The university has long touted its personal approach to supporting student success with small classes, excellent mentorship and meaningful connections that last past graduation. A professor and a student talk about what that philosophy looks like in practice.

Jena Heath
Jena Heath

Associate Professor of Journalism and Digital Media

Tristan Hallman
Tristan Hallman

Chief of Policy and Communication in the Dallas Mayor’s Office

When Tristan Hallman ’11 arrived at St. Edward’s, he was considering a career in politics. Then he met Jena Heath, associate professor of Journalism and Digital Media, who helped him see that he could build on that interest — and take it further than he ever imagined.

Hallman: I was a Political Science major, but I thought it would be fun to take a journalism elective my sophomore year. I remember doing exercises in writing leads, taking notes and turning those notes into a short piece.

Heath: It was clear that Tristan had the makings not only of a great reporter but also of a great editor. So I encouraged him to pursue more work at Hilltop Views, the campus newspaper.

Hallman: I knew that Jena had covered the Bush campaign and the White House, and she had been in Washington, D.C. Her interests aligned very much with mine. But also, having her tell me, “Hey, I think you can do this,” felt big. That moment still stands out to me.

Heath: I also recommended him for internships off campus. One summer, he went to Washington, D.C., with the Institute on Political Journalism. As part of that internship, he worked with Gannett’s Washington bureau. I got a call from the Dallas Morning News D.C. bureau chief asking for a reference for Tristan to go there for an internship the next summer. Of course I gave him a positive recommendation — he’d earned my confidence!

Hallman: I always really trusted her advice. She was a pro in the industry, and this stuff wasn’t theoretical for her. We were speaking the same language. I really believe that she had my best interest at heart.

Heath: It’s so moving to see students succeed, but I also try to help if they stumble. It’s challenging out there, and how we handle [more challenging] moments has as much to do with our successes as the home-run days. I stay in touch with many former students. I meet their parents, I attend their weddings, and I see them starting their families. I love hearing from them.

Hallman: I reached out to Jena for her opinion about leaving my job as the local government editor at the Dallas Morning News for a position with Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson. She was such an invaluable resource to me in college and has continued to be someone I trust for advice in my career.

Heath: Tristan’s new gig is a great use of his journalism experience and skills in the public-sector policy and communications areas. This transition shows how transferable journalism and digital media are and how the skills we teach open up a wide range of options for really talented and motivated students.

Illustrations by Kati Lacker

Explore more of this 4-part series about the St. Edward’s experience.

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Educating Hearts and Minds

5 Hilltoppers Reflect on the Enduring Spirit of the St. Edward’s Mission

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Giving Students an Edge

How St. Edward’s Prepares Students to Succeed in College and Beyond

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“I Think You Can Do This.”

Mentorship and Personal Connections Make a Difference

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Support Every Step of the Way

Success Coaches and Roadmaps Help Students Create and Achieve Their Goals