From the day Christina Lee entered the gates of USC, she had a plan to get involved with El Rodeo, USC’s 123-year-old yearbook.
“I’m just really drawn to storytelling elements and chronicling history or traditions that are passed down,” said Lee, a senior majoring in critical studies. “It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. So when I came here in 2008, working for the yearbook seemed like it would fit really well with that passion.”
When Lee arrived at the El Rodeo offices during her freshmen year, she brought significant experience to the job. A graduate of Head-Royce School in the Bay Area, Lee led the school’s yearbook as the editor in chief during her senior year. Even though her high school graduating class only consisted of 83 students, the process of putting together the yearbook is similar at USC.
“The thing that is really special about the yearbook is that it comes out once a year,” Lee said. “Our main goal is to capture the arc of that year. We have one overarching theme that we try to weave into every story and this year’s is ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.’ ”
Lee’s ascent through the ranks of El Rodeo began in 2009 when she was named the yearbook’s managing editor, tasked with keeping writers on deadline, inspiring story ideas and holding staff members accountable for their work.
With the tough job description came a deep appreciation for what the annual work of art represents.
“At USC, we want to capture the whole university,” she said. “There is so much tradition within this campus and even within the pages of the yearbook, and we understand the weight that history carries. There is a sense of ownership and responsibility we all take.”
She took over as editor in chief in 2010, and for the last two years, she has mastered the art of working with others and managing personalities to produce the best possible product.
“I took this job wanting people to want to be here,” Lee said. “You can’t force people to be committed to something, but you can create an atmosphere that hopefully lets them know how important they are to the process. My job is being there for them when they need it and monitoring the mood of the room.”
For Lee, this year’s edition will add a few, highly meaningful pages to the yearbook’s timeless tradition. Years from now, she hopes to open the 2011-12 yearbook and think back on her time as the leader.
“I’ll remember what kind of effort it took to put the book together,” Lee said. “I’ll remember what it took to put each story together. It’ll definitely be a fond memory.”