Farewell: A reflection from Hilltop Views senior editors affected by pandemic


Kenny Phipps

St. Edward’s University will be hosting a virtual commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 9 for the graduating class of 2020.

Each year, Hilltop Views editors write a reflection piece documenting their last semester on staff and thanking all those who have made an impact on them in the last months of their undergraduate career. The graduating class of 2020’s last semester was cut short due to concerns following the  COVID-19 virus, leaving their last weeks as Hilltop Views editors completely scattered in online production. However, the meaningful relationships that these seniors were able to make remain in tact and stronger than ever. Here is what the Hilltop Views graduating class of 2020 had to say about their time in this publication.


Matthew San Martin, Editor-In-Chief

Matthew San Martin will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication with a focus in digital media and journalism.

No matter which way you spin it, the graduating class of 2020 from all over the globe has felt the effects of the COVID-19 virus. Whether we wanted it or not, our senior year of college will forever be shaped by a historic global pandemic that will be written about in textbooks and documented in American history for years to come. We will forever be known as the first set of college seniors who were affected by this, and while closure will come and go, one thing that will last are the memories we made on the Hilltop. 

I was a freshman walking aimlessly at a School of Arts & Humanities tabling event. I knew I wanted to pursue a career in journalism, but I was too shy to get the ball rolling on my own. That changed when I came across the Hilltop Views table. Associate Dean of Arts & Humanities Jena Heath spotted me, and with a smile that reached ear-to-ear, she asked if I had any interest in writing for the paper. 

“I do,” I replied. “I was the Editor-In-Chief of my high school newspaper.”

A few short seconds later, Jena was fumbling through her purse trying to find a scrap piece of paper for me to write my information on. The rest, as they say, was history. 

I started as a reporter my freshman year and eventually worked my way up to News Editor and, finally, Editor-In-Chief. I covered several topics during my time with Hilltop Views, all of which dealt with injustice that people faced both on campus and in the greater Austin community. With my background in digital media and video editing, I simultaneously worked my way up to president of Topper Studios, the on-campus digital media club. It was then that I found ways to integrate digital media content into Hilltop Views. 

While at times the job proved to be stressful and a lot to handle on top of my coursework and other extra curriculars, I knew I could always rely on the tight-knit team that I had built during my four years at St. Edward’s. 

To Amanda Gonzalez, the first Editor-In-Chief I closely worked with who was patient enough to teach me the ins and the outs of the Hilltop Views journalistic process. Your leadership and workhorse attitude not only inspired me to be a better leader, but reminded me that if you want something done right, there needs to be a considerable amount of effort and time put into it. Even if that meant staying in the office at three in the morning on a school night. 

To Gianni Zorrilla, my fearless co-EIC who stood by me every step of the way during this semester. Your passion for storytelling and eye for detail is unmatched and I will miss working with such a focused and dedicated editor. I’ll never forget the times where it felt like it was us against the world, yet together we managed to pull through. 

To Jena Heath, for going out of her way to ensure that I joined Hilltop Views. I will never forget the valuable lessons you taught me in taking risks and standing up for the truth, even if I was standing alone. 

To Curt Yowell, who as the Hilltop Views faculty advisor made sure I had the support that I needed. Your efforts to ensure that our team had everything that we needed to succeed did not go unnoticed. You were truly a calming presence during this stressful semester and it was evident that you truly wanted to see us succeed throughout our college careers.

To the Hilltop Views staff of editors, designers and photographers who found new and innovative ways to bring creativity to our publication and who will remain my lifelong friends. I came into Hilltop Views knowing I wanted to one day work my way up to the Editor-In-Chief position. I expected it to be hard and competitive, but what I didn’t expect was to find a group of friends who were so willing to sacrifice to ensure that our publication looked the best that it can possibly be. Hilltop Views was staying up until ungodly morning hours putting together our print edition, or the thrill of covering a breaking news story, or the weekends we spent together relaxing from the hellacious week we had, or the opportunities we were given to represent our newspaper and further our career paths in journalism. Hilltop Views was all of that, and I know now that I will cherish those moments. 

