From start to finish

Some notes from five years at UMass


Judith Gibson-Okunieff

By Judith Gibson-Okunieff, Photo Editor

While signing up for majors at New Student Orientation during the summer before my freshman year, I heard there weren’t many women in electrical engineering. I saw that as a system I could challenge just by showing up.

In my first semester, I got a B- in Introduction to Electrical Engineering. Following that semester, I received a C in Data Structures and Algorithms (thank you Aaron), failed Circuits two and a half times and received a W in hardware. The W doesn’t stand for “win.”

By that point, it was the middle of sophomore year, and showing up wasn’t enough; I wasn’t having a good time anymore.

I cried in my dorm room. I cried walking up to Orchard Hill. I cried in the Worcester main dining room. I cried in the Worcester overflow room. I cried in the Worcester oak room. I cried in the Worcester basement. Worcester was my favorite place to cry because I could eat away my sadness.

College would have been a very, very bad time, but I had an outlet. A news outlet: the Massachusetts Daily Collegian.

Long story short, I dropped electrical engineering and became a journalism and civil engineering double major. The two majors have a lot more in common that you’d think; I see them both as a way to help people.

I started at the Collegian in the fall of 2014. I became an assistant photo editor, then photo editor my junior year. I took a break from the Collegian to pass my classes and now I’m here, photo editor once again for my last semester.

The Collegian will always be an important part of my college experience because it was where I could be creative after spending all day in engineering classes. It was my way to be involved in everything all at once.

I photographed Bernie Sanders, my favorite band, The Mowgli’s and the Atlantic 10 tournament in Brooklyn (twice). I saw teams lose a lot, which made wins all the more special. I learned a lot in these five years: a shutter sounds much louder when you’re photographing in a quiet lecture hall; the best photos are taken when you get closer — stop being so self-conscious; and it’s a lot harder to distance yourself when you’re covering your peers’ successes or failures.

Ultimately, I learned that the best things that happen, happen when you show up.

Judith Gibson-Okunieff was the photo editor of the Collegian and can be reached at [email protected]