Derek Blankenship’s eye fordetail and precision led this English major with minors in Scientific Computing and Chinese to the QuakerCampus, where he got to explore different avenues of journalism. Now, he hopes to leave a lasting impact on the Whittier College community.
QC: What accomplishment are you most proud of during your time at Whittier?
Blankenship: I’d say the articles that I’ve written for the QC this year. Not one in particular, but just as a whole, I felt like not only were they a rewarding challenge, but I felt like they had a lot of real world impact. Even though I’m very proud of a lot of the coursework I’ve done, less often that kind of stuff gets out to the real world. When I write for the QC, the point is to get out into the world.
Can you give us a few examples of those articles?
On a solemn note, [Leah Boynton] worked with me on the story about Margo [Latif’s] passing, which was a very intense experience, but I’m glad that we were there to do it, to the level of quality that we did and to provide what service we could as journalists. Also, I’m proud of the interview I did with Sharon [Herzberger]. Even though it was mostly her words, it was cool to do. I felt like it was a great chance to get some of those answers out there directly from her.
What lead you to the QC as a first-year?
I was just kind of hanging out. Well, journalism was not really my thing. I began by writing one Opinions article a week and then slowly became coerced to do more and more, so then I became the Web Administrator and then Photos Editor. I met Robert Kondo, who is one of my favorite people in the whole world. When I worked alongside him and I was working in the office on Wednesday nights, I got really involved in photography, especially sports photography, and that is where I started to do a lot more work.
I did a really great job and when it came to this year, they were looking for a Managing Editor. Basically, there was no one able to take it up and so I decided to. And I am glad I did. It is really important what we do for the newspaper and I am glad that I took it up because I am proud of the work we have done this year and it looks like it is going to continue to grow.
How have you grown during your time at Whittier?
I think for one, I’ve really learned how to prioritize a lot better. When I came in, I was really enthusiastic and I was pushing to do more and more, but of course, the reality is that you can’t really do everything. I’ve also grown incredibly as a writer. Even with my experience taking Advanced Placement in high school, I wasn’t necessarily ready to write big papers or do research. Research boggled my mind, even. When you write for the paper, you get used to writing a lot and on deadline and that’s a great skill to have.
I think I’ve also developed a much stronger sense of community. With all that I’ve experienced, I’ve come to understand that I’m not just one single particle; I’m very much connected with everyone around me.
What has your involvement in the Artonian Order of the Knights of Pendragon (AOKP) meant to you? What is your fantasy persona?
As a first-year, I was very involved. I got to meet a lot of interesting, funny and quirky people. It is essentially a collection of the weirdest people on campus, but they are all really great for that reason. My fantasy persona in-matrix is Antaeus McQuillion, who is basically a really honorable, honest knight of the realm who lives in Cumbria with rolling green hills where he is currently writing poetry. AOKP is an open world where you could be imaginative and creative.
Who are your favorite professors on campus and why?
On the commencement form, they had a box where they asked to list off influential people at Whittier College. So I proceeded to list off about 15 different people, most of whom were professors and I wrote little notes about each of them. So when I submitted the form, there was an error because I had used too many characters in the box to talk about the people who influenced me, which is a way of saying that all of my professors are amazing and to even pick one or a few would be a disservice to them.
What was your favorite part of going abroad your junior year and spending a semester in China?
I went to Beijing and I studied at Beijing University in a language immersion program, which was a really intense experience because during the week, you could only speak Mandarin, it was a rule. That was really hard and my Chinese got a lot better. There were two best parts, the first being able to experience life in that city. And the second best part was at the end of the term. We went to Lasa in Tibet, which was really cool.
What growth have you seen in the QC since your first year here?
Well, it honestly dipped and then came back up. When I first got here, it felt like this really impressive and prestigious history of success. That first year, the QC felt so above me. But as we moved along, I felt like we lost a lot of really great people. The people that replaced them, while they were great, did not have that same training as the others.
When we came in this year, from my perspective, it was pretty rough, but it improved a lot and I think that we have got a much more professional and credible aura about us than when we started and I am really proud about that. I feel that, especially with all the heavy stories and all those successful ones that we have done that we have really proven that we can do the big time, big-boy journalism.
Why does the QC refer to you as “Dad?”
It’s Lisa [To’s] fault because she started calling me “dad” because she thought I did dad-like things like telling bad jokes, wearing dad-like clothes. Other people then just picked up on it. I guess I have a dad-like presence, which I take as a compliment.
Where do you hope to see the QC move in the next few years once you graduate?
I hope that there will not only be a continued sense of professionalism and credibility in what we produce, but a heightened responsiveness and greater web presence. I hope that we are able to respond to events that happen or are relevant in a detailed and professional way the day of or the next day. I do not think it could happen for every story but for a few important ones.
What are you going to miss most about Whittier College?
I am going to miss the people. Both my peers and my professors, as well. All the professors that I have had have been amazing. I love them all and they all have so much wisdom and knowledge. Despite being really busy all the time, it is still great to come to school because they are all cool, interesting and unique people.
What’s next for you after Whittier?
A few weeks out of this summer, I’m going to be working for this company called ID Tech. They hold tech camps where you can serve as a camp counselor-slash-instructor for programming and stuff like that. But mostly during the summer, I’m just going to recover from these four years.
I’m waiting to hear back from Quaker Voluntary Service, which is a non-profit program run by Quakers. The one in particular that’s my number one choice is an organization called New City Initiative which is based in Portland. What they do is work with families who are below the poverty line, usually single parents, and provide some financial resources and guidance and connect them with other resources. They help them build up their family to end the cycle of homelessness so that their kids will have a better chance of success. I’ve applied for that and have been interviewed.