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The need for a yearbook

This Letter to the Editors was submitted by Daniel Woodwick ’88, an alum of Concordia College.

I suppose some could call me a “Concordia crusader.” They might be right. It all started when I was a student when I really couldn’t get enough of being involved in the Cobber community. From the orientation committee to the newspaper and yearbook, RA to Homecoming Court, if it involved hanging out with other Cobbers, I was ready. If it involved studying, well, that wasn’t always my idea of a fun time.

I am so inspired by the Concordia mission, its reputation and my connection to it that I cannot hold it in. I am no longer the person I was when I entered the college in 1984 and now am not the same person I was when I graduated in 1988. I think this is now called “BREWing.”

But there continues to be one unsettled matter between Concordia and me: the lack of a Cobber yearbook to document recent years in the college history through the eyes of students. And my feelings have grown even stronger this spring as I prepare to send my oldest child to be a second-generation Cobber this fall.

For me, my work as Editor of the yearbook was an extension of similar work at my high school. It involved writing and page layout. But at Concordia, I was more on my own–more “professional.” I was leading others, making decisions and taking responsibility only taken by the teacher or advisor in high school. It was a real leadership opportunity.

I had to create a budget which needed to be justified, approved and obeyed for the year. It involved posting, interviewing and hiring a staff. A theme was chosen and I was the driver of pushing the theme throughout the entire publication. I pumped out as much text as we needed to fill the pages when we couldn’t find writers. My best assistant and I stayed in Moorhead for a few weeks following graduation to put the finishing touches on the book before it headed to the publisher.

I needed to run an office where I would greet and help fellow students looking to pick up a yearbook or drop off pictures. I needed to appear at various meetings to discuss how particular events would be covered in the yearbook. I needed to gain approval for all page layouts and text through a mostly hands-off advisor who ensured our portrait of Concordia student life was in alignment with the mission and reputation of the institution.

In short, this job was like running a small business: great preparation for a career in the business world. My experience as editor still influences how I handle problems in my work today, especially for projects covering several months. Learning to set the pace for a nine-month project is an experience you rarely get on a semester-based schedule.

I would think students of today would want a hands-on experience like this to talk about in job interviews, to have conversation for those “Tell me about a time when…” questions.

After months of debate about yearbook funding on campus and about whether print or electronic format was the desire of students today, I thought the yearbook revival was nearly complete in some shape or form. So much progress was made, but last fall a new problem arose: a lack of student leadership.

After I inquired about the prospect for a yearbook in 2012-2013, a college official replied, “I should in candor say any option must be considered in light of student indifference to both the product (the printed yearbook) and the work it takes to produce it.”

Really? Not one sophomore or junior student on the Concordia campus today has the wherewithal to do a job like this? I had to compete for the position in the spring 1987.

Taking a yearbook editor position doesn’t pay much and most days there are no kudos. Sometimes there is no acknowledgement any work is even being done. Sometimes people suggest your work product is a waste of money and natural resources.

Sometimes things are worth doing even though there are naysayers.

I read in last week’s Concordian that an intervisitation survey had “an astounding response.” Well, isn’t that a tale as old as time! That battle has raged for at least 30 years. If the new policy is adopted, I fear for the future of the Concordian as a viable publication as intervisitation stories are great fodder for its pages. I would hate for the Concordian to fall by the wayside as the yearbook (called “The Cobber”) has in recent years, losing its relevance to the student community.

While a yearbook doesn’t have nearly the personal impact of intervisitation rules, it is an important record of events for a given year. Perhaps I should have dedicated a page to the intervisitation policy in my 1988 yearbook, but it isn’t really one of the “big” things we talk about at reunions now. Instead, we like to talk about classes and professors we had in common and events we celebrated as a community.

I think Concordia has very unique traditions (beyond intervisitation) that are no longer captured in a lasting publication of some sort. I think this is a loss the student body will not fully understand until years into the future when memories have dimmed.

Questions like: What did our beanies look like? When was the new turf put on the football field: Our junior or senior year? When did they start construction on Offutt School of Business in the old Grant Center? Was the skyway open during construction?

So here is my plea… If there is someone in this readership who can see the value in recording an annual history of events on campus through the eyes of a student and has enough dedication to the institution to see a project through for an entire year to capture it, would you be brave enough to step forward?

Creating a yearbook is a monumental task, but for a small group of people it could be a lasting accomplishment that will be recognized by classmates for years to come.

If any of this speaks to you, reach out to the Office of Student Affairs and Student Government Association before the yearbook is officially declared dead and disappears from campus like Seventh Street.

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