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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Sejal Govindarao: A leap of faith

Lily Speredelozzi | Staff Photographer

Each year, graduating editors are given 30 final column inches — “30” was historically used to signify the end of a story — to reflect on their time at The Hatchet, published in the final issues of the year.

The best things in life come unexpectedly — an easy platitude to recite but a much harder one to live by for those of us who are hard-wired to be type-A when it comes to our goals and dreams. But it’s one that life has reminded me time and time again — in different forms and through different people.

I made an 11th-hour decision to apply to GW in my childhood bedroom after I stumbled upon the school by googling journalists I admired who were alumni. It was a seemingly inconsequential “Why not?”— GW had never been on my radar, nor had journalism, which at the time was just a lingering curiosity in the back of my mind.

If I was anything in high school I was a planner — the “five-year plan” I taped to my wall as a 14-year-old was proof. My sole ambition was to play my sport in college, but an injury derailed those plans and I found myself unenthusiastically pivoting to a plan B.

Even after I got in, I was set on attending a university less than 40 minutes from my home in the Bay Area — a familiar and safe choice. Yet, something — which I can only chalk up to intuition — compelled me to take a leap of faith, follow a gut feeling and head 3,000 miles east to a school I had never visited in a city I barely remembered from a family trip.

That one decision has defined my life over the past four years. Joining The Hatchet was no exception to that.

Initially, I wasn’t sure how involved I wanted to be with The Hatchet; I started by taking occasional stories to sharpen my news writing skills. However, I could never have predicted how the members of this paper would become like family.

As a sophomore fact-checker, I spent late nights in the townhouse with Jared and Jarrod. My role as the paper’s news podcast host and editor introduced me to my “Hatchet little brother,” Max. Although both jobs could have been done virtually, I found myself drawn to the physical newsroom, eagerly anticipating our gabbing sessions and the belly laughs that punctuated our edits.

The Hatchet also brought me closer to Abby, my former roommate and a close friend throughout college. Starting as rookie reporters together, we braved a frigid anti-abortion protest at the Capitol, struggling to record quotes with numb fingers. Our bond deepened over the years through shared PowerPoint nights, movie marathons (Marcel the Shell with Shoes On, obviously) and countless Hatchet gossip sessions.

The Hatchet provided me another tether to my sorority little Grace, who I have had the privilege to watch grow and now lead the paper (I’m so proud of you!!!). I befriended Nick through The Hatchet our first year, and as seniors, we’ve been able to leave a legacy as we both founded and have grown GW’s first Asian American Journalists organization. Much of this year I’ve spent side by side with Faith, as we have tirelessly worked on our long-term project.

I could go on, but admittedly it’s hard to summarize all of the memorable moments (shoutouts below!). More than anything, when I think back on my time at The Hatchet, I’m reminded of a feeling — of warmth and closeness to those who have become some of my closest friends, but also deep admiration for the talented reporters who uncover our campus’s best stories. That feeling has simultaneously given me a home in college and the affirmation of my reporting chops that kept me pursuing what was initially a spur-of-the-moment career decision. And it’s led me farther than I ever thought possible.

Outside of The Hatchet, I’ve had the privilege of working as a part-time Congressional reporter through various internships, balancing classes with professors I deeply admire, and running GW’s first Asian American Journalists organization — all alongside wonderful friends whom I would never have met had I not applied here on a whim.

That’s not to say everything has gone smoothly — far from it. I fell on my face more than once. But by viewing those moments as redirections rather than failures, I’ve learned so much about myself — as a reporter and as a person. Most importantly, I’ve made that younger Sejal, once slumped at her desk wondering what the future held, proud of the leaps I’ve taken — and inspired her to embrace even more.

Lean into the unknown (especially if it’s uncomfortable!), and follow your gut. It’ll never fail you. In fact, it might quite literally change the course your life.


Past staff:

Jarrod Wardwell: I’m so lucky not only to have had you as an editor but also to have grown to be friends with you. You are one of the most meticulous editors I have ever had — it’s what makes you so talented. You are also a natural leader, striking a balance between demanding the best and providing mentorship and compassion in a way that few can. The townhouse isn’t the same without you, but watching your reporting career unfold has been incredibly exciting. I miss you and I am so proud of you!!!! You are destined for such greatness!!!

