First-year writer lands first byline

Sophia Brown
Sophia Brown

By Abby Weingarten

Landing a 2,200-word bylined article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Prime Times monthly tabloid is a feat for any aspiring journalist, especially a first-year collegiate.

New College English student Sophia Brown achieved that goal when her debut feature was published on June 1.

For her story, entitled, “Mapping the World of Senior LGBT Relationships,” Brown interviewed couples at Sarasota’s Senior Friendship Centers (SFC). The experience was integrated into an internship for Brown’s spring class, “Writing with Communities and Nonprofits,” taught by New College Director of Writing Jennifer Wells, Ph.D.

“Sophia is a talented writer but doesn’t rest on that, and instead is constantly pushing herself to try to write in new genres and in new contexts,” Wells said. “She is incredibly smart and reflective. She is a great student and good human.”

Brown’s project is also a prime example of the type of experiential learning that is integrated into the New College curriculum. One of the requirements for Wells’ class was that students pursue a 60-hour internship, and Wells partnered with the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) to offer lessons on writing resumes, cover letters, press releases and blog posts.

The internship Brown envisioned was originally supposed to be a discussion group between LGBTQ New College students and LGBTQ seniors at SFC. Brown had been working closely with Robert Rogers, the SFC director of community outreach, on the details.

“Something Robert and I were both passionate about was bridging the intergenerational gap between members of the LGBTQ community,” Brown said. “We wanted to try our hand at creating a long-lasting dialogue, using our combined connections at New College and the SFC—some sort of recurring annual event that would give LGBTQ students and seniors a platform to learn more about each other.”

But the project shifted gears when the New College campus shut down during the pandemic and Brown moved back home to Lutz. Instead of an in-person internship, Rogers helped Brown secure interviews with his members that would lead to the feature in the Herald-Tribune.

“Robert got me in contact with various members from an LGBTQ support group that he runs out of the SFC, and I got to interview a handful of amazing seniors in the Sarasota area. These conversations were my favorite part of this process,” Brown said. “It’s a shame we weren’t able to set up something with New College this semester, but I’m grateful I was able to speak with them. It’s one thing to live on our small, fairly LGBTQ-involved campus and have those bonds with other students, but it’s something else entirely to get to speak to seniors with entirely new perspectives and experiences with LGBTQ matters. It was really special for me.”

After collecting the interviews, Brown’s article took on the form of a profile of three different types of relationships for people over the age of 50. She is grateful to Rogers and Wells for facilitating the experience.

“The whole reason I was able to secure this internship and write the article was because of Dr. Wells and her class,” Brown said. “It’s thanks to Wells and this class that I’ve had these opportunities, and Robert and I plan to try again with our original plan of creating a discussion group at New College in the fall, or when campus opens back up.”

Brown is also a writer for New College’s student-run newspaper, The Catalyst. She plans to work as a Student Writing Assistant in the Writing Resource Center at New College in the fall, and ultimately graduate in 2023 with a bachelor of arts in English.

Read Brown’s feature here:

Located in Sarasota, New College of Florida has educated intellectually curious students for lives of great achievement since its founding in 1960. As the State of Florida’s designated honors college, New College provides an exceptional education that transforms students’ intellectual curiosity into personal accomplishment. The 110-acre campus on Sarasota Bay is home to more than 700 students and 80 full-time faculty engaged in interdisciplinary research and collaborative learning. New College offers nearly 40 areas of concentration for undergraduates and a master’s degree program in Data Science.

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