Wednesday, February 1, 2012
It's that wonderful time of the year when high school students applying to Ithaca College are getting their acceptance letters. I hear from a lot of them - through ICPeers (our online social network for prospective students), through my Facebook page, and emails - and it's wonderful to share in their thrill.
Then comes the big question for many of them: deciding among many good college offers. On the sidelines are their families who will be trying to support them both emotionally and financially through the next four years -- and each day being bombarded with questions about the value and purpose of a college education. President Obama, in his recent State of the Union address, put colleges "on notice" regarding rising tuition costs. And today, a guy who dropped out of Harvard launched the Facebook IPO and instantly became a billionaire. Should you pick the college that gives you the best financial package? One that guarantees you a job right after graduation? Or should you take that college savings account and open up a lemonade stand or a create new smartphone app? What's the purpose of a general well-rounded liberal education?
I've figured it out... the big question that prospective college students and their families should ask:
*** Which college will give me the best chance at having the most fun for the rest of my life? ***
I'm not talking here about which place has the best downtown nightlife, the most frats and sororities, the rowdiest football games, or the most entertaining-sounding courses. And it's not just which college looks like it has the happiest students (although that's an important indicator).
Many students wonder why they are "forced" to take all those courses that they don't feel relates to their major or what they want to do as a career. I've even heard them called a "waste". FAR FROM THE TRUTH. Those are what create opportunities for fun.
Sure, we hope that a college education at a place like the Park School leads to great job opportunities upon graduation and career advancement through a lifetime. We have four decades and thousands of alums who have proven that we do that really well. We prepare students who are confident, connected, and well-trained in their craft. But if it's just the technical skills you're looking for, you can get those through a trade school or even free online. A place like Ithaca College offers you much more. It's those other courses and experiences outside your major that have the most potential of yielding you more fun in your personal life after college.
Do you know people who are picky eaters, timid around strangers, narrow in their musical tastes, anxious travelers? They're kind of difficult to be around -- and they seem like they have few opportunities for enjoyment. I remember when my 3 yr old nephew would only eat Kraft American cheese, white bread, and Chicken McNuggets. The other kids were having a great time exploring new tastes and new places and he frankly was kind of a wet blanket.
If you give yourself opportunities to expand your musical and literary tastes, learn new languages, be comfortable in strange places with new people, try new cuisines and sports-- you simply expand the possible ways you can have fun. When you get the opportunity to go skiing in the French Alps and eat escargot, you're right there, mixing with the locals. When an opera company comes to town, you jump on it with the same enthusiasm that you feel for your favorite jazz trio and heavy metal band. You have a deep appreciation for art films, keep in great health, create a solid investment strategy, and can have a lively debate with people of almost any political persuasion. What fun!
The Dali Lama (who actually spoke at Ithaca College in 2007) said in his book: ""I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness."
College should help you create more opportunities for happiness. Sure-- a great career is a good start. So are good life-long friends. But more than that- your four years in college should help you develop more things you appreciate and more situations where you feel confident and comfortable.
If you're thinking about college -- or already a part of a campus -- seek happiness for yourself and for those around you. THAT's what we're all about.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I had the pleasure last week of hosting our Park Distinguished Speaker, Randi Zuckerberg, who for 6 years led marketing and PR for Facebook. Emerson Suites was packed with students who had provocative questions about the future of social media -- not just as a tool for PR and media distribution, but also as an agent in our personal lives.
In my introduction to Zuckerberg's speech, I said that it was great to see so many people "in the flesh", since most of the audience spends a significant amount of time interacting with friends and co-workers online. Can we even remember life before Facebook -- or heaven forbid, WITHOUT Facebook??!!
Shaping our personal and professional identities is an endeavor worth serious consideration. We know that most prospective employers (and even internship sites) do online searches of candidates before offering them positions, or even a first interview. Staying off the grid of social media isn't really an option, either. As communications scholars and professionals, we more than ever need to create our own personal brands and develop some niche areas of expertise .. and that digital repository and image needs to be accessible 24/7, globally, and digitally.
This is one of the many fascinating topics we talk about in our freshman S'Park class, where we require our students to live tweet and to create their own e-portfolios. Recently, the class Skyped with alum Elspeth Rountree who is listed as a “2009 Silicon Alley Insider 100” and one of the “25 Need-To-Know Bloggers” by Mediaite.com. “Ellie” has appeared as an internet culture expert on major media channels and is co-creator of two highly successful websites, Rocketboom Tech and the Know Your Meme series. Both she and Randi Zuckerberg highlighted the importance of developing online communication skills as well as interpersonal skills -- and in fact, the most common question that our students asked of both of these experts was whether we as a culture are losing our real-world communication savvy and sensitivity.
