Savanna Smith, Nichola McDowell and Grace Fawcett smile as they pose for a photo together in downtown Lawrence

Editor-in-Chief Savanna Smith, left, Managing Editor Nichola McDowell, center, and Business Manager Grace Fawcett, right, hang out in downtown Lawrence. In her senior column, Smith writes that it has been the people she’s worked with that have made her time at the Kansan special.

Savanna Smith is the editor-in-chief of the Kansan. She has been on staff since her freshman year. She graduates from the University of Kansas this month with degrees in journalism and peace & conflict studies. She will start at The Kansas City Star in January. 

I don’t know that working here has made me a better or kinder person — there were a lot of days when it was hard to find the good.

Even today, I’m still learning how to do this job as gracefully as I can. I’m a happier person, though, and I hope a more patient one. I’m confident, and I’ve found the beginning of what I plan on making a successful career. 

But too often we tie our success to places or experiences — valid, yes — but I believe it’s foolish to think we get anywhere alone. 

If I’m any better of a person than I was when I started here in my first semester of college, it’s because of the people I worked alongside and the 115 years of student journalists before us. 

It’s a hefty task to be editor-in-chief of a 115-year-old newspaper when the future of it is uncertain. It’s scary. Media is changing. Money is tight, and we’ve been forced to play catch-up. There are a lot of people I don’t want to let down — our campus community and everyone who has fought to make the Kansan a pinnacle of Lawrence’s newscape. 

Before I took on this challenge, a lot of family and friends told me it would be isolating. In so many ways, it was.

That's why it is no small thing for me to say I could not have made it to this moment, preparing to pass the torch to the next editor-in-chief, without Nichola McDowell, Rylie Koester, Rob Karwath and Grace Fawcett. Thank you all for showing me the good.

After ripping up the Kansan to throw as confetti in Allen Fieldhouse, an experience Smith finds cathartic, she tosses it over her head. 

Nichola, the most genuine person I have ever met, brought joy just by being here. She balanced me out and was the best teammate I could have had. Rob never let me forget why we put up with all of the lows to lift this place up. Rylie was my rock and confidant. And Grace just got it.

A special thanks to former Editor-in-Chief Shaun Goodwin for getting me here. Pour one out for all the mistakes we made — they led to important successes. 

And to Katie Bernard: Whether she intended it or not, she kept me around this complicated place. She taught me that I deserve to step away and how to slow down. She kept me grounded. I’m so happy I get to start the next step of my career with her.  

I grew up on a phrase that has calmed me through every low and has been my warmth in the highs: All things are formative. I am who I am because of the relationships I have formed here. There were days I thought this paper wouldn’t live to see tomorrow. But she’s here, and she’s thriving because of generations of people who have truly put blood, sweat and tears into their work. The down days forced us into action, and the successes have been sweet rewards. 

As generations of alumni will tell you — the Kansan is a special part of our lives. But it’s only what we’ve made of it, and I am proud to have been a part of its long history. 

Savanna Smith, Nichola McDowell and Nicole Asbury laugh while sitting at a table in the newsroom of the UDK

Smith, left, McDowell, center, and Investigations Editor Nicole Asbury, right, publish a story in Spring 2018. Smith said she is inspired everyday by these two women.