Interviews that inspire, educate and motivate
April 20, 2020

COVID-19 & College - Graduating Senior Conner Yarbrough

Show Notes

In this mini-series,  we hear how the COVID-19 virus is impacting and changing colleges and universities.  For this bonus episode, I interview graduating college senior Conner Yarbrough.   Conner is an Electronic Media major in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University.  He offers some great insight and perspective.  

Key takeaways

  • Concern about uncertain job prospects 
  • Media will change and may become more transparent 
  • Recognize that not all students have access to resources
  • Education will change 
  • Businesses are becoming more innovative
  • People are very conscious of how they interact with each other
  • The change in routine can be challenging
  • For some, the value of in person relationships has increased

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Judy Oskam:   0:03
Welcome to Stories of Change and Creativity. I'm Judy Oskam a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University.  Throughout my career as a television journalist, video producer, PR professional and educator, I've always been drawn to stories, stories about people and how they deal with change and embrace creativity. Hope you enjoy listening.  

Judy Oskam:   0:29
This bonus episode features an interview with Texas State University graduating senior Conner Yarbrough. Conner is an electronic media major with a concentration in digital media. Conner talks about change, creativity and how he's handling the current COVID-19 pandemic.  

Judy Oskam:   0:50
Connor, you're you're a student now You're graduating, senior. Correct.  

Conner Yarbrough:   0:57
Yes, I am.

Judy Oskam:   0:57
So I'm interested in hearing from the graduating seniors who are about to knock on the door of the real world. And the timing is a little bit crazy for you guys.

Conner Yarbrough:   1:07
Yeah, with everything that's been going on with the Corona virus, it's definitely put a halt on really any post grad research like job opportunities and stuff. I know that I had several internships that I had applied for for this coming summer, that I've actually gotten rejections from recently saying that they weren't even offering this internship anymore. So it's definitely worrying. I just the thought of the job force being depleted of any sort of need for media students, especially at a time like this, is really fightening

Judy Oskam:   1:45
well. And it's it's frightening for us. Nobody signed up for this, and you're also finishing your college career taking classes online. How is that going

Conner Yarbrough:   1:57
Online classes have been strange, but I can't say that they haven't been working. Uh, it's strange, especially going from a completely in person format to an online format, because instead of it being courses that are built for online, they're more in person that are being transitioned into an online. So the expectations are really different compared to what I would have expected from other courses that I would have, like, signed up for remotely. Yeah, it's definitely, really strange having to sit at home and do my work rather than working with other students in the classroom and especially in a major that is so hands on. It's difficult to get those reps in and to get that experience, especially for courses like TV news. I'm in visual storytelling right now where we're having to essentially go from using the Panasonic cameras and all of the resources that are available to us on campus, to, using our phones on any mobile APPS that we might to add any footage just because of discrepancies in software to whenever all of this had first started going down. I was really worried what was going to happen because a lot of the projects that we work on, especially in these upper level classes, are really project based. And because of that, we expect to be making content that we want to put into our portfolios that hopefully would help us get jobs in the long run. But because of the online format, we've had to step back from several of those projects you know, specifically in visual storytelling. We went from planning, uh, five minute plus documentary to having to do 2 to 4 minutes essentially like personal stories about our experiences at home because of all of this, which is different. And then I do appreciate still getting to work on the video editing and filming skills that we've been learning in class. But I also come from a position of a lot of privilege, and it makes me worried for students who might have access to those editing software that make that convenient to them, they might not have access to a reliable Internet they might have access to a home space that's conducive to getting any of this work done. So it's definitely a strange time. For a lot of students in  many, many ways

Judy Oskam:   4:19
As far as looking ahead, What do you think the new normal is going to be? Even in media you're seeing the news stations are doing presentations much differently online and from their own homes as well. Do you think that's gonna change media?

Conner Yarbrough:   4:35
I think it's definitely gonna change media. You see even these huge news outlets that are having some of the largest anchors and reporters reporting from their living rooms, and I don't know if the change is gonna necessarily be positive or negative. I feel like it's like everything going on right now, a huge gray area. But I would be interested to see a lot more transparency in the news media because of it. I think I don't like using the term like using Corona virus like the Great Equalizer or anything like that, because everybody situations are so different and it's hurting people in so many different ways. But I would hope that it would allow people to have a little bit more compassion and understanding for what's going on with each of us, if that makes sense?

Judy Oskam:   5:29
Yeah, right

Conner Yarbrough:   5:30
And I would hope that because of that, the news media would find ways of making sure that the public know how we go about writing and creating the stories and the importance of telling those stories. Because I feel like that's something that is already kind of a misunderstanding between the two, especially with this, like going, going like Fake News epidemic.

Judy Oskam:   5:56
Yeah, good, good point.

Conner Yarbrough:   5:57
So I'll be interested in seeing how the media will find ways of opening up their process, essentially to the public, to see why and how they're making the stories and the importance of them

Judy Oskam:   6:10
well and as far as innovation. Are you seeing innovation in other companies and organizations?

Conner Yarbrough:   6:19
Well you see, with a H-E-B and a lot of the grocery stores in the central business is right now, they're finding ways to decrease human contact as much as possible and to decrease the spread of germs. So you're seeing a lot more people working remote. But that doesn't put a really strong stress on any of those companies or groups that can't do something like that. They are reliant on in person work so you see these plastic barriers coming up between cashiers and customers. You see, these dots on the ground are honestly, it's really interesting for me to see. Um, it's I don't want to say dystopian because we haven't quite gotten that far. But it's definitely strange to see everybody a lot more conscious of the ways that they are interacting with each other. I don't know. I think I think we're doing things remote is something that we're going to see a lot more going into the future. I'm worried about schools in particular, cause I know the value of in person lectures and having like a face to face contact with a professor is really, really beneficial during the learning process. So I hope that were able to recover from that and not be scared to go to campus in the coming future, especially for elementary school middle school and high school. I have four younger siblings who are tryingto traverse like that world as well. Where's the colleges were quick to shut down. I'm like there are a lot of younger students who you don't have that, um,

Judy Oskam:   8:06
And part of what you're doing learning Zoom and doing online. I mean those air skills that employers are going to want moving forward, don't you think?

