La Encina continues to capture the college’s student life despite the remote environment

Photo Courtesy of Liz Spiller.

La Encina, Occidental’s student-run yearbook, has not been immune to the challenges of a remote academic year, according to Liz Spiller (junior), the yearbook’s editor-in-chief. With classes and clubs exclusively online and the college limiting on-campus housing, La Encina has taken a different approach to create and edit this year’s yearbook.

Spiller has been La Encina’s editor-in-chief for two years. She said one of the unique aspects of the yearbook compared to other publications at the college is that it is entirely student-run. La Encina’s staff consists of photographers, editors, writers and yearbook aficionados who work together to format, edit and create each year’s unique edition of the yearbook.

“We have no supervisors. I work closely with people in the marketing department, but they never proofread, give me ideas or tell me what to do,” Spiller said. “It’s really all on us as a student staff to create something.”

Spiller said she has worked on La Encina since her first year at the college both in person and remote. While there are some similarities between the two formats, many aspects of the yearbook process have changed, such as photography and communication with clubs and events.

For Spiller, one of the biggest challenges with working for La Encina is attracting student interest. She said her biggest goal during her time as editor has been to increase engagement from the student body, by encouraging students to submit photos and purchase the yearbook.

“It’s always been really hard to get the community interested in the yearbook,” Spiller said. “No one really wants it, and I don’t see why they wouldn’t want a record of their time at Oxy.”

Spiller said that the yearbook serves as a record of students’ time at Occidental and features different parts of the college’s experience, such as the UN semester and Greek Organizations.

While the logistics of the yearbook’s organization have remained similar, Spiller said the biggest struggle with the remote format has been the lack of communication between La Encina and clubs and organizations, as many are not responsive via email.

“The main issue has been getting photos and not knowing whether or not we’ll get photos for a layout that we design,” Spiller said.

Deirdre Ellis (junior) serves as La Encina’s copy editor and said she works with Spiller to decide which groups and events to feature in the yearbook. Ellis echoed Spiller’s statement and said that this year’s process has been largely dependent upon responses from clubs and organizations.

“It often comes down to what we have photos for,” Ellis said. “If we keep emailing people and we never get emails back, those are often the organizations or events that get cut, because we don’t have a visual representation.”

However, Ellis said the yearbook is going to be similar in length to previous years.

“Even though it’s been hard to contact people, we still have more clubs featured this year than any other year I’ve worked for La Encina,” Ellis said. “The copy document is 17 or 18 pages long, and at least half of it is clubs and club descriptions.”

Benjamin Pappas (sophomore), a new photographer for La Encina, said that his role as a photographer has shifted to meet the needs of a remote academic format.

“Normally, on campus, we would be going around to sports events, theater productions and dorm halls and taking pictures,” Pappas said. “This year, since we’re online, we attend events or go to classes and take pictures in the form of screenshots to get a view of what the virtual Oxy experience is like.”

During the fall, Pappas said he had the opportunity to take in-person senior portraits. For Pappas, this has been the highlight of his experience with La Encina thus far, as he said he does not find Zoom screenshots to be as fulfilling as in-person photography.

“Taking photos like this is very procedural, like, ‘Okay, I’m going to take two screenshots,’” Pappas said. “I found that to be difficult, because my favorite part about photography is the creative aspect.”

Pappas said he is looking forward to continuing his work for La Encina next year and continuing to take senior portraits.

“We’re looking at looking into setting up an on-campus, senior portrait system instead of outsourcing like we did before the pandemic,” Pappas said. “That’s definitely something I’m looking forward to because I really like getting to flex my creative side and take portraits.”

Spiller said she believes having a student-run senior portrait system will increase student engagement, which is one of her goals as editor-in-chief.

“There won’t be some random company coming in at some random time for portraits,” Spiller said. “Instead, with this program, we’ll be able to offer a more diverse range of times so more students can be included.”

By encouraging more students to get involved, Spiller said she hopes more students will purchase the yearbook in years to come.

Students will be able to purchase this year’s edition of La Encina when it becomes available on their website.