Following my Heart, Sharing My Philosophy

Today I formally accepted a full-time instructor position at the University of Oregon in the School of Journalism and Communication. What, you say? You thought I already did that? Not quite. For the last six years, I’ve been an adjunct instructor. Full time, yes, but not permanent.

Tactically, the position won’t be much different. Philosophically, it’s a world away. But accepting this position is really putting a stake in the ground – this is who I am and where my priorities lie. I will still do consulting and speaking and Verve lives on. But this position marks an important milestone for me and one that I’m pretty excited about.

Thanks to many, many people who have supported me, trusted me, pushed me, challenged me and helped me get here.

As part of the application process, I revised and updated my teaching philosophy (thank you, The Professor is In for all your feedback!). I thought I’d share it with you here. I’d love to hear what you think! If you’re an educator, what is your philosophy? If you’re a student (or former student), what do you expect from your teachers?

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I didn’t plan on being an educator. I had a whole world to save, and those world-saving-type jobs wanted a job candidate with an advanced degree. So, I applied to the SOJC’s graduate program and began Fall 2002 with a schedule full of classes and a GTF in J202: Information Gathering.

The teaching bug bit quickly, and it bit hard. I relished the time I spent in the discussion sections with the students helping them navigate the labor-intensive requirements of the course. I was honored and a bit terrified when Dr. Van Leuven and Dr. Steeves sat down with me after my master’s defense to tell me that the school wanted me to start teaching the very next month.

Some of what fuels my philosophy and my approach comes naturally. My personality is well suited to be part educator, part therapist and part cheerleader. But ultimately, the desire to create capable, talented, strategic young professionals drives my course content and the work the students do to fulfill course objectives.

I’m quite serious about this work and my mission. Today’s students must be better and know more than previous cohorts. The rules are changing, and it will be their job to stay on the cutting edge of communications. I push them hard; I have high expectations. I know what they are capable of (even though at times they don’t), and I stretch them to reach their potential.

Whether it’s navigating the chaos of twitter and learning how to manage it for the sake of creating conversations or wrapping their heads around an international crisis communications issue and creating a strategic plan, I am committed to finding new ways to engage students in my classroom. I love to try new things. I work to understand my students and my clear vision of course objectives enables me to try innovative approaches to find the best path.

I have seven “be-attitudes” that I share with every student on the first day of every class that encapsulate my philosophy and what I hope every student will take away from my classes.

  1. Be Curious: Read, ask questions, find out everything you can about your chosen profession. In public relations that means reading the industry blogs, paying attention to industry news, talking to local professionals in your community and being an avid consumer of media.
  2. Be Engaged: Beyond curiosity, engage your mind. What are the greater implications of what you’re reading, listening to or talking about?
  3. Be Empathetic: To succeed in public relations, you must be able to put yourself in another’s shoes. Practice now! How did your teammate come to that conclusion? If you were a member of a particular target audience, how would a company or organization reach you? As a client, how often would you want a report and what information would be important?
  4. Be Active: Active involvement in pre-professional organizations is an excellent way to be involved on your campus and in your community and make connections for your future at the same time. At the University of Oregon, public relations students are involved in PRSSA and Allen Hall Public Relations, the student-run public relations agency. Start your own blog, make connections via social networks like Facebook or Twitter. Find a new site like Google +, Last.fm, LinkedIn or Instagram.
  5. Be Responsible: Your actions, your education and, yes, your grade are your responsibility. Your instructors (hopefully) provide the direction and the tools. But if you’re serious about your education and your future career, personal responsibility is essential. If you need help, get it. If you have a question, ask.
  6. Be Confident: As you mature into a young professional, trust your instincts and your ability to find a great internship, offer counsel to your brother’s friend’s start-up company and generally do good work. The balance, of course, is to be confident and humble. Know when you are in over your head and get help.
  7. Be Passionate!: The beautiful thing about choosing a career in public relations is that you can find the industry that makes you passionate about communicating. Maybe it’s performing arts? Or high-tech? For me, it’s nonprofit work and social change. Find your passion and shout it from the rooftops!

I might not be ridding the world of evil, but my reward is seeing students develop into thoughtful, ethical, engaged and empathetic professionals. Education has given me a way to contribute a better world through empowering my students.

Repairing a reputation: Interview on KVAL News

I was interviewed by KVAL news about reputation management and crisis communication this week. Our Duck athletes have been having some trouble staying out of trouble and the reporter wanted to talk to me about what they should do. I declined to comment specifically on the story – I don’t have enough “inside” information and because I both teach and have clients at the University of Oregon, I wanted to avoid any perceived conflicts of interest.

But I did agree to talk generally about how an organization in a tough spot might respond and think about repairing. This is the short version of the story. If the longer version gets posted, I’ll update.

Get in touch with your inner nerd

Erin Caldwell, a recent graduate and employee at Edelman attributes her hire at the agency in large part, to her PR blog. Here, at the Forward Blog (see the blogroll, it’s a great one for students!), she talks about the importance of understanding new media for new graduates.

At Allen Hall PR, our student-run PR agency at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, my AE, Michelle Pera, and I talked about blogging specifically – giving students a step by step to get started.

I credit Nedra at Spare Change for being my “seed blog.” I’m sure I was searching for social marketing for a presentation I was giving to the United Way Success by Six leadership team and came across her blog. She’s has a great blogroll. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve always been a little nerdy, but I know lots of students resist. I have students who vehemently swear that they don’t need to know computer basics – like formatting Office documents, creating a media list with a database or the basics of Web site publishing. I fear for them. I really do.

Find your “seed blog,” try Web 2.0 services like Stikkit or Pandora (my faves!)… as I like to preach: be active, be curious, be engaged!

What do you think? Is social media this important? Or can you be a tech-avoider and do just fine?

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