Student Newspaper Adviser Reflects on Job: ‘I Failed Over and Over, in Different Ways’

Failing.  Humility.  Well-being of people.  Full of sh*t.  Those are among the most prominent buzzwords embedded in a public self-evaluation shared by a recently-departed student newspaper adviser.

Seth Vincent served for the past three years as associate adviser of The Cooper Point Journal at The Evergreen State College in Washington.  He helped students with “web development, social media, journalism, computer and software use, design, programming, leadership, and human behavior.”

Earlier this month, upon leaving the position, he penned an appreciably candid assessment of his stint as a young college media adviser.  Two points included in the Tumblr post especially stood out to me and seemed worth sharing.

1) The student paper is not under the adviser’s control.  Vincent: “It belongs to the students. Their failures and successes are theirs, I only pointed them in the most useful direction I could, and gave resources to help them along the way.  So when a story was really good, I wasn’t about to take credit. When a design flaw messed up the site I would suggest changes, and would help make changes under student direction, but I couldn’t just change things. The website belongs to students, and the decision to make changes is theirs.”

2) Failing is part of the adviser’s job.  Vincent: “Helping a team of people work together is incredibly difficult. I failed over and over, in different ways. I waited too long to talk to people, or was direct in a way that was difficult for others to deal with, or I was too indirect and vague, or I expected other people to handle the situation, or I had emotional reactions to things in a way that undermined my intent, or I was hard on people having emotional reactions to situations. And for each of those failures I’ve done the opposite, too.  I learned from each failure and I’m able to recognize better approaches to situations.”

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