Jared Gans: I don’t know if you remember this, but during my first year, I emailed The Hatchet asking how to get involved, and you replied! I’ll never forget how much it meant that you took the time to call and offer your advice on how to be an active member of the staff. I deeply appreciate that you are still just a text away, which has been incredibly helpful throughout this crazy job search! I’ve looked up to you since day one. You care so much about the craft of journalism and it shows in all of the work you have put forth for both The Hatchet and the Hill.

Zach Schonfeld: One of the first stories I heard about you involved your coverage on Jan. 6, and how people had to convince you to leave the steps of the Capitol for your safety as the insurrection unfolded. You are such a dogged reporter, and that is clearly evident through all of the reporting you do. I look up to you so much!

Lia DeGroot: Thank you for bringing me into The Hatchet. Our first editors can often make or break our willingness to continue as reporters, and your encouragement to my first-year self inspired me to apply to the staff and climb The Hatchet ladder. I appreciate you!

Amanda Plocharski: Forever our Hatchet grandma! Thank you for being my sounding board and the big sister at GW I never knew I needed. You are such a light and have never failed to make members of the staff — new or old — feel welcome. The Hatchet just isn’t the same without you — you are always my multimedia editor bestie. I miss you so much!

Lauren Sforza: You’ve always been someone I’ve looked up to at The Hatchet, from your days as a student government editor. Thank you for all the advice and memories during your time on staff — from freezing while covering the anti-abortion protest to watching Marcel together, I’m so glad we met each other through The Hatchet.

Isha Trivedi: I’ve always admired the way you approach reporting and the tenacity you bring to your work. Thank you for your candid advice and for encouraging me to go to bat for my sections and teams.

Julia Koscelnik and Clara Duhon: You both brought such life to The Hatchet — thank you for always being a friendly face in the townhouse!

Abby Kennedy: I’m really grateful to have met you through the paper — so many of my core Hatchet memories include you! You are such a kind and uplifting presence, and you are going to go far. I’m so proud of you!

Lily Speredelozzi: Lily!!!! You are the backbone of AAJA — it’s been wonderful working with you this past year. I admire your creative eye so much, whether it’s in your photos or graphics. I can’t wait to see you lead next year. You are also one of the funniest people I know — never change!

Current staff:

Zach Blackburn: My first memory of you at the Hatchet — apart from our brief section meetings with Lia on Zoom — was seeing you hit the ground running as metro editor. From early on, I admired how you never hesitated to jump into a story. You’ve got incredibly sharp news instincts, which you’ve paired with your leadership this past year. I’m very excited to see where they continue to take you.

Nick Pasion: You were one of my first GW journalism friends, and I’m very grateful to have met you through the paper. You have pushed me to be a better reporter, and I’m glad we could both leave AAJA as part of our legacies. I’m so proud of you and the trajectory you’ve forged for yourself. The first-year/sophomore versions of us would be proud of where we are now.

Nicholas Anastácio: You care so much about this paper, and it does not go unnoticed. From quite literally baking everyone a multi-course Thanksgiving dinner to the events you have had a hand in, you pour your heart into everything you do for staff. We also started together freshman year, and it’s been amazing to see you grow — as a journalist and as a person — over the last four years. I’m lucky to call you my friend, and I’m so proud of you.

Jaden Dimauro: We started at the paper at the same time, but we haven’t always overlapped in the townhouse. I wish we had gotten to know each other better, but I’ve admired your trajectory at the paper and the kindness you extend to every single staff member.

Grace Miller: I’ve always admired your work on design! You are so funny and creative, and I’m excited for the rest of The Hatchet senior season with you. Another post-brunch basketball game soon!!!

Grace Chinowsky: Oh boy, it’s so hard to write just a paragraph — you are one of my best friends. We complement each other and see the world in similar ways (coming from the elite crop of west-coast Taurus journalism girlies, obviously). I am so thankful ADPi brought me you, my forever little!!!!! Words cannot express how grateful I am for you, college just wouldn’t be the same without you. I admire your intellect and the way you always call it like you see it. You are also one of the most emotionally intelligent and compassionate people I know. All of that comes through your reporting — you are going to go so, so far. It’s been a privilege to watch you grow from a baby reporter to literally running the paper. I’ve enjoyed watching every step of your journey and will continue to be president of the Grace Chinowsky fan club as your career continues to unfold. You are such a boss, and you are born to be a reporter — never forget that. I am so proud of you!!!!

