Former editors of The Lighthouse share their advice at first-ever virtual alumni panel

June 16, 2020

By Gianna Glover
Managing Editor

The stay-at-home order did not stop five journalism alumni from taking part in the annual spring alumni panel, which occurred on June 9 via Zoom. 

The panelists, all of whom graduated LHS last year, used video conferencing technology to connect with current staff members of The Lighthouse as well a few additional Class of 2019 graduates who also tuned in.

Former senior editor Joana Kapaj kicked off the event by talking about her experiences as a finance major at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus in Teaneck, N.J. Rather than focusing on the limitations imposed by the pandemic, Kapaj discussed the necessity of networking. 

“Always make connections and make your name known,” Kapaj said. “Leave [an] impression on [the people you meet] because they will remember you.” 

Kapaj stressed the importance of getting involved in learning experiences outside the classroom. 

She said she started taking part in her university’s extracurricular opportunities even before she matriculated as a student.

Last spring, Kapaj said she attended a dinner with eleven other incoming freshmen, the dean and several advisors of Fairleigh Dickinson’s Silberman College of Business.

“I was able to meet a lot of advisors, which was awesome because one of the advisors remembered my name, and she’s the one that invited me to a trip to Wall Street,” Kapaj said. 

Kapaj said the trip consisted of a visit to the offices of Refinitiv, a global provider of financial market data and infrastructure, and Bloomberg L.P.’s headquarters where she learned about the Bloomberg Terminal software system. The trip also consisted of a visit to the New York Stock Exchange, where she viewed the closing bell.

Kapaj said even though her spring semester got cut short, she enjoyed her freshman year and remains optimistic.

“We have our whole career in the future,” Kapaj said.

Rob Caamano, who served as an editor last year, spent his freshman year working towards his degree in computer science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, N.J. He said he was planning to pledge the fraternity Pi Kappa Phi. However, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, that was postponed. 

“Since NJIT is such a small campus, you kind of have to put yourself out there to meet more people,” Caamano said. “You really have to do something [extracurricular] if you want to be social at a tech school.”

Like Kapaj, Caamano said it is necessary to build positive relationships that can lead to professional success. He said the friends he has made have connections at Facebook and other technology companies. 

“Hopefully, when I know my stuff a little better, I could already have a foot in the door,” Caamano said. 

“If you’re working all the time, you’re just going to burn yourself out.”

Adam Herabi, who served as The Lighthouse’s webmaster last year, echoed Caamano and Kapaj’s message about getting involved and making connections. 

Herabi, an electrical engineering major at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla., is a member of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space and Electrical and Electronics Engineers as well as Students for the Exploration and Development of Space

In addition to working on projects with his peers, Herabi said he attended sessions where he got to interact with professionals.

“UCF works with lots of companies in the area. There’s at least a panel or companies coming to the network every week,” Herabi said. 

Aside from relationship-building, Herabi said time management is a key aspect of being successful in college. He said STEM classes can be intense, but diligence helps one thrive in challenging courses.

“You need to be able to manage [studying] and also have a bit of a balance,” Herabi said. “If you’re working all the time, you’re just going to burn yourself out.” 

Herabi said when he was on campus, he made time to hang out with friends and did homework in groups so he could remain productive while having fun.

Jamie Connors, who was an editor last year, attends Drew University in Madison, N.J. where she is double majoring in media and communications and mathematics. 

Connors said she wasted no time in exploring clubs and activities on her campus.

“I signed up for like 20 clubs and had no idea what I was going to be a part of, but I only ended up joining about five or six that I actually liked,” Connors said. 

She said joining campus organizations like Drew’s Connect with Kids and a Conversation Partners Program for international students has allowed her to bond with students who have similar interests.

Connors took Introduction to Journalism during her fall semester and advanced journalism in the spring. As part of her coursework, Connors became involved as a writer for the hyperlocal newspaper The Morristown Green

“Once an event happens, I write about it that night or as soon as humanly possible,” Connors said. 

She said as soon as the article gets edited, it is posted on The Morristown Green’s website.

Connors also writes for her university’s student-led newspaper The Drew Acorn, which releases a print issue biweekly in addition to having a website. She said after taking on an assignment that nobody else wanted, she was offered her own column, which she named “Connors’s Column,” where she shares her opinions, offers advice and reports on school events. 

“You’re not always gonna get articles you want to write,” Connors said, “but don’t always turn your head at these articles because they can lead to big opportunities.” 

Erin Murgittroyd, who served as an editor last year, is also pursuing a media-related career. She is majoring in television and digital media with a concentration in sports media and journalism at  Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J. Her career goal is to become a sports broadcaster and cover the NFL.

While Murgittroyd said she initially did not see herself going to Montclair because it is a local school attended by a lot of LHS graduates, she ultimately decided it was the right place for her because the professors and technology topped any other school she visited. 

“When I walked into the Communications and Media Building at Montclair, I fell in love immediately and knew that’s where I needed to be,” Murgittroyd said. 

She said she got involved on campus by taking on a job as a customer service representative in the Undergraduate Admissions Office. She said her on-campus job allows her to get priority course registration and build rapport with advisors.

Murgittroyd said she was disappointed she had to finish her freshman year remotely. She said she can’t wait to get back to taking classes on Montclair’s campus because of how much she has enjoyed her college experience so far.

  • Joana Kapaj is majoring in finance at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J.
  • Rob Caamano is studying computer science at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark, N.J.
  • Adam Herabi is studying electrical engineering at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla.
  • Jamie Connors is double majoring in media and communications and mathematics at Drew University in Madison, N.J.
  • Erin Murgittroyd is majoring in Television and Digital Media with a concentration in Sports Media and Journalism at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J.


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