Creating an Outlet for Student Voices through Journalism
As the Editor-in-Chief of The Santa Clara, Carolyn Kuimelis ’22 played a pivotal role in establishing an online presence for the paper during the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Sarah Stoddard '23
Carolyn Kuimelis ’22, who graduated last spring, worked tirelessly to provide a space where student voices are heard and shared with the campus community. As the Editor-in-Chief of The Santa Clara, Santa Clara University’s student-run news source, Kuimelis and her staff members reported on critical issues and events. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Santa Clara was solely a printed publication, but this had to change as students were away from campus and learning at home. After decades of the paper being released in printed form, Kuimelis seemingly accomplished the impossible, effectively establishing the paper’s presence online while continuing to produce award-winning, impactful journalism in the process. This preserved The Santa Clara as a crucial outlet for student expression, engagement, and commentary during a challenging year amidst the pandemic.
A Communication major with minors in Economics and Sociology, Kuimelis has been passionate about writing and journalism since her time in high school. At first, her motivation for journalism was primarily inspired by her love of writing. Although that remains one of the key aspects of her passion for it today, she found that her motivations shifted when she came to SCU after gaining insight into the crucial role journalism plays in our society. “When I came to college and started learning more about the world and how complicated it is, journalism had a newfound importance to me,” she says.
Kuimelis first got involved with The Santa Clara in her second year at SCU, during which she worked as an Opinion Writer. At the time, she was majoring in Economics. Considering how much she loved writing for The Santa Clara, however, she decided that journalism was the career path she wanted to pursue and contemplated switching to a major in Communication at the end of her sophomore year. During this time, Kuimelis received the Edward Schipsey scholarship, an award given to students with journalistic promise, solidifying her decision to make this change. “That was really special,” she says. “It was a sign that I was moving in the right direction.”
Kuimelis’ minors in Economics and Sociology still play a fundamental role in her journalistic pursuits. “If your goal is to inform society, you need to understand it,” she explains. As both a journalist and a consumer of news, studying these subjects has helped her gain insight into “why people make the decisions they do, and what institutions and forces shape our society.”
In her junior year, Kuimelis was promoted to Opinion Editor. Although she had been working in the opinion section of The Santa Clara for quite some time, a Communication class where she studied news reporting for the first time since high school solidified her love for this aspect of journalism, and she decided to apply for the position of Editor-in-Chief. Kuimelis began this position during her senior year at SCU, during a time when all of us hoped the COVID-19 pandemic was coming to an end.
“It was really challenging stepping into that role after we had been online for a year and a half,” she explains. “There was so much institutional knowledge that was lost during the pandemic.” Most of the staff members had little to no experience working in the newsroom. Although Kuimelis and her staff hoped to reintroduce the print version of the paper, as it had been transitioned online during the first period of remote learning by previous Editors-in-Chief Meghan McLaughlin '20 (Communication) and Noah Sonnenburg '21 (Communication), a second wave of the pandemic had different plans in mind.
Although it was unfortunate that the printed paper couldn’t return to SCU, Kuimelis found that there were many advantages to focusing on online publication. “I didn’t see having a printed newspaper as essential for producing excellent journalism,” she says. Without needing to go through the often tedious and lengthy process of creating a paper in print, she found that her staff members were able to focus on the content and caliber of their stories. “Because we were online and had that luxury of time, and because I personally was able to dedicate a lot more time to reporting, I think that the result was higher quality news and stories that we could all be really proud of,” Kuimelis says.
During this year, The Santa Clara won numerous journalistic awards. “Outcome of campus safety hearing prompts criticism from students and faculty”, written by Kuimelis, as well as “Sexual Violence at SCU”, written by staff, were named 2022 Winners of the Society of Professional Journalists/Region XI, Mark of Excellence Awards, In-Depth Reporting (Small). "University President's Resignation Sparks Campus-Wide Confusion,” written by Kuimelis and Noah Sonnenburg, was named 2022 Third Place for the California College Media Association (CCMA) Excellence in Student Media Awards, Best Non-Breaking News Story. A judge commented: “Fair and balanced reporting in a crucial effort to shed light on an otherwise opaque turn of events.” These are a few of many prestigious awards The Santa Clara won with Kuimelis as Editor-in-Chief.
"It taught me a lot about how to be a compassionate leader and how to put things in perspective."
Leading the paper amidst the pandemic was undoubtedly a challenging experience, but it was also immensely rewarding. “It taught me a lot about how to be a compassionate leader and how to put things in perspective,” Kuimelis says. “Stepping into my role a year ago, I was really overwhelmed by the responsibility. But it was a great learning opportunity, and I think we were able to cover a lot of really hard, important, and complicated topics. I’m pleased with the coverage we put out, and how we were able to engage with the campus over social media and other online platforms in the absence of a physical paper.” During graduation, Kuimelis was awarded the Communication Department Prize, further commemorating her exceptional work on campus.
Currently, Kuimelis is working as an Editorial Intern at the Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C., responsible for writing stories as well as working with full-time reporters. In the future, she would love to continue in higher ed reporting, develop skills in audio journalism, and perhaps one day become a teacher. To other students at SCU who are interested in journalism, Kuimelis gives the following advice: “College communities need student journalists, and Santa Clara is no different. Take advantage of the resources we have, and just go for it. It’s tons of fun, and it’s a really important job.”
Current staff members are happy to report that the weekly print edition of The Santa Clara has resumed as of Oct 27th, 2022. The online version will continue to be published as well.