Archive for the ‘Special Guests’ category

A Conversation with the President

February 11, 2012

President Lambert welcomed the School of Communications faculty and staff to his home this week for a conversation about the future of Elon.

He started by complimenting the school, saying, “You are absolutely on fire!” The president called the school “truly extraordinary” and said that when people now think of Elon, many think of the School of Communications.

In his series of conversations about the future of Elon, the president focuses on what he sees as the headlines from The Elon Commitment strategic plan over the next 3-5 years.

He listed 10 headlines. The first is to build “a premier residential campus” because students perform better academically when they live on campus. He talked about the need for intercultural competence in its many forms, such as study abroad, foreign language instruction, religious pluralism, campus internationalization, and a doubling of need-based financial aid. His third headline was creation of a National Center for Engaged Learning.

His fourth headline especially grabbed our attention — a showcase School of Communications building. He called it “the next big thing” in terms of construction projects at the university and said it will be a premier building for a premier program.

Other headlines dealt with the Student Professional Development Center, law school, business school, athletics, a culture of philanthropy, and maintaining Elon’s “best value” position by keeping tuition increases in check. Robust Q&A followed.

We are fortunate to be at a forward-thinking university where the president wants to interact with faculty and staff about the future.



December 5, 2011

The ribbon-cutting in the studio, with Troy on the left

Presenting the Dean's Award for Exemplary Service to Troy Senkiewicz

Whenever Troy Senkiewicz  fixed or upgraded something in the TV studio during his Elon student days, he’d mark it “Troy-Built.”

Even a decade later, we’d occasionally find some item branded “Troy-Built.”

Not anymore. When we upgraded this summer to high-definition in the McEwen studios and control room, Troy (class of ’98) took time off from running his California company DigiMax Consulting to return to Elon for a couple of weeks to help our engineering staff with the huge project.

We invited Troy back to campus this week to present him the Dean’s Award for Exemplary Service.

His involvement was crucial to our success in making the HD transformation and for securing gifts from vendors such as Sony, General Cable/GEPCO and ClarkPowell that totaled in the tens of thousands of dollars. Thanks, Troy!

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.

A ‘Fire Dance’ Moment at Elon

September 24, 2011

Peter Buffett’s “Concert and Conversation” was incredibly good, and I almost missed it.

We hosted our School of Communications Advisory Board yesterday, with professionals from Fortune magazine, “60 Minutes” and other media leaders. The professionals spoke in classes, talked with President Lambert about the future of the university, and interacted with faculty and staff on topics such as curriculum, student portfolios and summer programs.

I said farewell to the last board member at 4:28, looked at my watch, and momentarily longed to just head home on a Friday afternoon after a very full day. But I really did want to hear Peter Buffett, and I made it over to the theatre just in time.

Peter Buffett is the son of legendary investor Warren Buffett, but Peter has made his own name through his music. He played the piano, sang, talked about his life, and answered questions from the standing-room-only audience of Elon students and parents on Family Weekend. It was one of the most enjoyable hours I’ve spent at Elon.

Kevin Costner asked Peter to score the “Fire Dance” scene in his Oscar-winning movie “Dances With Wolves” because Buffett often writes music from a Native American perspective. Peter says he watched the soundless scene about 20 times to feel the mood and the beat, and then the accompaniment flowed. Peter showed the scene on the big screen at Elon. Here it is.

Brian Williams at Elon

April 9, 2011

Williams with students Jason Puckett, Adrianne Haney and Sophie Nielsen-Kolding

Our students sure did enjoy two days with Brian Williams this week.

On Thursday, the anchor and managing editor of “NBC Nightly News” moderated an event on campus titled “We Can Be Better: Courageous Voices Confront Our Greatest Challenges” that relied on experts to talk about education, energy, the economy, religious pluralism and the political will to do something about them.

Williams spent Friday in the School of Communications as the national chair of the school’s Advisory Board.

He was a trooper during his time at Elon — a Q&A with hundreds of students, a video interview, student media, photo shoots and NBC affiliate interviews. He did it all with wit and humor.

We’re already hearing from students about the impact of his visit. He spoke about the need for passion, integrity and a hunger to get the story right. It’s a message that we teach, but frankly it sticks better when a Brian Williams says it with conviction.

Captain Planet

April 9, 2011

Back in the ’90s, “Captain Planet” was a popular animated television show about the environment. Five youths from different continents were dubbed the Planeteers and given the task of defending Earth from pollution and disasters.

In situations that the Planeteers could not resolve alone, they combined their powers to summon Captain Planet, who possessed magnified powers and also exhibited a lot of wit when confronting evildoers.

My son, John David, enjoyed the show while growing up. So when he attended Thursday’s Convocation at Elon featuring Brian Williams and five others who sought to confront Earth’s problems, he created this visual representation.

In the role of Captain Planet, Brian Williams leads (from left) Shirley Jackson, David Walker, David Levin, Eboo Patel and David Gergen on their Elon quest