Lastly, to the St. Edward’s student body who followed our coverage of events and read what we had to say. 

Thank you, for a semester full of surprises. Viva Hilltoppers. Viva Hilltop Views.


Adrian Gonzalez, Sports Editor

Adrian Gonzalez will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in writing and rhetoric with a concentration in digital media and journalism and a minor in communication.

Hilltop Views farewells are usually hard enough to read through without getting teary-eyed. I’ve been dreading the day I’d have to write one because that means officially saying goodbye to the great friends I’ve made during my time here as well as the skills I’ve developed to better prepare me for the professional world. But, here we are.

I’ve been involved with Hilltop Views since my freshman year in 2016. My sister, Amanda, was a section editor and practically dragged me by the ear to join their first meeting of the semester. I was instantly exposed to a professional journalism environment and remember thinking (and hoping) that I could one day be just like the section editors at the time. I’m thankful for my sister who encouraged me to join HV because it was one of my favorite college experiences.

A special thank you to former Design Chief Paula Santos and former Editor-In-Chief Rosemond Crown for making me feel comfortable in my first year as a young journalist and for showing me that it’s possible to go places with the skills you learn at St. Edward’s and through HV.

After my year as a designer, I transitioned to a contributing staff writer and focused my time on sports. I remember always being the only person who would ever take stories for the sports section. My consistency and development as a writer  eventually led me to become the sports editor for my junior year. I was hesitant at first because I was intimidated by the new role, but I figured it would be a great opportunity to lead the section.  

Then comes junior year. I started as a section editor alongside Sierra Rozen (Viewpoints) and Gianni Zorrilla (Life & Arts). We quickly developed a connection with each other through several journalism classes and HV. There’s not another pair of talented young journalists I would’ve wanted to start this journey with. They are so unique, creative and hilarious in their own ways, and I look up to their craft every time I write. Sierra and Gianni, thank you for never letting me feel alone and for helping me get through classes. I’m so glad I have friends like you two!

To past HV editors like Elizabeth Ucles, Lilli Hime, Lauren Sanchez, Andrea Guzman, Jacob Bryce, Brandon Paz, Joey Hadden and many others, thanks for all the late-night laughs and valuable lessons that carried over and helped me become a great section editor. 

To my loyal and talented staff writers Odett Ochoa, Katya Melchor, Dante Gutierrez, Garon Hunt and Niki Batac, to name a few, thank you for consistently writing for my section. I’ve seen you all develop into great writers and I hope I was able to offer some guidance for your experience as sports writers. I learned a lot from you all and it was a pleasure to read so many of your stories. 

To Curt Yowell and Jena Heath, thank you for always pushing me to discover my true potential and for providing several resources and opportunities that made me feel confident in my abilities. You both have been valuable during my time as a journalism student and I’m grateful for your willingness to advise and guide me throughout my years at St. Edward’s. 

To my current team, I’m so glad I got to work with such talented and determined individuals who are focused on producing quality content for the SEU community. I’ve never seen a more united, well-functioning and loving HV staff than this one, and I am forever grateful to have been a part of that.

To the photo editors Juan Diaz and Gracie Watt, thank you for your patience and help with finding the perfect photos for our articles. To my seniors John Walker and Matthew San Martin, I’m so excited to see where life will take you after graduation! 

To my girls, Christine Sanchez, Kelly Salinas, Sammy Jo Cienfuegos, Myrka Moreno, Nina Martinez, Gianni and Sierra, thank you for always bringing laughter, love, wisdom, support and kindness to every function. I love you all so much and thank you all for allowing me to be confident in who I am. 

To my best buddy George Murray, I’m proud of how much you’ve excelled as my co-editor this past semester. I have no doubt that the sports section we grew together is  in good hands. It was incredible to work with you. Great things are headed your way and I know the best is yet to come. Odett is going to learn so much from you!

