Archive for October 2011

Reunion for a Favorite Professor

October 22, 2011

More than 200 people returned to Baylor University this week to honor a professor who played a big role in their lives and careers. I was one of them.

It says something about a professor’s lasting influence when former students make the trek to Waco, Texas, from places such as Alaska, Long Island, Japan and North Carolina. For me, it also was an opportunity to reconnect with classmates whom I hadn’t seen since we were 22 years old.

David McHam was my professor-mentor at Baylor in the 1970s. He now teaches at the University of Houston.

Eight years ago, McHam came to Elon as a guest professor at my invitation. He spoke in four classes about writing, editing and the importance of language precision. He also led a discussion about free speech related to war protests and then talked about the qualities of good teaching at a School of Communications faculty luncheon.

His advice to teachers: Find a good mentor. Always go into the classroom upbeat and smiling. Never talk down to anyone in class.

McHam was a tough taskmaster as a teacher. At the time we thought it was his Marine Corps background. Actually, he just wanted us to be the very best we could be. He drilled the importance of curiosity and precision into us, helped us network to begin careers, and has remained a mentor through the decades. That’s the definition of a teacher who makes a difference.

Accreditation Celebration

October 12, 2011

The team watches the school's video at the start of the visit

For three days, a national accrediting team walked the halls of the School of Communications, visiting classes, interviewing faculty, hearing students, and delving deeply into our self-study.

Today, they presented President Lambert a 49-page report that refers to the growth in the School’s quality and quantity as “nothing short of spectacular,” citing talented faculty, enthusiastic students and an innovative leadership team as keys to building “a positive educational environment … with an exemplary culture of collegiality.”

The team’s findings: Compliance on all standards and a recommendation for full reaccreditation of the undergraduate program and initial accreditation of the three-year-old graduate program.

Penn State Dean Doug Anderson presents the report to me

While this is the outcome we worked toward and expected, we still celebrated knowing that leading educators and professionals from all over the country were impressed at what they found at Elon. You can read their summary of School strengths and challenges here.

National accreditation is the highest benchmark of program quality. In our discipline, this evaluation comes from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC).

Elon is one of only 18 private universities with an accredited communications school, along with Columbia, Syracuse, Northwestern, Miami, Southern Cal and Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile. In all, 112 colleges and universities in the world have an accredited communications program.

The team’s recommendations will be formally acted upon by the Accrediting Council next April.

Steve Jobs

October 7, 2011

Two students in a Media Writing class interviewed me today about the legacy of Steve Jobs.

My answer focused on his uncanny ability to create elegant products that excited people’s technological imaginations, leading Apple at one point this year to surpass Exxon Mobil as the most valuable company in America.

Time magazine even stopped the presses this week to remake its cover, shown here.

Jobs was imminently quotable. Here are four worth rereading:

Being creative: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.” (Wired, 1996)

The little things: “This is what customers pay us for—to sweat all these details so it’s easy and pleasant for them to use our computers. We’re supposed to be really good at this. That doesn’t mean we don’t listen to customers, but it’s hard for them to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it.” (Fortune, 2000)

Mainstream media: “I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers. I think we need editorial oversight now more than ever. Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for.” (D8 conference, 2010)

Don’t settle: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.” (Stanford University commencement address, 2005)

Ingredients for Success

October 5, 2011

On the eve of our national accreditation review, I’ve been reading the School of Communications website as if I’ve come to it for the first time.

At times, I cringe at an out-of-date reference or an inelegant flow of content. But for the most part, our website has currency and appeal. In fact, I like one Q&A in our section for prospective students so much that I’m repeating it here:

Q: I’m curious. What would you consider the key indicators for a career in communications?

A: You said the magic words when you began “I’m curious.” To succeed in a communications career, you first need curiosity about the world you live in. Do you ask lots of questions? Do you probe under the surface? If so, then that curiosity needs to grow into knowledge so that what you communicate will have depth, context and accuracy.

Being a good writer is important because clear and logical writing reflects a clear and logical mind. Of course, hard work is necessary, with a generous dose of creativity. Finally, you need a strong sense of who you are and what values you hold, so that when you face temptation to do wrong, you will have the courage to do right.

These are six ingredients for succeeding: curiosity, knowledge, writing, hard work, creativity, values.

Emmy Time

October 2, 2011

Professor Max Negin (photo by Julia Sayers, Pendulum)

A School of Communications faculty member and three of the school’s alumni are recipients of Emmy Awards this year.

A special congratulations to assistant professor Max Negin, who won his third Sports Emmy from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for his work on NBC’s team coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Negin previously won Emmys for his work as video coordinator for the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team and for promotional writing for Fox 29 in Philadelphia.

At Elon, Max teaches Sports & Media, Digital Media Convergence and Sports Broadcasting in our school and advises the student-produced Elon sports show that airs on Saturday mornings on ESPN2.

We also celebrate the regional Emmy successes of Matt Belanger (class of 2005), Amy Clark (class of 2007) and Mitch Pittman (class of 2009).

Matt Belanger

Belanger is a reporter at WGAL-TV in Lancaster, Pa. He was honored by the Academy’s Mid-Atlantic chapter for an investigative report on the practice of “ghost voting” in the Pennsylvania legislature. Some lawmakers have been using coins, paper clips or pieces of paper to jam their voting buttons down, effectively casting votes, even when not present in the state Capitol.

This is Matt’s second Emmy. He graciously offered his first to be on display in the School of Communications lobby, where it resides today as an inspiration to current students.

Mitch Pittman

Pittman is a multimedia journalist at KSTP-TV in St. Paul, Minn. He won a Video Journalist Emmy, which recognizes reporters who shoot, write and edit their own stories. Mitch won the Emmy from the Academy’s Upper Midwest chapter. He joined the staff only six months ago after working for two years in Burlington, Vt., with Fox44 News.

Clark won a regional Emmy from the Academy’s Lehigh Valley chapter for video editing she did at PBS 39 in Pennsylvania. I wish we had a similar photo of Amy holding her Emmy, but she holds nursing instruments these days. Amy recently earned a degree in nursing. A communications degree can lead in many directions!