Mercury mascot takes last distribution tour around campus

Katya Zakar | Photo Editor

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I’ve done it all at The Mercury, and I earned the in-house title of “Mercury Mascot” not just by being the office goblin, but because I’m one of the loudest and proudest members of both this newspaper and our Comet community. This is my story and my farewell.   

“The only reason I read Mercury is because of that stud over there,” Temoc allegedly said, while pointing at me.  

I’ve been a writer, a photographer, a graphic artist, an interim social media manager, a podcast host, the office therapist and most importantly, the Distribution Manager for both The Mercury and AMP. I’ve contributed the most stories in Mercury history with 149 articles, I’m a lead writer of our crime and breaking news stories, I revived campus interest in our sports column, I brought back the Mercury Morning News podcast as the first official collaborative content between all Student Media organizations and I developed the first official AMP trading card game, which will be released soon. My writing is so indispensable that several entire issues have been dubbed “André papers” because I make up a quarter of the stories. At different points, multiple staff members recommended I run for Editor-in-Chief, but I knew the role I leave today was the one that would have best served our Comet community.  

It sounds like bragging and overachievement, but honestly, it’s more a cry for help. Writing nearly 25 stories a semester compared to the expected average of 1-2 per cycle is borderline insanity to staff and a miracle to my editors.  

We’ve probably even met before. I’ve represented The Mercury at every Freshman Orientation since 2022, twice a week I’m found at nearly every Mercury booth in the Student Union and biweekly I’m driving a golf cart delivering papers around campus. It would be hard not to notice me when I’ve personally handed out papers to at least 12,600 students and staff, and I’ve delivered over 105,750 Mercury papers and 40,800 AMP magazines across campus. 

My efforts did not go unnoticed. In 2023 I competed against Division One university outreach and distribution teams — including those from the Ivy League — at the Collegiate Media Association, where I won for The Mercury the Best Campus & Community Engagement award, a university first and a long time coming.  

In fall 2021, I walked into the Student Media suite for the first time, welcomed by my future boss howling about his “League of Legends” losing streak. After an hour of waiting, I eventually met my interviewer and future friend, Fatimah Azeem. I gave my first, second, third and fourth pitches before Azeem hired me as one of two opinion columnists, and when I first started, I was not very good.  

However, after being told I was an awful writer enough times, I began to find a style and audience if nothing else to spite my managers. I was stubborn and bullheaded, but somewhere in between, I became proud of what my peers and I were putting out. We were the student voice, and students deserved to know that we were highlighting their stories and achievements. I joined that year’s Editor-in-Chief, Tyler Burkhardt, on several distribution runs and booths to hand out papers to show the university that we were here and worth listening to. Outreach was slow at first, and more often than not, students would be surprised we even had a newspaper. But I knew one day, I would change that.   

After a few months of escapades with Burkhardt, he sat me down with our former media adviser, Chad Thomas. They proposed I receive a stipend as an official Distribution Manager of not only The Mercury, but also their rival organization, AMP, both of which were fresh out of a civil war with each other. I was welcomed into Mercury management with open arms that summer and into AMP management that fall.  

There have only been more eventful stories since then: forcing my roommate into a Spider-Man costume for Meet The Press, accidentally planning and hosting a speed dating event, getting lost underneath The University of Minnesota, shaking hands with the reporters of the Watergate Scandal in Washington D.C. and pretending to be a student adviser to get free drinks in Atlanta — sorry, J-Stew. Not to mention the favorite stories I wrote: goat yoga on campus, the total solar eclipse, the upcoming Filipino Community Center, the Spirit Rock removal, the alum plane crash, the UTD animal cruelty story, our transition to DII in the NCAA, the installment of Police Chief Brent Tourangeau, NASA choosing UTD and meeting the cast of Chainsaw Man are among my favorites.  

Before I give my final farewell and thanks, I do have advice for the Comet community. Firstly, get your hearing checked, it is shocking how I have snuck up behind hundreds of Comets in an ancient 800 lb golf cart. Secondly, stop saying you can’t read, you had to write an essay to get into UTD, and the joke doesn’t get any younger. Thirdly, never stop believing in yourself. I’ve met countless Comets, staff and students alike, who are changing the world and their community every day, whether during college or after. Never be afraid to share those successes, and never be afraid to make history by taking a chance or by sharing why your voice and your story matter.  

Be the change you want to see. Representation and truth for everyone starts by speaking up, and there’s no better place to start than at The Mercury.  

Thank you, Burkhardt and Azeem, for bringing me onboard The Mercury in 2021. Thank you to all my current and previous management and distribution volunteers, whose work I could not be prouder of. Thank you, Ally Duong, Khue Viet Vu and Ruby Bui, for making some of the best memories I have from my college years. Thank you, Rainier Pederson and Anika Sultana, for taking over my responsibilities upon my leave, and I wish you both the very best in maintaining The Mercury as the voice of UTD. I believe in both of you and in our community. 

Stay sexy, Comets.  


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