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Monday, December 5, 2022

An ode to snails, snakes and storytelling

A farewell to four years of nerding out at The Aggie

By MARGO ROSENBAUM 

I’ve always loved stories. I spent much of my free time growing up at the library with my nose tucked into a nonfiction book — of course, when I wasn’t doing my other favorite things like poking starfish in tide pools, hiking with my dogs in the woods, pulling snails off sidewalks, nerding out over nature documentaries, making mud pies full of worms and riding any horse in need of exercise.

It was this love of storytelling (especially about animals) that brought me to the world of journalism. After much encouragement from my mom (shoutout to Pam, the strongest, coolest woman ever), I joined my high school paper. She was right: I was a natural storyteller and needed a place to share my writing. In the words of one of her favorite artists, the great Brandi Carlile, “… these stories don’t mean anything / when you’ve got no one to tell them to.”

After discovering journalism, my reality exploded: I could talk to anyone, write their story and share it with the world. I could do exactly what I saw in my favorite National Geographic books so many years before: write nonfiction! I soon realized how easy it was for me to articulate my thoughts in a clear, thoughtful and concise (well, I’m still working on that one) manner through writing. I’m quite ebullient with the friends I’m closest to, but struggle with shyness and communicating with new people. With writing, everything flowed easily. 

As my love for journalism grew, I knew I’d want to write for the paper when I got to college. When I visited UC Davis on Decision Day in 2018, I stopped by The Aggie’s booth and was encouraged to apply by the smiling faces of the student journalists who worked there (including the talented Hannah Holzer who would later train me as managing editor).

Ultimately, I picked UC Davis for a few reasons: It was a public school in California, not too far from home, had a student barn for my horse and lastly, because of The Aggie. As soon as staff writer vacancies opened up in the fall, I applied right away and settled into my work on the features desk. I loved the flexibility of the section and the many random animal stories I soon became known for writing. The desk also introduced me to Anjini, whom I biked past on the way to every desk meeting that year, and would later lead The Aggie with for two years. She’s one of the smartest people I have ever met and shares my affirmation for storytelling, student journalism, Stargazer (the Egghead) and dinosaurs (but sadly, not birds or lizards).

My time on the features desk was glorious, but short lived. After one dinosaur course and a marine biology class, I got hooked on the sciences at UC Davis and decided to add a second major related to biology. Many of my features articles also started swaying toward research, so I switched to the science and technology desk during the summer before my second year. As the only science writer on the desk at the time, I worked with the editor Cecilia and learned how to cover science in an exciting, digestible manner.

Suddenly, everything just clicked: I learned I could combine my compassion for animals, fascination with research, zeal for saving the environment and love for storytelling. Writing about science in a clear, jargon-free manner felt like my contribution to combating misinformation and protecting the Earth. 

After one year on the science desk as a staff writer and assistant editor, I made the gigantic leap to becoming managing editor. While yes, there were many overwhelming, chaotic moments, I could not be happier to have worked in this role for the past two years. I came to love my cozy Sunday editing nights, spending hours reading all the content coming out that week. My editing and reporting skills improved tremendously by reading so many stories by The Aggie’s many talented writers. As managing editor, I also continued reporting and assigned myself multiple challenging articles that took weeks to write. I investigated barriers to voting in Davis, UC health care coverage, agricultural research in Davis and so much more.

“From the friendships I’ve made to the pickleball games I’ve lost, The Aggie made me fall in love with this cow town so much more than any club I tried out, class I took or professor I nervously chatted up during office hours.”

I can easily proclaim these past years with The Aggie as the best four years of my life. I’m extremely grateful and lucky to have worked with one incredible editor-in-chief, two talented Editorial Boards and managing staffs as well as too many staffers to count. I’m humbled by the impressive reporting of all the great friends I’ve made at The Aggie. 

From the friendships I’ve made to the pickleball games I’ve lost, The Aggie made me fall in love with this cow town so much more than any club I tried out, class I took or professor I nervously chatted up during office hours. Despite this, I’ll still miss banding baby Western Bluebirds and Tree Swallows, eating out way too often in Downtown Davis, catching snakes and lizards at Lake Berryessa, chaotic tubing adventures along Putah Creek, late night study sessions at Shields Library (sponsored by Scandinavian Swimmers), BBQs at home, sneaking into the Arboretum on my horse Nina and way too many more favorites to list.

It’s true what they say about UC Davis: the nicest people you’ll ever meet go to school here. I’d say that I’ve picked some of the greatest as my friends. Kylie, you get me like almost nobody else. Thank you to the student housing gods for placing us in the same dorm room, and somehow four years later, I still absolutely love living together. You’re an incredible writer and plant biologist, and I’m so excited to see all the places you go. Alana, thank you for cooking me the most gourmet meals and for nerding out about Star Wars with me. Thank you to everyone on the Editorial Board for the past two years — I appreciate all of the shenanigans, the stories, the support and the snorts of laughter. 

Ben, while you’re not a UC Davis student, it almost feels like you are. Thank you for being such an integral part of my college career: waking up with me at 6 a.m. on Picnic Day, performing at Whole Earth Festival, taking care of Nina and helping me write this senior column every time I got too sad and overwhelmed to finish. I’m so grateful to enter this next part of life with you.

Thank you to my family for their nonstop support throughout my life. Mom, thank you for pushing me to become a journalist so many years ago (and for birthing me) — I literally wouldn’t be here without you. Dad, thank you for imparting your love of adventure and will to do it all onto me. You’ve made me a dreamer and helped me realize that I can achieve anything. Laurel, thank you for being my role model and a very cool older sister. I hope to be half as successful as you one day. Nina, thank you for having the squishiest nose and for being my emotional support horse all throughout college.

As my time at UC Davis comes to a close, The Aggie will surely be the hardest goodbye I have to make. I’m sorry to say goodbye to editing on Sunday evenings, Editorial Board meetings, Tuesday layout sessions with JJAM, the many stacks of old papers, the coziness of Lower Freeborn, my dark (but lovely) corner desk at 116 A Street, all of our wall quotes, my many beautiful Doodle Polls, all of my wonderful colleagues/friends and so, so, so much more. It’s bittersweet to move on, but I’m so glad to see The Aggie left in such proficient hands. 

My journey into the world of storytelling is far from over. Whatever my next job in life ends up being, I know I’ll never stop writing and loving every minute of it. Stay tuned for loads more weird, nerdy (but interesting!!) science content I plan to write. As I bid farewell to my incredibly fond days of student journalism, I give a delighted hello to my professional science writing career. 

Written by: Margo Rosenbaum

Margo Rosenbaum is The California Aggie’s current managing editor. She joined The Aggie in fall 2018 as a features staff writer and in the summer of 2019, she switched to writing for the science and technology desk. In January 2020, she began working as the assistant science and technology editor, which she continued until June 2020 when she became managing editor. She is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in evolution, ecology & biodiversity and communication, with a mass communication emphasis, as well as a minor in professional writing.