Some of us are fortunate enough to discover our passions early in life. The picture on the left shows a younger version of myself, already in love with learning, and tutoring my younger brother.
Fast forward to my undergraduate years as an English Literature major in Mumbai, India, when I received the opportunity of a lifetime. One of the professors was taking a sabbatical, and the department invited me, in my undergraduate Senior year, to teach a course for the semester to the Junior English Literature cohort. I loved the experience and fortunately, so did my first class!
Teaching stood me in good stead when I was an Account Executive in the advertising world. I felt completely at ease brainstorming on the spot, making presentations, and marketing new ideas. But I missed the intellectual environment, and so I crossed the ocean to pursue a PhD in Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
1992 and I found myself in a smoldering Los Angeles that was still recovering from the race riots of that summer. I had a first-hand education of race-relations in the U.S. during my first year, since the affluent and predominantly white university bordered a historic black neighborhood that had been deeply impacted by the riots. My students described being herded onto campus and protected by the National Guard that had surrounded USC, while neighborhood homes and stores burned. Students sat in the 1984 Olympic Pool that is on the college grounds and watched films being screened, while flames licked the sky in the background. "I felt like Nero fiddling while Rome burned," a student disclosed that first semester. It was a difficult time to discuss race and yet essential to do so. I hit the ground running, learning the history of race-relations in the U.S. alongside my students, as well as from their candid questions and reflections. My instructors outside of graduate school extended to my working class neighbors who were mostly black and Hispanic and who generously shared their stories and experiences with me.
My years at USC teaching communication courses on diversity to mostly white and affluent undergraduates, whose college residences were located in what was then a very diverse but impoverished downtown neighborhood, proved invaluable in furthering my education on how to approach teaching across differences to rebuild broken bridges.
In 2001, I moved all the way across the country to a historical college town (Meadville), in the rust belt of northwest Pennsylvania, to teach in the tradition of the Liberal Arts. That was the year 9-11 ripped the nation apart, and once more, I found myself addressing difficult and divisive issues in my first semester -- this time at Allegheny College -- as Islamophobia and racial tensions hung heavy in the air.
Both historical events and their aftermaths have informed my teaching. Current affairs and political issues are front and central in the courses I teach. I design content to bring theories to life by linking them to ongoing media events that students can analyze. Advancing students' media literacy in this manner makes the academic content relevant to their lives, and prepares them for citizenship in every sphere of their activity and participation.
Above: Members of the Allegheny College chapter of Lambda Pi Eta, the Communication Honors Society, pin "lambs" of appreciation outside faculty offices.
Allegheny Alumni Teaching Partners
ALLEGHENY MASTER ALUMNI WHO KEEP GIVING
I am grateful to the Allegheny Alumni who have, and continue to enrich my classroom. Students across the years have benefitted from the professional expertise and incredible insights from these gifted individuals. Here are just a few of them:
Hollywood producer Lloyd Segan ('80) has co-taught several courses with me on television and new media and television and politics, skyping in and bringing guests from various media industries to enrich the perspectives in the classroom. He has also held career-building workshops for budding media enthusiasts at the college, as well as hosted several interns over summer at his Los Angeles outfit. In 2010, Mr. Segan received the Allegheny College Blue Citation Award for his outstanding service to the college.
Tim Reeves ('83) draws from the rich diversity of his experiences -- from press secretary to former PA Gov. Tom Ridge, to serving on Allegheny College's Board of Trustees, to becoming a principal at the ad agency Allen & Gerritsen and heading its PR and executive consulting practices. He continues to teach students how his core values have helped him make ethical decisions in his climb to the top. Both Tim Reeves and Gary Elliott ('72) emphasize the importance of storytelling in creating great brand experiences, and the centrality of relationship-building in developing brand loyalty.
More recently, Josh Mandel ('90) and his wife Michelle Ghilloti Mandel used technology to connect with students in my Integrated Marketing Communication class, and to life-coach them to aspire beyond simply thinking about monetary profits. They encouraged students to stretch their minds and incorporate social good as a new form of capital and a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for assessing the success of any entrepreneurial efforts.
SOME RECENT GRADUATES FROM MY CLASSROOM WHO ARE NOW GATOR MENTORS:
John Meyer ('04) never took a formal class with me because he was afraid it would lower his GPA. However, when he was scripting his Senior Thesis documentary on the Meadville Bulldogs, high school ice-hockey team, he asked me to be his Thesis Advisor, because, as he put it, I would make sure he delivered his best. John's excellence earned him departmental honors for his Thesis work, and his pursuit of excellence continued after graduation. John became an Edward R. Murrow award-winning sports anchor, and more recently, has switched gears and become Regional VP of Sales at ECSI, the nation's largest student retention and A/R management software and service provider. Through the years, John has remained connected to Allegheny College, returning to coach students on how to plan for life after college, transition into their first job, and build networks of Gator connections that can enrich their personal and professional lives.
Hillary Wilson ('12) is a sharp and focused young theater marketing professional who dazzles people with her intelligence and warm personality from the first handshake. She has returned to the classroom to help students realize the importance of using college resources to full capacity, including availing of the close mentoring relations with faculty at Allegheny College.
Anna Lingeris ('03), the Earned Media & Brand Publicity Lead at The Hershey Company, not only shared Hershey sweetness by mailing candy for participants in my class on Branding and Advertising, but she has skyped in, sharing anecdotes and insights from her professional life that have helped her young audience appreciate the importance of being able to think on your feet while demonstrating what it means to 'think outside the box.'
Jinnie Templin ('11) a digital marketing specialist, makes data analytics seem a breeze to a classroom of eager digital natives. Her zest for backing creative thinking with data-informed outcomes has made her an asset in classes where she has shared her wisdom and love for her job.
When Macae Deems nee Lintelman ('10) first arrived at Allegheny College, I knew she was a treasure as soon as she walked into my office with a FactBook of observations based on her visits to various liberal arts colleges, and a SWOT analysis of how their admissions processes compared with Allegheny's. Fast forward to Macae's application for her first advertising job after she graduated from Allegheny College. She had her resume delivered in a pizza box, inside which was a note that said, " I promise never to deliver the expected." Needless to say, she got the job and has kept delivering the unexpected, while helping our undergraduates trust their creative instincts and develop them to yield meaningful results.