The Vantage takes home awards: They mean much more.

By Denise Neil, Adviser

If this were a normal year, this spot in The Vantage would be filled with a fond farewell from The Vantage’s editor-in-chief, who’d reflect on his or her years of covering interesting stories at Newman and lament the end of a well-spent college journalism career.

But this is not a normal year: The Vantage’s editor-in-chief, senior Alexis Stallard, got a much-deserved job offer before Christmas and could not return to finish out her second year in charge of the paper. That left the enormous task of running The Vantage on the shoulders of two first-year students: editor-in-chief Victor Dixon and Arts & Entertainment editor Matthew Fowler.

It’s unusual for freshmen to take on such roles, but these two exceptional students stepped up and proved intelligence and maturity beyond their years.

That’s why I was even more impressed and moved than I usually am at this year’s Kansas Collegiate Media conference, which happened in Wichita State University on Sunday and Monday. The annual conference includes a competition where college newspapers from across the state go head-to-head with each other in writing, photography and design categories. Professional journalists choose the winners from entries submitted by journalists from big state schools like The University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University and from smaller private colleges like Newman, Baker University and Sterling College. 

The Vantage took home 22 individual awards – seven of which were first-place finishes. It also earned five second-place and seven third-place awards plus three honorable mentions.

As expected, the staff’s most senior members, Stallard and former sports editor Matthew Revels, won half of those awards: Stallard got nine, while Revels had two. But Dixon and Fowler also won multiple awards, an unusual accomplishment considering that all the work entered in the contest had to have been published in 2023, meaning they won with stories written during their first semester of college. Dixon took home five individual awards, and Fowler earned two. 

What’s even more remarkable: Neither Dixon nor Fowler plan to become journalists. They’re both biomed majors working toward med school. But both wanted to be involved on campus and stumbled across The Vantage booth at the involvement fair that happened before classes started in the fall. That’s making the most of college, if you ask me.

Not only did the staff members perform well individually, but The Vantage also took home the contest’s most coveted prize: The All-Kansas award. That means that when it was put up against the student newspapers at all of Kansas’ other private four-year colleges, The Vantage was judged to be the best. This is the second year in a row The Vantage has won the All-Kansas award.

As the adviser of The Vantage, I’m incredibly proud of all of these students, who not only are improving their communication and writing skills but are also doing important work in the process. Journalists are essential to our democracy, and the professionals who act as society’s watch dogs almost always get their starts as college journalists, learning to ask tough questions and keeping their campuses informed.

Congratulations to all the award winners. I can’t wait to see what Stallard does with her career, but I also can’t wait to see where Dixon and Fowler take this publication in the coming years.

We’d love to have you join us. If you like writing, even if you’re not a communication major, we’d love to have you. Email me at for more information.

PHOTO: Denise Neil