Tag Archives: college

I thought today was tragic because of my overdramatized realization that I left my cell phone at my apartment. How will I ever survive this day without it? I even made plans to go home in between classes to retrieve it so my day would go as it usually does.

Upon my successful retrieval, I see I have four text messages. I think, “Who couldn’t live without me for a whole morning?” sarcastically. I have one from Ivy and one from Bethany, two of my journalism friends from Iowa State, and a bunch of tweets I subscribe to. I open Ivy’s and it reads, “Barbara Mack passed away. Talk about sad.”

My world stops. My ears ring with that deafening ring that only requires me to sit down and evaluate my surroundings. It’s a shock. It’s ringing like that dead silence that has emptied my brain of every other stupid thought I’ve had today about my phone, about my classes, about the amount of time the bus takes to drive around campus. Everything shuts up and I’m left with a clean slate.

“Jennifer Dryden.”

That’s the first and only thought that enters my mind. “Jennifer Dryden,” I say out loud. “My name is Jennifer Dryden.” Maybe you think I’ve gone insane at this point. It’s not that I had forgotten my name or needed reassurance that I was still alive. Barbara Mack taught me my name in junior year Communication Law at 8 a.m. on a Monday morning in January. Okay, she didn’t teach me my name, she taught me my name’s worth.

“It’s not just men who should use their full name!” she bellowed into the classroom of terrified, intimidated, and exhausted-but-attentive students after a student introduced herself as “Sarah” and forgot to say her last name out of habit, probably.

From then on, I held and said my full name with confidence in every introduction I’ve ever given in the past four years. Her showing me my worth mattered. It’s one of the only things in my whole college career that has mattered. And it came from the professor who held 8 a.m. classes on purpose and called out every single one of the latecomers, embarrassing them until they turned red and started sweating.

Barbara Mack was no joke. As I read my friends’ odes to her on Facebook and Twitter I have realized it’s not just me who was terrified, mystified, and totally in awe of this esteemed journalism professor. She taught each of us lessons after lessons about law, about the “real world of journalism”, and about what’s fair and what’s not. I considered her a mentor and a friend through organizations like the Iowa State Daily, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the First Amendment Day committee. She always was quick with a joke, but a sophisticated joke. Nothing that was too dumb to say out loud.

B. Mack (as we mostly called her) would create situations and demonstrations in law and journalism 101 class to embarrass herself, although I think she was never embarrassed. She brought on opportunities for herself to charge things up in the classroom and to make a mockery of her nodding-off-students, if such a brave soul existed.

She was strict, yes. But she was determined, first and foremost, because she valued learning. She was even quoted in an Iowa State Daily article describing her view on teaching. “I want students to come away from a class believing there is always more to learn and there is always a way to improve their understanding. Nothing is as frustrating to me as a day in which I learn nothing.”

So B.Mack, because I’ve been your student and you my professor, mentor, confidant in a tough situation, and adviser on many event committees, I want to thank you for all the wonderfulness you put into the Greenlee School of Journalism at Iowa State. I always thought of the Greenlee School as my college family and Hamilton Hall as its home. (I have always told my parents that I feel comfortable enough at Hamilton to take my shoes off when I enter the door. And I’m sure I went socked feet to your class a couple of times, commuting from my Daily news desk.) You were the mom, or better yet, the Queen of it all. You were the highest source I’d go to in a tough situation or just to get the bullshit sorted out of something. You told it like it was, you taught it like it was, and for that you’ve taught me how to value myself, and more importantly learning.

Today was tragic. I knew that one right off the bat. But I never expected to cry today or be stuck in my head’s silence while I search for the right words to say. These probably aren’t even the right words. So my question comes to a new subject, not my cell phone, but Barbara Mack. How will I ever survive without Barbara Mack? And if I want to be dramatic for a good reason, how will the world ever survive without Barbara Mack?

I will teach my students the best that I know how the things B.Mack taught me, which is too much to list and too hard to complete a list like that now. But in every first week of school during introductions, I will tell my students about an extraordinary journalism professor I had at Iowa State and… that they matter.

Link to the Iowa State Daily’s article on Barbara Mack’s passing.

Pictures I found taken in 2009 and 2010 on First Amendment Day at Iowa State University. Remember and enjoy!

Barbara Mack

Barbara Mack playfully fights with random students at First Amendment Day 2009/VEISHEA.

Barbara Mack 2

Barbara Mack becomes the champion! You go, B.Mack!

