoyed going to class. Working on projects turned into working toward my dream job. I am grateful for the connections I have made through the J-School and the wonderful people who have helped me along the way. Rock Chalk!





Brianna Gabriel

Brianna GabrielThese past four years have been incredible thanks to the University of Kansas and the J-School. I am so grateful for the professors and classmates who have helped me grow and flourish. Although I am sad this chapter of my life is coming to an end, I am excited to see what the future holds. This fall I will be attending the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. However, I will forever be proud to call myself a Jayhawk!






Maya Minocha

Maya MinochaFrom the first moment I walked through the doors of Stauffer-Flint, I knew that I was going to be able to create the path that I’ve always dreamed about. My favorite part of the J-School is that every student has different career goals, but everyone works together and uses their talents to create something together. There are so many creative and inspiring voices throughout the J-School that have helped shape me into the person I am today. From falling in love with PR in Kerry Benson’s J320 class to making amazing friends along the way.

My favorite memory as a student was taking Campaigns with Dr. Yvonnes Chen. I remember finishing our final presentation and realizing how much I was in love with what I was doing and how I was so excited to start my professional career.

The J-School allowed me to live in cities that I had only ever dreamed of visiting. From studying abroad in London to having internships in New York City and landing my dream job as an Account Coordinator at a Travel PR Agency. Although everything is uncertain during these times and I wish more than anything that I could be walking down the hill with my classmates, I’m proud every single day to be a Jayhawk!

Bryanna Crouch

Bryanna Crouch

“The only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them.”  — Michelle Obama

Collegiate honors:

The Gracies 2020 | Best TV Student Producer | 1st Place

Broadcast Education Association 2020 | Best TV Newscast | 2nd Place

Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence 2020 | Best All-Around TV Newscast (Regional) | 1st Place

Kansas Association of Broadcasters 2020 | Best TV Newscast | 1st Place

Samuel Valdez

Samuel ValdezWhere I come from, family goes beyond blood. Family is defined as those who consistently show gratitude, loyalty, love and grit. Family are those who show these particular characteristics during the good, bad and even ugly times. I thought I was leaving all that behind four years ago when I came to Lawrence, Kansas, looking to receive a higher education in journalism at the J-School. However, I received so much more from my investment.

From receiving the infamous “Sleeping Beauty in J101” email from KB, to the meditation sessions and vibing out with Dr. Chen in J560, to the precious hours after J304 with the homie Loewen helping me fix my 13 run-on sentences in my story, I didn’t notice the value of these moments at the time. The memories are endless.

As I said earlier, I came to the J-School to receive a degree. Little did I know, I would receive a family, too. We have learned through the current world circumstances to cherish every moment. I could never fail in this lifetime with the support I have received from my professors, faculty and peers from the J-School. I entered Stauffer-Flint as an ashy, fretful freshman; today I leave as a classy, educated man. This family will always have a special place in my heart. La Familia forever.

Aseret Bertram Grant

Aseret Bertram Grant, Class of 2020I am so thankful for the University of Kansas for giving me the best four years of my life, and I am forever grateful for the School of Journalism for the infinite opportunities it gave me. Through the J-School, I attended career fairs, expanded my knowledge on software such as Creative Cloud, studied abroad in Italy, got involved in organizations, met my friends and sat in front of some of the best professors I have had the privilege of learning from.

Our last three months of college should be spent in Lawrence, with our friends, creating memories, watching KU basketball in March Madness, spending countless of hours with our Campaigns team making the best plansbook for our client and getting to experience our beautiful campus in the spring. Instead, my last three months of college are spent talking to friends through my laptop, wearing a face mask whenever I am near somebody, watching lectures on Blackboard and being away from the best campus in America.

My heart aches for my fellow Class of 2020 as we try to finish a degree amidst all of this, but I have no doubt we will reunite soon to celebrate probably the hardest and most challenging milestone yet. Even through all this uncertainty, there is one thing I’ve never been more certain of: the best things in life are the people we love, the memories we’ve made and being a Kansas Jayhawk. Rock chalk.

Hadley Oehlert

My name is Hadley Oehlert, and I am a senior in Strategic Communications with a minor in Film and Media Studies. I have loved my time at KU! I am living a family legacy by attending KU. My grandparents met and fell in love here. Every time I walk through campus, I think about the lives that have begun here. I think about my loved ones who were just as young as I am now, beginning their journeys out into the world. It makes me thrilled for the chapter that comes next, even in these uncertain times. What better time than now to pave my own path? KU has given me everything I have today. I have my professors, friends, and this school to thank for the person I am now.

Keely Drew McCormick

Keely Drew McCormick is a senior from Geneva, Illinois, and she has recently won awards for broadcasting in the Hearst Journalism Awards, the Great Plains Journalism Awards and the SPJ Region 7 contest. 

