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UNCC :: Alumni Panel

February 9, 2010

On Wednesday, Feb. 3, I found myself back on the campus of UNC Charlotte. It had been just over 10 years since I graduated with a Communications degree. A road closure almost immediately after the front entrance was actually a blessing in disguise – it forced me to drive around the whole campus and see all the changes that have taken place. I could still see my old dorm and the buildings that housed my classrooms, but they were now flanked by lots of new dorms and buildings. There’s even a Student Union! But I digress …

The reason for my return started with an email sent by one of my professors, Dr. Alan Freitag:

“…Once again, I’ll be teaching PR Principles beginning in January, and the alumni panels continue to be the most talked about and valued elements of that course among the students.  You guys are making me feel superfluous!  As you’re enjoying your eggnog and cookies in the coming weeks, please check your calendars and consider volunteering to serve on one of the panels listed below.  Ideally, we would have four great alums on each panel…”

I had missed opportunities to serve on the panel before. The times I could serve were limited due to my work schedule and I just wasn’t quick enough in my response to secure a spot on the other days. Now that I am connected 24/7 with my trusty Motorola DROID (not a shameless plug – L O V E this thing) I was actually one of the first to respond to the email. That made me feel good. Slightly nerdy, but good.

At the start of class, Dr. Freitag introduced the four alumni, we took our seats up front and the interview began. We each discussed our experiences including:

  • Current responsibilities
  • Organizational culture where you work
  • How does the communication function fit into the organization?
  • Current projects
    • How are you able to apply the principles of PR to those projects – the 4-step process, for example?
  • What are the qualities most important to excellent public relations practice?
  • What can students do now, while they’re in college, to acquire and polish those qualities?
  • What would you look for in screening candidates for internships or entry-level positions?
  • The academic and professional path that took you to where you are today

The Q&A was supposed to end with time left for the students to ask their own questions. It turned out we (the panel) are all talkers so we ran a little long but we did fit in a few questions from the class.

The experience was valuable not just to the students, but to me as well. There are days when after dealing with deadlines and phone calls and never-ending email chains that I wonder “What am I doing?” This panel let me put my work back in perspective and reminded me why I love what I do.

In all aspects of life we are constantly buzzin’ around, but it’s nice to land (even if just for a minute) and remember what brought you to where you are today.

A special thanks to Dr. Freitag for always getting me back on track!

(Sitting from L-R: Sara, Audra, Samantha & Dana)

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