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Faculty mentors:  Professors' words prove timeless by Chris Smith ('94, '01 M.A.)
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About the author

Chris Smith ('94, '01 M.J.) was the editor of the North Texas Daily in 1994 and a national Dow-Jones intern. She is currently a strategic communications manager for a national architecture/engineering firm.


Little do we know at the time of our undergraduate years that earning
a college degree isn’t just about knowledge absorption. Sure there is book reading, lecture listening and test taking, but for many of us, it’s the personal growth taking place — which we don’t realize until years later — that becomes the foundation for our future success. In my own case, it came mostly in the form of professor mentorship.

I don’t know if this tradition continues today, but in the early ’90s, all writers and editors of the North Texas Daily staff endured a weekly, open critique — equivalent, it seemed at times, to being publicly flogged. As fledgling journalists, it was easy to feel thin-skinned and overly sensitive when an error had been pointed out in front of our peers.

Yet, it was during these times that we learned the most. Such errors simply would not ever be repeated, which, in hindsight, I believe prepared us well for what the outside world would bring. Moreover, an occasional “good job” comment writ
ten by veteran Dallas Times Herald reporter Keith Shelton, also our news-reporting instructor, could send our spirits soaring, inspiring us to believe in ourselves and work even harder.

One day early in my senior year, I was reading a flier about a national internship on the journalism bulletin board when editing instructor Roy Moses stopped and asked me if I planned to apply. Such a thing just seemed out of reach to me, and I told him so matter-of-factly.

Readily dismissing my lack of self-confidence, he said sternly, “You stand just as good a chance as anyone. Besides, what do you have to lose by taking the test?”

So, at his behest, I took it, never expecting a response. A month or two later, I sat dumbfounded in class when he proudly made the announcement that I had been accepted for the internship.

Another memorable time, I was standing with a fellow journalism student in the doorway of the North Texas Daily newsroom. We were confessing to each other how much we hated having to give speeches and presentations because of how nervous they made us feel. Richard Wells, chair of the journalism department, happened to be nearby and looked at us both with disbelief.

“I can’t believe you are afraid,” he admonished. “You two intelligent women are just as good as anyone else out there. Don’t let others intimidate you.”

Such words are timeless. I find myself repeating them to this day whenever I’m confronted with adversity. Doesn’t it seem, after all, that the whole notion of “belief in oneself” is fundamental in our journey toward self-actualization? Isn’t it what separates the leaders from the followers, the winners from the losers?

I think I can speak for many alumni who believe that their positive experience at UNT wasn’t just about quality education. It was the nurturing and affirmation we received to believe in ourselves that made all the difference.


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