Successful leadership requires interest and passion, and for a Colonnades editor-in-chief, that means an enthusiasm for storytelling.
Colonnades’ new editor-in-chief April Roberts ’20 has always had a passion for storytelling.
Whether it was the narratives she wrote as a child in handmade booklets of stapled construction paper or the countless stories that she would beg her grandma to recount, Roberts’ undeniable passion for storytelling has only grown. And it all came into full swing when she arrived at Elon.
It wasn’t too long after she joined Colonnades, Elon University’s literary and art journal, that she declared a double major in English literature and international and global studies.
“I have always had a love of English,” she said. “I’ve had some really amazing English teachers and professors who always supported my English major.”
And thus Roberts immersed herself further in the English Department and in Colonnades. But her love for writing was so strong that she said couldn’t bear to have her involvement with it end there. Most recently, Roberts made the decision to experiment with the other end of the writing spectrum: hard news.
“Creative writing is much more open-ended,” she said. “You can bend the rules more for the sake of art. It’s not only about how well you follow the rules, but how and when you choose to break them. News writing is about clear and concise reporting. You want to be as true to your subject as possible.”
Roberts has served as a copy editor for Elon News Network since the beginning of this academic year, and she said she has already been able to use the skills she gained in ENN to optimize her editing and facilitation skills for Colonnades.
“I think that if you work in multiple positions on campus, each should inspire and inform the others,” she said. “You’re always growing in different ways and in different organizations, so it’s never a one-sided, one-dimensional experience.”
During her time with Colonnades, Roberts said she has gained an extensive understanding of how the organization operates, as she has served as a fiction reader, a poetry reader and managing editor, the latter being the role she held last year as a junior.
“When there’s a position open, people sometimes aren’t confident enough to apply,” she said. “So when I see positions like that, and I know I’m qualified, I’ve learned to have this attitude of ‘I can do this.’”
Perhaps it was a combination of that mindset, her comprehensive understanding that each role is essential to the organization, her work alongside previous editor-in-chief Natalia Conte ’19 and her storytelling upbringing that encouraged Roberts to apply for, and acquire, the position of editor-in-chief.
“I had the experience, and I had this vision for Colonnades that I thought I could bring into being,” she said.
That vision? Roberts said she wants to enhance the community among staff and raise greater awareness of the publication at Elon and beyond.
Roberts said she is also hoping to bring to fruition Conte’s initiative to partner with students at local high schools, showcasing their fiction, non-fiction and poetry pieces in Colonnades.
Additionally, Roberts said she wants the community to know more about the book and its contents. And it would be great if the term “Colonnades” became more familiar to the community as a literary and arts publication instead of only as a neighborhood on campus.
“I want people to know about it,” she said. “I want people to pick it up and actually know what it is.”
And what better way to make the organization more relevant to the Elon community than to use the most prevalent medium among college-aged individuals?
“Having a digital platform where people can share pieces from our magazine is a huge part of engagement and outreach, especially with kids our age,” Roberts said.
But perhaps the most important community Roberts wants to target is the one closest to her: the Colonnades staff.
Historically, the organization has functioned rather separately, as “every editor kind of did their own thing with their own readers,” she said, leaving little reason for interaction between sections.
Roberts, though, sees value in building a team that can “work together and share ideas” rather than simply compile a final product. She said she wants the leadership tree to look more horizontal than vertical to allow for team building, understanding and collaboration.
“I think when you have a team that knows each other and cares about each other, it makes what you produce a better product,” Roberts said. “So if people can engage with each other in a way that feels comfortable, what we produce together is going to be more authentic than what we would have created otherwise.”