The Utopia Management Scholars Fund Winner Spring 2021

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Utopia Management Scholars Fund Winner Spring 2021

Clayton Franke

Winner’s Home Town

Missoula, MT

College or University Attending

University of Oregon
1585 E 13th Ave
Eugene, OR 97403

Utopia Scholarship Essay

As the afternoon sun peaks through my bedroom window, I draw the shades to keep the glare off my computer screen. I readjust my position in my desk chair to regain feeling in my legs – I haven’t left my post at my computer for hours. I click on a link that sends me to a Zoom meeting, where I see my professor’s face surrounded by hundreds of little black boxes that display the names of my classmates, the only clue I have to their identity. The professor begins another lecture, and my mind wanders. I start to wonder whether the price of tuition is worth being trapped in a world of virtual education. This isn’t what I had in mind when I was applying for college.

But my cynicism quickly fades away. The thing I resent is really a privilege that too few people get an opportunity to experience. My mind snaps back to the lecture and I turn the page in my notebook. 

Whether it’s online or in person, completing higher education is my duty to myself and to society. I believe education serves as a cornerstone in our society. Still, education is a tool. It won’t function on its own, but needs deliberate manipulation to ensure its most effective use. A bachelor’s degree looks good on an office wall. However, it’s how we use this degree for the betterment of society that is the true purpose of education. I believe my education is bound to serve such a purpose.

I’m currently in my third year at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Here, I’ve learned critical thinking, empathy, optimism, and of course, storytelling. Part of the mission of the SOJC involves preparing students to be public servants. Society needs journalists to keep the public informed and hold people in power accountable. Good journalism is essential for a functional democracy, yet public trust in journalism is dangerously low. In the age of misinformation, journalism is needed now more than ever. A big part in restoring this trust lies in the education of the next generation of journalists. I’ve been taught to seek the truth and not give way until I find it. My education will prepare me to practice ethical and thorough journalism that is necessary in a healthy society. The SOJC has taught me how to actively listen to the stories of people who need to be heard and share them in a way that benefits those subjects and the people hearing those stories. Perhaps most importantly, my journalism education has given me the tools to bring people together in an increasingly more divided society. 

My higher education has also given me the opportunity to participate in student media, where I’ve published articles about local communities, the environment and sports. I’ve engaged with the local Eugene community and shared what I believe to be valuable stories that contribute to a more utopian world. 

Not only has my higher education given me the tools to be a successful journalist and public servant, but it’s enhanced my perspective and worldview, allowing me to engage with many different kinds of people. While enrolled at the UO, I’ve taken a wide variety of classes, from physics to philosophy to psychology. This immersive educational experience has provided me with an expanse of invaluable knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge is fundamental in tackling the most daunting challenges we face as a society today. My education has challenged me to try new things and think about things in a different way. In the end, our contribution to society should go beyond career successes, and I believe higher education teaches good citizenship and relationship building that allows one to better everyone around them. 

Finally, my education has developed my character. I believe I have become a kinder, more generous and thoughtful person. Education teaches values of hard work, acceptance of failure, and in the case of remote learning, perseverance. I intent to employ these characteristics in whatever I might be doing after graduation.

I have now experienced a full year higher education via remote learning. At times, I’ve struggled to find motivation amidst hours staring at a computer screen. But what I’ve come to learn during my three years of college is that my education isn’t just about myself, my friends or family, but about a collective quest for a better society.

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