Patience in perfection pays off

Za'Tozia Duffie Published July 26, 2023

Writing and speaking are two of Za’Tozia Duffie’s favorite things, and that made communications a natural fit for her to pursue a degree in. She decided College of Lake County (CLC) was the best choice for her to start her education locally.

“CLC was close to home,” Duffie said. “While I wanted to leave home immediately after high school, I wasn't ready yet. And CLC just seemed like the perfect place for me to gain my independence while still living at home.”

After initially wanting to study law, Duffie switched her goal to communications because it seemed to be a less intense career option and wouldn’t require extra schooling.

Duffie quickly realized writing for communications is much different than the way she was used to as a student, so it was an adjustment to learn the new style. She was used to writing in a more flowery and whimsical way rather than a more fact-driven approach.

Duffie is thankful for her instructor John Kupetz, who she said was one of her biggest supporters.

“He was so patient,” she said. “I'm a perfectionist, so I was ready to get perfect immediately. For me, that really shaped my experience because if he's a professional telling me ‘Hey, you're doing just fine,’ then I feel like I'm in good hands.”

Kupetz said, “I got the better part of the bargain with Za'Tozia as my student. Talented, intelligent and driven, she was better with each assignment in journalism. She deserves her success and will continue to make the world a better place. She enriched my life as a teacher who thought of her as a colleague.”

Duffie had many opportunities to get hands-on experience in her news writing class and with The Chronicle, CLC’s student-run newspaper. Working on the newspaper gave Duffie the freedom to write different types of stories and improve her interviewing and writing skills outside of the classroom.

Duffie transferred to Lake Forest College on a full-ride scholarship through the Honors Scholars program to complete her bachelor’s degree in communications. She also minored in social justice.

Social justice was a way for Duffie to combine her passions for the Spanish language and African American studies. It also benefited her as a journalist as it was an eye-opener to the many injustices that exist in the world, and it helped build her capacity to address these things.

As a transfer student, Duffie felt like she fit in and succeeded right away.

“There was never at any point, even after I transferred out of here, where I thought CLC didn't prepare me,” Duffie said. “I felt like I was a better student than some of the third and fourth years after transferring.”

Duffie recently started graduate school at Syracuse University where she is studying magazine news and digital journalism. She earned a full-ride scholarship, including living expenses. Even after attending her third institution, Duffie continues to look back fondly at where she began: CLC.

“CLC set the standard of every educational institution I attended afterwards,” Duffie said. “When it came to transferring, I knew what kind of place I wanted to be in. And now going to graduate school, I'm confident where my feet landed. I don't think I would have been able to grow academically, or even personally, if it wasn't for CLC.”