University Way: Not Taking Easy Street

by Jonah King 

This is my goodbye.

And of course, with every goodbye comes a time for reflection. So let’s reflect some.

USFSP Connect was a brand created the year before I arrived at USFSP in 2012. There was a vision for Connect to become a media platform at USFSP that I would wager to say was very ahead of its time. It was a lofty expedition headed by Thomas Boyd, a USFSP graduate doing very well for himself at Disney, a company you may have heard of. Now there were many people who were instrumental in building Connect in its inception and through its formative years until I joined, but I knew Connect primarily through Tommy. It helped that he always had a camera in hand. I saw the vision and said to myself, “I want to be a part of that.” Halfway into my sophomore year I was hired.

I’ll get back to Connect in a moment.

A great friend of mine told me at the beginning of my senior year that it was crucial that I feel uncomfortable. I had just been telling him about how I was feeling disconnected from the campus, how I didn’t know anyone anymore, and was mostly focused on taking the next step toward a full-time career. I recognized what he was saying immediately. My life was transitioning before my very eyes.

USFSP represents safety, comfort, and within the confines of our campus, you can find everything you need. You have a place to live, a place to eat, friends that convene in the same place at the same time where you can do the same routine day in and day out. It was a routine that throughout my sophomore and junior year I participated in and thoroughly enjoyed. My friends and I reminisce over years past and the good times we had. I assured myself as some of my friends have assured themselves not to get caught in the same whirlwind of wasting away days when there is work to be done. We all took that trip down University Way. USFSP is easy street, and there comes a time when you need to step out into the so-called real world and do real things. I know some people who haven’t moved on yet, and I pray for them every day. There comes a time when moving on is best for yourself, and honestly, the sooner the better. Not that the good times aren’t worth it, but it’s a very competitive world, and you have to decide as soon as possible where you want to be.

I spearheaded the 2nd generation of Connect with friend and coworker, Jessie Santero. Jessie and I worked through a tumultuous time as we had to figure out how to move Connect forward in a community and world that was rapidly changing in how social media is consumed. I wanted to figure out what was the best way to serve the campus and the students reaching the most students possible, while creating meaningful and entertaining content. The desire to make Connect USFSP’s go to digital media platform was still there, but faded as I realized the sheer difficulty of converting an entire campus to a media team where two people were generating most of the content. As I said, I was doing everything I could to figure out how to reach the pulse of the campus, and I think I learned the most valuable lesson of all.

You have to keep trying. I ran through idea after idea, to improve our content, our website, our social media outreach, and I struggled. I wanted to create Yaks of the Week as a Connect exclusive YouTube show and was denied because I had to keep the content PG. I wanted to get students to contribute and tell their stories through blogs and videos but a lot of people wouldn’t follow up on messages I sent them. I was getting very disheartened. I felt like I wasn’t making a difference. I kept trying, I wouldn’t let my failures stop me from striking gold.

One of our best collaborations came with the South Florida All Stars dance team. It’s hard to argue that there was an organization on campus that collectively worked harder than the All Stars. In 2015 we produced a 13-minute Dancing with the All Stars show and in 2016 filmed the entire Stars in Motion Showcase. I’m a firm believer that the more people and groups come together to collaborate, there’s no limit on the achievements that can be made for a campus production. That being said, we do need someone within the higher ups to get better lighting for the ballrooms because it’s absolutely atrocious to film and photograph in that room without an expensive camera. But I’ll save that vitriol for a separate piece.

I really only found that I created something truly special when I came up with the idea for the Slightly Warm Seat podcast. My first episode came out only five months ago and I’m now working on my 9th episode. I used to judge Connect on the amount of views or reach a video was getting, but quickly realized while statistics are important, I was shortchanging the most important part of my job.

Making an impact. 

I don’t have flashy numbers or a huge amount of responses to the podcast, but when someone does tell me about an episode they listened to, they tell me how much it affected them or how they enjoyed listening. And that’s what really matters to me.

My hope is to see the next generation of Connect staffers to forge ahead and make their own impact at USFSP. Our campus is still in a weird transitional period started when our Chancellor announced the 20/20 Vision plan. My dream is to see Connect be an integral part of our campus where students can have a voice and create. What you’ll learn if you’re very observant, is that there’s a lot of people who will do a lot of talking, but it’s those who are putting their hard work and just dues in that may surprise you with the life they are building for themselves.

When I came to USFSP as a freshman, I never dreamed of being in the position I am now, and for that I am truly grateful. I was surrounded by a lot of great people who are out doing great things, and they all know who they are. The same opportunity is afforded to anyone who steps foot in St. Petersburg on our campus. Just remember, it’s easy to follow the University Way to your diploma, but those who are trailblazing a path that is their own are finding themselves right where they need to be. Happy, healthy, and with a little extra pocket change.


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