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Columbia Spectator Staff

"So you're the president of the company?" This familiar refrain became second nature to me through my year as publisher, as people registered their shock at a 20-year-old college student being in charge of a company. It certainly is an experience that I didn't think I was signing up for when I walked into the Spectator office as a freshman intending to write sports. I ended up joining the finance section for reasons unclear, though probably because Lauri Feldman, the then-Finance Director, said something about post graduation jobs that piqued my freshman curiosity. The first year and a half I worked on the newspaper, my time in the office was minimal, and I was completely insulated from the newspaper part of the organization. I remember making fun of Mira John, my John Jay floormate, for drinking the Kool-Aid and spending so much time in the office, and, when I was running for finance director my sophomore year, asking her what the "managing board" was, who was on it, and whether being on it meant I had to actually devote time to Spectator. Despite this, I was selected as finance director and roused for a 7 a.m. champagne celebration, wondering what I got myself into. I slowly started to become more involved, though. That summer, in Scotland, I recruited Colin Sullivan as alumni director over cider that hadn't met an apple in its life. Then, in October, an innocuous conversation about SubsConscious with Ben Cotton turned into an invitation to drinks at Havana Central. The events that followed strengthened my resolve to become publisher, and when it came time to apply for positions I had no reservations about running. I threw myself into the process enthusiastically, so much so that I began receiving emails from Ellen, our office manager, reminding me to eat and sleep. When it came time to write my proposal, I had writer's block for two hours. After a quick trip to the movie theater to watch "Ninja Assassin," I came back and everything clicked. I wrote 20 pages in 10 hours and handed it in without editing. My year gave me some very unique experiences. After winning a judgment for Spec against a sperm bank, I can end my law career undefeated. Everything about my job was on an accelerated timescale, which, while helping me adapt to the real world, definitely hurt my study habits. Urgency no longer became an exam tomorrow but the need to contact advertisers or negotiate with vendors. It was in these situations I'd have the conversation that started this column. Often I'd try to convince someone in the real world that I was legitimate, but just as many times I had to talk someone down from thinking I was a high powered executive and tell them I was only a college student. Slowly, my life began to shape itself around the newspaper. Homework and going out took a back seat to trustee presentations and marketing initiatives. These new priorities led to some interesting parental discussions (sorry Mom!) and, without the undying patience of an IEOR friend in helping me with homework, my GPA surely would have taken a deeper hit. I began to question whether I was pouring all of my energy into a black hole, but eventually it became clear that Spectator was a two-way relationship. Business board meetings became a highlight of the week, often lasting significantly longer than their allotted time. When I went through a personal rough patch this fall, I didn't expect the outpouring of support from Spectator friends. What I thought was a vicious cycle was quite the opposite. I spent more time at the office because I enjoyed myself, and I enjoyed myself more because I was spending more time at the office—though I'm pretty sure my only contribution to the content side was delaying PDF times. I'm not sure when again I will have an experience quite like Spectator. The ultimate responsibility and independence are so unique—there is literally no oversight, no cushion, and no administrators, only the guidance of trustees. Every senior column in some way tries to rationalize why so many people are so invested in the organization that they devote their lives to it, work long hours for free, and give up a "normal college experience." I won't offer an explanation, only a rationalization: it was 110 percent worth it. A few people to thank: Ben and Thomas—it's been an honor to work with both of you and when we had our first meeting I had no idea I'd make two great friends out of the year. I hope that somewhere down the road we can work together again. April—thanks for convincing me things were going to be OK even when it wasn't clear they would be. Ellen—You've become a second mother. Thanks for keeping me sane. Dan—I'm not sure how much our random conversations killed our productivity, but it was worth it. To the boys of John Jay 12—It's been an epic four years, thanks for everything, and here's to a lifetime of friendship. And finally, to 134—From March Madness email threads to laughing under the table during turkeyshoots, its been great. Thanks for the ride. The author is a senior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science majoring in financial engineering. He was an associate publisher on the 132nd board, finance director on the 133rd managing board, and publisher on the 134th corporate board.

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