Faith Wardwell: My partner in crime! We’ve made such a great team as we’ve pursued our project over the past year and a half — there’s no one else I’d rather do it with. You’re such a talented reporter, and I’ve learned so much from you throughout the process. Regardless of how everything pans out, it has been a privilege to work beside you. I’m thrilled for you to step into management next year. You are one of the hardest workers I know, and you have forged such a path for yourself on and off the paper. You will be an amazing leader next year. I can’t wait to hear all about it. You’re also such a kind soul; I’m glad we’ve become friends these past few years, and I’m going to miss you so much!!!

Eoighan Noonan: I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to become friends with you this past year — you’re the life of the party at every happy hour, Hatchet party and debrief session. You never fail to make me laugh. I’m happy that we’ve been able to share our Hatchet senior moments together and am excited to see what your next chapter brings you (loyal close friends viewer, always)!!!

Nikki Ghaemi: I’ve admired the way you’ve carried yourself and followed your passions since your early days on staff. You’ve accomplished so much on the paper, and you’ve done it all with such poise. I’m incredibly proud of how much you’ve poured into features and news!

Shea Carlberg: You are such a ray of sunshine!!! Thank you for bringing your warmth to every Hatchet function.

Nicholas Aguirre Zafiro & Ava Thompson: When you both started as multimedia reporters (I believe just as I was taking over the pod), what first struck me was your willingness to jump into any and all video and pod projects. That drive to dive in and learn will take you both so far.

Caitlin Kitson & Sophia Goedert: You’ve both inspired me so much through the way you have approached your respective news beats. I’ve loved sharing our short time on investigations together, and am so excited to see what you both do next year!

Erika Filter: You have such a keen eye for news and are a very talented reporter — keep hustling!!! It will pay off. I’m excited to see where you land.

Ianne Salvosa: I truly don’t know how you do it all, and make it seem so effortless!!! I admire how committed you have been to The Hatchet as a two-year news editor, and I’m very excited for you to step into management next year. You’re a rockstar.

Ethan Valliath: It’s hard to believe we met through a podcast not too long ago. I’ve loved watching your Hatchet journey evolve and see you lean into your creativity. You’re also one of the most down-to-earth people I know — I admire your ability to do so much and remain so chill while doing it. Keep up the great work.

Lizzie Jensen: Your confidence impressed me from day one — if you had told me you were an upperclassman the day I met freshman Lizzie at The Hatchet open house, I would have believed it! You are such a boss in everything you do, and your ability to lead will take you far. You inspire me!!!

Ethan Benn: You are such a gifted writer. I’m glad we’ve had the chance to chat more through our broadcast class this year (speedy teleprompter and all)!!

Anaya Bhatt: My fellow Bay Area gal — I’m so glad we’ve bonded over our AI class! I’m really impressed by your maturity and the way you carry yourself. Make the most of the next few years — they’ll fly by!

Ishani Chettri: I’ve always admired the work you’ve poured into The Hatchet since your early days on the news team. I’m so glad we got to work together for one of our classes last semester — albeit in the basement of Gelman (mostly) gabbing about Hatchet gossip.

Nuria Diaz: We also started together! It’s been so cool watching your trajectory on The Hatchet unfold, especially how you’ve led sports coverage. I’m grateful for the many early Hatchet memories we’ve shared.

An Ngo: I’m so excited for AAJA to be in your hands next year. You are wise beyond your years and carry yourself with such poise. You’re going to be a great leader for the organization in the years to come.

Jennifer Igbonoba: You always manage to bring a smile to my face when I run into you on campus! Your uplifting energy is contagious!

Hannah Marr: I’m so impressed with your coverage of student life and government this past year. You pour so much care and passion into your work, and it shows. You have amazing things ahead for your reporting career — lean into it! I’m so excited for you.

Max Porter: Max! My junior year on staff wouldn’t have been the same without you. I’m so glad Pod brought us closer (and now I have a pickleball partner, too!). As I mentioned earlier, you are like my “Hatchet little brother,” and it’s been so fun watching you grow. I’m proud of how much you’ve invested in different organizations and internships, and it will continue to pay dividends. Keep hustling, and bring your eager beaver energy from first-year to Pod next year — you’ll do great.

To my family:

Broader/extended family & family friends: It truly takes a village, and you guys are mine. I’m lucky to have grown up with such a loving community of family around. I wouldn’t be who I am today without you!

Devi, Mom & Dad: Thank you for your unwavering support and for never letting me believe that any dream of mine was too big. It’s also been a privilege to watch all of you pursue your dreams — I am always inspired by you!

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