Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Consider Mass Communication Ph.D. at Texas Tech

I continue to be excited about the future at Texas Tech University.

Most recently, doctoral student Wendy Maxian has decided to attend Tech. I got to know Wendy at Ohio State, and I was extremely impressed by her potential.

After accepting this position at Tech and learning more about the Ph.D. program here, I felt that it was a perfect fit for Wendy. Although it took some persuasion (she has called me a used car salesman more than one), Wendy will be arriving in the Hub City in about three weeks.

A doctoral program is about its faculty. Not reputation. Not what used to be there. And given the young talent here, I will put our Ph.D. program up against any other.

If you wandered across this posting because you are considering a Ph.D. in mass communications, please e-mail me. Click here to see my e-mail address. You will actually have to type it in, as I am trying to outsmart Spambots. I'd love to tell you why Tech is the place to be.

Our Ph.D. program is just more than a year old, but it's already better than most. We pay more than most places, and I will put our publication record over the past 3 years up against anybody. Find out more about our program here, or contact our director of graduate studies, Dr. Michael Parkinson.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Trip Down Aggie Memory Lane

For someone who is pretty nostalgic, I have a pretty bad memory. I am amazed at the things that Emily (my wife) remembers that I have forgotten.

On Friday we spent the afternoon on the New Mexico State University campus in Las Cruces. It was great fun visiting old professors and walking around campus without the kids (thank you mom and dad).

We walked in the front door of Milton Hall -- as we must have done hundreds of times in the past. The lobby is torn up for construction. We took a look around, and Emily said, "I ate a lot of peanut M&Ms sitting here waiting for you to get out of class." I'd have never remembered. So many memories came rushing back that afternoon.

We met with Dr. Frank Thayer, now head of the journalism department. It was fun to learn what was happening with my alma mater. Dr. Thayer taught me a lot back in the day, and it felt a little weird sitting there as another professor. Not bad in any way. Just different.

After a quick drive around campus, we then headed off to Breland Hall to see our former French professor, Dr. Claude Fouillade. He is one of my favorite people, and he was a wonderful mentor as an undergraduate. I had endless questions about "professordom" back in the day, and he never tired of answering them.

We also took a quick tour through Corbett Center, the student union. Many days it felt as if I lived in Corbett, as the student newspaper was my home for two years. We looked at the old eating haunts (Burger King is gone, Chick-fil-A is added ... drat!).

The sun was pounding down. The Organ Mountains were in the distance, and it really did feel like yesteryear. It is a rare day when Emily and I get to spend an afternoon alone together, and this was a treat. It's always good to hang out with your best friend.

Saturday morning was spent having breakfast with "Dr. Mac," also known as Dr. J. Sean McCleneghan, and his lovely wife. No single person had more of an impact on my early career, and I am always glad to visit with him. Dr. Mac is as good as it gets, and I am lucky that my academic path intersected with him. It was great to hear his views of life, the department, and the trials and tribulations of assistant professordom. If I have half of the influence on my students as Dr. Mac has had on his, this I will be an unqualified success.

As I sat here typing, I recovered one of those distant memories. It made me chuckle. When I decided to apply for graduate school at K-State in 1999, these were the three professors whom I sought out to write letters of recommendation. All of these years later, it is still their advice that I seek out. It's funny how things work out.

I am excited that we are back within a day's drive. There are DOZENS of people I wanted to see but could not. Next time. Perhaps in the early fall when it's not quite so hot.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The First Mountain

LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- If the West has never been important to you, you won't understand this post. If it is dear to your heart, then it should.

Ever since I was a little kid, we have vacationed in the American West. We took trips to New Mexico, and beginning when I was 5, we made ski trips across I-70 to Summit County Colorado.

When you're heading east to west, it is flat. Forever. Flat. More flat. Flat again.

Then there is a magical moment when you see that first mountain in the distance. It is just a shadow, really. Sometimes you are wrong. It's just a cloud. But when you see that first mountain, it is impossible to be unhappy.

