Five treasured members of The Hilltop Monitor staff will be departing William Jewell College this May. Each of these five individuals shared their thoughts about their experience on the Monitor, their time at Jewell and their plans for the future.
This past year, Sofia Arthurs-Schoppe, senior chemistry and communication major, served as editor-in-chief. She began her journey on the Monitor as a staff writer, becoming the photography editor her sophomore year and co-chief-editor her junior year.
At the start of her college journey, Arthurs-Schoppe had aspirations to be a journalist. Excited to join collegiate journalism, she received a talent scholarship in journalism from the Monitor as she was being recruited to Jewell.
“In my first year I didn’t necessarily see the potential of the Monitor. I wrote a lot of things that were related to the national political climate or national events because I remember hoping that Jewell people would read them and be more engaged with what was happening nationally or even globally. But then, I think throughout my second and, especially, my third year as co-editor, I really started to see the value the Monitor offered as a student newspaper on Jewell’s campus,” Arthurs-Schoppe said.
Coming to grasp the indispensability of the Monitor and student journalism on campus, Arthurs-Schoppe got more involved, photographing more events on campus and writing about more Jewell-relevant issues.
“For me, I realized that when Jewell started its rebranding initiative. I heard a lot of dissent from the people around me, and I realized that this is information that only the Monitor is going to share,” Arthurs-Schoppe said. “The Kansas City Star won’t care that William Jewell students are a little disgruntled, but we do because we have to live that every single day.”
Speaking about what she’s most proud of in her time with the Monitor, Arthurs-Schoppe identified her work in emphasizing the role of the newspaper as an outlet for students as being one of the defining themes of her leadership on the Monitor.
“We had a really good start at creating this newspaper as a platform for people who otherwise would have fallen through the cracks. We had articles about students who were coming to terms with their identity; we had articles about people who felt politically alienated from their family; we had an advice column where students would genuinely ask questions. We covered big topics like enrollment numbers and Greek life and the College’s probationary status with the [Higher Learning Commission]. In my opinion, that’s really important in terms of shifting the narrative of being a college student from having things happen to you to being a part of the decisions that are being made around you,” Arthurs-Schoppe said.
Reflecting on her position, Arthurs-Schoppe emphasized that her proudest achievements have to do with her role in shining a light on the experiences of members of the campus community and offering a space for people to explore and share what they’re passionate about.
“Thinking about my role as editor-in-chief, it’s a nice title and a cool job, but it’s really nothing without a good team of writers supporting our role… I’m glad I could connect with so many people at Jewell and tap into what they’re passionate about and give them that opportunity to voice their ideas and opinions,” Arthurs-Schoppe said.
Though her long-term goal is to be rich by 30 and then retire young, in the short-term, Arthurs-Schoppe will continue her work in impact investing for Stray Dog Capital, a venture capital firm based in Leawood, Kansas, with goals of working to end animal agriculture and promoting conscientious consumption.
Madelyn Comeau, senior nursing major, got connected with the Monitor during her senior year of high school as she was looking for collegiate opportunities to explore her passion for creative writing. Since coming to Jewell, Comeau has participated in the Monitor for all four of her years at the College, serving as the social media manager her sophomore year and pioneering a health column for the Lifestyle page.
“The biggest lesson that I have learned through writing for the [M]onitor is the importance of always being true to yourself and never being afraid to pursue your passions. The [M]onitor allowed me to research and write about many things I was interested in especially as they related to health and wellness,” Comeau said.
Comeau noted that her Jewell experience overall has had a profoundly formative effect on her.
“I will miss all of the friends that I made as well as many of the important life lessons that I learned. I feel that I have become a completely different person that I was when I first stepped on Jewell’s campus. I am proud of how far I have come and I am excited for what lies ahead,” Comeau said.
After graduation, Comeau has plans to work at Saint Luke’s North in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and will be cross-training to the Postpartum unit.
Kitt Wilhelm, senior English and Applied Critical Thought and Inquiry major, described herself a “Monitor groupie,” who was hesitant about contributing to the Monitor until Arthurs-Schoppe asked her if she was interested in making cartoons for the paper.
“I joined the Monitor as a freshman, but lacked the confidence to write any articles. I had several friends on the Monitor and attended a few meetings. I spent two years as, essentially, a Monitor groupie before Sofia approached me about starting Kitt’s Toons. People on the Hill had already seen my work in the form of t-shirt designs and posters so the thought of weekly cartoons felt much less daunting than putting my name on an article. Then Kitt’s Toons was born. I was thrilled to win ‘Best Non-political Cartoon’ [from the Missouri College Media Association] in 2019,” Wilhelm said.
“The biggest lessons I’ve learned during my time with the Monitor would have to be about confidence. It’s important to be confident in one’s own abilities and be willing to take risks—if I hadn’t been, Kitt’s Toons wouldn’t exist.”
Wilhelm remarked that her proudest achievement on the Monitor was her creation of “Kitt’s Toons” in 2018.
“I’m just hoping that someone else takes the reins after I leave; it would be unfortunate if there were no more cartoons in the Monitor. I would certainly be disappointed,” Wilhelm said.
As far as her post-Jewell plans, Wilhelm doesn’t have anything confirmed yet but is hopeful about her prospects.
Elliott Yoakum, current Arts & Culture page editor and senior Oxbridge: Literature and Theory major, had his first brush with the Monitor earlier than most. While taking piano lessons at Jewell during high school, his friend Jillian Bush – who was editor-in-chief at the time – invited him to drop by paste-up to view the layout of the Monitor. In the spring of his first year at Jewell, Yoakum joined the Monitor staff and wrote his first story on Mi Gente, which had just formed.
