EDITOR’S COLUMN: You’ll never know if you don’t ask

Graphic by Sienna Parmelee | Production Assistant

Last semester I found myself in a predicament: I was expected to write a paper on a rhetorician, and I was hitting wall after wall in my research. I couldn’t locate copies of her most significant work for a variety of reasons, and I was struggling to collect basic information about her as well.

That lasted until I just asked her for help. I swallowed my nerves, drafted an email—on Easter weekend no less—and sent it off, expecting to hear nothing back.

Boy, was I wrong.

Not only was she thrilled that I had taken interest in her contribution to the field, but she was also more than happy to share any and everything I needed to complete my assignment. I got access to things that one could only dream of being published for the world to see. All just because I took an interest and asked.

I have also experienced this in the professional world as a journalist. While it may not look like it from the way it’s portrayed in modern media, with a sole journalist going it alone, journalism is very much a team sport. We share data, contacts, statements, leads and anything that could help a fellow reporter out.

While sharing like this is becoming second nature to me, I had to consciously break myself of the fear of a negative response. Whether it be a flat-out refusal or annoyance for the ask in the first place, this fear of professional rejection was burnt into me from a young age.

We were taught in our K-12 education that this journey to gain knowledge was one we had to take on our own. That we could only rely on ourselves to push forward. We experienced this through testing, assignments, homework and reports. Virtually every aspect of my formative education was designed to make me do education alone, but at the end of the day, while we need to be self-sufficient to some extent, we can get so much further together.

Higher education affords us the opportunity to nurture our curiosity in an environment where we all have common goals: to learn, grow and discover. For most, this opportunity lasts only four short years, so use all the resources you have.

We have a wealth of qualified faculty just waiting to share their craft and knowledge with you. Whether you’re in one of their classes or not, I promise they’re elated that you’re taking an interest in the material they’re passionate about. It doesn’t stop there, either. FLITE gives you access to not only one of the best research databases we could have asked for, but also a brilliant staff that will teach you exactly how to use it to its fullest potential.

I’m all for exploring what’s out there and trying to figure it out on my own, but through that I also learned the power of a question. It can be the difference between complete confusion and total clarity. The only thing you need to do is gain the courage and the humility to ask.