We can't afford to become screen-creatures without the confidence and credibility to be effective in person. That's why I'm very pleased to see so many of our students taking advantage of the various "pitch sessions" we've been offering where students can deliver polished, short presentations on new business or creative ideas. We did one of these during alumni homecoming weekend; the Business School recently sponsored a business pitch competition; and the day after Zuckerberg's speech we hosted independent film producers Christine Vachon and Ted Hope who also heard ten students pitch ideas for their own films.
We now have many platforms on which to build our professional and personal identities. What's your own strategy and brand?
Sunday, September 18, 2011
The Park School of Communications radiates creativity, enthusiasm, energy, a sense of social responsibility, and a passion for innovation. It's not by chance. Those qualities were among the many important character traits of the founding dean, John Keshishoglou. Dr. Kesh, as most of us called him, passed away on August 24 after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Kesh took a few boxes full of equipment and a fledgling TV-radio curriculum and transformed it into the School of Communications in the mid-70s; he also established the Instructional Resource Center at the college. An accomplished producer himself, he taught film and photography and produced instructional and documentary films around the world, including one about the monks at Mount Athos in his native Greece. Kesh built up the faculty and the curriculum and was instrumental in bringing Rod Serling to campus as a regular visiting instructor. And I'm not sure how he made time to do this, but he completed dozens of multi-week consulting and teaching trips to Singapore, India, Nepal, and the Middle East. Recognizing the power of the media to improve education, he was instrumental in setting up government broadcasting capabilities for clients such as the Sultan of Brunei.
To honor his legacy, we've launched the John Keshishoglou Center for Global Communications Innovation at the Park School; this center will run an annual Media for Social Change mini-course and competition, will provide funding for student and faculty research internationally, and will eventually house a global executive master's degree in communications innovation.
Throughout all the many changes in communications technologies and practices, Ithaca College's School of Communications will always stay true to its roots. Kesh's energy and vision is still with us.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
It's that time of year when we clean up our offices after graduation and prepare to welcome a new crop of first-year students.
... when I get enthusiastic emails from new grads who just landed jobs
... when I follow tweets from alums getting frustrated by endless applications and interviews, still waiting for their big breaks
... when I get visits from former students bringing THEIR kids to campus, exploring the whole college scene for the first time
... when I get postcards and Facebook updates from former students from all corners of the globe -- enjoying a vacation or off to a new professional challenge or grad school in some exotic spot
And I start thinking about what I'll say to the parents and students arriving on campus over the next few weeks for orientation.
As you might imagine, many of the questions I get are about the kinds of jobs that Park students can expect to get after they graduate: Where are they? How much do they pay? And how quickly do our grads get hired? We have a lot of success stories to tell; many of our seniors had job offers waiting for them and some even complained that they had to miss senior week to start their new positions. But many of them don't have jobs -- at least not the kinds of traditional jobs we've been thinking of -- but they are also among the lucky and successful ones.
To be sure, the economy is changing. Jobless rates continue to climb and more people are piecing together various ways to pay their bills. The media entertainment industry is one where the most prominent profesionals NEVER had jobs -- rather, they have 'gigs'. The top producers, actors, photographers, event managers, scriptwriters, editors, and cinematographers get temporary contracts to work on one show after the next. They create their own "properties" and "franchises". They are their own brand. They're not owned by anybody.
And so, many of our most talented and engaged students are following these trends and patterns. Even if they go the route of accepting something that looks like traditional employment, it's really just the next chapter in a long personal story of individual goals and projects. They are creating their own stories and careers which are quite beautifully integrated with their personal experiences, values, and dreams.
Our most recent ICTV station manager, Nick Righi, has always wanted to combine his love of the outdoors with his passion for TV. Last month, he graduated with a degree in TV-Radio with minors in business and outdoor recreation. He spent countless hours and the last of his pennies funding his own video documentary on the Everglades. This opened the door to his job as a Media Manager for Spectrum Productions in Tampa. When I emailed him asking for permission to use his photo on this blog, he modestly informed me that he had just been promoted to Production Coordinator -- after less than a month on the job.
His classmate, Chloe Scutt, was snapped up right after commencement by G2 Direct and Digital, a leading digital marketing communications firm in NYC (where we have about a dozen other alums). Chloe said in a recent email to me, "From working as a Dean's Host, Park France Ambassador, Ad Lab Co-Chair, Supervisor of the Ithaca Fund, as well as a member of the Senior Class Gift Committee- all these opportunities have all helped me progress as a successful student and as an adult." The fact that her Ad Lab team won the district championship and came in #2 in the national student advertising competition didn't hurt either her confidence or her marketability!
