Sunday, February 26, 2006

Measuring academic progress...

There has been much brou-ha-ha over the move towards standardized testing of college students, but at least the editorial in today's NY Times encourages educators to help solve the problem.

I can help solve this problem.

In my marketing class at Wake Forest and even starting at Penn State, I instituted service learning in those courses, as a way for students to use their knowledge to make a difference in the community.

First of all, there is always tension between town and gown, so helping non-profit organizations solve a marketing problem was a way for the students, hence the university, to "give back" to the town--free consulting, if you will.

Second, students are used to volunteering their time to clean up parks or tutor elementary students in reading, but they are not used to using the new skills they are learning in college in volunteer efforts, so service-learning is a way to bridge that gap, helping students to learn that they have more to offer than their sweat (although that is important, too).

Finally, it is a tool for measuring their learning. If a student can actually come up with marketing plan for a nonprofit organization, it means that they have learned the tools I have taught them and are able to use them in the "real world" successfully. Isn't that the most important measurement tool of all?! I know it is for the students--they feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment when they are able to do something worthwhile to help an organization that truly needs their help, and I know it is for me--I always feel a tremendous sense of pride in my students, knowing that they have truly mastered the material and have discovered the power within themselves to make a difference in the world.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Internal communication is important...

I enjoy reading our local paper, the Durham Herald-Sun, each day, to catch up on local news. I'm one of the small minority of people who read a physical piece of paper each day, as more and more people are reading online news. I do that, too.

Today, however, I am so glad I did. That is how I found out that my school at UNC, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has a new Dean, Jean Folkerts.

We actually knew a bit about her as the author of our mass comm history textbook. She is currently at George Washington University. The school brought in three candidates and she was the only one I was able to hear. She saw me sitting in the back row (quietly) and actually came up to me at the end of her presentation and asked who I was and introduced herself. I was impressed.

Anyway, I figured maybe I had not read my email recently, so I went back to my unc email to look for the announcement--not there. I surfed the online edition of the Daily Tar Heel--it is there.

For a communications school, we don't seem to be doing a very good job communicating with the people who are most important--those who live and breathe and work there everyday.

I've been thinking about internal communication as a dissertation topic: I think I'm onto something.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Is blogging appropriate as an academic?

An article today in Inside Higher Ed asks if blogging is appropriate in academia and whether or not it should be a serious endeavor. The author of the article claims he is not a serious blogger, but "attempts to engage with the experimentation blogging affords as well as to produce a lighter sense of seriousness."

This publication has mentioned in the past that blogging is not good for an untenured professor because it could hurt tenure prospects. Since I am just a lowly doctoral student, I considered this a good way to learn about blogging as well as tell the world about what it is like being a phd student. It is truly a different world, sometimes, and not one that people know much about. I feel that I slip from role to role, and most people I interact with are truly unaware of "my other life." I suppose it would be difficult to explain that in one day you are attending your son's school musical, helping to organize the reception, and that very same afternoon, you are sitting outside your research supervisor's office, waiting over a half-hour for her to show up, only to discover that she forgot all about you, despite the long list of demands she made on you for the week.

'Tis the life of a graduate student. Always on your toes, trying new blogging.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Help or Hype during Hurricane Katrina...

The life of a PhD student--presenting papers at conferences...

I've written a paper on the efforts of the Top 100 brands during Hurricane Katrina and whether those efforts were true giving efforts (help) or just words of encouragement (hype). I studied the websites of those top 100 brands just after Hurricane Katrina struck to see how those brands publicized their concern and whether or not that concern actually translated into a cash donation or effort on the part of the firm. Interestingly, those firms that did donate to help the Hurricane Katrina victims gave a total of $105 million dollars.

I'll be presenting this paper "Help or Hype: Symbolic or Behavioral Communication During Hurricane Katrina" to the Ninth Annual International Public Relations Research Conference, March 9-12, 2006 in Miami, Florida.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Family Fun in Chapel Hill...

We are hosting prospective PhD students this weekend at UNC and I've been asked to provide them with some tips about fun things to do in the area.

There are so many fun things to do in the Triangle that we have not even had time to try them all.

There is one great website, CHillKids, that has links to all types of activities and places.

One of our favorite parks is the Community Center Park on Estes Rd. There is a great walking path, as well as plenty of play space.

We love to go to movies, and there is a website with the list of all theaters and movie listings. You can even buy tickets online at fandango or movietickets.

There is a new mini-golf place in Raleigh called Frankie's that has many activities for kids of all ages, as well as an excellent Italian restaurant.

If your kids enjoy participating in sports, we just discovered the Woodcroft Athletic Association leagues. We are not big climbers, but my son went to a birthday party at the Vertical Edge climbing center and had a ball.

