As the month of June comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the good fortune that has come my way since I began teaching as an adjunct college instructor last fall.
In the nine-plus months that have passed since I walked into a classroom on the Portland State University campus and faced my first group of students, one opportunity after another has presented itself. I’ve said yes to one thing, only to have another thing come my way, and then another and another.
Never could I have imagined I’d be in this place so soon after making the transition from veteran journalist to rookie college instructor. But I’m grateful, even if I have to pinch myself from time to time.
I taught a single class at PSU during the fall, winter and spring quarters, each one lasting 12 weeks. This summer I’m teaching two four-week sessions back-to-back. The first class began this week. The second one starts in late July.
Meanwhile, I taught two communications courses across the river at Washington State University Vancouver during the spring semester from January to mid-May. Combined with the single PSU class, that meant I was managing three courses at once for most of the 16-week term. It was a stretch, requiring two days a week on each campus, but I managed.
This summer I’m teaching a single class in Vancouver. Yesterday marked the halfway point of the eight-week course. I gave the midterm exam, welcomed a guest speaker, and met with each student individually after class in the fresh air outside the classroom.
Looking ahead to the 2017-18 academic year, both campuses want me back. WSUV has me lined up to teach one class in the fall and one in the spring.
PSU wants me to teach a single class during the fall and winter quarters (nothing in the spring) and become the internship coordinator for the Department of Communication.
On top of that, a key contact in PSU’s Education Abroad program is encouraging me to pitch a course that would enable me to teach overseas sometime next year.
Can you believe it?
Those of you familiar with my journalism career know that I spent a decade at The Oregonian as the newsroom recruitment director and internship coordinator. So here I am, 18 months removed from leaving the newsroom, and I’m being given the opportunity to essentially build another internship program for a different employer and a different set of students.
What a perfect fit of my skills and background with the department’s need and desire to do a better job of helping students secure internships in public relations, advertising and communications. A primary goal is to ensure that they and their employers both benefit from the experience.
Starting in the fall, I will likely have no more than a handful of students to supervise, as the onus is on them to find and arrange an internship. Once I’m in the new role, the expectation is that I’ll be able to help place students with a variety of employers and provide ongoing support to ensure they are successful and doing meaningful work that relates to their academic major and career aspirations.
This vision no doubt will require lots of networking with internship coordinators already doing similar work for other campus departments, as well as with area employers who’ve had interns or are interested in having them. By adapting best practices to the Communication Department program and tapping the experiences of recent interns, I hope we’ll be able to develop a robust program that serves everyone’s needs — student, employer, university — and lays a foundation for a sustainable program.
I look forward to the challenge, confident that much of the work I did 20 years ago — advocating for students, building partnerships and strategic networking — will still be relevant and useful in a 21st century media environment.
None of what has transpired — and, certainly, none of what lies ahead — would have been possible without the help of key individuals on both campuses. So here let me express my gratitude to a handful of folks:
Cynthia-Lou Coleman. Cindy is a tenured professor and former chair of the Communication Department and she was the one who encouraged me to apply as an adjunct. She’s provided valuable counsel at every step of the way as I’ve gotten my foot in the door and become more established at PSU.
Jeffrey Robinson. Jeff succeeded Cindy as the department chair. He’s the one who brought me aboard last fall and asked me to teach again during the winter, spring and summer. He approved a teaching assistant for me for an unexpectedly large class during one term. Most recently, he surprised with me with the proposal for 2017-18 that includes the internship piece.
Ky Tran. Ky is the all-purpose finance and administrative specialist who welcomed me to the department. She has been indispensable as an all-purpose resource, helping me figure out which campus buildings were located where; providing support for guest speakers; answering questions about payroll, student evaluations and other mundane matters. She’s moving on to a new job next month in the private sector and I know everyone in the department will miss her.
Becky Kearny. Becky was a lifesaver during the winter term. As my teaching assistant, she helped grade certain assignments, kept track of student scores, did a lot of photocopying and provided useful feedback on my teaching methods and lesson plans. Becky was a straight-A student herself who excelled while managing a blended household of five girls, including three who were in college at the same time as her.
Narayanan Iyer. Nanu is program director of the Integrated Strategic Communication program at WSUV. He’s the one who brought me aboard in January and since Day One has provided encouragement, positive feedback and continuous opportunities to teach. He also has filled in for me as a guest lecturer when I’ve had to miss a couple of classes.
Last but not least, my wife, Lori. She encouraged me initially as I set out on this new path but undoubtedly had second thoughts as our evenings and weekends were gobbled up by the workload associated with my classes. For each one, I had to create a syllabus and a weekly schedule, then develop lesson plans and lectures. I also had to assign, read and grade assorted papers; put together midterm and final exams; and keep in touch with students, faculty and guest speakers.
No one sacrificed more than Lori during these first few months of 2017 and I am deeply appreciative. The workload has slackened a bit during summer and I’m confident I can manage it effectively when the new school year begins this fall.
Next: The joy of teaching