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Giving back to my alma mater


Last week, I made the two-hour trek back to my alma mater, Winona State University, to speak to a few classes, revisit my former school and be a part of a program the Mass Communications department referred to as “The Real World.”

As usual, I received much more than I gave last week. Oh, I know, I know, you always hear that, right? It’s such a cliche. I get it. So, I’ll outline exactly what I “got”:

*A chance to reconnect with a few former professors–some of which I remember and had in class, and others I didn’t. I plan to keep in touch with at least a few of them. And, as I’ve mentioned a few times, I’m quite certain at some point in my life I will teach in some way, shape of form. Figure it couldn’t hurt to stay in touch with people who have a job I could see myself one day holding.

* Extending my network. I mentioned the “Real World” event, which was essentially a “Pro-Am Day”-type session where a panel of folks who work in various industries and disciplines talked about how we got our first jobs, what we look for in junior-level applicants and what we might have done differently if we had to do it all over again. I joined three marketing and advertising colleagues on the panel–three people I did not know at all before the event. And, one of which is from the Twin Cities. I immediately sent him a note after the event, following up and mentioning how I’d love to get together for coffee to see if there might be opportunities to partner. This particular panelist is an art director with experience at virtually every large ad agency in the Twin Cities. Can never have too many smart people in your circle.

*Added a few new potential guest bloggers. One of the best parts of my day was spent with a student as we waited for another class I was set to speak with in the late morning hours. We talked about career paths, first jobs and how school prepared me for professional life. She was an absolute star. Could tell just from spending half hour with her. So, you can bet I’m going to look for ways to help her–and hope that she will help me (by potentially guest blogging–always looking for fresh perspectives). I also may approach 1-2 of the WSU professors or panelists I met about a guest post or two down the road.

* Exploring more creative ways to give back. One of my conundrums with my alma mater is how I give back. I’m not completely down with giving money blindly to the institution–not knowing exactly where it’s going. So, I’m thinking about more out-of-the-box approaches. For example, I’m considering setting up a scholarship in my name for a nominal amount, but specific to the Mass Communications department (specifically those with a PR focus). I can’t take credit for this idea at all, as I lifted it completely from my friend Allan Schoenberg, who has such a scholarship set up in his name at his alma mater, Central Michigan University. Speaking at this event last week was the first step toward opening up that possibility.

That about covers it. Giving back is addicting. The more you do it, the more you want to do it again. Partly because of the feeling you have in helping others. And partly because of the rewards you earn as a result. But, none of it comes easy. I gave up a full day of work last week. Eight billable hours. I had to make that up somehow–a few late evenings last week. A few hours this past weekend. It all comes at a cost. But, in my view it’s completely worth it.



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