On Friday, November 9, St. Andrew's welcomed back Ruby Cramer '08 and Louise (Dufresne) Serio '09 to campus to lead our 2018 Women's Network event, "Meet the Press: A Conversation About Politics & Journalism."
After the lecture, Women's Network founder and chair Elizabeth Roach wrote the following reflection:
Bringing Ruby and Louise back to St. Andrew's to talk to our students about their remarkable lives and careers was a goal that Tad and I set several years ago. We knew that they would be thoughtful, reflective, honest, and articulate about the many challenges and opportunities they've faced as political journalists, and we knew that they would connect with our current students in profound ways. They did all of that and more.
It was an evening of storytelling and conversation, starting with a dinner for all seniors and our guests. Ruby and Louise then engaged in an unscripted conversation on the stage in Engelhard, two friends and schoolmates—at both St. Andrew's and Vassar—talking about their journeys as a political reporter for BuzzFeed News who covered the Democratic primary as a member of Hillary Clinton's traveling press corps (Ruby) and as an Emmy Award-winning producer for CBS News covering the Trump administration as part of the White House press pool (Louise).
"Ruby and I have had very similar, if parallel, experiences," Louise reflected after the event. "She covered Hillary Clinton, I covered Donald Trump. What's surprising is that we had never really compared notes. I'm glad the Women's Network gave us that opportunity.
Their stories ranged from the grueling travel, the long days, the intensity of the work, and the emotional toll of covering tragic stories to the moments of humor and humanity, the support and collaboration of the journalistic community, and the importance of fairness and the ability to inhabit another person's perspective in reporting. After listening to Ruby and Louise's authentic exchange of stories, students asked incisive questions about the world of journalism.
"I hope we showed the students that the skills you develop at St. Andrew's—sharp writing, analytical thinking, kindness—these are all deeply practical assets that will be useful in your career," Louise continued. "It was a treat to return to the classroom. I loved watching the students challenge their own biases and assumptions, learning to inhabit different perspectives."
"As a student at St. Andrew's, you know that you're getting the best education of your life—better than the one waiting for you in college, even," Ruby said. "But you have no idea at the time how you're going to use it—in what job or profession, or toward what so-called "practical skills" that are supposed to make up the far-off thing called a career. What became clear, sitting in an English exhibition with Mrs. Roach and Ms. Pressman, where three brilliant VI Formers were engaged in a close reading of Toni Morrison's Beloved, is that these academic skills—how to interrogate a text, how to delve into the mind of its characters and author, and then develop and challenge your own analysis alongside your classmates as collaborators rather than competitors—these are human skills. And they can be applied to whatever it is you choose to do after school. St. Andrew's is a lesson in empathy, kindness, and curiosity in life beyond your own. I know it's a lesson that's made me a better journalist."
Both women also remarked on how it felt to come back to campus and reconnect with St. Andrew's. "This visit was my first in maybe six years," Ruby noted. "Everyone I knew—my advisor, old teachers, a former classmate—greeted me the same way. They wrapped me in a big hug and they said, 'Welcome home.' If there's a way to capture what it's like to coming back to St. Andrews, it's that feeling."
"After I covered the school shooting in Parkland last spring," Louise said, "I came back to campus just to physically remind myself that pockets of goodness in the high school world—like the bold project of St. Andrew's—still exist. Returning to campus always feels like coming home.
Through the example of their lives, their commitment and hard work, and their generosity, passion, and intelligence, Ruby and Louise embody everything we seek to teach our students. As Dean of Studies Gretchen Hurtt beautifully said, "Talking with young alums is like reading the epilogue notes at the end of a movie, when you see what becomes of the characters years later... it is so great that we get to see the amazing people they become! The Women's Network has given us so many of these energizing moments. I've been thinking about how the connections we made with past students then 'give forward,' in a way, to our next generation of students, when our alums come back to meet with them, and when they hear how these connections last for decades!"
Thank you, Ruby and Louise, for an evening of friendship, connection, and enlightenment.
You can watch "Meet the Press: A Conversation About Politics & Journalism" in full on our Livestream channel.
The St. Andrew's Women's Network was founded in 2010 with a goal of connecting, celebrating, and harnessing the power of the School's alumnae through events held both on and off campus. When alumnae gather for Women's Network events, they share their experiences and insights with students and faculty, and reconnect with each other and with the School. Since its inception, Women's Network events have expanded in size and scope, and have become central to our mission to provide community, inspiration, and mentorship for all members of our community.