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Sylvia Carignan

Slyvia Carignan

Sylvia Carignan has reported, tweeted, recorded, produced and blogged for D.C. news organizations since her sophomore year. After becoming the Eagle’s first investigative reporter, she took a summer internship at NPR and a Dean’s Internship at the Washington Post. Sylvia is now working for the Post as an online news production assistant.

Message to the Class of 2012:

On the day of our commencement, we celebrate our freedom. Freedom from 20-page papers and group projects. Freedom from chapters upon chapters of textbook readings. But most importantly, starting today, we have the freedom to define our own success.

We don’t have to follow a prescribed plan for happiness anymore. We don’t have to fill in the blanks. Counselors won’t quiz us on how we plan to spend the rest of our lives.

I had my life planned, my career all sorted out.

After graduating from AU, I would get a job at a small local newspaper. A few years there, then I would move out to a mid-sized paper or a radio station. And if I was lucky, around the time of my mid-life crisis, a national news organization would notice all my hard work, and ask me to come aboard.

Fortunately, I’ve had to ditch that plan completely.

Thanks to the Dean’s internship program, I was at the Washington Post by the beginning of my senior year.

As an intern there, I was writing about my own neighbors in the D.C. area. They told me how they were suffering from injustice, celebrating milestones or just living their everyday lives. And for the first time, I couldn’t wait to tell people about my stories. I started to take pride in my own work.

Forget the name and the prestige of the Post—for me, THAT is success.

Society dictates that success is a big house and an expensive car, or the corner office at a big firm downtown, or a rich spouse who’s twice your age. Those things are nice, and I certainly wouldn’t turn them down, but let’s push cultural expectations aside for a minute.

Ask yourself: is that how you define success?

As new graduates, I’m sure you’ve heard more than you ever wanted to know about how bad the job market is. And, I’m sorry to say, today won’t be the end of it.

But I’m willing to bet that many of the organizations you’ve worked for wouldn’t have needed interns in a booming economy.

Think about it: have you had great real-world experience because of the recession? I know I have.

On top of that, another plus: bad economic times help separate the wheat from the chaff. We are sitting in these seats because we have the ambition, the skills, the talent to be world-class creative minds.

Everyone else has already been scared off by just the idea of competition or a slightly lower starting salary. For better or worse, that’s not us.

So take advantage of your freedom, and define success for yourselves.

What have you gained from your time in SOC?

Four years in SOC have taught me that being flexible is key. When I was a freshman, I groaned at the concept of having the words “Print Journalism” on my diploma, but I’ve learned so much about radio, video and the web that it’s just a formality. SOC gave me the opportunity to dive into anything I was interested in, with supportive professors and great classmates to boot.

What is the one experience you’ve had at AU/SOC that you feel will best prepare you for your future career/education/life?

Going through the application process for the Dean’s Internship was actually great preparation for my professional life. I had to think about putting my best foot forward and presenting the work I loved to do. Applying to the program also gave me a chance to consider what I wanted to do after graduation and how I could work to achieve that.