Story by Polly Irungu

Looking back on my four years at the UO, I am so surprised how fast time has gone. Sure, like many of you, I was told that these years will go by quick. But hearing that is not the same as experiencing it for yourself.

Four years ago, I was navigating unfamiliar territories alone. Four years ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do in life. Four years ago, I was ready to transfer out of here after only one term.


Four years later, I have been able to travel around the U.S. with my peers, thanks to UO. I know what I want to do, and each day I am actively pursuing those goals. And I have complete confidence in myself and abilities to fly high.

Of course, there are somethings I wish I had known when this all started, and I figured I wasn’t the only one. So, as my time as an undergrad winds down, I reached out to other Ducks who have flown from the nest. I asked them to reflect on their time at Allen Hall and share that one piece of advice that could help students who are going through the inevitable now.

Here’s what they had to say.

Is there anything you wish you knew before you started school?

Fahma Mohhamed

It’s normal for every individual to go through a rough patch or four while in college. Trust me when I say that, because I definitely did. I went through a lot of them, and it seriously sucked. I felt like I had no future at one point. Coming into college knowing what you wanted to do and then realizing that it isn’t the path you were meant to go on is normal. That’s college for you. But realize that you’ll definitely figure out what you want to do in the end. It took me five years to do so, so don’t freak out when you go through that. Talk to your professors, your friends, your family — they are your support system, and they’ll help you get through it. A wonderful professor and some incredible family members helped me realize what I wanted to do. As cliché as it is, don’t freak out if your original plan isn’t going as your predicted, because there’s always something better waiting for you down the road.

—Fahma Mohammed, BS ’16 (advertising)
fashion blogger, Hijabi Hipster

What is one thing you wish you did while you were at the SOJC?

Connor Corr

I wish that I took advantage of weekend workshops more. I did one, with Brandon Thornton on brand strategy. I now work with Brandon at W+K, and we have that experience to look back on. Workshops promote new thinking outside the classroom, can result in a unique portfolio/resume piece (not that many people take them) and give you exposure to industry professionals.

Connor Corr, BS ’14 (advertising)
Integrated Media Strategist, Wieden+Kennedy

I wish I had joined a student club earlier, because this was my turning point toward success in the SOJC. After my first year, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to complete my major. Then I became a PR rep for Envision Journalism, and that’s when I began to enjoy and apply what I was learning. I challenge everyone to not only attend club meetings, but to someday lead one.

Kevin Loder, BS ’16 (public relations)
Member Engagement Manager, The National Society of Collegiate Scholars
(which he was chapter president of at UO

Kevin Loder

What’s one piece of advice you have for current students?

Be authentic. It’s easy to feel pressured to fit a certain mold in order to be successful. You’ll have much more success by staying true to yourself. Acknowledge your weaknesses, play to your strengths, and trust your gut. You’ll be great.

—Jessica Landre, BA ’15 (public relations)
Assistant Brand Manager, R/West Advertising

You should cultivate a relationship with those who challenge you the most. When you do that with your teachers and professors, they then become mentors. Have a relationship that’s strong enough to last past graduation. If you can meet with professors outside of the classroom, you will always make a stronger connection with them. Going to office hours is definitely a good first step.

—Joseph Alfano, BA ’16 (journalism)
Aspiring Motivational Speaker

Joseph Alfano
Baylee Newman

Don’t be intimidated by your peers — be inspired. The first time I stepped into Allen Hall, I honestly felt defeated. I remember picturing myself as some invisible object, surrounded by all these creative monsters. Instead of running away, I opened my mind and learned so much from my classmates in the SOJC. They pushed me, they inspired me, and they helped shape me into the “creative monster” I thought I would never be.

Baylee Newman, BA ’16 (public relations, minor in ethnic studies)
Social Media Coordinator, Nike campus sports camps
pursuing a career in communications with a professional sports team

Take advantage of all of the opportunities that the SOJC has to offer. Being as involved as possible with things that interest you is a huge way to not only build your resume and portfolio but to make the most of your college experience. There is really nothing comparable to the unique classes and organizations at the SOJC and at UO in general. Get as much experience as you can while creating things that you are passionate about. And if you don’t know what that is yet, now is the time to try things out. What better place to do that than at UO?

—Hayley Lane, BA ’15 (journalism)
Creative Services, San Diego Chargers

Haley Lane
Hayden Kim

Make relationships priority number one. Every opportunity I got, every opening of the door, was thanks to a relationship I had pursued and developed over time. In college, we are all on a relative scale of talent and skill. I truly believe that. No one is that much better or worse. What separates those who get a chance to move on and those who remain stagnant is one person who believes in you, who is willing to take a shot on you because they want to work with you and/or see you succeed.

—Hayden Kim, BA ’16 (journalism)
Social Media, NBA TV

Polly Irungu is a multimedia journalist and social media strategist who plans to graduate from the SOJC with a degree in journalism this fall. She is currently working as a digital content creator for the SOJC’s Communications team, a campus editor-at-large at The Huffington Post and a freelance production assistant for the PAC-12 Networks. She’s also been published on CNN, KVAL and YesJulz. A National Association of Black Journalists fellow in 2015 and 2016, she participated in the NABJ and National Association of Hispanic Journalists student newsroom to provide coverage of their historic joint convention for NABJ Monitor and Latino Reporter. She also worked in the Online News Association’s student newsroom Sept. 15-17, 2016. Previously, she has worked for TrackTown USA, Def Jam Records, Dell and Adobe. She made the 2013 and 2014 Daily Emerald Ducks Who Will Change the World list, and in May 2015 she was named the Women4Africa International Young Achiever of the Year. You can view her work at and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @pollyirungu.