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The Write Stuff Maya Lora has always wanted to be a storyteller for public good. This summer, she did just that as a reporting intern for her hometown paper, the Miami Herald.

“For every professor in the Journalism Department, I have a long list of ways in which they helped me become the reporter and person I am today.”

~ Maya Lora ’20

What factors led you to choose W&L?

  • The outstanding journalism program and faculty who made me feel included even as a prospective student
  • The study abroad opportunities I knew I would want to take advantage of
  • The student community I felt when visiting as a prospective student
  • The beautiful Virginia scenery
  • Honestly, the dorms—these were the nicest dorms I saw out of all the college visits I did my senior year.
  • Of course, the fantastic financial aid that made studying out-of-state possible for me

What made you decide on your major/minor?

In terms of journalism, this is what I’ve wanted to do since the third grade, maybe even before that. I did my college search based on the quality of the journalism program offered by each university. I’ve always wanted to be a storyteller and work for the public good, and journalism allows me to do both. I’ve never considered any other career path, and after three years of education and two internships, I never want to.

I’m also majoring in English, which I didn’t plan on when I arrived at Washington and Lee. I took a class taught by Professor Taylor Walle called “All About Eve,” which was my favorite first-year class. I went abroad that same year to Ireland, where I took Provost Marc Conner and Professor Alex Brown’s class on Irish literature and theology. I was hooked. I decided that since I was probably going to take every English class that fit in my schedule anyway, I might as well add the major. This year, I will pursue an honors thesis under my adviser Professor Holly Pickett.

Tell us about your work this summer.

This summer, I was a business journalism intern at the Miami Herald, which is my hometown newspaper and one of the biggest papers in Florida. Working there had been my dream for a long time, and this 10-week experience was one of the best of my life so far.

I worked with the business team on a general assignment basis, meaning I covered everything I’m assigned, such as workers issues, tech companies, store closings, major conferences, etc. I did some quick-hit stories, such as the one I wrote at the beginning of the summer on the return of a football team at South Florida’s only historically black university. I also did some stories that take more research and development, like a piece about some game-changing Miami startups. I did a lot of on-the-ground reporting in the community, which involved building source relationships to ensure I got the best possible stories and information. I did everything a regular reporter there did while learning from the more seasoned journalists around me. I could not be more happy with my experience this summer.

What courses have helped prepare you for this internship?

Every journalism course I’ve taken has been essential for the growth and maturing that was necessary for me to pursue this internship. But I would say the biggest help came from Intro to Reporting, Beat Reporting, Multimedia Storytelling and Design, and In-Depth Reporting. Those classes really helped me tighten my writing, recruit good sources effectively and work on expansive stories while on deadline. They’ve also all helped me learn to manage my time effectively and get comfortable with my own news judgment, which has helped me follow and drop leads for the stories I’ve pursued this summer.

What made this internship possible for you?

While I’ve always had a passion for writing and journalism, W&L helped me really focus on my craft and turned me into a much better writer. I would almost be afraid to read the pieces I wrote for the Ring-tum Phi freshman year, before the department intervened and showed me how it’s done. Additionally, several of my professors vouched for me for this internship, which involved using their personal time to make phone calls and send emails on my behalf. They made it their mission to show the Miami Herald why I was worth hiring. Their dedication to all of the students in the department makes our internships, jobs and overall futures possible.

What’s been your favorite part about working for the Miami Herald?

I loved getting to go to work every day and sit in the newsroom. The feeling of working for a paper so entrenched in my community’s history did not wear off over the course of the summer, and I don’t think it ever will. Everyone who works there is tremendously talented but still willing to answer every little question I had all summer. Plus, people bring in a lot of free food—like a lot. We had flan from KFC one day (the only location that offers it).

I’ve loved getting to see the issues that make my community tick. Seeing Miami in a different light has helped me realize what makes us so special. I’ve met members of this community I never would have been able to if I wasn’t a journalist with a Miami Herald ID around my neck. The opportunity to learn from everyone in this city is something I will never stop being overwhelmingly grateful for.

How has this work impacted your career goals?

Any employer who sees Miami Herald on my resume will know that I am serious about working in journalism for the rest of my life. Additionally, because the Herald is so dedicated to making sure their interns get the full reporter experience, I left there with several pieces I’m proud of that I can show future employers as evidence of my skill and dedication.

Has anyone on campus served as a mentor to you?

Too many to count. Each and every professor in the Journalism Department has mentored me in one way or another. My confidence in my journalistic potential is 100 percent due to their guidance, love and help throughout the past three years. For every professor in the Journalism Department, I have a long list of ways in which they helped me become the reporter and person I am today.

Outside of that department, I’ve also benefited in ways I can’t even articulate by professors Taylor Walle, Holly Pickett and Antoine Edwards. Their confidence in me has helped me grow in ways I couldn’t have imagined I was capable of as a first-year student.

What would you say to a prospective W&L student who is deciding whether or not to apply or attend here?

Coming from Miami, Washington and Lee University was the most jarring lifestyle transition I’ve ever experienced. Being a big city girl in a small town is harder than I thought it would be. But at the end of the day, this was the right decision for me and I could not be happier. Besides the fantastic education and career opportunities I’ve been able to take advantage of, I’ve met people on this campus who are always going to be a part of my life, some of them in really big ways. And it was good for me to step outside of my own Miami bubble and come to a place totally unfamiliar to me, to learn who I am while here. The community support is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I’m not going to say you have to come here, because there’s a true fit out there for everyone. But I love this campus because of who it’s helped me become. And I think anyone who comes here would have the opportunity for tremendous amounts of growth.

More About Maya

What’s the best place to eat in Lexington?
Napa Thai. No competition.

What do you order?
Drunken noodles with shrimp or beef and a Thai tea

If you could recommend one film or book to everyone, what would it be?
Book: “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi; Movie: “Slumdog Millionaire”

Favorite W&L event?
Mock Convention

Favorite class?
A sophomore-year class on Virginia Woolf taught by Professor Taylor Walle. “Mrs Dalloway” has been my favorite book ever since.

Favorite W&L memory?
Sitting in the clouds at the peak of Mount Brandon during my Spring Term study abroad trip to Ireland. My entire class sang happy birthday on a recording for my grandfather.

What are your post-grad plans?
To work for any newspaper that will hire me, but ideally, covering local politics for a Florida newspaper.