Finding My Place and Purpose

I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Collegian


Serena McMahon

By Serena McMahon, Social Media Coordinator

For over three years, many people in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian newsroom have known me as the loud, outgoing social media coordinator.

“You’re so loud it stresses me out,” our Editor in Chief Devyn Giannetti once joked to me. Of course, I laughed obnoxiously loud in response.

It wasn’t always like this. When I arrived at the University of Massachusetts my freshman year, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere on this campus. My dorm wasn’t a place where I felt safe and I didn’t click with anyone I was surrounded by. Mostly, I felt really alone.

Why couldn’t I find the right space to fit into?

I stumbled upon the Collegian one day and decided to apply for their social media assistant position. Did I have any experience? Not at all. But I came into my interview fully prepared with a list of ideas and an urge to learn and, most importantly, belong. After being hired, I instantly felt at peace, knowing I made the right decision. Under the guidance of Charlotte Hoff, I got right to work as the social media assistant.

Shortly after, I took a chance and decided to write my first news story. Little did I know I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. Very flustered, I sniffled back a lot of tears filing my first story for the Collegian.

The Editor in Chief at the time, and now one of my closest friends, Mark Chiarelli, noticed me trying to conceal my tears. Without hesitation, he gave me guidance on structuring stories and went through my edits one by one with me.

Afterward, Mark reminded me to pick up the paper tomorrow to see my first story.

“Wait! My article will be in the newspaper tomorrow?” I asked.

He instantly started laughing. I got the “Where do you think it goes?” response, and I nervously laughed along. I’m pretty sure Andrew Cyr burst into laughter too. Naturally, this was made into a long-running joke.

The next morning, I sprinted to the nearest stack of Collegian newspapers. There my article was, right below the fold on the front page. There’s nothing like seeing your first byline! As you may have guessed, more (happy) tears were shed.

A lot has changed since I wrote my first story. I’ve seen the Collegian overcome financial troubles, watched us conquer hard stories and helped make the bittersweet decision to transition digitally by cutting back on print. We’ve bonded more with Collegian alumni, we’ve partnered with the Student Government Association to Facebook Live their presidential debates which led to higher student voter turnout and we’ve covered protests in Amherst, Northampton and Washington, D.C.

As the social media coordinator leading a team of six social media assistants, I self-identify as the Collegian’s biggest cheerleader. Most days, you can find me chatting to my friends about the most recent breaking news story, Slacking my fellow Collegian journalists with article ideas, scheduling Facebook posts or live-tweeting an event on campus.

What I want to leave behind for the growth and digital transition of the Collegian is this: No matter how we deliver the news, we need to do it responsibly. Social media is no exception. Think critically on how we, as journalists, engage online. Also, always read before you repost!

I’m forever indebted to the Collegian for giving me a home at UMass and for shaping my college experience. There’s no better feeling than belonging to something you love so dearly. I found my purpose in this dusty, old basement.

From the hardworking student journalists I’ve engaged with to the incredible Collegian alumni who have helped me and the staff along the way, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Collegian.

Serena McMahon was the social media coordinator and can be reached at [email protected]and followed on Twitter @serenaamcmahon.