Graduating Senior Spotlight: Q&A with Sam Woodward

Sam Woodward sits on a chair typing on a laptop to her side

Hometown: Shakopee, MN

Majors: Journalism & Political Science

Activities you are involved in: UMN Society of Professional Journalists, President's Emerging Scholars, Boxing Club

What is your favorite college memory?

My favorite college memory was going to my first in-person class since the COVID-19 shutdown during the spring semester of my sophomore year. After almost a year of learning behind a screen, I was so excited to have a reason to wake up annoyingly early and trudge through the snow to get to Murphy Hall. Being in the physical presence of my peers and professors was something I took for granted before March 2020. Getting sent home midway through my first year on campus was a shock and put a halt on my college experience, so getting to come back and feel like a student again was an absolute dream after such a chaotic, lonely year.

Did you participate in any student organizations, Learning Abroad programs, research or internship opportunities, or other related experiences? How have you learned from them?

I was really fortunate to be able to participate in multiple research projects and internships in both journalism and political science throughout my four years. Working with Tim Johnson’s research projects in the Department of Political Science and exploring my interest in the Supreme Court was key to unlocking my interest in the niche beat of the Court and politics reporting. 

Covering the protests and trial following the murder of George Floyd at the Minnesota Daily was a crucial part of my growth as a journalist. My professors and editors were incredibly supportive in teaching me about legal proceedings as well as how to report with compassion on such a volatile topic. I learned a lot about how to navigate reporting on complex legal matters and how to best tell the stories of those communities directly impacted. 

My internship on CNN Politics' investigative unit opened my eyes to underreported corruption and has inspired me to explore a career in investigative journalism.

How would you describe your time in your major?

Being a journalism and political science double major during multiple election cycles gave me real-world experience in analyzing political landscapes and how to report on them. It was truly the perfect combination. My journalism professors acted as mentors who advocated for me in every step I took to become a journalist—everything from giving crash courses on court reporting to pushing me to challenge my own practices of being an active-listener. The Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication has played a crucial role in making me an open-minded and well-rounded journalist ready to enter the workforce. 

If you could go back and give your first-year self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Take time to slow down and enjoy the newness of everything. It can be really overwhelming to be thrown into a new environment and be expected to start a whole new part of your life while also balancing school. Everything goes by so fast, and you only get one freshman year! 

Go to office hours. Your professors want to get to know you, and believe it or not, they are really knowledgeable. Try to talk to new people in every class—some of the best people I've met were because I made an effort to talk to someone I didn't know. Let yourself be wrong and be gracious with yourself: you're learning, that's why you're here!

What is your favorite study spot on campus?

In the fall and spring, if you can dodge flying footballs and frisbees, the Northrop Mall (specifically at one of the few tables in front of Walter Library) is a great place to people-watch and get homework done under the shade of the trees. It’s busiest at lunchtime, so pack a lunch, charge your devices (there’s no outlets), snag a chair by 10 AM, and get some work done. In the wintertime, the Lind Hall library is a cozy spot to study and treat yourself to some Starbucks.

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