Friday, March 28, 2008

Words of wisdom from Evan Smith

Evan Smith, editor of Texas Monthly, spoke to my PR Campaigns classes yesterday. Since he’s involved with I Live Here, I Give Here and several non-profits, I thought it might be good for him to talk to the students about the campaigns the students have been working on this semester (each team is working for a non-profit) as both a journalist and a donor. He was open, bluntly honest and funny; the students really enjoyed having him in class. A few things he discussed:

  • People who donate to non-profits want to see results, where their money goes. Success stories, highlighting a particular individual or group, are great for donors, and journalists are more likely to run the stories.
  • Journalists do not like PR people; they find them annoying. This is because many PR people just spam journalists and don’t understand what the journalist writes about or what the publication is about. He advises PR people to get to know a beat reporter way before they pitch the reporter.
  • The media is undergoing a revolution. People aren’t reading traditional media anymore, particularly the younger generation. Media companies will need to figure out what the next model is. Additionally, media is more prevalent and segmented than ever before. I think Evan said there were 400x more publications available than when he first started. He gave an example that there used to be just People magazine, now there is also Teen People and People en Espanol.
  • PR is changing too. In fact, PR people could become irrelevant because there are more ways for clients to now reach reporters directly.

All of the above, I’ve told my students before. However, I always think it’s good when they hear it from experts, particularly the media. Evan had worried about being too harsh on the PR thing, and I disagreed. I told them I’m always sharing those stories and they need to learn how not to be an annoying PR person before they begin their career.

He also told stories about Texas Monthly:

  • Willie Nelson has been on the cover 8 times, more than anyone else. They will have an upcoming issue celebrating Willie’s 75th birthday. The cover story will be an oral history about Willie, where they’ve talked to just about everyone connected to Willie.
  • Evan had the idea for the infamous January 2007 Dick Cheney cover 11 months before the issue. He just hoped that no one would be a bigger bum steer that year than Cheney, and while no one beat him, a few came close.
  • The original idea for the January 2002 American Gothic cover was to have both Willie Nelson and Kinky Friedman in dresses. Evan called Willie, told him about the idea and Willie replied, “That’s not funny.” Quickly coming up with an alternative, Evan pitched the idea of Willie in overalls and Kinky in a dress. “Now THAT’S funny,” Willie replied.

He also told stories of job interviewing, gave the students specific feedback about their campaigns and was a great overall resource. I’m glad he took time out of his busy schedule to speak to these students; I know they got a lot out of it.

Monday, March 24, 2008

One month to go

I realized today that the last day of class is exactly one month away. It's always the busiest time of the semester, and with spring, there is that fever where you'd rather be having fun than in a classroom. I'm sure the students feel the same.

The other thing is that there is only one month left and I have no idea what is in store for me next year. Just like last year, I have not yet been asked back. Last year, it was the last day of class before I was given an offer and by then I was so frustrated I said no. Only during the summer did I change my mind, and part of that was because I was told there was going to be a three-year, non-tenure track position open. I'm not sure what happened to that position, but it looks like the university would rather hire a PhD and put them on the tenure track, although that hiring hasn't happened yet either.

Sometimes I feel so caught up in this that I can't breathe, much less sleep. But I have to work through the fact that in academia, decisions are not about me, whether I'm doing a good job or not. It's not always about the students either. And most importantly, I have little influence and can't control things. To paraphrase Stephen Covey (the 7 Habits guy), I have my circle of influence and my circle of control. As I'm learning, university hiring decisions are beyond both my circle of influence and my circle of control.

It will be interesting to see what this next month brings, and what decisions will be made. I'm sure the end of the semester will fly by sooner than I think. That's actually a bit scary, because I don't feel ready for decisions. But in the meantime, I have a bunch of papers to grade today and errands to run, so I better get back at it. Grading and errands -- those are in my circle of control.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hoppy Easter

When you think about it, it's interesting how two people, when they decide to make a life together, combine their traditions, especially when it comes to holidays. In our household it's pretty much my way, basically because Doug isn't into holidays. Start asking him things like, "When's Valentines?" and he'll get mad.

