|—||Mark Cuban, owner of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks|
Above: Craig Spence says that working a full-time job, raising two small children and completing college coursework often leave him feeling mildly confused and in a box. Spence, who lives in Tipton County, Tenn., is enrolled in the University of Memphis online public relations degree program.
By Craig Spence
At 32, sometimes I wonder why I decided to return to college. I graduated with a communications degree in 2003. Many things—personally and professionally—changed during the intermission.
Full-time job, wife, two kids, bill—all things that tend to come along with that lovely little thing known as life. They consumed my waking hours and often left me at a loss for small details such as the day of the week, the location of my keys and where I left my shoes.
But I knew I needed to do it, if for no other reason than to provide a better life for my young’uns.
I re-enrolled in the University of Memphis as a physics major and loved every minute of my lectures.
I learned a great deal from a wonderful professor, Robert Marchini, who helped remind me about the magic in simple, everyday occurrences. Not to mention his exams tested every bit of memory I managed to keep hold of over my decade away from a classroom!
Something still felt wrong, though. I enjoyed the subject and felt challenged, but the spark? It never caught.
Not to mention I spent more time away from home from my little ones. I wanted to there for those “firsts” (for each of them).
So I listened to the choice that my 17-year-old self made years before and returned to an old love—journalism.
I wanted to kick myself for the amount of time it took me to realized why I missed it!
I knocked out the on-campus requirements—which, thanks to my past credits, only required commutes three days a week—and looked into the online public relations degree program.
My past experiences with online classes? None too fantastic.
With the exception of my journalism courses, the computer and I butted heads every semester. Calculus II almost made me snap over poor communication and system malfunctions. The thought that I would finish my degree on the business end of a monitor made me reconsider until I completed my first “virtual” semester.
The combination of fantastic faculty and more free hours once dedicated to a commute affirmed in my mind that I made the right decision.
Sure, assignments still come, deadlines approach, exams and quizzes require attention, but the freedom to handle these things on my couch with my kids cuddled up next to me? What stress?
The fact that those two little monkeys ask incessantly, “What are you doing, Daddy?” and expect answers helps to reassure me that I do grasp the material as well as I imagine.
As for those assignments, they opened my mind to possibilities that I densely overlooked.
While I scribble about things that cross my mind, I struggled to come up with a topic for one PR Writing blog assignment.
I scratched my head for a while and caught a glimpse of the kids as they stretched out in Grandma’s field one day: Daddy blog it is.
Now, my Daddy blog keeps my writing techniques sharp and my mind (somewhat) straight.
To what purpose do I plan to use this online journalism degree and my experiences from its gain?
One consideration: open a small public relations business in Tipton County, my adopted home. There are so many lovely family-run businesses and historically significant areas sitting squirreled away here that I wish more people know about and saw.
Another option: public information officer for a law enforcement agency. After almost 11 years in emergency services as a 9-1-1 operator, I would welcome the opportunity to combine work experience, school experience and plain old curiosity for a beneficial purpose.
My remaining time in college ticks by quickly. By this year’s end, I will fulfill my course requirements and walk across the stage to shake hands and pose for photos with my piece of heavy cardstock covered in ornate script.
I look forward to it, much more than I did in the past. Maybe I’ve grown up some along the journey.
So long as I didn’t grow up too much.
|—||William Zinsser, writing expert|
Thirty-five students learned some benefits of entrepreneurial thinking at a workshop hosted by the University of Memphis chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) on Wednesday, Feb. 26.
The workshop—titled “How to Think Like an Entrepreneur”—was held at the university’s Crews Center for Entrepreneurship. Students from several different majors attended the free event.
"Entrepreneurs look at the world differently than other people," said Mike Hoffmeyer, Crews Center director and workshop presenter. "Entrepreneurs see problems as opportunities that need solving. When the problem is one that many people experience, a startup (business) is born."
The workshop explored how students can benefit from thinking like an entrepreneur regardless of their career path.
"Students who learn entrepreneurial thinking come to understand that failure is not negative, that risk can be acceptable, and that everything starts with ‘belief in self,’" Hoffmeyer said. "Learning how entrepreneurs operate builds confidence, opens doors, improves critical thinking and makes students ultimately more employable."
Hoffmeyer said he hoped students left the workshop with the understanding that failures can lead to more career opportunities.
The workshop strengthened a growing partnership between the U of M PRSSA chapter and the Crews Center.
PRSSA faculty adviser Darrin Devault is assisting a group of students who recently launched Meeman 901 Strategies, a public relations and creative firm that assists student entrepreneurs in the Crews Center.
The students also are working with two non-profit community clients and a small business owner this spring.
Hoffmeyer said the Crews Center serves as the entrepreneurial hub for the University of Memphis, providing students and faculty with resources to aid their quest to become entrepreneurs.
"The Crews Center offers students workspace, prototyping equipment, office equipment, entrepreneurship coaching, educational workshops and entrepreneurship-related events," he said.
Devault will continue the two-part PRSSA workshop series on Tuesday, March 25, when he presents on the topic, “Social Media Strategies for Student Entrepreneurs.”
Geneva Overholser, professor and former director of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, will speak at the University of Memphis’ annual Norm Brewer First Amendment Lecture Series.
Her talk will be Tuesday, March 4, at 6 p.m. in the University Center Theatre.
The event is free and open to the public.
Overholser was the ombudsman for The Washington Post from 1995 to 1998 and served as a columnist for the paper. She was editor of The Des Moines Register from 1988 to 1995, leading the paper to a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Overholser also has served on the editorial board of The New York Times.
The Norm Brewer Lecture is named in memory of longtime Memphis journalist Norman Brewer and focuses on the First Amendment and today’s media and journalism landscape.