Senior goodbye columns


As we say goodbye to Augie for the summer (and others of us, for longer), we at the Observer want to honor our seniors by  giving them the last word.

Congratulations to the Observer class of 2020. Thank you for everything.


Jatzari Abonce, web editor

Hometown: Elgin, IL 
Proudest work: the Weekly Observer Brief (email)
1 year at the Observer
“The Observer is full of such talented photographers, graphic designers, writers and editors. I came in as a senior, not knowing a lot of the editors and honestly from day one they made me feel so welcomed. I’ve learned so much and it has been great to see how much dedication everyone puts into every piece. It has been an honor to be part of the Observer and I am so thankful that I was given the opportunity to work with such talented people. The most powerful thing we can have, as students, is our voices. And the Observer taught me how to be curious and really give a voice to other students. As well as shinning light on things that happen on campus, that without the Observer, we would not have known otherwise.”
Post-grad plans: Master’s in Communication at Illinois State University and will be doing an Assistantship in the SMACC Lab at Illinois State as well

Alia McMurray, multimedia editor

Hometown: Chicago, IL 
Proudest work: this photo of Nolan Ebel and the special issue on student wellness
3 years at the Observer
“Embrace being uncomfortable! Put yourself out there as much as you can and that will lead to the most growth in your craft.”

Mikaylo Kelly, photographer

Hometown: Evanston, IL 
Proudest work: SACK recital gallery 
2 years at the Observer
“Be aware of your fears and take more risks with your work.”

Katie Hogan, asst. arts & culture editor

Hometown: North Aurora, IL 
Proudest work: Portillo’s comes to the QC
4 years at the Observer
“I’m so glad I got to work for the Observer for 4 whole years! I really enjoyed learning form the advisors and from all the different staff members. A lot of the observer staff members are some of the funniest, coolest, most successful people I know so I am glad that I got to be a part of this amazing paper and work with all of them for my entire Augustana career. If I had any advice for the next generation of the Observer, it would be to try new things! I was really comfortable in my role as a writer and was really hesitant to apply for another position. However, I’m glad I took a step out of my comfort zone and got the chance to be an editor this year because I learned so many new skills this year and it was an amazing experience.”

Collin Schopp, arts & culture writer

Hometown: Minier, IL 
Proudest work: Little Happenings brings absurdism to campus
4 years at the Observer
“There was no better place to start off as a student learning journalism than the Observer. From day one I found people ready to help me become the best reporter I could be. Augustana, this department, and this paper are so full of incredible opportunities and people, so take the time to learn about as many as you possibly can. ”

Kevin Donovan, art director

Hometown: Platteville, WI 
Proudest work: Title IX special issue cover
4 years at the Observer
“I joined The Observer almost by chance. I sent in an application, received no notice as to whether or not I would be considered for an interview, so somehow I decided it was a good idea to waltz in and ask for a job.
I can’t believe it actually worked.
That was so long ago. Since then, I’ve learned so much and I’m so grateful for everything The Observer and the MJMC department has given me. It’s taught me more about myself, given some of my closest friends, some of the best mentors I’ve had, a lot less sleep and a caffeine addiction. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and always remember my time with the newspaper.
To the future staff of The Observer, I wish you the best of luck. It’s not easy and you play an important part of the Augustana community. The teamwork and friendship forged between you will be your greatest strength.
Thanks for everything.”

Matthew McKay, sports editor 

Hometown: Chicago, IL
Proudest work: Editor’s column:
the real change baseball needs
4 years at the Observer
“This is a job that takes a commitment, but it is rewarding in the
end. Often times you will want to put an article on the back burner but you quickly realize that doesn’t work. You have to learn time management if you want to be successful at this job. At the end of the day the more creative and organized you are the better you will be at this job. It will go a long way because you can take those skills with you in life. ”
Post-grad plans: Going to Grad School at St Ambrose while being a graduate assistant football coach

Katrina Scheer, asst. sports editor

Hometown: Lowden, IA
Proudest work: Sisters in soccer
“The first story I wrote about this school year was about a pair of twins who both played soccer here on campus. Those interviews were so enjoyable and the story was a fun one to write, having a sister myself.”
2 years at the Observer
“During my time at the Observer, I have encountered challenges that I have learned to adapt to. I often found myself improvising when an interview or draft did not go as planned. You learn first-hand how you can adjust to new experiences and what it is like to work in a news room. Working with a group of people who share the same interests as you makes the job that much more enjoyable. ”

