The Flat Hat’s Most Influential People, 2020: Celebrating our graduating seniors

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Our 2020 Flat Hat graduates didn’t get to have a traditional senior year, and missed out on important traditions within the paper, like making an April’s Fool’s edition of the Flat Hat and toasting the last day of classes. However, they have still been an integral part of the Flat Hat, and current staffers wanted to honor them by writing about how they’ve impacted us and the Flat Hat in their time at the College, inspired by the New York Times’ list of influential people. To us, these grads have been highly influential, and we’re so grateful to have known and worked with them.

Sydney McCourt ’20

Sydney’s passion and love is so clearly in display in both her demeanor and her fantastic photography work. I am consistently inspired by her commitment to social justice and equality, as well as her clear talent in all she does. For myself, my photography skills include only bad iPhone photos and selfies, while Sydney showcases the beauty of the human experience with her photography. As someone who is passionate about the Middle East, I am also inspired by her work in the MENA region and beyond excited to see her succeed in the future, as Sydney is the type of person who is certain to continue making the world better, and I, for one, I am beyond excited to watch her go.

-Anna Boustany ’21, Chief Operations Coordinator

Kayla Payne ’20

Being the graphics editor at the Flat Hat is no easy job, as opinions editors (myself included) send increasingly bizarre requests of art to fit in with opinions pieces that are all over the place. Kayla Payne is not only an incredibly talented artist, she is also a wonderful and competent person. Her art and ideas have made the Flat Hat a better place and a more interesting newspaper, and I am incredibly grateful for her work and her skills.

-Anna Boustany ’21, Chief Operations Coordinator

Kayla Payne is known for her amazing, thoughtful and creative graphics that she submits to the Flat Hat. Every piece brings a new life to its accompanying article, and makes it stand out and capture the attention of readers. However, her graphics are just the beginning of what she contributes to the newspaper as Graphics Editor. She runs her section and all of the artists who contribute to the paper, she makes sure articles have graphics that both match the topic and the style of the newspaper itself, and if anything goes unfinished, she takes it into her own hands, so no one is left waiting or wanting more.

Being a part of the graphics team, especially being the Graphics Editor, is often a thankless job, since the team does not need to come to the Flat Hat office on production night. I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Kayla Payne on behalf of the entire Flat Hat for everything she has accomplished and done in order to make the paper special. As a 2020 graduate, the entire paper will miss her next year, but she will no doubt move onto amazing and new endeavors. Congratulations, Kayla.

-Alyssa Slovin ’22, Opinions Editor

Cameron Bray ’20

Before graduating this spring, Cameron Bray (’20) traversed much of the world during his college years, both locally and internationally.

“I left Arizona — the Grand Canyon State, the Copper State, my home — in August 2016 to go to Virginia so I could attend William & Mary,” Bray said. “I left Virginia in September 2017 so I could go to Scotland and attend the University of St Andrews for the next two years, and I left Scotland in May 2019 to return to William & Mary in August for my senior year and graduation. And now that I’ve graduated from two universities in two separate countries, divided by the Atlantic yet united by the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, I’ve left Virginia for Ohio, where I’m staying with my family and my dog Byron, and trying to plan my next steps.”

Despite his brevity of time in each place in a four-year span, Bray was able to connect with the people there and cherishes memories of each. He wrote several in-depth pieces for The Flat Hat, including one discussing the widespread impacts of COVID-19 on Tribe athletics.

“Although I’ve come and gone from many different places over the past four years, I’ve made many great friends and enjoyed many awesome experiences,” Bray said. “And I’m happy to say that writing for The Flat Hat helped me both build great friendships and enjoy wonderful times. I’m sad my time at the newspaper has come to an end, but I’m glad my senior year was such an awesome adventure, even when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the College into remote learning after spring break and during graduation.”

-Nathan Seidel ’22, Sports Editor

I met Cameron in the spring semester of our freshman year. We were at a party, and Alyssa Grzesiak (the sports editor at the time) and I attempted to convince him to join The Flat Hat to write sports, as we did with almost anybody we met. Well, Cameron actually listened. And while he told us he couldn’t because he was heading to St. Andrews for the next two years, I figured he might hit us up when he got back in Williamsburg. He did, and I’m really glad he did.

As executive editor, I was in charge of the sports section, so I got to see Cameron grow throughout the course of the year. He learned quickly, writing about a number of different sports. His last sports article before graduation was an incredible piece on how different athletes reacted to the cancellation of athletics. It’s a shame he wasn’t with us for longer.

I started a William and Mary basketball blog earlier this spring, and my first call for contributions was Cameron. I’m glad I have the opportunity to continue working with him. Cameron might not have been with The Flat Hat long, but he made a significant impact.