Bottom line, they never made a big deal about holidays in Doug's family. I knew they did "practical" Christmas gifts, and Doug only got to trick 'n treat a couple of times because he had to keep lookout that the house of two teachers (his parents) weren't tricked. But I was floored last night when Doug said he never received an Easter basket or went Easter egg hunting. He remembers coloring eggs once, but never the hiding or finding of them. So I snuck out early this morning, went to the grocery store, bought a basket, filled it with candies and hid a half dozen candy-filled eggs. At 44, Doug went on his first Easter egg hunt this morning.

Funny how we remember things like holidays. When I was little, I always felt left out because I didn't have a cool, store-packed Easter basket or a plastic orange pumpkin candy holder on Halloween. All the Halloween costumes were from the attic, not the store, and Christmas gifts were saved until Christmas morning. Now that I look back, none of that matters. I think store-bought costumes and baskets look cheap and Christmas Eve is for a party with friends and family, not for opening presents. The traditions of my mom, lives through me.

I remember the first time I knew someone who didn't celebrate Easter. It was my good friend from junior high, Sandy. We were going on a day trip to some cavern in the Ozarks and we stopped at Wal-Mart. All the Easter goodies were on sale. She mentioned she wished she would get something for Easter and I questioned what she meant. Sandy said she was a Jehovah's Witness and they didn't celebrate Easter. I was sad for her. I think our friends got her a stuffed bunny that year.

When I think of Easter, I remember the smell of vinegar and watching the Paas color tablet dissolve in it. I remember how for the week before coloring eggs, we'd poke holes in our egg shells and blow out the yolks so we'd have enough eggs to color. I remember the three baskets on the coffee table waiting for my sisters and I. Obviously, as an adult, Easter memories are a little different, but they are never as fun as the ones from childhood.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sunset dining

It's such a nice evening that tonight we're having dinner on the deck of The Oasis, the sunset capital of Texas.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Classy lass

This morning I will be going to my third glass fusing class in as many weekends. On Wednesday, I will finish my four (extended to five)-week strip bowl class. I also have another weekend class later this month, and will start another a four-week class at the end of the month. From mid-February until the end of March, I will have taken, or at least started, six glass classes. Needless to say, I'm feeling a little out classed.

Actually, it really is all good. There is this t-shirt I saw with a guru, holding pieces of glass and meditating, with the saying, "Therapy with sharp edges." I love that! I would have bought that shirt except it was for a stained glass shop, not a glass fusing shop. Who knows, I still might get it. Still, that's what I feel like when working with glass. I can get into my little zone and not think about anything except the little pieces of glass in front of me.

I had really wanted to take my fusing to the next level, and it's getting there, at least in my mind. I haven't had a chance to work on anything at home yet. I found this place in January, Helios Glass Studio, owned by Paul & Karen Tarlow. Paul has a national reputation, so I feel like I am learning from a master. There were things I wanted to learn, but since I don't learn well from books, I was a bit stuck. Now I'm learning them, or soon will be, can ask a lot of questions and try things out. I'm most excited about learning cold working, which means working with power tools. I can't wait until the end of the month when I learn to sandblast a piece!

So it's all good. I'm just busy, but I'm definitely one classy lady.

Friday, March 07, 2008


I found out this week that I am one of eight faculty members from across the university who will be honored this year by the Texas State Student Foundation for inspiration and outstanding dedication to educational excellence. The Student Foundation is a group of student leaders who serve as presidential ambassadors for the university president.

The coolest thing to me about this honor is that it is bestowed by the students. They nominate you, write an essay about you, and then the faculty is selected. I didn't even know I was being considered until I received the invitation to attend the event.

It also means whatever the university decides to do, I know I am a good teacher and am reaching the students.