Letter From the Editor: Goodbye Arcadia, Goodbye Media and Comms

Here we are.

by Benjamin Dunst

Going through an undergraduate program, the word “thesis” comes up a lot. And while I’m sure its Webster’s definition is more eloquent, the definition it builds colloquially is “big, scary assignment that means graduation or failing.”

But I’ve found its real definition is “last stop on the route.”

So here we are. Thesis is just about done. And that means everything is about done. And that means I’m about done. The COVID-19 pandemic has surely changed the way this process palys out. Without the opportunity to have our events, it’s been hard to process. More importantly, without the chance to interact with one another, it’s also taken some of our opportunities to say goodbye. I will be doing that later on in this piece – saying some goodbye messages to the professors of this department. But first, I would like to reflect on the thesis itself.

You’d think doing a thesis would be a natural process of reflection. But, whether it’s because of COVID-19 or making sure the thesis project is done on time, it’s sort of breezed by. Only seeing this project completed has given the pause necessary to absorb the moment.

I’ve been at Arcadia for 5 years. Half a decade. More than most students could say, for better or for worse. (Don’t worry. I’m not doing a Seasons of Love quantifying bit.) I just mean to say that it’s pretty crazy to think about the time I’ve spent at this school. I had just turned 20 as a sophomore when the 2016 presidential election occurred, and here we are again. On FYSAE in Stirling, Scotland in 2015, when some of my current classmates were finishing up Junior High School. (That makes me feel…elderly.) Showing up as a chemistry student, leaving the Media and Communications Department. It’s difficult to process, and I’m not sure when it’ll happen.

But anyway, I digress. The point of this is because I wanted to place this piece of writing somewhere it’ll be seen, and somewhere it’ll live on for a little while. I know some of the material contained in Convergence will probably feel dated before long, but hopefully this will stick. So – I just want to share some loose thoughts here, as something of a time capsule.

To the students of the future-

I wouldn’t waste your time giving you thesis advice. Your thesis probably won’t be done in the middle of an international quarantine. But let me share some thoughts about Arcadia and this school.

The administration does care about you, but their priorities lie elsewhere. When they can help, they will, but they have to balance it with other aspects. The faculty does not. When you need help, they will save you. I’ve spent time at other schools, as a student and doing some work. Arcadia’s faculty is world-class. They will have your back when the administration’s hands are tied. This is the advice I wish I got earlier, and the advice I would give.

To the professors of now-

This is really the point of writing this, I think. As most of you probably have heard from me by now, the conclusion and purpose have to come last for me, when the words are on the page.

It’s difficult to summarize how much the faculty of this department has meant to me. I could move a thousand miles away from this campus and not miss it. And while I do love my classmates, I’ve seen many generations of them come and go over my half-decade, and I’ve been down that road. But the “bitter” half of “bittersweet” truly lies in being finished my time with all of you. I’m sure I have not communicated those thoughts well, but you all know I write a little better than I talk, anyway. It’s not just an emotional process we’ve spent together that I thank you for – I received my first GPA-based academic award from Arcadia during my second semester in this department, my third year at the school, and haven’t missed one since. The quality of people in this department’s faculty is truly one of a kind. At the risk of cliche, I’d like to briefly mention each, for my own reflection.

Thank you to Dr. Deshpande, for always running a tight ship, keeping me on top of everything, and for demanding my best work at all times. Another chemistry-communications background to relate to in terms of mental processes was unspeakably helpful in learning how to adjust the way I process information.

Thank you to Dr. Mullin (congratulations again!) for your endless energy, positivity, and poise. The publication practicum founding during a pandemic would have caused many to postpone and call it off, but your refusal to surrender, during such a stressful time as your dissertation, is an inspiration.

Thank you to Dr. Powell, for some of the most interesting conversations I’m sure I will ever have. I’ve been far less stressed about thesis than I expected, and I’m sure that I have you to thank for that. Plus, it turns out Photoshop is pretty important in this field (who knew?) I’m not sure any department in the world has as much personality as this one, and one Alan Powell is the core of that.

To Dr. Holderman, thank you for everything you’ve done. I couldn’t count how many moments of breaking stress or crisis were alleviated with your help. I would wager your encouragement is a central role in the graduation of students from the department every year. I couldn’t imagine having a better department chair in my corner through the undergrad process.

Lastly, to Dwyer (kidding!)

Thank you, Dr. Dwyer, for taking me on as an advisee when an English professor recommended I wander into the Media and Communications offices. I’m not sure how to even describe how much I’ve learned in my time with you, other than to say I refuse to read anything I’ve ever written prior to taking CM213. “Do the (something or other) work” is, somehow, the phrase that has maybe influenced my undergraduate process more than anything else. It feels very strange to now have done the (something or other) work in its entirety.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my outstanding adjunct professors. Professors Frank, Welsh, and especially Romaine have prepared me for the field in a way that I didn’t think would be possible in just 3 years in the department. Professor Romaine’s expertise and diligence in work ethic have especially taught me so much that I needed to know, and did not, in just a few short months. It may have only been a semester, but she has been as invaluable to my experience as any other.

So there’s that. Cliche may not have begun to cover it, but it is all said with earnestness. That’s all from me, folks.