Jessica Suriano has been through college graduation once. Now, just a year later, she’s doing it all again, graduating with her master’s degree in journalism.
Suriano was in the Accelerated Master’s Program for the University of Arizona School of Journalism, meaning she completed both her undergraduate and graduate degrees in a total of four years at the UA. She graduates with her master’s degree in just a few days.
“I didn’t really plan on grad school when I entered college, but when they told me, ‘Oh, by the way, you’re finishing your undergrad in three years,’ I was not expecting it,” Suriano said. “Then I found out I could get some funding for grad school if I just stayed in this program.”
Suriano said she had always planned to be at the UA for four years and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to get a master’s degree in such a short amount of time.
She said this year’s graduation will be different from her undergraduate graduation ceremony because it will feel more “final.”
“I think I am definitely going to be more emotional this year,” Suriano said. “Last year I knew I was coming back.”
Ava Garcia, Suriano’s friend and fellow journalism master’s student, feels the same way about this year’s graduation. Garcia completed the Accelerated Master’s Program alongside Suriano in the School of Journalism.
“It’s probably gonna be a lot more real and exciting,” Garcia said. “We’re stepping into the real world at this point.”
Garcia recalled meeting Suriano in the second semester of their freshman year at the UA and being friends ever since.
“Jess is a great friend,” Garcia said. “It’s been so much fun being in the program with her.”
Garcia said it was “exciting” that it worked out for the two of them to go through the same program and get to graduate with a master’s degree together.
“We both did [the program], and it’s been really nice to have someone on a similar track so we can kind of relate to things,” Garcia said.
Suriano said the class she is graduating with is fairly small and they’ve grown close over the past year. She said they all enjoy going to karaoke together to “blow off steam.”
“I think it’s the small things, just knowing that if I’m having a bad day or really struggling with anything, personally or journalistically, I could go into the grad lounge and vent about it and I would have friends there to help [me] pick myself back up,” Suriano said.
She said those memories are what she will remember most from her class.
“Everyone is just very different, but the fact that we can appreciate how different we all are and still love each other is so indicative of why we all want to go into journalism,” Suriano said.
Suriano said she originally planned to go the science route in college. In high school, after writing an AP Literature paper on whether hate speech was free speech, she said her teacher at the time pulled her aside after she submitted the paper and told her to consider a career in writing.
After that conversation, Suriano decided to explore that path and ended up in journalism at the UA.
“I instantly fell in love with it,” Suriano said.
Suriano said this past year has been the most challenging one for her because her graduate school reporting project for the master’s degree focused on sexual assault at the UA. She said it was a big workload, but also a lot to take on mentally.
However, she said she felt that it forced her to learn how to find a balance between work life and self care.
Suriano said she hopes the rest of the graduates this year know that taking care of their mental health is incredibly important.
“As challenging as it was, it really probably helped me prepare for the real world a lot more than I realized it would,” Suriano said.
Suriano’s mother, Lori Suriano, said she is excited to see her daughter graduate with a master’s degree because she believes she is the first one in their family to do so.
“She’s gone an extra step in her education and everyone — our whole family — is very very proud of her,” Lori Suriano said. “We’re looking forward to that. We haven’t been to one of those events before.”
Lori Suriano said the family is excited to see where her daughter’s education takes her, and they are proud of her for completing this milestone of graduating with a master’s degree.
Suriano said she does not yet know what she wants to do after graduation but is excited about what the future of journalism holds for her.
“I’m overall really excited about figuring it out,” Suriano said. “I’m going to cast a wide net and see what sticks.”
She said she feels more ready now than she was last year to graduate and see what’s next for her after school.
“I’m 22, and I’m about to start a new chapter, and I think it just feels a lot more real because it’s actually here now,” Suriano said.
Follow Quincy Sinek on Twitter