2022-23 STAFF

The 2022-2023 Arkansas Traveler editorial staff (from left): Jack Travis, Natalie Murphy, Robert Stewart, Erica Wilson, Ben Hobbs, Lilli Martin, Katie Parker, Alyssa Crutcher and Mary Beth Kemp. 

Dear Arkansas,

It’s 7:30 a.m., and I’ve just walked into Kimpel 203 for the last time as a Traveler employee.

How did that happen?

I’ve worked tirelessly in this room just about every day over the last four years, and as I sit here reflecting on how much I’ve grown as a professional and as a person during that time, I am full of gratitude.

I am thankful for the adversity I’ve faced. It’s reared its head in many forms, but none bigger than a global pandemic that altered the way a university operates for nearly two years. I was an emotional wreck when it first hit, but learning to navigate it gave me a level-headed perspective I’ve used to fill each of the three editor positions I’ve occupied since then.

I am thankful the many different athletic teams at Arkansas have been so successful during my time covering them. Anyone who’s paid attention for longer than four years knows it hasn’t always been like this. Regular bowl appearances, deep runs in NCAA tournaments and track and field national championships have made it much more fun to be a student acclimating to the business.

Most of all, I am thankful for the countless people who have played a role in my personal and professional development during my time here. Professors, fellow journalists, family and friends alike have all been instrumental to my success, and I am forever indebted to them.

To Professor Gina Shelton, my mentor: Thank you for convincing the Northern Virginia kid to pack up and move halfway across the country. I truly could not imagine going through college anywhere else or studying anything else. Your continued support has me on a career track I could not be more excited to start on.

To Professor Gerald Jordan, the greatest to ever do it: Thank you for the work you’ve done throughout your career, from covering my grandfather, former Arkansas running back David Dickey, to training me and many other Traveler editors. Our connection will always be a special one, and I’m so glad our timelines in Fayetteville overlapped before your retirement.

To Drew Watzke, my first editor: Thank you for taking a chance on me during my first week here. Our pitch meetings were always my favorite part of the week before the pandemic hit. Being able to say I got a job right away has been an invaluable recruiting tool for each new class of freshmen I speak to.

To Mason Choate, my first true friend in Arkansas: Your drive has always been inspiring to me. You and I are going places, and I’ll always be proud of the work we’ve done together here and at HawgBeat.com.

To Abbi Ross, the predecessor to my predecessor: Thank you for trusting me to become an editor as a sophomore. Between my youth and the uncertainty that came with 2020, I was nervous to claim that title, but your faith in me gave me the confidence I needed to become the leader I am today.

To Bret Schulte, perhaps the most intimidating professor with whom I’ve taken a class: Thank you for being just that. Everything I have done beginning with your feature writing class has been immensely better than everything that came before it.

To Rob Wells, the professor who introduced me to data reporting: Thank you for your patience and trust during my time at Arkansascovid.com. That class was unlike anything I had ever done before, and I am very proud of the work we did during it and my summer internship.

To Sarah Komar, my predecessor: Thank you for choosing me, the sports nut, to be your right-hand man. I would have been so lost doing this job without first navigating that journey with you.

To Ben Hobbs, my design editor: Thank you for making our work look as good as it does. I’m sorry most of the time we spent together is when we were coming up against a deadline, but your presence and demeanor during those high-stress periods made them manageable.

To Mary Beth Kemp, my managing editor: It hasn’t been easy to keep my head on straight, but I couldn’t think of a better sidekick. I’ll always appreciate your reassurance, quick thinking and dedication to what can so easily feel like thankless work.

To Alyssa Crutcher, my successor: I know you were nervous about becoming an editor as a sophomore, but thank you for embracing the challenge. You’re going to do great things here, and it’s all because you took that leap of faith, just like I did.

The list goes on and on, well beyond the doors of Kimpel Hall, but in the interest of brevity, allow me to leave it at this: Thank you, readers and supporters of student journalism. I, everyone who has worked with me and everyone who came before us have poured so much effort into this publication, and to know that it still has a place in the community is the most rewarding part.

To quote the great Lou Gehrig: Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth. For the time I’ve spent at the UofA, for the people I’ve gotten the pleasure of working with and learning from and for the lasting relationships I’ve built as a result.

This community has truly become my home away from home. As much as it hurts to turn the page on this chapter of my life, the memories of writing it will always help put a smile on my face.

Thanks for the memories, Arkansas.



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