April 28 was a day Sacred Heart University Senior Emily Archacki likely will never forget. That was the day Archacki—editor-in-chief of SHU’s student newspaper, The Spectrum—posed a question to President Barack Obama during the inaugural College Reporter Day in Washington, D.C.
The White House provided the opportunity as part of President Obama’s nascent educational initiatives. Fifty students were accepted to meet with key members of Obama’s administration and the White House press corps and discuss issues relevant to college students, including student loans, sexual assault on campuses and civil service.
“Not only was this an amazing opportunity to visit the nation’s capital (my very first visit to D.C.) and to experience the White House, it was a great networking opportunity,” said Archacki. “I had the chance to meet like-minded individuals from across the country who work on their campus newspapers, and after speaking with many students, it became clear that even though our campuses are far apart, we all face the same issues and challenges as college journalists.”
The day began with check-in at the Northwest Appointment Gate of the White House at 8 a.m., followed by a tour of the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing. Guests spent most of the day nearby in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where students were welcomed by Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. They were directed to a series of panels to discuss issues with White House correspondents, including Scott Horsley (NPR), Toluse Olorunnipa (Bloomberg News), Christi Parsons (Los Angeles Times), Carolyn Kaster (The Associated Press), Jonathan Karl (ABC News) and Jen Bendery (The Huffington Post).
“We then had a discussion with the two individuals, Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett and Kyle Lierman, who helped create the ‘It’s On Us’ sexual assault awareness campaign,” said Archacki. “I was actually able to provide Mr. Lierman with a copy of The Spectrum that featured a front-page article on Sacred Heart University’s own launch of the campaign.”
The main event began at mid-afternoon: a briefing with Press Secretary Josh Earnest. After a short welcome address, Earnest took questions from the college reporters. He had been speaking for about 30 minutes when President Obama made a surprise appearance, shocking the young journalists. “I hear there’s some hotshot journalists here,” Obama joked, before he spoke briefly about the new college affordability measures his administration is implementing.
“I was lucky and fortunate enough to be called upon by the president when he took questions,” Archacki said. “I asked him about his trip to Flint, Michigan, and what his agenda was. The reason for his visit was a young girl who wrote to him about the ongoing water crisis, and he wrote back to her saying that he would stop by. He actually visited her on May 4.
“This experience solidified my desire to pursue a career in journalism,” she said, “because even though, during my time at Sacred Heart University, I’ve had the opportunity to interview countless high-profile individuals, I still had a rush of adrenaline walking onto the White House property and sitting in seats that have historical significance and reporters before me have had the opportunity to work in.”
Watch Archacki ask President Obama a question, below.