Barbara Mack 3

Barbara Mack introducing panelists at the 2010 First Amendment Day inside the Memorial Union.



August 23, 2012 · 1:14 pm

Don’t forget your heart

Note: I am in love with my internship. It’s my dream job. It’s the best career boost yet.  But this needs to be said for me and for you.

Everything in college is either one path or another: love or career. There’s no happy medium unless you’ve figured out the key to life’s purpose: the assumed purpose of having it all, perfectly juggling it all, ultimate happiness. The continuous smile spread across your flawless face that shimmers like the stars in the always-clear sky.

So when you’re stuck at the fork in the road, where you can talk yourself into success on either one, remember there’s compromise. There’s always compromise… maybe not now, but later into the future. That future you cannot predict. Planning can smooth wrinkles on your puzzled face and impressive notches on your resume can substitute tar in cracks to the road. It all can be lined up with one-inch margins, size 10 Times font, and a crisp water-marked ivory paper you slide into glossy folders and align behind a cover letter explaining your love for children, passion for the industry, and clear goal of being big someday. It’s all there in black and white and you’re confident. You worked for this future, you chose the career path, you had your chance to choose. You chose.

But when you choose it, don’t forget your heart. The heart you’ve probably ignored for the past two years and figured the aches inside were just from stress. The stress that came from sleepless nights of studying, the events that have to be perfect, the forms that needed to be completed yesterday, the people who count on you, your talent, your passion for the industry, and finally, the stress from your mother calling to make sure you’ve eaten lunch today. Even then you lie to save time and say, “Of course I’ve eaten,” when you haven’t stepped away from your computer since seven this morning. You get by from the vending machine down the hall and even though the Cheese-Its aren’t satisfying your hunger, you count the calories and carbs and call it good enough.

Then when your phone rings halfway through your copy-editing shift, you silence it and figure he’ll understand… and anyway, he’s not as busy as you are. You have expectations, deadlines, and a paper to put out. You’ll talk to him later, maybe tomorrow’s best. Silently you question your chosen path: the career path. A shrug of your shoulders is what soothes your nerves and puts you back on the fast track to your future and the newsprint in front of your dry eyes. This is a choice.

This was my choice.

It’s been a good choice. I mean I’m living in New York City, the capital of the publishing world, the Big Apple, and have my dream job (granted it’s an internship), but it’s exactly what I’ve worked for. You don’t get into publishing unless you are willing to live in New York City. Plain and simple, it’s like a silent law of the land. I always wanted the top job, the top responsibility, to be on the top of the world. “Rely on no one but yourself” was my college philosophy. It still was my philosophy up to two weeks ago when I was sitting in my cubicle, editing my first manuscript as a professional in the industry I only dreamed about for years. It was my top moment yet in my life. I was on top of the world. My smile reached out to my dimples; the dimples that only peek when I’m truly happy. I swiveled around in my tall-back chair and no one was there. No one to hug in celebration, no one to fist pump like a fan of the Jets, not even someone to meet for a drink after work. That one person I call after something big happens was miles and miles and states and states away. And that person, my person, isn’t male because I chose long ago. I chose men create drama, heartbreak, and bumps in the road, my road. I chose the career path, ignoring my one true passion in life, my one thing I’ve been completely confident about my entire 23 years of life: having a family. Then, I realized I forgot my heart.

And honestly, I can assume it’s back in Iowa, packed away in the tubs that sit in my mother’s basement, under my pictures from sophomore year, and resume folders. It’s probably in the one I packed up the summer before my junior year and sent home with mom to be stored along with party beads, pictures of my ex, and Uno Attack. It’s probably around the time I lost all faith in finding someone to share my life with, the time when I stood hands drooped at my sides with a limp white flag in my hand at that fork in the road, choosing.

So choose. Just remember: both roads will give you success… but don’t forget your heart.

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Roommate Friends, Just Four Years Late

I entered college four years ago with the intent to find my best friends from my random roommate placements at Iowa State. I began college with the stereotypical view of many nights sharing a futon and laughing with a Cosmopolitan spread over our laps, pointing at all the sex tips that we’d secretly never try but daring each other to do. We’d go on walks together around campus and stick by each others’ sides while hanging at a party. We’d hold each others’ hair while we puked from the party we went to and my roomie would climb into my bed in the morning only for me to recall her crazy night she now doesn’t remember and laugh about all the dumb boys we encountered. We’d wipe each others’ tears when a boy broke our heart and we’d plot a revenge we’d more than likely get arrested for.

