When most of the Walton scholars of his generation got together to work on business or engineering assignments, Emerson Ayala, John Brown University 2012 Alumnus from El Salvador, spent most of his nights in the Threefold Advocate office writing and editing articles.
Ayala’s passion for reading and writing as a kid led him to consider Journalism as his career path. “I used to watch news channels and think that, if I became a journalist, I could then influence others,” he said. As a fifteen-year-old, Ayala was chosen for a national program for talented youth to learn college-level grammar, literature, and composition. “That opportunity helped me realize that I could actually be doing something in communications,” he said. “I also won a scholarship to attend college back home and decided to major in communication science.”
When Ayala heard about the Walton Scholarship Program, he went through the application process in hopes of expanding his perspective on other cultures. “After being accepted into the program, I had to decide on a major,” he said. “Most of the Walton scholars were business and engineering majors. Very few people would do journalism.” As a native Spanish speaker, Ayala had difficulty learning journalism due to differences in style and composition. “Back home, I was learning how to communicate in Spanish, but here I had to relearn everything in a different language,” Ayala said. “I had to mimic other styles at first, but I progressively started to find my own voice and pace.”
For Ayala, the newsroom is a familiar space. During his time at JBU, Ayala worked for the Threefold Advocate as a staff writer for three years and managed the Opinions column during his senior year. “I had a staff of 15 to 20 contributors that wrote opinions articles,” he said. “Besides discussing what our position was as a newspaper, I also reflected on how to get the columns to reflect more than one voice.” As an editor for the Threefold, Ayala was concerned about the lack of diverse representation. “I was the only international student writing for the newspaper,” he said. “I had the proactive and intentional push to get other international students to write as well.” Ayala said he firmly believes that representation matters, especially as a news source.
After graduating from JBU, Ayala said he was thankful for the institution’s “hands-on” approach. “As students, we had to put out a newspaper, learn about deadlines and production nights,” he said. “It was a rewarding feeling to come out with a finished product, and that helped to have a better of what to expect after graduation.” Ayala worked for an online newspaper in El Salvador after his return. As the youngest of his coworkers, he was challenged to adapt to the environment. Ayala currently works as a communications specialist at the United States Agency for International Development in El Salvador.
While reflecting on his years as a Walton scholar, Ayala pointed out the impact of international students on JBU’s diverse community. “Internationals share other perspectives of the world, and that is important for the newsroom,” he said. “If someone is willing to put on the hard work, it is important to get involved with the opportunities the school offers and continue that legacy of adding diversity to the community.”