The ‘Professor’ Becomes The Student

It's 1992...AGAIN!

For 15 years, I’ve known that when my corporate career wound to a close, I wanted to teach, write and speak. That always has meant I’d need to get an advanced degree, and the question only was exactly when that would happen. The master plan was to start a master’s degree in 2009, which would have been the start of my second year at National City Corp. You want to make G-d laugh? Make plans.

My experience at regional bank National City began in January 2008, just in time for the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression. By the end of the year, PNC had acquired National City with government help, and in short order, Communication AMMO was born. I flirted briefly with the idea of enrolling in a master’s program right away, but jumped on the small business train instead. Now, after nearly 18 months toiling through the Great Recession, and a year after beginning my teaching career at Kent State as an adjunct prof, the academic fire is burning pretty brightly in me.

So, I decided to start the next phase of my communication career with pursuing a master’s in public relations from Kent State University.

This presented an interesting sidebar — in my Theory of Mass Communication class, seven of my fellow students took my PR Theory and Ethical Practice course last fall, and one of them is in the PR Tactics course I’m teaching this fall.  No copying off Professor Williams!

I’m excited and a bit terrified — I was last a student about 20 years ago, and wonder if I still remember how to study.  Preparing to teach is an education in itself, but being accountable for academic readings and schoolwork is a dim memory. The first week of classes (I’m taking two) is under our belts, and I still have time to complete the initial assignments. I count that as a victory!

With three speaking engagements this fall (PRSA International, the Parma, Ohio, Chamber of Commerce, and the IABC Research and Measurement Conference), the two classes, the one I’m teaching, the twice-monthly Twitter meeting, #ICChat, and the position as membership director for IABC Cleveland, I’m not going to lack for things to do.

I hope to still remain active here and elsewhere in social media, but don’t be too surprised if my frequency drops and length of post shrinks.

Of course, there no doubt are many of you who are hoping for just such a reduction. Anyone want to write a guest post?

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9 Responses to “The ‘Professor’ Becomes The Student”

  1. Jared Slanina says:

    I had a much shorter layover between my undergrad and masters endeavors (4 years) but I can relate to how you feel. Like you mention, going back was both exciting and terrifying. Ironically enough, my first class after returning was your PR theory course!

    Over the course of the semester you mentioned several times that you would have worked toward your Ph.D. if you could do it all over again. This is giving me serious pause as to which direction I should go once I (hopefully) graduate in May. Ultimately I think I would be most happy in the academic field. Teaching eager students and conducting my own research has always seemed appealing. Unfortunately being a full-time grad student is not very lucrative. I will admit I miss having the regular paycheck of a full-time employee. I’m sure you will be hearing from me this spring as I rack my brain and try to come to the best conclusion of the next thing I want to pursue.

  2. Tom Tennant says:

    Woo-hoo! Many congrats and how exciting! (And I had to laugh doubly hard at the line: “You want to make God laugh? Make plans.” And here I am, laughing again!) Let’s do the Beer Engine again soon. My treat this time. This time being the time that I am once more employed. 🙂

  3. Sean says:

    Jared and Tom — thanks for your comments.

    J – not all students are “eager,” — don’t kid yourself! One prof I had a million years ago said, “There’s usually one, maybe two, each semester, that make it all worthwhile.”

    In my (limited) experience, there have been more than a couple, but the sentiment is on-target. Still, I’m heading down the path of eventually teaching full time (KSU’s Gene Shelton and Bill Sledzik are my heros for getting a late start on the academe…)

    Tom — gainful employment? Gracious. Call me.

  4. Jared Slanina says:

    Teaching undergrads would probably be more difficult. From my experiences there were two or three active students in the front row while everyone else was just kinda hanging out.

    Is there a big difference teaching graduate courses? I’d like to think the majority are eager if they are going through all that.

  5. Sean, I for one am thrilled that you’re pursuing the academic path. From what I’ve seen of you, you are a born teacher, and future generations of PR pros will be the better for it.

    Congratulations and may the force be with you.

    Yes, I had to throw in a kitschy pop culture reference. I’m good for those.

  6. Sean nothing like leaving a legacy and what better way than to impart some of your knowledge to future communication leaders.

    I taught and lectured many years ago and one day would love to go back to it, maybe once I’ve retired from corporate communications life. Only problem is no-one will want to listen to me then – you’re doing it at the right time.

    Have fun and go for it!

  7. roula says:

    Congrats, Sean! You’ll be a great student and teacher. Look forward to hear more in your blog, no matter how often you post.

  8. Sean says:

    @Shonali — thanks, lady! May the force be strong with all of us and keep the Dark Side at bay. teehee!
    @Craig — much appreciated. Don’t wait – get back into it to feather an academic nest a bit – builds relationships that might help later on!

    Roula — many thanks — cheers!

  9. Robin Ratliff says:

    Sean, what a terrific and invigorating shift for you! May your blessings be many, your troubles be few, and your eyewear be a bit more au courant.