It was that way as a boy, and it is that way today. Driving out of Roswell, N.M., this afternoon, I looked up and saw the Rockies in my sights. I've been smiling ever since.

We moved to the mountains in 1992. I left the mountains in 1999, but they have never left me. I hope they never do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ah, for the Good Ol' Days of Grad School

There are many times in one's life when someone more experienced (i.e., older) gives you some advice, and you think, "WHAT!?!?!?!?!" I have found that I usually feel foolish later about that feeling.

Mentor extraordinare Annie Lang used to tell me that I had it made in graduate school. I could hardly imagine this. Classes. Papers. Research assistant work. Endless, it seemed.

One day on third floor of the Radio/TV building, IU professor Harmeet Sawhney pined for the good 'ol days of graduate school. He had time to work on things then, he said. "WHAT!?!?!?!?!," I thought. Seriously, I thought the man was delusional. Time in graduate school? Ha!

Fast forward a couple of years, and I must admit they were right. I have time for nothing. The clock spins like some kind of weird fast forward montage from a movie. It was 1 p.m. earlier today. I thought, "Aha! I have an afternoon." No. Grant application. Make-up exam. Read master's thesis. Powerpoints for tomorrow. Oops. Day is over. Next.

On to the next one. Life is relative, you know. And it's funny how time has a way of making us feel foolish!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Tour Combines Media, Real Life

I saw some bison this morning.

I was riding my Trek bike southwest of town on a small country road. There they were behind a fence. I bid them good morning and rode on.

July always is a special month to me. My wife and I have birthdays in July, but cycling really defines the month for me.

My television viewing during the month almost exclusively centers around Tour de France coverage. Three hours a day on flat stages. There were five hours to watch on Thursday (it was a mountain stage -- more to see).

The best part is that I get to ride my bike, too. It usually works out that I am on my bike at the very same moment as the TDF riders. Sure, my moments in the saddle are far briefer than theirs, but it's a great connection. I know that half a world away, their are turning over their pedals at 100 RPM, too.

I have not watched today's stage yet. I have avoided my normal sports Web site viewing to maintain my suspense. But in a couple of hours, I will put the kids to bed and fire up the TiVo.

At some time tonight, commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin will talk about how the riders are suffering. And I will know what it is to suffer. To be sure, they are world-class athletes, and I am far from it. But I know what it is like for my legs to scream, "quit." It's on a different scale, but the pain is the same.

Amateur cyclists can have some of the same toys as the pros. I ride with a heart rate monitor and a virtual cadence meter. I know my heart rate and my RPM. With these two tools, you know enough to make yourself suffer. You keep up the pace, even when you're tired. Forget your legs. Keep that heart beating at 152 beats a minute. Turn those pedals over 100 times every 60 seconds.

Cycling in the South Plains is a funny thing. Twice this morning I caught myself thinking, "That's funny, this didn't seem like a hill when I was going the other way!"

In all, it makes for the greatest month of the year. Cycling in the morning and cycling at night. The move to Texas put my mileage way behind schedule this year, but I will still log more miles this month than any other.

The only thing that can make July any better is when I finally save enough money for Emily and I (and my Trek) to go to France and watch a stage in person. If you have enough money, a cycling tour company will also organize a ride on one of the stages. That day, I'll get to ride the exact same miles as Levi, Robbie, and the boys. That will be perfection.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Exciting Times in West Texas

I had trouble falling asleep last night. Too many thoughts were racing through my head. Things are happening at Texas Tech University, and I am extremely excited to be here.

We have five new faculty members starting in the college of mass communications this year, and each adds an interesting piece to our mix. I have most closely worked with Harsha Gangadharbatla, the other new assistant professor in advertising. Harsha is a great hire, and I look forward to coming up through the ranks with him.

With the addition of Harsha, I am extremely excited about the department. Harsha and I add to the talented and student-friendly faculty of Don Jugenheimer, Shannon Bichard, and Alex Ortiz. This truly is a great place to be an advertising student.

