10 Things I Learned as a PR & Advertising Grad Student

What I learned from grad schoolThis list is essentially a follow-up to my previous entry. Towards the end of that post, I mentioned how I really wanted the entry to be about what I learned in graduate school, but it ended up being the story of why I decided to pursue a Masters Degree in the first place. Now that I’ve had a couple weeks to reflect on my two years of post-graduate education at St. Cloud State University, I present a “Top Ten” list of things I learned. Some topics were learned in the classroom, some while writing papers and others came about in other ways as a student. Though I am not going to elaborate on any of the topics, I do challenge you to ask questions or argue some of the statements. A few might even be considered controversial. Here goes:

  1. There is nothing ‘new’ about new media
  2. Learn the basic theories of psychology, and become a better communicator
  3. Even when you think you have produced creative content, you should step away and try again
  4. Always know your audience and do the research to find out more
  5. Differentiate, segment and tailor the message for each medium
  6. Never stop learning; I will never be an ‘expert’ in anything because there is always more to learn
  7. Media convergence is impossible, but web convergence is possible
  8. If you want to be successful in any communications-related industry (journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, etc.), you must live and breathe social media
  9. Huge corporate media conglomerates are the demise of democracy–nearly every media outlet is conservative … even NPR
  10. News outlets can no longer afford to simply push out information … people expect to participate in a two-way conversation about everything
Have you attended graduate school for mass communications? What did you learn?

Do Something Profound: Attend Grad School

In full academic regalia...
In full Master of Science academic regalia...

This past weekend saw the close of yet another chapter in my life: I have completed graduate school. Yes, I am now the proud recipient of a Master of Science degree with emphasis in PR & Advertising from St. Cloud State University. It was not long ago when I walked across stage at Northwestern Oklahoma State University after completing a bachelor’s degree in the same field.

As an undergrad, I had little desire to pursue post-graduate education and only got the notion shortly before graduating in December 2007. However, I remember hearing inspiring words a few months prior from the (then) president of the Oklahoma Student Government Association that I just never shook out of my mind. While attending an OSGA conference, several of us were talking about our plans after graduation when John Stephen Bobb-Semple looked at me and said “Eric, why don’t you do something profound and attend graduate school?” I’m not sure how profound it is to attend graduate school, but his words did play a huge role in my decision to pursue a higher degree.

The story of how I got to Minnesota is a little longer and I have had many ask me how I got here and why I chose St. Cloud State University. Allow me to expand. During my final semester at NWOSU, I had a wonderful girlfriend and a job at a radio station that I thought would keep me in Northwest Oklahoma for a long time, and I was happy about that. However, once that relationship ended and I decided the radio station I was working at was not the best place for me, things changed.

St. Cloud State University logo
The great mass communications program and an assistantship made St. Cloud State hard to turn down.

As I was turning in my senior portfolio, I noticed a poster on the wall for a SCSU’s Master of Science in Mass Communications program. Triggering John’s words of wisdom, I became curious and tore off the reply card and mailed in my info. At this point I was already set to begin working for Acacia Fraternity headquarters in Indianapolis and thought it would be a great opportuinity to study for the Graduate Records Exam (GRE) and hopefully check out a few programs while traveling around North America as a leadership consultant. As it would turn out, I had the opportunity to visit St. Cloud State in the fall of 2008 and found the campus to be rather quaint and the mass communications department quite impressive. I applied.

I ended up applying to several other schools, but it all came down money. Though it would have been great to attend grad school in Hawaii, spending $50,000 a year to make it happen wasn’t really feasible. Indeed, it came down to SCSU, and a couple affordable schools in Kentucky and Oklahoma. Choosing SCSU, however, was contingent upon obtaining a graduate assistantship. After applying for several positions, I had no such luck. In May of 2009, I would embark on my lifetime dream of traveling through Europe by myself with no idea what the future had in store when I returned. I would most likely wind up at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla. as it was the most affordable, quality program I could find close to home.

KVSC 88.1FM St Cloud, MN
I learned a lot through my assistantship at KVSC.

I was stranded in Munich after losing my passport and rail pass when I finally secured a position at KVSC-FM, the campus radio station at SCSU. Apparently Loren Boone, director of university communications liked me enough during my interview for a position in his department that he thought of me when Station Manager Jo McMullen was still looking for someone at KVSC. In the end, it all worked out and my position as Director of PR & Social Media at KVSC has proved to be the most valuable experience I could possibly ask for.  I have learned so much at KVSC and in the classroom, I’m not even sure where to begin. That’s really what I wanted this blog to be about, but I couldn’t seem to sort through all the knowledge learned. I hope this story gives you inspiration as you look to further your education or your career. For me, it all comes down to one mantra: Do something profound.