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Honors Program newsletter earns national recognition

With more focus than ever on its creativity and original stories, Merrimack College's Honor Program newsletter earned a second place prize in the National Collegiate Honors Council Newsletter Contest recently.

Finishing second to Minnesota State University, Mankato is a testament to the staff’s willingness to learn from a similar competition a year earlier and put those lessons to work, said Program Manager Lisa Cavallaro.

“I feel pretty proud,” said Jessica Bruso ’17, an English and secondary education double major from Pittsford, Vermont. “I’ve been doing this two years and think we’ve come a long way.”

Graduate fellows and Cavallaro wrote the newsletter in years past but as the Honors Program grew Cavallaro transitioned undergraduates to take charge.

Cavallaro started the transition a few years ago with a search for interested students; having them co-author stories with a graduate fellow; then writing on their own; and finally, taking leadership roles on the staff.

Megan Carignan ’17, of Nashua, N.H. and Brian Mills ’18, of Plaistow, N.H., are co-editors of the print edition and Alison Tobin ’18, of Lynn, Mass. is editor of the fledgling on-line edition. They attended an NCHC conference in Chicago where they accepted the award.

Carignan, an English and business double major, and Tobin, a communications major, sat down recently with Bruso and  Mills, a communications major, to discuss the changes made to the newsletter and the award. The staff also includes Sam Salem ’18, of Dracut, Mass. and Kiera Duggan ’18, of Concord, Mass.

The newsletter is printed five times a year and more than ever it’s student-centric. It’s written for Honors Program students, accepted students, alumni and administrators.

“I’m most proud of how we’ve turned almost entirely student-run,” Carignan said.

In the spring of 2014 the staff entered the newsletter competition but didn’t fare well. Judges wanted to see fresh content in every issue, Cavallaro said.

Staffers accepted the judges’ comments and set to work improving the product, portraying students working on the four pillars of the Honors Program that include community, service, research and leadership.

“All the newsletters focus on what’s going on in the Honors Program,” Mills said. “That’s the core of it.”

With the printed newsletter on a solid foundation and gaining national recognition under student leadership, attention is turning to the on-line edition. Students are accustomed to digital media and an online version of the newsletter will have unlimited space creative content, Carignan said.

“They are going to bring a creative piece for art, poetry, and short stories,” Cavallaro said. “Our print edition, that’s not the place for that.”