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How I’m organizing my first class on strategic communications at the University of St. Thomas

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This fall I’ll assume a role I’ve been working toward for the last 20+ years.

The role of professor.

I’ll be teaching my first class as an adjunct professor at the University of St Thomas starting on Sept. 3. The class? Strategic communications. It’s a capstone class of sorts, previously taught by the outstanding Bruce Moorehouse, who recently retired from full-time teaching.

I’m so excited for this new role, and I’ve spent a good chunk of my summer thinking about and organizing how I’ll approach this class in the fall and talking to people who have done it before (Betsy Andersen, Bruce Moorehouse and Mark Jenson, in particular, have been hugely helpful). Then, I thought–hey, maybe I should blog about this experience! Great idea, Arik! 🙂

So, I plan to post about my experience in the classroom–probably at least once a month.

My first post? I thought I’d share a little about how I plan to approach the class and how I’m setting it up.

Overall, my thought process was this: What kind of class would I want to sit in on? What kind of class would I have wanted 20+ years ago when I was in school?

And the answer was pretty easy: A class with more hands-on learning and real-world examples and best practices–and far less book learning. You see, I was never much of a book learner. I never really liked to read as a student. In fact, I only discovered my love for reading as an adult, well after my scholastic career. But, I remember sitting in many classes as a college student wishing we had more hands-on learning opportunities involving more real-world scenarios.

So, I’m structuring the class with that backdrop. Here’s my general plan:

1 – Structure a big chunk of the class around real campaigns students will work on for a real client. I may ask some of my clients and former clients to serve as clients for the kids. Or, I may let the students pick. I haven’t decided yet. But, this will be the biggest component of the class, with the idea of the student presenting to the client their final communications plan and suggestions toward the end of the semester. Along the way, there will be lectures about the primary elements of a functioning communications plan. I will provide support and coaching to the students. But, in the end, they will do the work. And, they will most likely learn a ton.

2 – Real-life case studies. Every Wednesday is going to be Case Study Day. I’m going to being 1-3 case studies from the previous week into the classroom and we’re going to discuss them. What would you have done differently, if anything? How would ethics have played a role in your decision-making? What tools would you have used? How do you think things worked out for this client? That kind of thing. Students will be graded on participation, so I’m hoping for a lively discussion. I know I’ll have to bring the energy and enthusiasm to these talks, but I also know the real-world, this-just-happened aspect to this will be powerful and relevant for the kids.

3 – Learn how to network. Teach what you know. That’s a suggestion that’s coming through loud and clear from a lot of the former and existing profs I’ve been meeting with this summer. So, why not talk about networking! It’s a subject I know well. It’s something I practice every day. And, it’s something I believe many people are woefully under-prepared for as they enter the workplace. So, we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about networking. And I’m going to challenge the kids to meet with 3-5 pros in their spare time outside of class so they can start practicing the art form.

4 – How to find that first job. Maybe the most important thing some of these kids will take away from the class will be the ability to market themselves when they graduate next spring (or the spring after). After all, that was a major disappointment of mine in school. I had no idea how to do this, and no one was offering to help. So, I’m going to help students develop their first “marketing plan” for themselves. We’re going to talk about reasonable objectives, creative strategies to help secure interviews and meetings and how to “close the sale” and land that first job. I really think students will enjoy this piece of the class.

So, that’s it. That’s my plan for my first class, which is now less than six weeks away! (Ahhhhhhh!!!!!).

What do you think? Am I on the right path? Anything you’d do differently? I know some of you readers have been adjuncts in the past (or, are currently teaching), so I’m full welcoming any and all feedback for this first-time professor.

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How I’m organizing my first class on strategic communications at the University of St. Thomas

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