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Posts Tagged ‘University of Montana’

Nearly a month of celebrations: that’s what this year’s graduation season holds for me.  Last month, I went back to Missoula (Montana) for the University of Montana’s graduation – one of the only chances I get to meet some of my online students in person.  It was wonderful to see them start on the next stages of their lives, full of joy at having made it through and gotten their degrees.  Commencement speaker was Tom Brokaw, a beloved figure in Montana as a part-time resident there.  He warned the students that they weren’t graduating into real life, the way everyone says; real life was back in junior high.  People still act with the same petty jealousies and power plays out there.  I had to laugh – and wonder if any of us ever truly change!

My good friend Michael Brown, Jr., who has headed up the Virginia Peninsula Chapter of PRSA this past year, received his doctorate from Old Dominion University just before that, and Mara Woloshin and I – who have worked with him on his APR studies – sent him many warm congratulations!

Today, I’m headed out to the Oregon Coast, but with a stopover at my cousin Christie’s house in Lake Oswego to help celebrate her daughter, Kaitlyn’s, graduation from high school.  I think Kaitlyn has just landed a scholarship to the university of her choice back east, to study performing arts; I can’t wait to find out more!  She’s an amazing young woman.

Tomorrow I head to Eugene, where my good friend Cary Greenwood is getting her doctorate at the University of Oregon; and then Friday, I’ll be back here in the Portland metro area to take part as a faculty member in the Marylhurst University graduation ceremonies, where several of my students are graduating.  Just after those ceremonies, my young next-door neighbor, David – who lawn-mowing abilities I will sorely miss – is celebrating his graduation from high school, and I know he’s headed for success in his life.

I love these times of celebration, although I mentioned to someone last year that attending a graduation as a faculty member is very nearly as bad as having your kids leave home in terms of its bittersweet taste.  “Bye!” say the students.  “Thanks for everything!”  — and I mope around thinking, “But I worked with you really hard, and I’ve learned to care a lot about you and your success – you’ll stay in touch, won’t you?”  Well, some do and some don’t.  It is kind of like having your kids leave home; at first, they just want to fly and test their wings.  It’s only much later – sometimes once they’ve had their own kids – that they begin to feel that double-edged lance of success and loss.

But it’s all good.  It’s the way life should be.  And as I head out today,  I’m just filled with joy for my wonderful friends, neighbor and family member and all they’ve accomplished.  Moving forward, moving on – with sails into the wind.

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I’m about to start teaching my two seminars in social media and public relations again for Marylhurst University, and although I’m always really excited about these classes, they also take the most amount of research and preparation for just about any class that I teach.  The social media world changes so quickly that I’m generally in a small panic just before the first day of class, hoping that what I present is both timely and relevant.  Then I remember that in these particular seminars, we’ll all be teaching each other; my job is simply to present the road map for how to get where we’re going.

Nevertheless, here I am on New Year’s Day researching again, and grateful to fall back on some of the best social media minds out there.  For example, just before Christmas Deidre Breakenridge posted some tips on engaging with Twitter and Facebook: http://www.deirdrebreakenridge.com/2010/12/how-to-engage-on-facebook-and-twitter/.

And Brian Solis, who is not just brilliant but a lot of fun in his presentations, has written a post titled “Once More, with Feeling: Making Sense of Social Media:

http://www.briansolis.com/2010/07/once-more-with-feeling-making-sense-of-social-media/

I start to relax a little when I realize how many sources are out there, and how many more sources my students will no doubt contribute to the class.  Online learning becomes a team effort, and we all move forward together: that’s one of the best things about it.  Rather than serve as some kind of authoritarian instructor, which puts almost unbearable pressure on me, I can simply open a few doors for my students and encourage them to walk through; they get it almost immediately.  Empowered, they go beyond what I realized what possible in any given class.

I’m also re-doing a client’s web site, have plans to re-do my own web sites – one for my private consulting, one for my particular service to our troops and veterans – and I swear, this year, I’ll be more consistent about blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Plaxo.  I do find, as some of my colleagues do, that after and eight- or 10-hour stint on the computer each day, I’m not always amenable to chat time or computer games.

Meantime, I’m preparing to teach another Marylhurst seminar on the law and ethics of public relations and a class in public relations writing for the University of Montana.  My students range from traditional college-aged students (up to their early 30s or so) in Montana to mostly older working adults at Marylhurst, with a few younger exceptions.  Without fail, these students really want to learn – but they also have vastly different learning styles across the generations.   One of my over-arching goals is to help equip all of my students with some of the skills they’ll need to compete in today’s difficult economic climate.  That’s not an easy task, for any of us; I research and write, they read and write, we talk and discuss and collaborate and dig in.   But by the end of each term, there are those students whom you know are going to zoom for the stars.

And that keeps people like me chugging right along… so here’s to 2011 and the adventures that I know lie ahead!

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