Jessica Merkel

Jessica MerkelThe impending news of a postponed graduation never upset me. That is, until it actually happened. When I received the email saying that the Class of 2020 wouldn’t have our normally scheduled graduation, it hit me much harder than I expected, and to be completely honest, I felt crushed in the moment. It made me think that all of the work we’ve put in for the last four years to achieve excellence and success somehow wasn’t valid anymore. I thought that the sought-after dignified walk across the stage to be handed our diplomas was no longer palpable, nor as meaningful.

Those initial feelings still exist to some extent, but I’m comforted knowing that we are in this together and that we have the support of our school. This situation may not be ideal, but it doesn’t take away from our excellence or our success. It doesn’t take away from the special memories and friends we’ve made because of the J-School. In fact, it makes it all that much more special. Times like these make us far more grateful for the things, the experiences, and the people that we have.

So, here’s to the Class of 2020. We’re in a strange situation, one that many people may not be able to sympathize with, but we have each other. We’ve earned our spots in the world as graduates, regardless of the circumstances. Congrats on the hard work, time, and energy you’ve put into your degree(s). You are noticed; you are celebrated! Cheers!

Aubrey Goscha

"Life is an improvisation. You have no idea what's going to happen next and you are mostly just making things up as you go along." - Stephen Colbert

Aubrey Goscha, Class of 2020Life is weird right now. Nobody imagined that this would be what our senior year would be like. Right now, we would be enjoying our last months with our friends, doing what typical seniors do. However, this is not the case for the class of 2020. Instead, we are sitting inside, reminiscing on the past four years of our lives and confused on why it got ripped away from us so quickly.

But, that’s life, and sometimes it can be unfair. With all the negativity happening in our world, I have been trying to be more thankful for the things I have in life, instead of thinking on what could have been.

With that, I am thankful for the J-School. I came into college not having a clue what I wanted to do. I tried out journalism, and my first class with KB (Kerry Benson) had me hooked. Since then, I have had the most fun I have ever had with people I hope to know forever. The J-School allowed me to find what I was passionate about and gave me resources I needed to see success.

I don’t exactly know what the future holds for me, but that’s life. And I find comfort in knowing that we are all in the same boat.

So, cheers to the class of 2020! We deserve it.  

DeAsia Sutgrey

I greatly appreciate being a student in the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications for the past four years. I've learned from some of the best teachers, participated in student media and worked with talented young reporters, which have made me grow as a student journalist. Although this isn't the ending that I expected, I'm truly grateful for all the opportunities that I've received while being a Jayhawk Journalist. In June, I'll be starting my position as a corps member for the Report for America program. I'll be covering East St. Louis, Illinois, for the Belleville News-Democrat in Belleville, Illinois.

Austin Fitzgerald

Man, if you told me this is where my last semester in college would end up eight months ago, I would have told you that you have no idea what you were talking about, but you would have been correct. As I sit here writing this I cannot help but be so grateful for all the amazing experiences I have gotten to have working with KJHK, KUJH and the Kansan. I want to thank all the many professors and faculty I have gotten to work with and know on a deeper level: you guys are phenomenal. They were all experiences I will carry with me for the rest of my life and although it may have been cut short way before I wanted, I have never been more blessed than I am right now to be a Jayhawk and a soon to be graduate from the University of Kansas and their School of Journalism. 

Andrew Rosenthal

Andrew Rosenthal

I can’t tell you how many times I said these five words in the halls of Stauffer Flint (and The Wheel) mid-December of 2019. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back.”

We treat people differently in the Midwest. We smile at strangers. We leave a penny more often than we take them. At KU, it’s no different. We join arms in Allen Fieldhouse and belt out the alma mater, then lend a phone charger to a fellow student at Anschutz Library.

At the J-School these aren’t just rah-rah words. It’s real.

I settled at the Traverse City Record-Eagle to start the new year. Through internships at the Lawrence Journal-World and The Racine Journal Times, I knew I was ready for whatever challenge faced me because the people that helped me throughout college would continue to support me long after I left Lawrence.

During NFL Draft weekend, Amie Just, sports editor of the Kansan in the spring of 2017 who’s now working for the New Orleans Times Picayune, helped a colleague of mine at the Record-Eagle turn our story on Adam Trautman into one on par with the big boys.

These are the types of things that make the J-School so special. It’s the reason we came to Lawrence and find saying goodbye more difficult than finding a class at Wescoe Hall. 

I guess I feel empowered as a J-School grad knowing that that burden now lies in my hands. I don’t know when my time to help will come, but you can be certain I’ll pick up the phone.

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