Well to be blunt, I never found that roommate. Sure, I had a best friend and we shared so many drunken nights we didn’t remember, laughs over sex tips, and tears over stupid boys, but it never lasted long enough. We never shared a poptart hangover breakfast together or borrowed each other’s clothes or talked until we fell asleep in our gross dorm bunks. So after two years of failed attempts at random roommates at Iowa State, I rented a one-bedroom apartment in West Ames secluded from the hustle and bustle, noise, and bitchy roommates. I tucked myself into a corner by myself and shielded myself with a wall. I pretty much blocked out everyone who I wasn’t friends with already. It just seemed like the only way to go.

I lived alone for the past nine months prior to moving to New York City and before that had only lived with roommates I’d rather stab than talk to on a daily basis. After such bad luck with the co-habitants, I gave up on illusion that those ideal roommates were even out there and the feeling of wanting to live with someone else. I thought I’d rather be alone than put up with someone else in my living space… basically I made up excuses as to why I wanted to live alone. Some were valid and some were just me protecting myself.

New York has changed my perspective. I no longer want to be secluded. I no longer feel as if no one can put up with me. I no longer feel as if I’m “too much” for some people. Sure, I can be a lot to handle sometimes, well, most of the time. But my roommates in New York can handle it. Des is almost an equal to my craziness and volume. It’s nice to feel at home with random roommates. No, we don’t climb into bed with each other in the morning to talk about dumb boys, partially because our beds are an extra-long twin and partially because we don’t have time for boys… especially dumb ones. Living with these roommates are not all those stereotypical things I listed in the first paragraph, but we click.

We click for different reasons one can only assume such as, 1) We have the same career interests (publishing), 2) We are all living in NYC for the first time and want to experience it all, and 3) We are all enduring the same intense, slightly long days of class. I’m sure I drive them nuts sometimes… in fact, I know I do. I’m loud. But when I think I’ve been too loud, Des tops my volume from the other room. It’s OK now. I haven’t changed who I am, and I don’t think they expect me to.

I’ve never been happier in my life than on those days of moving out of college apartments, away from the bitchy roommates. Here, I know once July 17 comes and we are forced out of our NYC apartment, I’ll be crying and hoping this isn’t goodbye. I’ve lived here for 10 days and already I know I’ve found three life-long friends. Those same friends I was looking for four years ago.

The Roommates: Laura, Tricia, Desire'e and me

Des and I in Times Square


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Erratic Emotions

It’s finals week. Not only that, but it’s my last finals week in my college career. And, let me tell you this: I’m an emotional mess. A good emotional mess, a confused emotional mess, an excited emotional mess, and all of those descriptive words I forgot. Let’s go over the list of things that are about to change in my life.

  1. I’m graduating college, thus no more school, homework, quizzes, tests, pointless lectures, or useful lectures.
  2. I’m moving out of my apartment I’m in love with to move my things home to Carroll.
  3. I’m moving to New York City. Enough said.
  4. I’m leaving my friends, family, university, and community that I’ve known my entire life.
  5. I’m leaving the Midwest and entering an entirely different world called the east coast.
  6. I’m no longer considered a student for the Summer Publishing Institute but a professional.
  7. I’m losing any student funding and security – health insurance, etc.
  8. Starting in October, repaying over $$,$$$ worth in student loans.

The list goes on…

My point? I’m changing every aspect of my life and I’m kind of freaking out. I cry without notice for any amount of time, varying from 30 seconds to a full-on 15 minutes – in excitement and panic. I shake my head in disbelief of my dream coming true while sighing “Oh my God!” with a huge smile on my face. I shake my fist at no one in particular about the frustration of studying and cramming for projects and exams. You name it; I’ve felt it in the past week.

Last Friday I awoke questioning my path and if my dreams of having a family and being a mom – the one thing I have been confident about until my love for editing/writing – were being overlooked. New York City has been my dream since I entered the journalism industry sophomore year. My license plate reads, “CY2NYC” for God’s sake! This is a dream for me too. This swings back to the emotional mess part of finals week.

Not only did I survive my first final, I aced it. My book presentation went amazingly and I take my very last final exam of my life tomorrow at noon. I’m finishing strong and loving it behind teary eyes and smiles that are as about erratic as it gets. So if we cross paths or you read some questionable tweets or Facebook statuses, know that it’s just Jenn being an emotional crazed graduating senior who is trying to keep all her dreams alive while making sure her apartment is spotless for the twenty-plus family members and friends coming this weekend.

Happy Graduation to my fellow Iowa State graduates!

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