As it turns out, you don’t have to be a journalism major to write for the University of Wisconsin’s most relevant newspaper.
Here you are, an incoming student, with the intellectually whimsical world of college life at UW right around the corner. You’ve found yourself gazing over this rambling opinion piece in the middle of an issue of The Badger Herald, which recently appeared on your doorstep. Well, believe it or not, this perhaps clunky — yet still published — coagulation of letters, spaces and punctuation you are currently reading is not the work of a journalism major, but instead, the work of an engineering student.
Hi there, I’m Phil. This fall, I’ll be a junior majoring in biomedical engineering, and I’ll be starting my fifth semester of writing for the opinion section of the newspaper you’re holding.
I got my start at The Badger Herald through the help of a mysterious email I received a few weeks into my freshman year advertising a new writers’ meeting at the corner of Johnson and State Street in an upstairs office across from Noodles & Company. Though I had bombed the writing portion on the ACT, my high school English teacher said with a shrug that I “wasn’t the worst writer” she had ever seen and apparently the thing to do in college is getting involved in extracurriculars, both career-relevant and otherwise. So I took a stroll from my humble lakeshore abode to the mysterious land of news-speak and hot takes: The Badger Herald office.
It’s not too hard to see that one of the main motivations for getting involved in extracurriculars during college is intentions of resume building. In the game of employment seeking, this solitary piece of paper is what defines you from the multitudes of other prospective employees, and being able to say that you can write is definitely not the worst way to go about spicing up your resume.
This world revolves around information and how it moves. The ability to not only use the English language, but to be able to craft words into sentences and sentences into paragraphs in ways that clearly depict the point you’re trying to make is crucial in any profession.
I can speak personally from an engineering standpoint that math and sciences are peachy and all, but fluency in those subjects alone will not get you very far if you are unable to articulate the thoughts and ideas in your head. If no one can understand you, how can they figure out these brilliant thoughts in your head? Progress is very often achieved through collaboration, and communication is fundamental to this collaboration. Communication in its clearest form can be found in writing.
So with that spiel in the back of my mind, I chose to take the opinion section route. I thought having the luxury of choosing my own topic each time I wrote would make it relatively easy to stay consistently involved, and being able to always write about things I chose would keep things lively. But it wasn’t too long before there was another aspect which I came to appreciate.
This place we call Earth is far from perfect. Some places are better than others, but even the best ones don’t always shine. Some misfortunes are inherent, but at the same time, there are many that are not.
The fact of the matter is that college trains us to work toward the advancement of the world around us. The Herald education teaches us to think differently in order to solve problems. Writing for the opinion section gives me an outlet through which I can call out the issues I notice around me, and then offer solutions to hopefully influence a change for the better. I may just be one student, but by writing for the opinion section, my voice is able to reach more than just those I talk to personally.
So, all-in-all, don’t sleep on practicing your writing skills. It can definitely help set you apart from the competition. And finally, try your hand at the opinion section. You’ll be able to actually address issues you notice around you — rather than only being able to complain about them.
Phil Michaelson in a junior majoring in biomedical engineering.