After an undergraduate career that was as circuitous as it was prolific, involving a heavy focus on student publications, Grace McNealy will continue her academic journey at the University of New Mexico as a graduate student in the fall.
McNealy is finishing her undergraduate degrees with a double major in English and Spanish, along with an honors minor.
McNealy plans for a master of arts in English literature with a long-term goal of a publishing career in the future.
She is the current editor-in-chief of Conceptions Southwest (CSW) and was recently hired as an editorial assistant to UNM English Professor David Dunaway. She has past publishing experience with Scribendi, the UNM honors literary and arts magazine, and as an intern with UNM Press.
"I was able to really find a lot of good opportunities at UNM and adjacent to UNM that I think have really prepared me for the career I want to have," McNealy said. "All of the experience that I've gotten has been because of UNM in some capacity."
McNealy has always had a passion for the publishing industry but fears for the future of the publication world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's not a great industry to be trying to go into because of this pandemic," McNealy said. "It's hitting every industry, but I think the publishing industry is already not that fruitful."
The global upheaval of the current public health crisis has also impacted McNealy's feelings about the reality of graduation.
"It's not really entered my brain that I'm going to graduate, and I'm already thinking 'what am I going to take in the fall?' and it feels like a continuation," McNealy said. "It's been strange, honestly. It feels almost like I'm not graduating at all, especially because I'm going to be staying at UNM and there's not going to be any kind of ceremony."
Close friend Luisa Pennington said McNealy has always had a positive impact on others and can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.
"Everything she does, everything she touches gets transformed into something beautiful and something worthwhile," Pennington said.
The only thing McNealy said she would have changed in her college education was how long it took her to decide on a major. She started at UNM undecided and took a lot of general education classes to try finding another passion besides English.
"Just pick a major. Just do English," McNealy said, laughing.
The most recent publication of CSW was done from home, and McNealy had to shoulder a majority of the burden while balancing her own requirements for graduation.
"It's been really hectic because, you know, I'm trying to finish my classes and then, of course, trying to finish Conceptions too, all from home, just kind of by myself," McNealy said.
McNealy is no stranger to a heavy workload and said the secret to balancing it is a passionate dedication as well as efficient time management.
"Grace is really well-focused — she's a hard worker, and she has really good taste," Pennington said.
McNealy reflected on the prep school she attended in high school and the ideal she used to have pressed upon her that she should be going into a field that is conventionally successful and financially viable.
"At UNM, I was able to truly just do the stuff that interested me and the stuff that I liked to do and make an education out of that and hopefully a career out of that eventually," McNealy said. "(I learned) to do what I wanted to do rather than what I felt like I should do."
McNealy started at UNM with the idea of transferring to another school, which quickly changed as she found love for UNM, from her academic studies to her friends and family.
"I never had any desire to go anywhere else and start over," McNealy said. "I really quickly got established at UNM."
Pennington said McNealy has the ability to recognize the good in the world, something that is apparent now and will be in her future.
"She can end up wherever she wants to be as long as she puts her mind to it," Pennington said. "She knows what matters in life and knows what to hold onto."
Megan Gleason is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @fabflutist2716