In teaching strategic communications, multimedia, digital media, photojournalism, and analytics, I believe my mission and commitment as an instructor and mentor are as follows:
- Inspire students in the College of Liberal Arts at St. Cloud State University to develop critical thinking skills, global awareness and social understanding, while they become informed and participating citizens, appreciating and respecting diverse cultures and viewpoints; encourage decision-making that is ethically and socially sound;
- Encourage students to embrace best practices, theories and research methods, learn current technology and applications, share their successes and learn from failures, and develop leadership and collaborative skills;
- Deliver excellence in teaching content and course materials, give timely feedback and guidance, clearly communicate expectations, and identify and respect diverse talents and ways of learning;
- Continue to develop experiential learning in strategic communications with the student-driven public relations Husky Agency, huskyagency.wordpress.com, along with growing and sustaining partnerships on campus and community; and
- Provide students with knowledge and skills to find success in the classroom, strategic communications, journalism and related mass communications careers.
As a professor, my objective is to motivate and inspire students to become critical thinkers and independent learners. I want my students to learn how to learn, as they find their way to learn what’s needed to accomplish a task. Students learning from fellow students is when the real learning happens in my classroom. My enthusiasm, teaching experiences online and in the classroom, broad knowledge of multimedia technology, world travel, cultural diversity experiences, real-world work experiences crossing several industries — including living and working in Europe owning a Dutch registered photo agency — all play a part in engaging students.
More than anything in my classroom, I want students to feel passionate about learning, and be willing to go the extra step when they encounter barriers. More than the knowledge students gain, I want them to build confidence they need to tackle challenges learning new technologies, understanding diverse cultures, and prepare for life beyond the university. The foundation of my classroom is built on respect, responsibility and accountability, not just listed in the course syllabus, but expected of students, and of myself.
Passion and curiosity for learning might be difficult to teach and learn, yet are vital for student success in the classroom and careers. Learning can have great challenges with the possibility for great success or failure, although always with lessons learned. Observing a student having a break-through moment in my class is very rewarding for me as a teacher. Those ‘aha’ moments are more rewarding for the student as doors will open beyond imagination.
Students have called my techniques “cool” in the classroom; they don’t know the days when I was urgently trying to learn basic web design to update a website for my first job in public relations: providing critical information for job seekers during the Global Financial Crisis. That particular day I was less than composed, lacking knowledge to update a website even as it needed to be done to help people desperate to find work. Today I use this example on the first day of class in introducing the basics of website design, to try to cut the tension and fear that’s all too real. Overcoming barriers of fear – as I have done in preparing to teach – builds confidence for learning and success for students.
The majority of students will rise to the challenge in an environment of mutual respect, although they, too, can have barriers to learning. Pressures outside the classroom, such as full-time jobs, illnesses and family responsibilities are all real obstacles to tackle, along with students who face real learning barriers. I tell my students at the beginning of the semester I want to help them find success, and am glad to discuss options to reach their academic and professional goals.
At the end of the semester, I want students to take away their new skills and talents, increased confidence to continue to learn and explore their passions and develop a curiosity that propels them in the direction that’s a good match, not just for making a living or career, but fulfills them intellectually.
If students forget what I teach them, then it’s critical thinking, along with respect, responsibility and accountability they need to remember. I am along only as a guide, helping students explore beyond their areas of study and open imaginations.
Finally, seeking methods for effective teaching and assessments, professional development, research and creative achievement, contributing to student growth and development, providing service to the university and community, are all paths I use to encourage success in the classroom for students, and to prepare me to carry out work as a professor of mass communications.