When I first met Dr. Zuegner, or Carol, as her upperclassmen journalism students affectionately call her, I was a sophomore in a 12-passenger van on my way to Washington, D.C. We were both heading to the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice with thirty or so other students, faculty, Jesuits and staff from the Center for Service and Justice. Carol as a faculty participant, myself as a student leader of the trip. Ours was just one of three large passenger vans braving the 20 hour trek to D.C.
To make things even more interesting, I was sick. I was about halfway through a bad cold and doing everything I could to not cough every two minutes. Trying to sleep in a van is hard enough as it is, but sleeping in a van when you’re sick is near-impossible. That first night on the road, Carol was sitting beside me, I barely knew her, having not taken a class from her yet, but she offered me her pillow. That small gesture, combined with the animated stories she told me about the CU Backpacking Trip she’s a part of through the journalism department, stood out to me and made me excited to take a class from her.
Since then, I’ve been fortunate to take both International Communications and Social Media with Carol, I’ve worked with her on communications projects for the Institute of Public Leadership in Omaha, I’ve worked at the Omaha World-Herald with her, and I’ve even attended one last IFTJ with her before I graduate. In all the ways I know Carol, she is warm, funny and has an energy for incorporating social justice into journalism and media, something I love.
I love visiting Carol’s office, where our interview took place, because it’s a room filled with a few of the usual professor things–bookcases filled with books, a desk, computer, etc.–as well as fun artifacts like a nun wearing boxing gloves, a cartoon-style picture of Super Man and a sock monkey puppet. Meeting with her feels more like sitting down with a friend to chat.
It took Carol very little time to come up with her words of wisdom for me: “Do what you can, where you are.”
I couldn’t help but smile when I heard the phrase. It’s one I’ve heard several times in the classes I’ve had with Carol.
“It comes from Teddy Roosevelt, of all people,” Carol said. “You know, he’s not like Mother Teresa or Gandhi, but those words have just always resonated with me, especially since getting involved with CU Backpack.”
The CU Backpack Trip is a summer study abroad option where students spend a few weeks in a different country, or sometimes, a different state (like Alaska) and put together a documentary based on some kind of social justice issue present there. The program is a collaboration between the Creighton Theology and Journalism departments. Along with the hours of prep and work before and after the trip, the countless interviews, filming, editing and media things participants do, they also get in-depth experience and education about an important problem facing a particular society.
Backpack helped Carol realize that doing small things really can make a difference. Partaking in the trips, she shared, has truly changed her life.
Other words of wisdom from Carol:
“Take a risk. Do something out of your comfort zone. CU Backpack Journalism was definitely out of my comfort zone.”
“Every human life has value. It sounds so simplistic, but when you go to different parts of the world and the country, even, you realize that that’s not always taken into account.”
Carol’s words seem to strike at something important to both life as a journalist, which she definitely has experience with, as well as life in general. It’s certainly uplifting talking with her. If you don’t know her, I encourage you to get to know her. She’s great!
Fun facts: Carol has been at teaching at Creighton since 1997. If she could be any flavor of ice cream, she would be Butter Pecan.
Words of Wisdom is a blog series started by Student Coordinator Anna Ferguson, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences. Each blog is an interview that poses the question to various faculty, staff, Jesuits and friends: If you had to give words of wisdom to someone, or if there was one phrase or sentence you think people should live by, would would that be?
The CCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Creighton Center for Service and Justice (CCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the CCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.