Taking a Closer Look: Introducing the New Features Section

A note from your new managing Features editors.

Taking a Closer Look: Introducing the New Features Section
Managing Editors of the new Features section (from left to right, Sonia Chajet Wides '25, Caelen McQuilkin '24E, Eleanor Walsh '25). Photo courtesy of Emma Spencer '23E.

Welcome to the Amherst Student’s new Features section! Features was a section of its own in The Student until 2003, when it was combined with Arts to become Arts & Living. Since then, in-depth features on Amherst have been included in both A&L and News (even sometimes in Sports). Now, we’re bringing it back as a section all its own.

So what is it?

The central idea behind the Features section is exploration. While new things happen every day at the college, there is also so much in existence here that demands a deeper look, and a different style. The Features section will explore these things — dynamics, patterns, history, initiatives, events, and people — and reflect our community back to itself.

Some of our articles will be investigative projects. Some of them will be historical pieces that trace back through the archives. Some will be more lighthearted accounts of campus goings-on. Some will be interviews with staff members, faculty, and thesis-writers. All of our pieces will be in-depth, thoughtful, well-researched, and enmeshed in the exciting community that we have here. We will overlap and collaborate with all the other sections to weave this in-depth approach throughout The Student as a whole.

We wanted to re-establish a Features section because of our belief that Amherst’s remarkable range of people, ideas, and interactions make it a place where no story is really surface-level — even the small ones. We think that investigating and uplifting these stories will result in a better understanding of this place and the forces that shape it.

We’re here to answer questions, big and small. How does the Amherst budget work anyway? Where did all the metal Val forks go? Who schedules the timing of the bell in JChap, and how does it go off? How do the food truck vendors who come to campus perceive Amherst students? What can we find by tracing the history of sexual assault policy on campus? The history of student activism surrounding the development of an AAPI Studies Department? How have changes in the Amherst admissions process shaped today’s student body and what types of stories have those shifts produced? What’s going on with the new trees and plants down by the tennis courts? What did the students who spent over a year working on the Campus Safety Advisory Committee have to say about the decision to keep ACPD armed? What does the difference between a “casual” and “benefited” employee mean in the lives of people who work here?

A little about us, and why we’re excited about this section:

From Caelen: I grew up in a 300-person town in Eastern California that most people know either as a pit stop for gas or the eastern entrance to a famous national park, yet it is also a home, and a place where I think that some of today’s most salient political issues emerge in everyday interactions. This is part of the reason why I believe in the power of complicating perceptions of the places that we engage with, from California to Amherst and across the world. Talking about these relationships and interactions can help us better understand, and then link together, the reach and depth of struggles for racial and class justice, how they emerge in different places. And I believe that talking with people and uplifting stories can help do this reframing, with the goal of building communities and coalitions between people.

From Eleanor: When relatives hear that I work at The Student, they usually ask some variation of “so, will you go into journalism?” My answer, up until now, has been “maybe, but I don’t think I can take such a fast-paced lifestyle.” To me, news and fast were synonymous. What I loved about journalism was the opposite: the long, slow conversations I had with interview subjects, the hours spent building a single page. Features writing is slower. Features means taking the time to pause and listen to the stories that already exist around us, and delving deep into the heart of each and every one. I am so excited to embark on this journey with Sonia and Caelen, and to learn more about the community surrounding me.

From Sonia: This summer, I had the honor to work at The Current, a small, non-profit, in-depth newsroom based in Savannah, Georgia. The Current does not cover breaking news; instead, they bring the magnifying glass to issues in Coastal Georgia. Working there, I was inspired by the care and research dedicated to every topic from electoral politics to glass recycling. The Amherst Student’s coverage area is small — a liberal-arts college with a tiny population of students, staff, and faculty. But within that area is a trove of culture, history, and stories waiting to be explored. I am thrilled to be working on a Features section that examines, connects, and celebrates this wonderful community.

We’re excited to see all of you right here each week. If you’re interested in joining our team as a writer, artist, editor or designer, or if you have story ideas or questions you want to share, let us know!

All our best,

Caelen, Eleanor, and Sonia