Conner Yarbrough:   8:17
I completely agree. I was actually say the other day. I was shocked that Skype hasn't been a bigger conversation because Skype was such a a big push earlier in the decade when it comes to video chatting, especially between groups. So it's cool to see Zoom being used kind of in that way. And I do think it's been used really, really effectively. I'm I think, them operating off of individual servers and being able to, um, hold up an entire country almost an entire world of people who are looking to chat virtually. There have been no problems except for just any, like minor communication issues and getting used to a new routine when it comes to how do you raise your hands in a classroom to speak? Or how do you ask a question and um, be heard in the way that you want to be heard without feeling uncomfortable? I know that there's been like a sense of discomfort between me and several of the people that I've been in contact with, discussing just this exact same thing. It's different. I'm like people who go from talking very, very often have been in person class can sit behind the muted screen and just kind of used drop on the conversation rather than taking part. I don't know. It's gonna take a lot of adjusting, but I think that there will be processes that will be perfected. And if anything, I hope that this is a way for people to understand the value of teachers and the value of professors and person education to hire extends maybe what they did before. I'm excited. I'm excited to see how robust these online programs will end up being, so that, hopefully for home school students or for, um, anybody during like typical times, I guess who isn't able to make it to campus because of one reason, reason or another...they are able to use what we're learning now to convert some of those situations.

Judy Oskam:   10:33
I think that's a great point you mentioned routine earlier in your conversation. What what has been your daily routine? I think people wonder, what's everybody doing all day?

Conner Yarbrough:   10:43
I wish I had a good answer for you. That's I think my biggest struggle right now is we've spent especially students who used to on campus and who have come straight from high school into college. They I'm almost 16 years used to um, the routine that going to campus gives us, and that's getting up in the morning and getting there and getting dressed and doing the normal things, whereas now we kind of have to free the time to figure it out on our own. And I know that that's something that I've been struggling with because I thrive on that sort of like discipline, like going, going, going mentality. So having to go from what felt like 110 miles per hour barreling towards graduation, figuring out what my portfolio needs to look like. My website needs to look like, um, working on getting these projects set up that we were didn't even know we're going to be able to come to fruition in the end on then having to essentially go from that to five miles per hour, and everybody around us is telling us we need to be worried about our health,  worried about our safety, the way that we interact with each other as well as our financial stability, especially as students and then on top about having to just continue our scholastic work. So it's definitely a really, really big challenge. And I would say for a lot of people who struggle with mental health, it is going to continue to be a very difficult challenge. So, yeah, for me right now, I'm just taking it day by day. I'm hoping that I'm able to get back into some sort of.  routine here soon, otherwise, who knows. 

Judy Oskam:   12:39
Yeah, well, And did I hear that you celebrated a birthday recently and you were celebrating in quarantine? Is that correct?

Conner Yarbrough:   12:47
Yes, actually. I share a birthday with my mom. And that was this past Saturday. I turned 21 in quarantine, wasn't able to go out and do anything that I would have imagined that could have done for my 21st. But it's made me really, really thankful for the people that I do have in my life who were sweet enough to share their love and to reach out to me from wherever they're out right now. And I don't know, I was actually just talking about this. I feel like this virtual world that we've created before felt like this really cool, amazing place that we can retreat to when the real world kind of gets tough. But now that we are kind of sequestered into this virtual world, the value of these in person relationships has gone up, at least in my eyes, drastically. So reaching out to friends and family and getting to talk to them however I can has been my go-to.

Judy Oskam:   13:54
Well. And how are you connecting with your family? I'm I'm having FaceTime coffee with my mom, who's 88 every morning and she'll text me and say coffee and then I'll get my coffee cup and will FaceTime. How are you doing it?

Conner Yarbrough:   14:09
FaceTime is my favorite one as well, phone calls, texting. I know it's a little bit outdated, but I really love SnapChat for me and my friends just cause I like to see their faces whenever we're just chatting, even if it's really casually, Um, But yeah, that's that's really it... finding ways to connect with them those ways Facebook has blown up recently with people posting their day by day quarentine updates

Judy Oskam:   14:39
right, Right. Well, no one. No one planned for this, but it sounds like you're handling it pretty well, and I do want to thank you for sharing. I think it was important to talk to a couple of students about? What are you guys going through? I don't think we've heard a lot enough about the student perspective and especially for you guys graduating pretty soon.      

Conner Yarbrough:   0:00
Absolutely.  I really appreciate you reaching out and listening.

Judy Oskam:   15:06
Well, of course, that's why we're here. And I want you to take care and keep moving forward. Okay, Conner... Thank you. Talk to you later.  

Judy Oskam:   15:14
Thank you for listening to Stories of Change and Creativity. Check out the show notes for more information about this episode, you can find this podcast on any of your favorite streaming platforms. Please subscribe, eave a review and share this podcast with a friend. If you have a story to tell or know someone who does, reach out to me at or Dr Judy Oskam at gmail dot com. That's Dr. Judy Oskam at gmail dot com. Thanks for listening.