Katie Beirne and Perry Lerit both remember their time at VU fondly, especially their experiences in the communication department. Both students were given the “Outstanding Senior” award from the department at the Excellence in Communication Banquet on April 14.

Beirne is a communication major with a minor in creative writing and has been involved in the communication department since her freshman year.

“I joined radio right out of the gate,” Beirne said.

When asked about her experience after winning the award, Beirne said, “Every day I wake up and it hits me. I’m not used to winning big awards… I never expected to win anything. And to win this [the outstanding senior award] it was amazing… I’m in complete disbelief and shock, in a good way...in a ‘holy cow, that was something that happened’ way.”

Beirne was unaware she was even considered for the award until just moments before.

“I was shocked,” Beirne said. “I was completely gobsmacked. It was a beautiful moment really. Paul Oren got up to talk about who won the award and he was discussing how this person he had met at Focus. And I thought, ‘Oh, I met him at Focus, what are the odds.’... I was completely oblivious until he started talking about radio… and I’m like, ‘That’s me.’”

Beirne said she was in complete denial upon receiving the award.

“I didn’t believe it. I thought this is amazing. I can’t believe this happened to me,” Beirne said.

“It’s bittersweet,” Beirne said about her upcoming graduation. “I’ve grown to love everyone in the department… I’m excited to see where life takes me. I knew I wasn’t going to be here forever but… it’s going to be really hard to adjust to life without the comm[unication] department.”

In regards to the future, Beirne has been busy applying to jobs all over the world. She’s also excited to start applying her talents into a career.

“My mother always says you want a job so much that when they hand you a paycheck, you’re like, ‘What is this for?’ I’ve been looking into doing jobs for writing, film, screenwriting and such creation and music. That’s what I just find most fascinating.” Bierne said, “I’m excited to see the rest of the world.”

Lerit is a digital media major with a focus in video production. They completed their degree in three years and have worked as the assistant news director for VUTV this past year.

“It went by quickly, but in that time, I’ve made amazing relationships and took monumental leaps through my career and personal growth,” Lerit said. “Through knowing the professors in the comm[unication] department and the people and especially through my time with Valparaiso University Television, which has really helped me figure out what I want to do at least next.”

Lerit said the classes they took while at Valpo fueled their passion further and allowed them to explore new career goals.

“My favorite coursework I’ve ever done has been all of Charlie Anderson’s classes…His coursework and just the passion for the craft and story and a really nice learning environment,” Lerit said. “[The classes] really brought my perspective from ‘It would be really cool if I knew how to do videos’ to ‘I want to do videos for the rest of my life.’ And now I know how to do them and it’s lead to a lot of amazing opportunities in my life.”

Such opportunities, Lerit specified, included being an intern for the Welcome Project last fall. Last summer, they were also a part of the CAPS Program with a placement with the American Red Cross.

“I just knew it was going to be a time to celebrate everyone in the comm[unication] department,” Lerit said about the banquet. “It was time I wanted to spend with my media organization and with the people who have helped me grow and given me the opportunity to find out all these other things that I enjoyed.”

Like Beirne, Lerit also responded with disbelief upon winning the award.

“I didn’t really get it was me until Paul started talking specifically about the nomination,” Lerit said. “He said one sentence and I was like, ‘Ah, that’s my experience with Paul Oren. That’s me.’ And then I got ready to stand up and accept the award.”

When asked if they were nervous about leaving their department, Lerit said, “No, but I will miss it. I’m very ready for the next step.”

Lerit already has some of their future planned out -- they have a job lined up to be a news producer in Dayton, Ohio.

“Everything’s in place but I’m very excited to see how the department and VUTV grows… I have very high hopes and know it’s in good hands.”

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