Continuing, Yoakum said, “Sophomore year I continued to write, as the Ed Staff consisted of my group of friends. I loved Monday meetings where we ate together in Yates Dining Hall, paste-up and Monitor parties because there was always so much chatter and lively discussion about journalism, life and a lot of other things.”
Speaking of the most important things he’s learned from his time on the Monitor staff, Yoakum noted that the interview process was something of an art that, done well, could extend into and assist with other areas of life.
“It sounds kind of simple but thinking about how to ask questions and conduct an interview can really make or break your story. I always try to think a lot about the questions, do research on the topic and generate questions which enable discussion and prompt the interviewee to open up. It’s weirdly psychological, and thinking about how to evoke certain responses from others, or to ask delicate things tactfully, is an important life lesson.”
Yoakum recalls writing an investigative article about diversity in Jewell’s syllabi and reading lists as being a distinct achievement during his time with the Monitor and remarked that since that article’s publication, there has been an increase in the diversification of some Jewell reading lists.
Reflecting on his years at Jewell, Yoakum commended the English department for stimulating his intellectual and social development in college and remarked that he will miss Jewell time, primarily because he felt it brought the Jewell community together in a special way.
In a final comment, Yoakum implored Jewell students to join the Monitor staff, regardless of how confident they may be in their journalistic capacities.
“Join the Monitor! Even if you don’t feel like a ‘writer’ the point is to grow as a group and to encourage each other. We need more writers, and we need good critical analysis of situations at Jewell and around Liberty and Kansas City!” Yoakum said.
Yoakum plans to take a gap year before applying to graduate schools for English and/or cultural studies.
Dr. Lori Wetmore, professor of chemistry, agreed to be an interim faculty advisor for the Monitor in the fall of 2018. Though it started as an interim position for Wetmore, she stuck with it for over a year and a half, finally stepping away as she departs from the College as a whole.
Speaking about the reasons she agreed to take on the role of the faculty mentor, Wetmore noted that the firm structure and process of the Monitor encouraged her to take the role in addition to her several other positions on Jewell’s campus, including being the director of the Village Partners Program and working within the Core Curriculum.
“At first, I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if I could take on one more thing,’ but as I started talking to the editors about process, I realized that there was already such an immense amount of organization in place – and even a very professional structure – that it wasn’t going to involve me doing any hand-holding. In fact, I had a sense that I would be learning alongside staff as far as how a student newspaper functions,” Wetmore said.
Wetmore found that, in her position as faculty advisor to the Monitor, the wealth of student talent she noticed at Jewell was only amplified, and she is optimistic about the direction in which the publication is headed.
“I’ve been really encouraged this past year to see some new young writers come on board, and I’m excited about that as well because I want to see the Hilltop continue to prosper and grow… Of the decisions to leave Jewell, one of the hard ones was deciding to step away from the Monitor. I’ve been wanting to find [a new faculty advisor] that could fulfill that role of being a true faculty mentor… It’s been a positive and affirming experience for me in the sense that I’ve always known our students are amazing, but now I have a better appreciation for that,” Wetmore said.
Wetmore remarked that, in her role, she was able to learn about the collaboration, hard work, and creativity that goes into creating and maintaining a student publication.
“I learned about the amount of work that goes into creating just one issue of the paper – the amount of teamwork that’s needed, the amount of creativity, and just the breadth of the coverage that I hear in editorial and staff meetings as stories are being pitched. I also have an appreciation for the fact that the Monitor has leaned into being a campus community paper and being a part of talking about what’s really going on and interacting with the [Student] Senate and other student groups.”
Wetmore’s path away from Jewell will take her to Hogan Preparatory Academy in South Kansas City, where she will help build a biomedical science curriculum.
“My heart and passion have long been bending toward thinking about injustice and inequity in our cities and carrying a really heavy burden for being a part of fighting for equity and justice in our cities… Just in touring the school, seeing that the students are all African-American, I’ve been really frustrated with the ability for African-Americans to move into the science world, especially at the college level. I think it’s really important that we move into the high schools and really start to make a difference in training students because it’s not about them not being able to learn, it’s about creating opportunities for them to learn so that they can be successful in the sciences.
“I’m at the end of my career. I’ve got nothing to prove – I’m a full professor in chemistry, I’ve been a published scientist. You know, to me, this is just a win-win, because now I can really focus in on making a difference in my city for the tail-end of my career,” Wetmore said.
Over the summer, Wetmore will train for her role at Hogan and will officially begin when the school year starts Aug. 10.
“I’m excited about it, but it’s been a tough decision when I know that I’m leaving the students at Jewell. It’s been an amazing experience – to be a part of The Hilltop Monitor, to teach the students that I teach, leading Village Partners has been amazing…I’ve also been really amazed at the student response. Everyone has been really affirming… They’ve just been like, ‘I hate to see you leave, but I get it.’ That’s been a really amazing confirmation.
“Jewell has given me the opportunity to expand into the core curriculum and be able to work on community development and to feed my passion to get out of this country at least twice a year. It’s helped me build my language skills, but I’ve also worked with some amazing colleagues, in addition to my students, and that’s another thing that’s hard to walk away from. But I will say this: I know that Jewell is going to be fine without me because the amazing people who work there, and The Hilltop Monitor will be fine without me… We have a really amazing structure that builds leadership… I like the direction that I see the Monitor heading in. I just want to see The Hilltop Monitor continue to do what it does best and not be afraid to ask the hard questions. I think it’s important that they hold the College accountable and that they hold classmates accountable and to really make it about being that Critical Thinking College that we’re supposed to be.”