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Daily Bruin Design changed my approach to leadership and community -30-

Indya Donovan stands for a portrait. (Joseph Jimenez/Photo editor)

By Indya Donovan

June 11, 2023 9:39 p.m.

I’ll never forget the moment I knew college would be different, and that I too would be different by the end of it.

A high-strung high school yearbook editor-in-chief, I came into the Daily Bruin office as a frightened freshman looking for what was safe and known. At that point, I had devoted six years of my life to late nights, excitement and tears in front of a computer screen, dragging elements around a page until it was “just right.” I would annoy my friends by naming fonts I recognized on restaurant menus or store logos and internally critique any flyer or poster I encountered.

Naturally, the Design section was where I belonged. Back then, however, I felt that only in my abilities was I a good fit for the section, that my value as a member of the team solely depended on the technical skills I was bringing in. What I had learned up until that point was that journalism was not only a task best done by yourself, but an experience only valuable if the end result was good enough.

The aforementioned turning point in my philosophies as a leader, and even as a person, came during a random print shift in winter 2020.

I walked into the office excited, as a new designer was supposed to come in and shadow me while designing. After 30 minutes passed, we realized they weren’t coming. With no Slack message or apology, I was very annoyed.

“I can’t believe that they didn’t show! What are you going to say?” I asked Lauren Ho, an assistant Design director at the time.

Lauren, with a smile on her face, simply told me, “Oh, we’ll just reschedule it. We don’t know what they have going on.”

In retrospect, it is sad how that basic human understanding was so shocking to me, but it was a moment of compassion that I will never forget. I knew that I wanted to become a director in Design at some point, but I felt that my leadership style was a bit more rigid than the others’. The real problem was that I had just never seen a leader handle a situation with such kindness and forgiveness, and I was amazed as I continued to witness Design directors like Callista Wu, Samantha Joseph, Benny Zhang and Lauren actively demonstrate incredible levels of understanding while expertly managing an entire section with so many moving parts.

When I became an assistant Design director the next year, I only hoped to make Design as fun and accepting as they had, and continued to admire my fellow directors as we worked to carry a section from print to online in a mere matter of weeks.

Although I missed out on a lot of the community in The Bruin because of the pandemic, Callista, Lauren and Benny became my Design family as we navigated the challenges of online Sunday night print production and keeping interns entertained in hours of training via Zoom. We struggled and failed sometimes, but the director team made me feel a little less lonely in the secluded world of the pandemic, and I am so grateful to them for that. I know that I could have done more as a leader and maybe even continued on as a director, but it was the best I could do at the time and the team was more supportive and understanding than I could ever deserve. Thank you Callista, Lauren and Benny for everything.

The Design directors of past and present showed me every day that being a leader and group member is more than how well you can put a layout together or play with typography, but it is also the care and energy that is put into supporting your team to be their best selves in the job and as human beings. This care can show up in the form of checking in, in allowing for mistakes and misunderstandings, in accepting experimentation and error and in just creating a space for people to feel welcome in.

I think my cynical and burnt-out high school self could have used that, and I’m glad I eventually found it.

Throughout my time at UCLA, these exemplary leaders and friends have inspired me to want to bring a sense of belonging and warmth to spaces I am working in. This has actually become one of the fundamental parts of my beliefs as an arts educator, and I can say for a fact it was because of my time in Design. I get excited, I make mistakes and I invite this energy in the spaces I teach in.

I can see in the directors now and for the future that the section has not changed very much, and I hope it remains that way. It has been inspiring to see the new directors tackle in-person print, become part of the bustling office community and carry on the Design tradition of being truly compassionate and creative leaders. Maya, it’s been so cool to see you go from intern, to assistant, to top director. You are amazingly talented and a joy to be around – I’ll miss hearing your comments about the dog. Maya, Tyler, Helen, and Tang: I can’t wait to see what you all do next!

The past four years in the Daily Bruin’s Design section have taught me more about compassionate leadership and unconditional support than I have learned in any other place.

Thank you to the Daily Bruin for the fun memories, life lessons and laughs. To everyone in the office, keep having entertaining conversations that designers can overhear and silently laugh about at their computers – it’s a lot of fun.

Donovan was a designer 2019-2020, assistant Design director 2020-2021 and Design senior staff 2021-2023.

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