-Brendan Doyle ’20, former Executive Editor

Nia Kitchin ’20

Nia Kitchin, as former Editor-in-Chief of The Flat Hat, dragged the student newspaper kicking and screaming into the 21st century. With innovative ideas of how student journalism should be conducted in an era where it is readily under threat by lack of funding and power-hungry universities, Nia spent the better part of her tenure battling any pernicious bureaucracy necessary to ensure the survival of her beloved newspaper — while embracing new media formats.

As an artist herself, Nia recognized the urgent need to expand The Flat Hat into the space of semester publications — filled with well-intentioned but short-lived attempts to represent artists and marginalized groups on campus. In being the principal co-founder of Flat Hat Magazine, Nia’s initial leadership proved paramount in breaking barriers and creating a space for the nascent publication.

Despite her long list of achievements (which are readily available at niakitchin.com), Nia found time to serve as a mentor to new members of The Flat Hat — whom she lifted up and allowed space to grow and succeed. As a freshman in the newspaper, I can attest that Nia’s guidance was paramount to my development as a journalist and as a writer. If not for Nia’s willingness to challenge me, I likely would not be where I am today.

It is through my admiration of Nia, that I have chosen to continue her work with Flat Hat Magazine and to preserve her legacy as one of The Flat Hat’s most notable and impactful Editors-in-Chief — a list in which she easily breaks the top ten.

-Gavin Aquin ’22, Magazine Editor-in-Chief and Variety Editor

An attentive leader, a creative visionary and a compassionate friend, Nia’s tenure as Editor-in-Chief ushered in an incredible year for our paper. Her commitment to meticulous and detail-oriented coverage, as well as her leadership in taking on challenging stories and her passion for aiding her fellow staffers as they tackled investigative pieces, made her a fearless figure to lead the Flat Hat. Always willing to defend our campus’s right to honest and nuanced journalism, Nia will be remembered not only as someone who made the paper better, but also as someone who lifted up and inspired staffers at all levels of the masthead. Most importantly, Nia is a wonderful friend, and someone who never failed to make me feel more at ease and more eager to contribute to our shared work at the Flat Hat.

-Ethan Brown ’21, Editor-in-Chief

Heather Baier ’20

I would not have been able to succeed as variety editor of the Flat Hat without Heather Baier. I started the job knowing absolutely nothing about InDesign, Photoshop and page design in general, and Heather taught it all to me, while also transitioning into her new position at the same time. She is super smart and driven, and a great teacher. Heather never made me feel stupid or like I didn’t belong, instead she was kind, open and always willing to help.

I hope that I can help someone as much as Heather helped me, because, thanks to her, I was able to find my place in the Flat Hat and in doing so open so many doors. Heather’s kindness and fun personality are going to be sorely missed in the office, but her variety love legacy will live on and her leadership and drive will ensure that she succeeds at whatever she does in life.

-Zoe Beardsley ’22, Sports Editor

In January 2018, the spring semester of my freshman year at the College, Heather welcomed me with the largest bear (pun intended) hug there ever was into the arms of the Variety section of The Flat Hat. She coached me through my transition into an editor position. Through our mutual love for graphic design and page layout, we exchanged InDesign tips and tricks and began the Variety section’s tradition of presenting a ‘feature page’ each week, in which one story would span the entirety of a page, accompanied by cool graphic elements. I am constantly in awe of Heather’s accomplishments, from her commitment to spearheading the Data section at The Flat Hat to her passion for her geospatial work in the geoLab and for CheckMySchool. I am so lucky to have this map-loving, cheese fry-making, bonfire-creating, generous, driven gal as a friend and role model. I’m so beyond excited to watch you succeed in all that you do in the future as you work to make this world a better place. You’re going places kid; I love you.

-Carmen Honker ’21, News Editor

Brendan Doyle ’20

Brendan Doyle was one of the few people I talked to at the first Flat Hat interest meeting. From just a short conversation, he made me feel comfortable and welcome. From that point on, I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with Brendan in many different capacities, and no matter what the situation I always know I can rely on him to help me in whatever way he can, because that’s just who he is.

Brendan is one of the warmest and most genuine people I have ever met. He is always trying to include everyone and make them feel like they belong. Some of my favorite memories at the College would be non-existent if not for Brendan, because he was instrumental in so many of them. He is a great leader and mentor because he knows how to help in a way that is patient and kind.

I’ll miss Brendan on Monday nights, but I’ll also miss him at William and Mary basketball and football games, concerts and radio shows, and above all I’ll miss waving at him when I see him walking around campus, (usually) wearing Nationals or Capitals gear.

