Deanna Elliot

Communications (UMass Amherst), 2009

At UMass Boston Deanna Elliot immersed herself in student media, first as Advertising Manager of the Mass Media. Then she delved into literary publishing, editing the 2008 edition of the Watermark, and designing the 2009 edition. 

“As a communications major I didn’t really have much experience with the creative side of publishing,” she said. “I didn’t know design software. Although I enjoy reading and writing creatively, I didn’t really take any classes pertaining to that, and I had no art background.” 

She fell in love with the creative side of publishing at UMass Boston, where she spent her senior year on a domestic exchange from UMass Amherst. 

“Advertising Manager for the newspaper was more like a business job. I was doing invoicing for ads and boring stuff, so I loved the experience I had at the Watermark.” 

Inspired by her work on UMB’s literary magazine, the summer after graduating Elliot began planning to create a new literary journal. 

“It was right when the market crashed, so it was really difficult to find a job, and I didn’t want to settle for something that I wasn’t passionate about, so I started thinking, ‘I wish I had the opportunity to participate in a magazine of the arts when I was in high school.’” 

She surveyed all of the English department chairs in high schools across the state to see if there was an interest in a magazine of the arts for high schoolers. 24 schools responded. 

“Then I started rolling with the idea. I was still job searching and sending out my resume to a bunch of different places, but I got really passionate about The Marble Collection, and that’s how it got started. Now we have over 200 schools and 

nonprofits that participate with the magazine, and we’re based here at UMass Boston.” 

The Marble Collection is a nonprofit organization, the only statewide magazine of the arts with juror-selected works from teens across Massachusetts. They publish writing, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, artwork, paintings, drawings, photography, and also multimedia on their website, like music, spoken word, and poetry readings. They publish two magazines each year, one in the fall and one in the spring. 

“For those students that are selected for publication, we offer them a student mentoring workshop where they’re paired one to one with college student interns.” 

Elliot still works at her family’s farm in the summer to supplement her income, harvesting fruits and vegetables, which she’s been doing since she was eight years old. 

“I gravitated toward UMass Amherst because it’s a very rural area. It started as an agriculture school, and my background as an 18 year old kid was the farm. I really loved that area, and after three years I was ready to try something new. The city was very intimidating for me, but I also knew that it probably held 

a lot more internship opportunities, or opportunities to kind of hone my workforce skills.” 

She also had friends that lived in the city, so rather than studying abroad and spending a lot of money and go somewhere exotic, she decided to spend her last year in college at UMass Boston. 

“I came to visit the campus, and I just thought that it was beautiful. I loved that it was on the water, and I also liked that the classes were a lot smaller. In Amherst I found myself as a communications undergrad being in seminars that were 150 - 300 people. There wasn’t that much interaction between the professors and the students, or with your peers, which I guess when I was younger that appealed to me because I felt, well nobody’s gonna know if I skip class, because I’m just one of 300 people.” 

At UMass Amherst Elliot worked at the Daily Collegian for a short time selling advertising, and she sought out a similar opportunity at the Student Media office at UMB. 

“I became the advertising manager for the Mass Media, and at the time the Watermark office was right next door, and the walls were plastered with art, and everyone flowing in and out of the office seemed really creative. I was doing my boring business job, and I just thought I would love to be in that office, and learn the publication process.” 

She got a chance to run the Watermark because there were budget cuts that year. 

The Watermark staff quit in protest, so that was my opportunity. No one was running it, and Donna Neal was the supervisor for both the Mass Media and the Watermark, so I went to Donna and I said, ‘I’d love to try to be the Editor in Chief,’ and she’s like, ‘Ok, well that’s kind of a tall order. You’re going to have to hire a new staff.’ It was really exciting.” 

The one major skill that Elliot took away from UMB was time management. 

“I was working 20 hours a week for the Watermark, 10 hours a week for the Mass Media, and I was taking 5 classes, so I was very stressed out. It’s when I first started drinking coffee. I wasn’t a coffee drinker before my senior year. Time management was the biggest thing, and learning when to say no. I wanted to do everything, and I remember in April I left the Mass Media because it was publication time for the Watermark, and I was really stressed out, and there were finals, and that was a really hard decision for me to make, basically quitting the Mass Media, but I found myself doing a mediocre job at everything instead of an excellent job at a few things, so I think that was one of the better lessons I learned my senior year.” 

Now Elliot is back on campus, managing the from an office in Student Activities. 

“In the past we were a virtual organization, so all of our interns worked from home or their college campus, and we had interns all across the state. We had interns at UMass Amherst, Bridgewater, Stone Hill, Emerson. One day when I came to visit Donna, who is my college mentor, I was giving her an update on the Marble Collection, and where I envisioned the organization going in the next few years, and I said it was likely that we would partner with a higher ed institution since we’ve technically partnered with a number of them to recruit our intern staff. I said I see us being housed at a university, and kind of have an exclusive internship program with them. She was like, ‘That’s a great idea. You should come to UMass Boston.’” 

She met with a bunch of department chairs, and rallied support. 

“They thought it would be a great opportunity for UMass Boston students working for a non-profit, especially for the art and creative writing students who could really get a feeling for the publishing industry, and also if they are pursuing education, since they’re working one-on-one with the teens that are published.” 

It was a partnership a year in the making, and now Elliot is a permanent fixture in the UMB community. She is excited to be a part of the expanding vision and scope of UMB’s educational opportunities. 

“They have their 25-year plan to become a residential university, so that’s exciting. It’s all good stuff. I would have loved the opportunity to live on campus. I rented an apartment in Dorchester, which was great, but I think that you miss out on that residential college lifestyle when it’s a commuter school, so I’m excited to see what happens in the next few years here, and how the university grows.”

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