Jordan Cone, managing editor

Hometown: Byron, IL 
Proudest work: Social distancing protects people like me 
3 years at the Observer
“To future staff of the Observer: don’t underestimate the experience of working for this paper. I joined its staff my sophomore year as a news reporter – a creative writing major certain I didn’t want to pursue a career in journalism. But a year after reporting, I became the news editor and declared a major in MJMC that winter term (of my junior year). Let’s all laugh.
The Observer introduced me to new ways of storytelling outside of my narrow scope of what I perceived storytelling to be. It showed me journalism is more than reporting – it’s a way to serve the community around you, to inform and support and record their history. The Observer gave me leadership opportunities I don’t think I would have found anywhere else and allowed me to develop and grow those skills. I am now the managing editor of the paper which has taught me that leading, more than anything, is about supporting those around you.
The Observer gave me my campus home, my campus family and opened the door for me to learn how to tell stories through photography, video and audio. I am so sad to have to part with this organization and its people that I love SO much, but readers, we are leaving you in such good hands. I am forever grateful for the Observer and it will always hold a place in my heart. ”

Sophie Reid, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Hometown: Seattle, WA
Proudest work: the Title IX special issue
“This was the first WatchTower special issue that we created. I’m incredibly proud of the final product and the work that went into it. But I am most thankful to the people who shared their stories with us and showed us incredibly strength.”
4 years at the Observer
“To the next generation of Observer staff, remember to always report with both tenacity and compassion. Seek stories everywhere, report on what is uncomfortable and needs to be heard. The Observer is an ever changing and developing news source and I am so excited to see where it goes.
To our readers, thank you for your support and following for my last three years as co-Editor in Chief. Your comments, engagement, letters to the editor and readership have made this job better than I ever could have imagined. Reporting within a community like Augustana is unique and incredibly special because of you all.
The Observer was the first activity I joined as a freshman here, at the time I was the youngest person in the editors room, absolutely intimidated and equally excited. For the last four years, The Observer office has been a home, a workspace and a community. My time here has taught me how to lead graciously and fiercely, it has made me grow as a writer, editor and storyteller and it has given me friends that I will have for the rest of my life. I’m so incredibly thankful for this community and everything it has given me for these four years. ”
Post-grad plans: Keeping my fingers crossed that it will still be the Peace Corps!

Thea Gonzales, Co-Editor-in-Chief 

Hometown: Skokie, IL

Proudest work: Title IX unrest: sexual assault on campus 
“To publish this story, I remember hiding under our advisor’s desk in the Observer office at 5 a.m. so that Public Safety wouldn’t kick us out. All around me, I had a team that supported me and sat with me into the early hours of the morning. This was the first time I realized our jobs at the paper was much bigger than any one story or any one person.”
or What I wish I knew before contracting COVID-19
4 years at the Observer
“It still hasn’t hit me that I won’t be in the newsroom next fall, shouting ‘no Oxford comma!’ while circling drafts in red and asking someone to a crop a picture tighter. Being EIC of the Observer was easily the most frightening experience of my college career, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.
To our readers, I’d like to thank you for providing the fire that I needed to grow as a leader. You held me accountable through emails, pushed me to take responsibility through meetings, and oftentimes confused me with your comments (I’m looking at you, OutsideLookingIn). Yet without the loving pressure of your attention, I would not be half the person I am today.
To next year’s staff, I urge you to take advantage of all the opportunities you have to grow through this paper — especially if it scares you. Apply for Editor-in-Chief as a sophomore. Join the WatchTower team when you know nothing about investigative journalism. Trust in the people around you and honor the skills you have. Your curiosity is powerful, and you are doing the work of recording this community’s stories by giving people voice. I’m proud of you, and I’m never far if you need me.”
Post-grad plans: Doing a year of service before law school 

Other seniors graduating from the Observer

Jessamine Burch

Ian Murrin

McKenna Nagle

Featured graphic by Thea Gonzales