-Zoe Beardsley ’22, Sports Editor

I also owe Brendan, as well as Alyssa, many thanks for helping me get involved in The Flat Hat. He gave me The Flat Hat sales pitch, too, the night of the spring formal, so I owe him greatly for all that he’s encouraged me to do during my senior year. Without his encouragement as well as hers, I would never have written for Sports at The Flat Hat, and I would’ve been gravely disappointed in myself for not taking that awesome leap. I give him thanks not only for his role in drawing me toward The Flat Hat, but also for his role as a fan, leader, and friend on campus and in the world of Tribe Athletics. I saw him at virtually all the football and basketball games this past year, so he helped rebuild my friendships on campus after being away for two years at St Andrews. He also gave me the opportunity to write for his new sports blog “No Bid Nation,” to which I’m truly grateful. I hope Brendan knows what a leader he’s been on and off campus, and I hope to see him at future Tribe football and men’s basketball games as an alumnus (pending, of course, the eventual return of Tribe Athletics).

-Cameron Bray ’20

After working with him for a year, I can safely say that I look up to Brendan Doyle. This is in part due to the fact that he is much taller than me. It is also, however, a credit to his unparalleled dedication to all that he sets his mind and his unconditional kindness to everyone around him.

Brendan puts his entire heart into everything he does. He invests himself so completely in his passions and it shows in everything from his designs to his leadership. I am so lucky to have worked with him because he encourages everyone around him to achieve their greatest potential simply by virtue of being himself. He makes a concerted effort to understand others and to help them to the best of his ability, all while being a patient listener and a true friend.

Brendan is a mentor and a change-maker. His passion and compassion are inspiring, and he has taught me to lead with empathy. I know these qualities will take him far and I will miss seeing him in the Flat Hat office every Monday night.

-Adithi Ramakrishnan ’22, Executive Editor

Alyssa Grzesiak ’20

I owe Alyssa many thanks for helping me get involved in The Flat Hat during my senior year. Late in my freshman year, I attended a Flat Hat formal with my friend and former Flat Hat writer, Katherine Weber, who has since graduated from the University of St Andrews over in Scotland. At the formal, I met Alyssa and Brendan, who encouraged me to write for Sports after I told them that I’d worked for my high school newspaper. I tabled their idea, because it was already late in the spring semester and I’d have to leave for St Andrews myself in the fall, but I returned to The Flat Hat once I returned to William & Mary after spending two years away from campus. I’m glad Alyssa and Brendan both encouraged to write for The Flat Hat, because I loved every minute of sports-writing for The Flat Hat. And I’m grateful to them — so thank you, Alyssa, for supporting me. You may not remember the night of that spring formal, because it was a long time ago, but know that I do. I’ll remember it always with gratitude.

-Cameron Bray ’20

Alyssa has the ability to light up a room upon entrance. Her vivacious demeanor is contagious and never fails to bring a smile to my face. She is a devoted student, athlete and friend. When Alyssa sets her mind to something, she gets. it. done. I am incredibly excited to watch her tackle law school during this next phase of her education journey that is ultimately leading her towards her dream job. While Alyssa’s dedication to her life goals is apparent, her dedication to her friends runs deeper, as she consistently articulates the prioritization of important friendships in her life. Personally, I am grateful for and love how our friendship has grown from when we first met through The Flat Hat my freshman year to now. From wine nights and hikes to recreating the same famous picture year after year, I cherish the memories we have together. Here’s to all that the future has in store for you. I can’t wait to watch you shine; I love you!

-Carmen Honker ’21, News Editor

Kevin Richeson ’20

The dude who I am 100 percent sure I would not have survived freshman year without. Thank you for late, LATE, nights in Earl Gregg Swem Library forcing me to do all the work I really didn’t want to, thank you for bopping you tunes with me with all your incredible dance moves, thank you for The Lumineers concert even though I constantly felt I was going to tumble from our nosebleed seats, thank you for being a friend. I know you’re off to bigger and better things, but I’m so excited for you to begin the next chapter of your life and accomplish great things.

-Jamie Holt ’22, Photos Editor

July 26, 2018, I had just learned of where I would be rooming my freshman year at the College of Willlam and Mary and that I would have two roommates rather than just one. I was a big ball of nervous energy and worried that I wouldn’t find a community at the College or excel at journalism beyond my high school experience. As though the universe had read my thoughts, my phone pinged with a Facebook message by a guy named Kevin Richeson.

