I’m moving…to Texas


Some of you may already know, but I have decided to pursue a Ph.D. at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. They have a great mass communications program that I’m confident will prepare me for a career in academia. My ultimate goal is to teach and do research in public relations at a four-year university, and I think I’ve always known I’d be Dr. Lee someday.

I'll be a Red Raider for a few years, but you know I'm an Aztec for life :)

I’ll be a Red Raider for a few years, but you know I’m an Aztec for life 🙂

Choosing a doctoral program was the hardest decision I’ve ever made and my huge spreadsheet of pros and cons wasn’t much help. All of the programs I looked at are great and someone else with the same options I had may have chosen differently. I went with what was best for me in terms of faculty, resources, research and teaching opportunities. However, on top of the practical considerations, the people that I will spend the next three years with really sealed the deal.

Tech had me come visit a few weeks ago and every single person that I have interacted with, student, faculty or staff, was incredibly helpful and welcoming. Plus, their facilities are amazing. I probably won’t use the eye tracking machines or physiology lab, but the high-tech focus group room and office with a view got my attention. However, Blake and I have been joking around about the crazy research projects we can do in the labs when she visits. Any suggestions on that?

College of Media and Communication building

College of Media and Communication building

While the program is a great fit, Lubbock will be harder to get used to. There is more there than I realized and university towns tend to foster creativity and forward thinking, but it still isn’t San Diego. There’s no ocean or city-wide recycling program, the shopping isn’t great, and everyone drives big trucks while talking on cell phones. I’ll be leaving my family, Blake and Whitney, and other friends, but luckily, I have an amazing partner by my side to navigate this adventure with. My boyfriend, Paul, and I, and our cocker spaniel, Tiger, will be moving in August. Trust me, we’ll only be in Texas for three years.

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Young Professional Series: Laura Peterson


Today is the third installment of our Young Professional Series (you can see the others here and here)! This interview is with Laura Peterson, a close friend (who Blake has known since pre-school) and K-12 teacher with a passion for education.

me wine tasting

What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?

My favorite aspect about teaching is getting students excited about school and inspiring them to be life-long learners.  I love helping students become more confident in academic areas that they previouslystruggled with and motivating them to succeed. As a teacher, I get the opportunity to positively influence students’ lives and to see the progress they have made over the school year.  The best thing about teaching is that you get paid for doing what you truly love.

How do you think you have to build a “brand” around yourself, to show administration, the kids, the parents? How does this brand/persona change with each of these people (markets)

As a young teacher in this unfavorable education job market, it is very hard to find a stable, full-time, high paying teaching job.  However, I have found that I am able to “brand” myself by showcasing my strong attributes and being assertive both in an interview and job setting. I make sure to go out of my way to get to know other faculty, especially the veteran teachers and administration, so they know I am a “team player” and ready to help out as much as possible. I also make sure I am very fun and caring towards my students so that they will want to report back to their families with positive feedback about my teaching. As for parents, I make sure they feel welcome and know that there is open communication to meet with me and share their thoughts and concerns about their child.

What’s the hardest thing about finding a teaching job right now? How do you stay positive in your search?

Due to severe budget cuts and teacher layoffs over the last few years, I have struggled with finding a permanent teaching job, which can be very disheartening at times. Teaching is my passion, therefore, I try to stay positive and remind myself that all the applications were worth it and that I will ultimately land the perfect job I want. Even though it is not ideal, I do feel that each part-time job and tutoring position I have taken over the years was still building my resume, adding to my overall experience, and making me more valuable for when the right job comes around.

Have you seen similar difficulties out there when you’re job hunting? How do you stay positive?

A Recap of IPRRC


Last week, I ventured to Miami for the second year in a row to present research at the International Public Relations Research Conference. IPRRC brings practitioners and academics together in order to share and advance the latest PR research. Unlike other conferences, IPRRC is made up of informal roundtable sessions where the presenters can share their research, then discuss it with a fairly small group of people. This facilitates conversation among practitioners, faculty and grad students and often leads to new ideas and collaborations.

