“Live Your Mission”

Founder of The Onion Shares Career Advice with Students


Talia Amorosano '17

Scott Dikkers, co-founder and former editor-in-chief of The Onion, gave a lecture in Rubendall Recital Hall on March 28, outlining the development of the publication and giving students professional advice.

Zita Petrahai ’18, Associate Opinion Editor

Scott Dikkers, co-founder and former editor-in-chief of the satirical newspaper The Onion, addressed a packed Rubendall Recital Hall on Monday, March 28 to deliver the annual Poitras-Gleim lecture. Dikkers’ lecture, titled “The Story Behind the Onion,” was sponsored by Student Senate’s Public Affairs Committee.

“Humor is a great coping method for coping with just about anything in life,” said the writer early on in the lecture. Dikkers explained that he grew up in Wisconsin with a family of farmers, was severely bullied in school and did not have many friends.

Dikkers also took the opportunity to offer some unconventional wisdom for college students.

“The reason you’re in college is to learn how to learn! When you’re great at learning, just get out of there!” Dikkers said.

Dikkers, who left the University of Wisconsin to run The Onion, believes people who have the talent and wish to work in creative services do not necessarily need an education to succeed in their fields.

Dikkers traced the The Onion’s origins as a college newspaper operating in a dorm room in Madison, Wisconsin to a satirical online publication based in New York and Chicago. After explaining the paper’s background, the comedian proceeded to illustrate the way the ‘company’ employed a wide variety of people. He engaged his audience with funny anecdotes about eccentric Onion writers, including a 30 year-old agoraphobe and a Radio Shack salesman who Dikkers tried to recruit to the staff. During the Q & A session, many questions were asked about the present occupations of these employees.

Dikkers also shared advice for young professionals.

“Live your mission! Make sure that you love what you do. Second, invest your time not your money.”

Dikkers also told students to be the best boss they can be by trusting the people they hire. Dikkers also maintained that “working right” is more important than “working hard.” He advised students to follow in the footsteps of successful people to achieve greatness.

Above all, Dikkers encouraged students to invest time in their ambitions but be unafraid of failure.

“Be prepared to scrap everything. The more things you fail at, the better you will be,” he said.

Audience response was positive, with many people leaving the room smiling.

“I thought it was incredible! I really liked how he combined his own personal stories with the company’s. And it was hilarious; you could definitely see the kind of humor that he uses. [I think] the tidbits of information about how to start a business [were very useful],” said Sam Weisman ’18.

“Overall, he was funny,” said Casey Cliff ’16. “It came off as a commencement speech, it was [very] inspirational!”

Prior to his evening presentation, the comedy writer had lunch with members of The Square and The Dickinsonian. Dikkers also attended a creative writing class and went to a coffee and tea reception with members of the Senate Executive Committee, Public Affairs Committee and some English Majors.

“The event was very successful and I feel that it lays a great foundation for the work the Public Affairs Committee hopes to do in the future,” said Emma Schultz ’16, a member of the Public Affairs Committee who helped organize the visit. “Everyone I spoke to said the event was worthwhile and entertaining, so we’re all pleased!”

“I spoke to three different groups today. They were all very sharp and engaged [and] they seem really plucked in to getting the most out this experience of being in college. Yeah, I’d absolutely [love to] come back!” said Dikkers about potential future events.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly quoted Dikkers as saying “invest your money not your time” instead of “invest your time not your money.”