To Christine, thank you for being the best partner anyone could ask for. You always support me and show me that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. I’m so glad we were able to meet through a mutual passion for journalism and I’m so excited to see where this beautiful relationship of ours takes us. Congrats on all of your accomplishments! You’ll be such a great Co-Editor In Chief – your leadership, intelligence and journalism skills have led you to this moment. I know you’ll be great. Best of luck in your final year at St. Ed’s, I’ll be with you every step of the way. 

Lastly, thank you Hilltop Views. Thank you for the lasting relationships, leadership experience and journalism & digital media skills you’ve taught me. I’ve met the greatest group of friends I’ve ever had and I’ve made valuable connections through my time here. 

I’m excited for the next chapter of my life. Whatever that may be, I know I am  ready to conquer any challenge thrown my way. As a freshman, I never thought it would be possible to make it this far. But I’m proud of the person I’ve become and a lot of that has to do with surrounding myself with a positive environment alongside so many skilled student journalists. 

With all of that said, farewell, Hilltop Views staff. I hope your eyes aren’t too teary  because I need you all to clearly see how much you mean to me and how much you’ve helped me see my true potential. It’s been all love!


John Walker, Life & Arts Editor

John Walker will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in communication with a focus in multi-media and broadcast journalism and a minor in journalism.

If I’m ever asked what I would have done differently during my time at St. Edward’s, it would not be  not staying in the Pavillions. It would be doing Hilltop Views all four years. If you would have told me as a wide-eyed freshman that I would end my senior year as a section editor for Hilltop Views, I would have laughed. But honestly, Hilltop Views has been one of my favorite experiences as a Hilltopper, and I could not be more appreciative. 

Journalism was not my desired major coming into college. I wanted to go into film production, become a PA straight out of college and hopefully direct my own film. I still do, but I find myself applying to more and more journalism jobs, whether  in newsrooms or TV stations across the country. 

I was surprised, to say the least, when I was invited to become an editor after one semester. I know we look for strong and consistent writers when we bring up new editors. I was not consistent my first semester, so I must have been a strong writer. I was hesitant to accept the position at first, but I’m happy I did because I would never regret it. 

Hilltop Views is more than just a campus organization to me. It’s a welcoming community that I will never forget. The team behind Hilltop Views quickly became more than a team; they became family. We’ve spent many hours working to make the paper the best it can be. That’s not without its challenges, but we overcame and continue to produce high-quality work. 

I might not have chosen to be a journalist, but the journalist in me got a chance to shine and it isn’t without the help of so many people. 

Thank you to Matthew San Martin and Gianni Zorrilla for being the best Editors-in-Chief. You push me to be my very best. I could not have done everything without your expertise and knowledge. You allowed me to take on so much for Hilltop Views and I could not be more appreciative of your support over the past two years. Thank you especially to Zorrilla, who brought me on for Life and Arts. Thank you for showing me the ropes and trusting me with a responsibility I thought I would never have earned without you. 

To all my fellow editors, you made my time with Hilltop Views so special. I could not ask for a better group of friends. I know this group is going to do great things and I can not be more thankful to have y’all in my life. To Sierra Rozen, my co-editor this year, you helped me be a better writer every time I read your work. Thank you for all the laughs. I know you will continue to grow the section and do great things after you graduate.

Finally, to the faculty advisors of Hilltop Views, Curt Yowell and Jena Heath, your support in the classroom and at the paper is greatly appreciated. I know I can come to you for academic and professional guidance. Thank you for being there for me. You showed me that I can have a career in journalism and that it’s a perfect fit for me. 

To anyone in the graduating class of 2020 who reads this, I know this isn’t the way we wanted to go out, but COVID-19 will not keep us down. Thank you to the rest of the faculty and staff of St. Edward’s for taking this California kid in with open arms and putting a little Texas in him. And to anyone who is afraid of writing for Hilltop Views — don’t be. We will always gladly read your work and give you constructive feedback. It’s a special place and once you find your home here you’ll never want to leave.