SDSU had a great group of representatives in Miami!

SDSU had a great group of representatives in Miami!

With three very full days of presentations, I was pretty exhausted by the time I got to my own presentation (the very last session!). Luckily, it’s a very positive environment and there didn’t seem to be any judgment as I tripped over my words a few times. In fact, everyone was very kind and encouraging, just like they were last year.

IPRRC really has something for everyone in PR, as you can see in the program. If you are a practitioner, you are sure to find presentations relevant to your practice. If you are an academic, you are sure to find presentations relevant to your research interests. Right now, I’m both, and I found both.

Social media was one of the most popular research topics. From best practices to ethics to creating dialogue to measurement, there was a ton of discussion about social media. My paper was also related to social media, but focused on new PR professionals and why they are often the ones to take on social media tasks. If the topic interests you, go read my thesis! Haha… I know that won’t happen, but if you want a shortened version, I’d be happy to chat about it!

Not Writing a Thesis


So, last week in my blog post I talked about the decision to go back to get my MBA, in this post I’m going to write about how I FINISHED the process!

In my MBA program at SDSU we had the option of writing a thesis or partaking in a business consulting project coupled with an exam. Affectionately known as BA795, I chose to participate in the business consulting capstone project. My decision was partially based on:

  1. Unless you plan on going into academia, a thesis is seen as somewhat worthless to many in the business community.
  2. Hiring managers like to see “results,” a project was more likely to give me that over a theoretical research paper.
  3. I like to give my opinions (one reason a blog is a fantastic option for me) – I like it even better when people listen!
  4. I one day would love to pursue a career as a marketing consultant and this was a nice mini-start.

For BA795 all participants were given a list of participating companies and the help they needed. The companies and projects ranged from huge hotel corporations needing a diversified marketing strategy to start-ups needing to know if their idea would pan out in the marketplace.  Each member of the upcoming graduating class ranked which project they would like to participate in, we were then assigned a group and a company to consult with.

So, here lies the crux of the situation. As groups were announced we all sat around like elementary school kids getting picked for dodge ball, “Will I getting picked for the ‘cool’ project?” “Will my group be a bunch of slackers?”

Typical

It’s the risk you take when you opt in for a group project rather than a solo thesis!

I ended up being assigned to a client that needed help with developing a branding/rebranding analysis along with three other MBA candidates. I knew one of the girls, Kari, personally and as much as I hate to admit this to her I knew she would make a fantastic group member 😉 (I have to keep up the teasing relationship we developed – Kari is actually one of the most dedicated and hardworking people I have had the pleasure of working with).  I had not had the pleasure of working with Adam and Melissa in my MBA career but I am SOOOOO glad they were my other group members! The four of us never had any issues with each other and everyone produced spectacular work ON TIME!

Once we jumped through some hoops and touchy issues with our two assigned advisers (who I still refuse to accept we needed) we were on a roll. Unlike other groups that had issues with difficult clients, our client was FANTASTIC! We met with a representative for our client’s organization who was understanding, compassionate of our time restrictions, incredibly accessible to any questions that arose, and warned us up front that even if our suggestions were not acted upon they were appreciated – dare I say it, they were the perfect client we’ll probably never see again in our consulting careers.

On the client side, I believe most of the companies came out of the experience with applicable real-world direction and information they could use to enhance their business – at a great cost! I reached out to our client representative to see why they considered coming to SDSU MBA’s for help: “I went with the SDSU MBA student consultant group not only because I was familiar with the program as a past participant, but also because I would get a fresh perspective and analysis based on techniques and applications the group had learned during their time in the MBA program. I’ve found the group’s final product to be a great road map and guideline to what the tribal development can be.”

Basically, our group was able to help our client with a fresh perspective and apply the education we had received. Along with our 200+ page report (that cost about $100,000,000,000 to print at Kinkos) we left this experience with applied knowledge and a group bond that we still have (even if these guys blew me off for happy hour this week 😉 ).