Kevin had gone to my high school and was a sports editor for my high school newspaper that I joined my sophomore year. I had never met Kevin personally, but fellow staff members who knew him had shared with me stories about how great of a friend Kevin is and how supportive he is of everyone around him. I was so confused as to why I would be receiving a message from someone I had never met, but was so beyond grateful when I opened the message and read what it had to say. Kevin had written to me to tell me that he knew how scary starting College could be and that he was here to be of any help to me, that he had seen all of the cool things I had done on my high school paper and that the Flat Hat family would welcome me with open arms. Kevin’s message to me was the catalyst that made me join Flat Hat and it was the first time that I felt fully confident in my choice to attend the College.
Overtime, Kevin has become such a close friend, as he constantly takes time out of his day to ask me how I am, catch up over coffee or even listen to my 3 a.m phone calls when I would walk back from the Flat Hat office and wanted someone to chat with.  He is kind-hearted, trustworthy and one of the hardest workers I know. At the Flat Hat, he wrote incredible sports article after sports article, ran Flat Hat’s largest intern program ever and made time to meet personally with interns and establish friendships and mentorship towards everyone on staff. Because at his core, that is who Kevin is: Someone who makes time for others, creates space for other to flourish, and cares deeply about the successes of those around him. Love you Kevin. You will be missed, but I know that wherever your future takes you people will be so lucky to have you as a friend.
-Emma Ford ’22, Managing Editor

Maggie More ’20

If you ever have the privilege of talking to Maggie More, you’d quickly learn about her love for Marvel superheroes. People often say that she is Peggy Carter, which Maggie argues is the best compliment she’s ever received. Maggie may even show you a picture of her lying on the ground, mind-blown after watching Endgame. She idolizes these characters and since meeting her three years ago, I’ve noticed she shares their best qualities. From her courage to her limitless passion, Maggie More is an unsung hero.

I’ve never met a person who can empathize with others as gracefully as Maggie can. When paired with her sharp writing style, it’s clear why she is such a strong journalist. Whether she is writing about sustainable energy in Scotland or discrimination against student employees, Maggie’s stories move people. Her unmatched empathy and kindness also make her an extraordinary friend and for that, I’m so grateful.

It is without a doubt in my mind that Maggie will write a big national story someday and inspire a new generation of powerful female journalists. And when she does, I’ll say ‘that’s my Flat Hat mom right there.’

-Leslie Davis ’21, Data Editor

Maggie More — wow, what an iconic name, and an iconic individual! I will forever remember Maggie for her vast contributions to The Flat Hat that ranged from incredible digital content and investigative articles, to last-minute cartoon masterpieces for the Variety and Opinions sections (oh and we must not forget her brainchild: the Avengers Flat Hat edition poster) — truly a jack of all trades. Her kindness and positive attitude are infectious and radiate through all the conversations we have had. I am inspired by how she decided to delve into the Data Science minor, and by how she reports on stories in such a genuine fashion with such an insightful, pointed tone. Thank you for supplying me with ALL the animal pictures and memes during Variety production nights, and for exchanging frustrations about a certain, particular seminar program we participated in together (*wink wink*). I am proud of you for all your accomplishments at the College and cannot wait to read what you write next. Congrats grad; I love you!

-Carmen Honker ’21, News Editor

Naomi Gruber ’20

If you want something done right, go to Naomi Gruber. Whether it’s gorgeous camera footage, last-minute editing, or award-winning screen writing, Naomi can do it all. She is so hard-working, talented, and above all, kind. I have loved working with Naomi, because she has consistently gone above and beyond on every project thrown at her. Her passion for film shines through whatever she does, and she is immensely talented. I couldn’t have asked for a better teammate at the Flat Hat. She helped transform the scrappy digital media section into something we can all be proud of. Wherever she goes, I know she will succeed. Thank you, Naomi!
-Claire Hogan ’22, Digital Media Editor

 

I cannot express in words how much Naomi Gruber helped me during our time on the Online Team. When I met her during our junior year, she had just returned from a semester of study abroad in Cardiff, and was just starting her time on the Flat Hat’s staff. I had just agreed to be Digital Media Editor, and was woefully inexperienced when it came to all things video. I knew from mutual friends that Naomi was a film studies major, and that she was good at editing video, but it wasn’t until we started working together that I saw just how talented she was. 

Watching any video she’s worked on makes it clear how passionate she is about what she does, and the videos she edited about Campus Kitchen and the Parks Research Lab are among the most soothing pieces of YouTube content I’ve seen. Naomi’s production and videography skills took the Flat Hat’s video content from good to great, and her dedication kept us on schedule even when everyone on our team was slowly dying because of midterms, or finals, or just life as a bunch of college students figuring it out. I will definitely miss weekly Online section dinner meetings at Marketplace with her, and our conversations about everything from cute dogs on campus, to what life would look like after graduation, to the beauty of Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins. From her quiet excitement about whatever project she’s working on to her award-winning creative writing skills, I know she’ll do something great, and I can’t wait to see what it is. Thanks for being part of the best Online team ever, Naomi, and congrats on graduating!

-Maggie More ’20, former Digital Media Editor