Southern Village and Meadowmont are nice neighborhoods for walking, shopping and dining. They both have pools where you can join or pay on a daily basis. Fearrington Village is also nice for shopping or Sunday brunch, but a bit farther away.

Other fun shopping, dining activity type places are SouthPoint in Durham and Cameron Village in Raleigh.

If you are a busy family and don't have time to cook or go out for dinner, we have taken advantage of Tar Heel Takeout.

Miscellaneous things
Amante Pizza
Alfredo's (University Mall) 968-3424
Chapel Hill Pediatrics
List of all local schools
Link to Homeschoolers
Churches in Chapel Hill
Short-term rental homes
UNC Childcare provider list
Our dentist, Dr. Saib
Our pediatric dentist, Dr. Quinonez, 968.9806
Our orthodontist, Dr. Mol, 260.4269
Priority parking on UNC campus if you pick up children
Paint the Earth
Wachovia bank on campus

In typical grad school fashion, my husband and I are on a quest to develop a list of restaurants for each day of the week where
Kids Eat Free

Tuesdays: Nantucket Grill

Thursdays: Bear Rock Cafe (University Mall)

Saturdays: The Lone Star from 11-4

(please feel free to comment and add any new ones you know of!)

Finally, others are talking about IMC...

Today, the President of the Association of National Advertisers blogs about IMC!

This is what I came to UNC to study with Bob Lauterborn. I'm sure he has had an important influence on the ANA and I am so glad to read that they are encouraging their membership to be more open-minded about IMC.

Integrated marketing communication, or IMC, is about integrating the many ways we communicate with consumers so that we build relationships with them. We have to find them where they are and not assume they will find us where we want to advertise or promote our products. It is not about just talking to them, as we have in the past, but in listening, as well.

This OnlineSpin article touches on the same theme: consumers have so many media choices, how do we make the best use of the ones they like best so that we are able to connect with them in a meaningful way?

It is not just older students, like me, who are learning new tricks, it is the advertising industry, too.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bullys are everywhere...

My son is playing basketball each Saturday on a team made up of kids from schools all over Durham. As I sat watching him this morning, I had to wonder if I was the only parent there who had taught my son to be respectful of others. Before the game began, he sat there with his ball, and one of the other boys on his team just grabbed the ball from him and sat on it. The coach did nothing--the boys father must have seen it happen from across the room--I certainly did--and both grown men did nothing. I asked my son afterward if next time I could come over and bounce that ball on the boy's head! My son acted shocked and said, "no!" I'm sure it would embarrass him, but he is not the one I'd like to embarrass--I'd like to wake up the coach and the father--since the boy obviously is not getting the message himself. Maybe they are both bullies, too. It is so hard to know how to help my son stand up for himself without embarrassing him in the process. I want to protect him, yet I need to help him learn to take care of himself, too. It's hard being a mom to a boy, sometimes.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

What is happening to IMC?

I came to grad school at UNC to learn about integrated marketing communication: how the many aspects of advertising, public relations, sales, and other marketing communications work together as an integrated whole to produce a more consistent and cohesive message for the consumer. This idea was pioneered by Bob Lauterborn, a professor at UNC, whom I had the privilege to work for last year.

One organization that I thought has done this well is Kripy Kreme. Until the financial problems, they had built a brand image and customer loyalty all without spending tons of money, but by integrating the various components of their marketing communications, thanks to the professional efforts of their team, led by Marketing VP Stan Parker (UNC grad!).

So, I was surprised to read that Krispy Kreme is now going to advertise on TV and radio. So much for IMC.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Digital learning is the wave of the future...

I can finally see how digital learning is the wave of the future. Three weeks into my class at NCSU, I am sold on using technology to energize student learning. Each week, we have our readings--online, our review exercises to complete--online, and then our discussion forums--online. I have commented to others how much fun it is to learn this way and have been met with mixed reactions: most people are not ready, whether they are students or faculty, to teach or learn completely digitally. I suppose it is not for everyone, but I can see how the software is evolving to the point where it will make educational opportunities more accessible for more people, as well as provide a way for students to contribute more to the content of the class between class meetings.

I'm sold.

Another great opportunity at UNC...

Yesterday, Journalism and Mass Comm Scholar, Max McCombs visited the UNC campus. He and Don Shaw developed the theory of agenda-setting, which has since spawned more than 400 articles on the subject. I was the only non-news person in the classroom, but Dr. McCombs was gracious enough to include references to advertising and pr in his comments, after we had all introduced ourselves. He even offered to send me an article on a topic we discussed after his talk. What a class act.