Writing a Thesis


Not all master’s programs require writing a thesis. In the Mass Communication and Media Studies program at San Diego State I was given a choice between writing a thesis and taking comprehensive exams. Most people choose comprehensive exams for various reasons, but a big part of it is that the commitment isn’t as long term. Yes, they are very intense and require studying for weeks, but a thesis is a more drawn-out process that can take a year or more of dedication. Despite this, I chose the thesis route. That choice is not for everyone, but based on my personal goals, made more sense. Here’s why:

  1. I had an area of research that I wanted to explore and become an “expert” in. For comprehensive exams you must have a solid understanding of a wide variety of topics. For a thesis, you choose one topic and dig deeper… and deeper…and deeper.
  2. I would like to pursue a Ph.D. at some point. Most doctoral programs want to see that a candidate has done their own research and has what it takes to see a project through from start to finish.
  3. Writing a thesis is part of the grad school experience that I wanted. I wanted to add to the body of knowledge in PR and have something that I could take with me forever.

Knowing I made the right decision about writing a thesis didn’t make the process easier. In fact, there were times where I was so overwhelmed I didn’t think I would ever get to where I am now (very close to done). It does NOT have to be that way though. If you’re writing a thesis, here are some tips that might help you out:

Faculty, students and alumni representing SDSU at the International Public Relations Research Conference where I presented my thesis as research in progress.

  1. Buy a book on thesis or dissertation writing and read it. Demystifying Dissertation Writing by Peg Single is a book my friend, Navy Cmdr. K.C. Marshall, bought for me and I should have read it cover to cover BEFORE starting my writing process. It is full of great tips about establishing a writing space, writing partner, routine and overcoming the many forms of writer’s block.
  2. Talk about your challenges! This is definitely discussed in Single’s book, but I still want to call this one out separately. Writing a thesis can feel isolating. It is by far the biggest project you have ever done and you are doing it by yourself. My thesis became a source of anxiety for me and it took me too long to speak up about it to my adviser. I eventually did and felt much better after venting. Maybe your adviser will be the best person to talk to or maybe you’d feel more comfortable with someone else. Talk to colleagues also writing a thesis or see a school therapist. Your university has resources to deal with stress, anxiety and depression. Use them!
  3. Think beyond “getting it done”. Of course you want to graduate, but if you look into conference and publication opportunities for your research, it will be far more rewarding.

Have any of you written a thesis? Any advice I’m missing?

Grad School for PR


Since a graduate degree is not required to have a successful career in PR, I have had many people call my education “pointless”, a “waste of time”, and a “waste of money”…and that’s what they say to my face! So, I feel that it is necessary to share a different perspective on the

Me with my buddies, Eric and Erika, at graduation.

topic.

First of all, it is true that grad school won’t help you pitch media, write press releases, create media lists, write web copy or draft tweets. Those are all things that entry-level practitioners should know after a Bachelor’s degree or their first internship. So, what are things that grad school WILL do? (Disclaimer: I am in no way saying that people that don’t go to grad school can’t develop any of these skills, I am simply saying these are areas that grad school can help you grow.)

  1. Improve your critical thinking skills. Grad school teaches you how to think in a different way. This is something I use from my education every single day without realizing it. In grad school you are expected to analyze complex situations, form opinions and defend them.
  2. Increase your knowledge of mass communication theory.  This is one that is often called “pointless”, but I disagree. Knowing the theoretical basis of what you do can help you make decisions about new situations as well as help you explain to your clients WHY you do what you do.
  3. Help you understand research and its application. Grad school is a great place to improve your research skills both to inform your strategies and evaluate them.
  4. Broaden your career opportunities. Interested in academia or applied research? Not everyone is, but if you are, grad school will help you get there.

Choosing to go to grad school is not for everyone and even after you make that decision, choosing the right program is very important. I personally have had a great experience at SDSU and would never consider any learning experience “pointless”. PRSA San Diego’s featured member of July also attended my program, for what he said about it, look at question five.

What are your opinions on grad school for industries where an advanced degree is not required?

Also, keep an eye out later this week for Blake’s thoughts on getting an MBA!