There is a lot of room to grow in West Texas, and I hope to need all of that room. I honestly believe that it is going to be easy to recruit to here. To my knowledge, we have three faculty vacancies this year, and I think that we will recruit another great group.

Texas Tech also represents an amazing opportunity for would-be graduate students. I am very excited about this faculty and the newly minted Ph.D. program. I received notification today of my membership on the graduate faculty, and I am ready to roll up my sleeves and help build this graduate program.

We do have a talented group of faculty members, but that is not what makes Tech so special to me. Instead, I am most impressed with the atmosphere. This is perhaps the most collegial faculty I have ever been around, and it is a lot of fun to come to work each day. That means a lot.

Tech's slogan is, "From here, it's possible." Indeed it is.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Summer Classes Often a Sign of Impatience

Once again I find myself teaching a summer class. This summer I am teaching principles of advertising (ADV 3310) at Texas Tech University. This is only fitting, as I often took summer classes as an undergraduate.

While talking to my class the other day, I realized that it has been 9 years since I graduated from New Mexico State. Although that may seem like a long time to an undergraduate, that time has gone amazingly fast.

It truly does seem like yesterday that I was sitting in Breland Hall listening to Dr. Fouillade talk about French culture in a summer class. Where did that decade go?

In hindsight, the sad thing is that I was taking summer classes in order to graduate sooner. We were all in such a hurry then. Some of my best friends graduated with me that May day in 1997. I have not seen several of them since the 1990s. Perhaps we should not have been in such a hurry.

During my first class here this summer, several of the students indicated they were in summer classes to graduate faster. They're in the same hurry. I understand. Tuition is not cheap. There are bills to pay; student loans are mounting.

In the short-term, it is a noble goal. In the long run, however, there's less of a need to be in a hurry. Something about smelling the roses.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Brand Adjustment

When you move somewhere new, you have to find a new barber, a new dentist, and a new doctor. In addition, all of the grocery stores and car dealers have funny names. That is true here in Lubbock, of course.

In addition, access to national brands varies. In the vein, I have both delight and sadness in West Texas. In the happy category, the vending machine in my building has Diet Dr Pepper! Score! However, Chipotle has not yet come to the Hub City. Ugh. Just as I had developed a lunch preference for Chipotle, too.

It's trivial, really, but my ongoing brand ponderings cause me to pause and think about why it feels as if I have found an old friend and lost a rather new one.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Clutter, Clutter, and More Clutter

LUBBOCK, Texas -- Whenever I read a statistic about how many promotional messages we encounter every day, the number seems impossible. Further consideration of just how much clutter I see usually renders the count plausible, however.

During my recent cross-country trek, I must have been exposed to thousands of promotional messages: signs, billboards, the Doritos truck, etc.

In addition to the aforementioned truck (only of interest because I pointed it out to my kids), I remember solely two other promotional messages. First, I recall that Drury Hotels had several semi-clever billboards around the St. Louis area, where they are headquartered. I cannot recall that content now, however.

The other thing I remember is the back of an 18-wheeler full of Maxwell House coffee. The back was their familiar logo with a cup turned sideways and a single drop coming out. It was cool. (Note this image also has the name. The truck had just the cup).

The more I thought about it, the more I wondered why this valuable promotional surface was not being used more often. Sure, the occasional Doritos truck comes along. But far more often than not, I am stuck watching the back of semi trucks promoting their own trucking company.

Here is a bit of advice to the trucking industry: almost nobody cares about shipping companies. When I was a teen-ager working in the printing division of my parents' advertising agency, I cared about trucking companies. People who commercially ship stuff for a living care about trucking companies. No one else does, and "no one" is about 98% of the Interstate driving public.

So quit tooting your own horn (sorry, I could not resist the pun), and sell ads on the back of your trucks. Think about all the Americans pounding the pavement this summer, and you are missing out on a captive market! We know that most restaurant choices are made within a few moments before turning into the parking lot. So why not get those Golden Arches out there? Subway, anyone?

It's just an idea. But I think it's a good one. And I don't even want commission.