Designed to provide students an opportunity to engage with alumni, the Dean's Student Ambassador Leadership Series made the jump to an online format for Fall 2020. Despite the pandemic-induced modality change, the series continued to offer College of Media & Communication students regular leadership seminars and alumni meet-and-greet experiences throughout the semester.
David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D., professor and dean, partnered with Emily Balke, the college's recruiting and student engagement coordinator, to create the leadership series as a way for college alumni and National Advisory Board members to pass on leadership experiences and guidance to the student ambassadors as a token of appreciation for their substantial recruiting and outreach responsibilities each academic year. Amid growing health and safety precautions, the professional face-to-face dinner series transitioned to Zoom sessions, and featured speakers were more than willing to adjust their schedules to visit with the students.
“They're always willing to give the students their time,” Balke said. “Dean Perlmutter wanted to continue to provide an opportunity in which students can see what makes a good leader because we want them to continue to be leaders once they graduate from the college.”
"Being a team player and doing what needs to be done is essential."
Suzanne Taylor, a 2010 advertising graduate and chief of staff/external relations at Graham Associates, Inc., provided insight about work-life balance, leadership skills, and challenges.
“Red Raiders have a reputation for not having a chip on their shoulder and are willing to do whatever it is to get the job done,” Taylor said, addressing the students with one of her five major points on professional experience. “Don't take it for granted because that's not what you'll see from others in the work force. Being a team player and doing what needs to be done is essential.”
Dean's Student Ambassadors are required to keep a journal to document important points of knowledge during the seminars, and Allison McCain, a dual major in advertising and communication studies from Cedar Park, Texas, reflected on the importance of Taylor's experience in her notes.
“We have to be willing to do the stuff that no one wants to do,” McCain said. “That has been something I've taken with me. To be a good leader, it's important to be a servant leader and work with the team.”
"Ask yourself three questions: who are you, who do I want to be, and what makes you
During her visit, Telea Stafford, a 1994 advertising graduate and director of brand strategy at Phenixx Marketing LLC, commented on the importance of professional branding reflecting your work and personality.
“Be professional for you,” Stafford said. “The biggest thing about what people really like, more than cookie-cutter, is they like authentic. Don't match what someone else is doing. Ask yourself three questions: who are you, who do I want to be, and what makes you qualified?”
Complementing Stafford's advice, Dean Perlmutter encouraged students to have a photograph of themselves in action for their professional profiles they use on the job market. Kayla Barnhart, a dual major in advertising and digital media & professional communication from Canyon, Texas, noted the importance of this combined knowledge relevant to her post-graduation intentions.
“I love that advice because it pertains to me specifically,” Barnhart said. “I want to go into the social media world, so taking photos and not following the trends to stand out is something I really like.”
"The shadow you cast is always critical to success."
Monte Beck, a 1992 advertising alumnus and CEO of Tabulate, discussed the importance of honesty and timeliness as an imperative tool in becoming an effective leader.
“You have to be honest,” Beck said. “It sounds easy enough, but I've worked long enough to know some who aren't as forthcoming. If you tell someone you're going to do something, go and do it.”
Beck also mentioned the importance of being visible in the workplace.
“The shadow you cast is always critical to success,” he added in his five leadership lessons to the student ambassadors.
Malone Graham, a journalism major from Tuscola, Texas, cited the importance of the multi-faceted experiences provided by the alumni.
"They all have vastly different experience,” Graham said. “There's a lot of different approaches to being a leader that I can't help but get motivated. That's something I've taken away from the meetings.”
Recruiting and Student Engagement Coordinator Emily Balke contends that the effort made into shifting the leadership series online was at times challenging but ultimately well worth it for one of the college's premier transformative undergraduate experiences.
“I hope the students take away a lot,” Balke said. “Yes, each part of the series was another Zoom meeting, and I know students are tired of being on Zoom, but the leadership content was extremely valuable, and we're looking forward to continuing it in the new year.”