Since March 2020, staff members of The Rocket had to adjust to ever-changing conditions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the staff is planning to report back to a more fully open semester.

This school year, staff members were limited on the number of people allowed in the office. This required half of the 14-person staff to Zoom into meetings and print night activities. More than likely, the 2020-2021 staff will never see each other fully in person, setting the current staff apart from previous years.

This is a challenge that Nina Cipriani, incoming editor-in-chief, will need to address early in the semester.

“I feel like once we get to know each other as a staff and are more comfortable with each other, I think everything else will fall into place,” Cipriani said. “I think it will be hard at first, even those who have been on campus before the pandemic, but I think if we can lean on each other and have that relationship, it will make that much easier.”

A sophomore converged journalism major, Cipriani has previously served on staff as assistant news editor and news editor. She will be replacing Hannah Shumsky, a senior secondary English education major and current editor-in-chief, who will be graduating on May 1.

In addition to Shumsky, three seniors on staff will be graduating this semester: Lesa Bressanelli, copy/web editor and an English major; Aaron Marrie, multimedia editor and a converged journalism major; and Brendan Howe, sports editor and a converged journalism major. Elisabeth Hale, advertising manager and a junior advertising major, will not be returning to staff this upcoming semester.

Bressanelli, who has led her section for the past two years, said that opportunities like The Rocket provide opportunities to work with other staff members to do hands-on work and grow in a personal and professional atmosphere.

“[The Rocket] has so many opportunities to grow as not only an editor but even as a writer, even though I’m not necessarily a writer on staff,” Bressanelli said. “It has been a great experience and kind of dipping your toes in the water, of what you might want to be before, you know, taking kind of that deep plunge post-graduation.”

In the news section, Cipriani’s former position of news editor will be fulfilled by Joe Wells, a senior converged journalism and digital media production dual major. He will be joined by Emma Velesig, a sophomore history major, as assistant news editor.

Maddie Williams, a sophomore converged journalism major, will join Tyler Howe to complete the sports section. A previous contributor to the sports section, Williams will be the first cisgender woman to fulfill the role of sports editor since 2013.

Ryanne Dougherty, a freshman integrated marketing communications major, will be promoted to the position of copy/web editor. She will be joined by Kaitlyn Myers, a sophomore English major, who will take over Dougherty’s former position of assistant copy/web editor.

For her, Dougherty looks forward to taking on more of a leadership role on staff, especially after developing leadership skills in high school and during her first semester with The Rocket. 

“When I was in high school, I really did enjoy being a leader for younger people,” Dougherty said. “Seeing the type of work that we do is exciting, and being a part of it for as long as I can is definitely going to be the most exciting thing for me.”

Brandon Pierce, a sophomore digital media production major, will take over Marrie’s former position of multimedia editor. Pierce previously contributed to The Rocket’s campus life section.

Pierce said that he looks forward to getting to work with a new group of people to create The Rocket, especially as the university begins to open up more to a more on-campus student presence.

“Especially during COVID, everybody felt so isolated and individualized, I think it will be nice to finally get together and work together again,” Pierce said.

In the business section, Brooke Miller, a senior advertising major, will lead the section as advertising manager. Sara McClintock, a senior public relations major, will join her as her assistant.

Two sections on staff will remain the same. The campus life section will be led by Sarah Anderson, a freshman integrated marketing communications and professional writing dual major, and Morgan Miller, a senior integrated marketing communications major. The photos section will be led by Hannah Slope, a junior public relations and integrated marketing communications dual major, and Rayni Shiring, a junior digital media production major.

The 2020-21 staff of The Rocket had a record-setting year, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this mostly virtual school year, The Rocket has secured 33 awards from the Associated Collegiate Press (ACP), Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA), Society for Collegiate Journalists (SCJ) and Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association (PNA). Awards and honors include:

  • First Place – Best of Show (ACP)
  • First Place – Overall Newspaper Excellence (SCJ)
  • First Place – Ongoing News Coverage (PNA)
  • First Place – Continuing Coverage (SCJ)
  • First Place – Editorial (SCJ)
  • First Place – Sports Page (SCJ)
  • First Place – Layout/Design (PNA)
  • Silver Crown (CSPA)

Although Cipriani is used to being one of the youngest staff members in The Rocket, she looks forward to working with the new staff and seeing how this upcoming staff work will with each other.

“I feel like we have a lot of really talented people on staff this upcoming semester,” Cipriani said. “I’m used to being the youngest on staff, and now there are people younger than me, so I’m really excited to see how they work with each other and also how they bring new stories and ideas to the staff.”

The Rocket expects to hire students for the spring 2022 staff due to some upcoming staff members who will be graduating at the end of the fall 2021 semester. Please visit for more information about applying to the staff closer to the end of the fall 2021 semester.

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Hannah is a senior secondary English education major and communication minor entering her third year on The Rocket staff and her second year as editor-in-chief. Previously, she served as assistant news editor and covered Student Government Association affairs. After graduation, she hopes to teach English, communications and journalism to high school students. Hannah has won numerous awards for her writing and design work with The Rocket and was named SRU's Student Leader of the Year in 2020. Outside of The Rocket, Hannah is also part of WSRU-TV, Sigma Tau Delta and the Honors College.


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