Yesterday we celebrated Canada's 144th birthday
in the quintessential Canadian style: a modest toast to a great country. We had the pleasure of hosting my friend and co-author, Dr. Alex Sevigny
, for a poolside BBQ. It has been a cold and wet spring in Kitchener and last night was our first night to enjoy the company of friends while enjoying a wonderful dinner and conversation.
Alex and I had planned to get together on July 1st as we both were celebrating our new beginnings. Following a ten-year joint appointment between the Departments of French and Communication Studies
(CSMM) Alex is now solely appointed to the CSMM. This might seem odd to those who have only known Alex as a member of the CSMM department but when he was first hired in 2001, there was no CSMM and the Dean of Humanities at the time, Dr. Daniel Woolf
(now Principal of Queen's University in Kingston, ON) had to place him in a recognized academic department.
So while Alex said goodbye yesterday to the Department of French, I said hello to the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia.
For those that don't know my history at McMaster University
, let me take a few moments to recap:
In 2007, I accepted a tenure-track appointment at DSB as an assistant professor of communications and director of the MCM program.
Over the last four years it became very apparent that some of my DSB academic colleagues didn't value professional/executive degree programs and/or my contributions to the School. There were also a number of people and issues that challenged the future vision of the School and the senior academic leadership. I found this time to be the most difficult period in my 25-year working career. It became very apparent that if I wanted to continue teaching and researching at McMaster University, my academic future was not at DeGroote.
And that's where my good friend Alex returns to our story -- we've worked together on a number of academic and professional endeavours over the last seven years and I have come to truly enjoy his insights, inspirations, knowledge and counsel. Alex provided me with critical academic guidance over the last two years during my tenure renewal process. He saw first hand how I had been treated and made a very serious suggestion to me: "why don't you leave DSB and join us in CSMM". It was his way of saying that my contributions to the university have been significant and that there was a place were colleagues worked together to build a future where all could succeed.
His timing was perfect (of course it was because he had been thinking about this idea for some time and wanted to wait for the most opportune time to share it with me). Over the last year, I met with a number of colleagues in CSMM, including the former Chair, Dr. Graham Knight, who was open to further exploring the possibility. We all knew that academic transfers within the same institution are rare but not without precedent. I presented my research on crisis communications to members of the Department and Alex presented my case to his colleagues who voted to accept the transfer and have me join them as a colleague on July 1, 2011.
Over the last three months, I have participated in a number of caucus meetings (in the DSB we called these "area" meetings), a hiring committee, and the Department's most recent strategic planning retreat. I have also been included in the development plans for a proposed Ph.D. program in Communication Practices and a new undergraduate program in professional communications. Needless to say I have been welcomed warmly by my new colleagues and the administration of the Faculty of Humanities
There are so many new and exciting plans in place for CSMM: first is one of the new courses I'm teaching this fall "2PR3 -- Introduction to Public Relations in Canada" -- a course that Alex proposed and was approved by the Faculty last year but has never been taught. So I'll be the first professor at McMaster University to teach an undergraduate public relations class! It's a second-year elective for students in CSMM and we had to cap it at 150 students! So guess what I'm doing this summer...trying to figure out how to introduce, engage and excite 150 undergraduates about public relations. Don't think it will be too difficult to introduce and excite -- but engaging 150 students (any suggestions???)
I'll also be teaching a graduate-level course on Media and Society (CSMM 702) -- a media sociology course which will be a great deal smaller (thinking around 10 students). This was one of my favourite courses at Syracuse and I hope that I can bring the same insights and passion as Dr. Pam Shoemaker did for my class.
The third class that I'll be teaching is not new to me but will be new to the CSMM -- "MCM 711 Organizational Public Relations" -- the introductory theory course in the MCM program. Late last week the Faculty Council of the DSB voted to transfer the MCM program to Faculty of Humanities. It was the right decision given the future vision and growth in CSMM. I'm glad to continue in my role as the introductory professor for MCM students and to be a part of the growth and development of the program -- as I have for the last 7 years. I want to acknowledge Acting DSB Dean Bob McNutt
and Dean Suzanne Crosta
for their leadership in ensuring the smooth transfer of the MCM program.
So as you can see, I have a busy summer ahead of me -- moving my office back to main campus from the DSB Ron Joyce Centre; planning my new courses; figuring out how to engage 150 undergraduate students; writing, researching and oh ya, working with my co-authors, Alex Sevigny and David Estok
on our new book "Understanding Public Relations in Canada" to be published by Oxford University Press
The future is bright and I'm looking forward to shining in CSMM.