Eileen Smith is nothing if not up front. Im like a
real boss, says Smith, general manager of The Emory Wheel,
the Universitys student newspaper. If Im having
a bad day, youre going to, too. There are some days when I
dont care about your feelings. When the students get a real
job, thats the way its going to bewe dont
care about your personal life.
As far as the newspaper business is concerned
Smith is a
Being a part of Campus Life, its always, How
do you feel about that? Youre such a leader, Smith
continues her voice getting sarcastically higher and higher pitched
with each word. I think the people in Campus Life are outrageous.
Its pretty clear from the get-go that Smith is an atypical
member of the Universitys most upbeat, touchy-feeliest division.
This whole tough-chick attitude, however, makes Karen Salisbury
laugh. Shes totally soft, says Salisbury, director
of student activities. All student media, including the Wheel, falls
under the administration (but not control) of Salisburys office.
Eileens all about developing skills in the students
she works with.
For instance, often when new advertising executives join the Wheel
staff, Smith takes them selling.
You really need to advertise in the Wheel, they
say, verbally twisting their preys arm as ad execs are wont
to do. They drop in references to the Universitys 11,000 students
with discretionary income and the 19,000 staff and faculty their
ad could reach, as well as all the money that can be had by all
All the while, Smith stands just beyond the door, listening. When
the pitch is done, she will escort the young exec back to the Wheels
fifth-floor office, discussing the positives and negatives she noticed.
Shes a bottom-line person for the Wheel, and
they need that, Salisbury says. Her students learn so
much, and they have a great loyalty to her. What shes doing
is student development. When we tell her that, shell put up
two fingers and shake her head, No, no, no. Shes
right there with us; she just uses different words. I tell her,
Whatever you do, just keep doing it.
The students say the same thing.
She is always very supportive and is very good at explaining
everything, says Carol Danko, a senior majoring in psychology
and political science. She has worked as an advertising executive
at the Wheel since her sophomore year.
I remember she would always tell me the same thing over and
over, and I kept thinking, I get it, I get it.
Danko continues. But then all this repetition just molded
in my brain, and it made a difference. It helped a lot. My classes
have been wonderful, but working at the Wheel has given me
more valuable experience than I could learn anywhere else.
Eventually, the tough-talking Smiths façade fades
Im here as a safety net, she says. Everybody
will make mistakes, and weve had some this year. [I say] if
you knew how to do this right all the time, you wouldnt have
to go to college, youd already be running your own newspaper.
Its okay to make mistakes. Im just here to make sure
they dont happen real big.
These kidsI dont know what to saytheyre
wonderful, she continues. They really are a blessing.
I love them so dearly. They are here nearly 24 hours a day. When
you figure it out, some writers make 30 cents an hour. Its
Advertising can be a little more lucrative for the wallet than
writing. Some students earn as much a $500$600 a month on
commission, and many times they join the Wheel with zero
experience in the field. But its not always easy.
Its quite a learning experience, Smith says.
Weve had some kidsthats the word,
kids, Smith most frequently and fondly uses to describe
Wheel employeeswho thought they could sell. Then
[when] they actually had to sell something, they freaked out and
said, I dont want to do this.
I was told when I came here that when you deal with students
you can have years that are absolutely phenomenalevery student
will mesh and it will be just fantastic, she continues. In
other years, you just wont have it. This year has been amazing.
A native of Providence, R.I., Smith moved to Atlanta shortly after
earning her masters degree from the University of Rhode Island
in 1972. For years, she worked as a contractor selling advertisements
for publications at several universities, including Emory. Through
her work, she got to know Richard Daigle, then Emorys media
In 1997, Daigle asked Smith if shed be interested filling
a position that was just begin created, general manager of the Wheel.
She declined. The next year, Daigle asked again. This time, Smith
accepted, and became the only Emory employee on the Wheels
When I first came here, the kids didnt know what to
make of me, Smith says. It took a good year or so before
they would even come over to ask me things. They are very proud
and fiercely loyal to the fact they are [editorially] independent
of the school. If I had come in and tried to take things over, I
think they would have freaked.
Now, after four years on the job, Wheel staffers dont
know the paper without her. Smiths presence, and her advice,
now comes with the territory.
I had never done newspaper before, and its a hoot,
she says. These deadlinestheyre twice a week whether
you want them or not.
As business manager, Smiths contributions to the Wheels
editorial side are minimal. Where she wields her clout is in advertisinggetting
the money and training others to get the money that keeps the presses
While the Wheel offices are located in the Dobbs Center,
the paper receives no University funds. It must generate its own
revenue and pay all its own bills, including Smiths salary.
I have a very vested interest in our not losing money,
she says. And this year, they havent. Using money earned from
advertising, the Wheel was able to buy several new computers
and were able to send student workers on several trips.
As Salisbury alluded, the bottom line is of prime importance.
This is a business, Smith says. My line is, Dont
mess with the money.
Despite her insistence on dollars and cents, Smith leads a pretty
balanced life. A 10-month employee, her summers are laid back and
she spends most of her time with daughter Dana and their dog, Tiffany.
Once a week shell drop in the Wheel office to return
Next year will mark a significant milestone. Dana will begin her
freshman year at Emory. Now 17, Dana is graduating from Ben Franklin
Academy, a matter of yards from campus on Clifton Road, a year early.
I dont know what they do over there, Smith says.
[Teaching] is one on one, and they give kids tons of self-confidence;
its all based on principles started over here at Emory.