COLUMN: An ode to my first home

Brandon Carter is the editor-in-chief of the College Heights Herald during the spring 2016 and fall 2016 semesters.

Brandon Carter

On Sept. 9, 2012, I received an email that would change my life. “Congratulations!” it exclaimed. “We have read through your application and have decided to hire you to be a part of the best yearbook photo staff in the nation!”

The email was from Sam Oldenburg, the photo editor of the 2013 Talisman. Eager to fit in at WKU and anxious to find my place as a nervous freshman from a tiny western Kentucky town, I applied to be a part of the Talisman staff. 

Since that day, I’ve worn many hats at Student Publications. Today’s front-page news inspired me to share a few things I learned during my time in the corner suite of the Student Publications building.


From Sam and Abby O’Bryan, my first photo editors, I learned how to tell a story. As a young journalist, I saw my part, the pictures, as most important. But Sam and Abby were always there to remind us as a photo staff about the importance of the entire package. Sam once illustrated the process of a story for us as a circle; everything works together. I’ve never forgotten that image, and I still use that concept today.

Katie Honadle, the editor-in-chief of the 2014 Talisman, taught me the value of organization. Katie brought order to our crazy office with a color-coded calendar and a planner that was filled to the brim. I have yet to work with someone who is as prepared for anything as Katie always is. She helped erase some of my scatterbrained nature, and I’m pretty sure my obsession with desk organizers came directly from her.

You learn a lot when you pour your soul into something you love with another person who loves it as much as you do. My year as half of the photo-editing dream team alongside Naomi Driessnack for the 2015 Talisman was full of lessons in compassion. It’s hard to lead a group of your peers that you see every day, that you take all your classes with and that you’ve known for years. Naomi has the kindest heart of anyone I know. Working with Naomi meant gracious smiles and plenty of high-fives as we led the visual direction of an incredible yearbook. 

Perhaps the most important lesson comes from our advisor Charlotte Turtle. Every day Charlotte shows me that if you love something with reckless abandon — if you have incredible passion and you care endlessly for the people who surround you — you will someday come into a job that allows you to do all of the above. I want to be Charlotte when I grow up because I too hope to inspire kids from tiny towns who just want to get involved with something and end up falling in love with that very thing.

That’s what this boils down to: I love the Talisman. I love that I was able to contribute to three volumes of the best yearbook in the country. I love that so many students have passed through our building and gained tons of new skills while working on beautiful books that will live forever. I love that hundreds of miles from my real home, I found a second home. As Tanner Cole and Naomi so beautifully wrote on the front page, the Talisman allowed us to work on our humanity. I became a much better human during my time at the Talisman, and I will never forget it. 

With that, I bid the Talisman yearbook a bittersweet adieu. While this might be its reckoning, it will enjoy a fantastic resurgence, and its new form will be just as amazing. My advice to you, WKU, is to keep an eye out. Whatever comes next from the corner suite will be worth watching.