Rachel Merkin graduated in May and went directly into the job of her dreams: Community Relations Coordinator for Major League Soccer. She majored in integrated marketing communications and minored in sports studies. Throughout her college career, Rachel held a part-time position at GiftCard Partners, a small marketing company based in the Boston suburbs where she worked as a marketing intern, social media manager, and most recently, public relations coordinator. During the summers of 2009 and 2010, Rachel worked as a marketing intern at Pangea Brands, a Boston-based sports licensing firm. She also interned for the Boston Breakers, a franchise in Women’s Professional Soccer, and was an events marketing intern for Kraft Sports Group, the holding company for the New England Patriots and New England Revolution. Talk about a young woman who knew what she wanted to do and pursued every opportunity to build her skills and her network!
Many other young alums are out there pitching their scripts, writing books and journalistic articles, putting together production teams and financing for their own documentaries, and creating online businesses. Matt Quintanilla and Mike Potter who graduated from the Park School in '07 are founders of Disrupto, a digital product development studio with clients like the NY Rangers and Samsung. Evan Engel, '08, is a member of Jet Set Zero, a group of young people who produce a web series on jet set life on a zero budget. Our senior dinner speaker this year was Meryl Weinsaft Cooper '92 who is a partner in a NYC PR firm and just wrote a book on Becoming Your Own Best Publicist. Liz Tigelaar '98 was last year's senior dinner speaker; she created the new TV series "Life Unexpected" which draws a lot of inspiration from her own experience as an adopted child.
The concept of "job" is actually quite new in human history. Throughout history, most humans grew up in a family farm or business and were nurtured in a community where they discovered what they liked to do and whose company they enjoyed. They found the means to support themselves and their families -- but not necessarily through a single rather rigid relationship with a corporate employer.
The lines between family and work and hobbies and passion are blurring, and isn't that GREAT??!! And so it's back to the future for many of our young students and alums.
I'd like to think that our unique mix of a rigorous professional education, opportunities to lead and explore in internships and co-curricular media, and a wonderful array of courses outside communications gives our students a special advantage.
At Ithaca College, we don't just prepare you for a job... we prepare you to get a life.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
It was 1979, and a 25 year old brand-new professor of communications at Ithaca College was looking for some interesting new content for her corporate and instructional video class. Reading through a copy of Educational and Instructional TV, she happened to see a tiny ad on the back page for something called "interactive video" which was purported to be the marriage of television with computer-assisted instruction. And the company was in Rochester. Hmmm... sounds like this company might be a good source for a guest speaker! So she wrote to them -- on a typewriter -- (there was no email in those days) and they responded and invited her to see a demo.
Well, that young prof was me, and little did I know that seeing this company's groundbreaking interactive program on job interviewing created for deaf students would quite literally change my life. Seeing the possibilities of this new medium, I boldly launched a conference here in Ithaca to gather the folks who were experimenting with interactive video. It was the first university conference on interactive media on the planet and thus began our classes and experiments with "new media" -- back in 1980.
If you want a laugh -- and evidence that I was once young, check out this clip!
I started speaking at conferences and writing articles on the impact of interactivity -- and creating programs for my students and for corporate clients. The challenges were many: we were working with circuit boards literally soldered in electric frying pans to connect early Apple II computers with VCRs. But the biggest challenge wasn't technical -- it was conceptual:
What happens when the audience becomes the producer??
I wrote an article with that title in 1981. Fast forward some 30 years later, and we're still asking that question.
Earlier this month, I hosted the first of our first Alumni Roundtables on Media Innovation. Held at the Park School's Pendleton Center in Los Angeles, we had stimulating discussions and demonstrations from alums who are working with James Cameron on 3-D movies using computer-generated characters, developing a new animated web series for Playtone (Tom Hank's company), producing new interactive forms of movie trailers and marketing, and researching the next generation of consumer electronics. The head of Disney Imagineering, Bruce Vaughn, talked with us about engineering the consumer experience - from theme parks to toys to TV to games to movies. The consistent theme: we need to understand more about user control and the user interface.
This past Tuesday night, we launched our new sPark course, designed to 'ignite' the fire of intellectual curiosity and careers of our students. We Skyped in alums who create political blogs, corporate video, and educational games. Jeff Cohen, the director of the Park Center for Independent Media talked about the decline of corporate journalism and the rise of independent media. The crux of the conversation: we are moving quickly to user generated content and experiences - and the term "audience" is really obsolete.
When the audience becomes the producer, what's the role of the communications professional?
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Each person who reads this blog will probably experience it in a slightly different way. Did you visit any of the links? Did you open a new browser window and google some term or name? Are you reading your email or updating your FaceBook status as you read this? Are you reading this on your phone?
And most importantly -- how do we shape the educational experience of our students who will be leading this new media landscape? Talk to me....