Student Profile - Chelsea Henderson

Henderson tapped as University Press editor

Chelsea Henderson has an eye for news. The communication major was recently named University Press editor at Lamar University after a three-year career at the publication.Chelsea Henderson

Since joining the ranks at the University Press, Henderson has written a variety of stories and won several awards. Andy Coughlan, Lamar’s director of student publications, said Henderson’s passion for journalism has been evident since she was a freshman, so it was a natural fit to place her in the position as new UP editor.

“Chelsea has worked hard to reach the position of editor,” Coughlan said. “Her maturity has matched her considerable ability, and I am delighted for her. She has clerked and interned at professional publications, and she will bring fresh ideas to the University Press that will reflect the changing nature of the industry.”

The Fellsmere, Fla., native moved to Lumberton in 1998. After relocating to Beaumont in 2004, Henderson began school at West Brook High School and joined the school paper where she served as editor. She knew she had found her calling.

When Henderson began her search for colleges, her criteria were led by a drive to work for a university paper to get the real scoop about stories on campus and in the community. Her search led her to Lamar University. Henderson chose Lamar because of the professional quality of the student newspaper, the University Press.

“I was accepted to other schools, but I came here because I really liked the paper,” she said. “The other schools I was accepted to granted me scholarships, but after looking at their student newspapers, I decided on Lamar. We put out a professional publication, and that was something that was important to me. I figured if I were going to a school to work for the newspaper, then I should find the college with the best one.”

Henderson saw her first copy of the University Press as a junior in high school. She said that first encounter put Lamar high on her list of college choices. Now, being named UP editor, Henderson said she is honored to fill the role and hopes to continue the tradition of putting out an award-winning product. “This also means that the former editor and the director believe that I am an asset to the paper, and that is a really big honor,” she said.

In finding sources for stories, Henderson relies on Lamar’s faculty for an expert opinion. “Part of what I like about interviewing people on campus is all of the faculty here are experts in something. And if they don’t know, they can always point you to someone who does. Lamar has some great faculty and staff who love what they do. I get really excited working on a story when my sources are passionate about their work.”

Lamar’s art culture has also been an asset to newswriting, Henderson said. The variety of events and exhibitions sponsored by Artist Common, the Dishman Art Museum and Lamar’s theatre department always keep news of events rolling in.

“There is so much out here to cover,” she said. “Before I came here, I didn’t realize there were so many art venues and theatre companies. I knew we had an art museum, but I didn’t realize the people they bring here are always a lot bigger than we might assume they are. I like figuring stuff like that out and discovering new things.”

News is meant to inform, and that is something Henderson sets out to do. She said she likes taking on serious subjects and telling people’s unheard stories.

 “I really liked the reproductive rights story I did in fall 2012,” she said. “I got to talk to a woman who is currently trying her case in the Supreme Court. I would rather do more serious stories people can really get something out of.”

Henderson’s term as UP editor fortuitously coincides with the 2012 US presidential election. She said she is both nervous and excited about covering the election. “I am really hoping that one of the candidates will come to this area,” she said. “I would love to go and cover it.”

Henderson said she enjoys covering topics that open people’s minds to important issues. “I wouldn’t know what is going on in Syria if there weren’t someone there reporting on it,” she said. “I don’t like people assuming that just because something happens in a different country, or even a different state, that it doesn’t affect them. It will. Especially with the election right around the corner – how will we know who to vote for if we don’t know what is going on in the world and where the candidates stand on those issues?”

Henderson currently juggles a job at The Port Arthur News working on page design, as well as school and family, which includes her eight-month-old son, Stefan, named for her high school journalism advisor, Stephan Malick, a Lamar and UP alumnus. She said it can be a challenge, but with help from her husband, Shayne Martin, computer science freshman from Beaumont, she manages to make everything work. “The first semester after I had my Stefan, I tried to keep work at work and not bring anything home,” she said. “But it never worked that way.”

But, as Henderson and her family have begun to grow together, they have found a groove. “Stefan is at the age where he likes helping and pushing buttons,” she said. “So when I do have to bring work home, he doesn’t mind because he gets to play on the computer with me.”

After graduation, Henderson plans to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in English. She said while she finishes up her degree at Lamar, she plans to take courses that will strengthen her writing and critical thinking skills. “I also want to take more courses in political science to get a better understanding of how politics works,” she said. “I feel like it will make me a better and more informed writer.”

Henderson has a practical outlook on the future. She said she hopes to find a job in journalism that is the right fit for her and her interests. “Most journalism students dream of working for the New York Times,” she said. “But I've never actually been in their newsroom to know if that's the place for me. I can’t picture myself in an environment where I don’t love what I do.”