I’m “going home.”
In a whirlwind past couple weeks (that included a swirl of emotions), I was offered and have accepted a faculty position at my undergraduate alma mater, SUNY Geneseo.
It’s not just any job.
The position title alone might describe my ideal job (practically anyplace): Lecturer in communication and faculty director of the campus radio station. Combining it with teaching radio at a place I love and advising my radio station, WGSU-FM (my first-ever station — where I “cut my teeth” at 17 years old), makes it my dream job.
I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am to start this new chapter in a couple weeks. But, as with most moves, it comes with mixed emotions — for I’m about to bid farewell to the place that’s been home for nearly 13 years….
‘Hello, 1 Lomb Memorial Drive’
Arriving from my PR job at Monroe Community Hospital (along with my radio “hobby/job” at 99BBF), I joined RIT — where, a few years earlier, I had been a student — as a senior news specialist in University News Services in November 1999 (two weeks behind colleague Susan Gawlowicz). In 2003 — on my birthday — I was promoted to associate director; I added manager of new media responsibilities in 2006 (launching RIT News podcasts and overseeing our social-media presence were among my primary charges at first).
Along the way, I began graduate studies (on Sept. 10, 2001 — I remember the date because of the following day); and, in 2008, earned my master’s degree in communication and media technologies. In 2005, I taught PR Writing for the first time (after creating the course from scratch for the Department of Communication’s new advertising and public relations major); and I joined campus radio station WITR-FM as a co-adviser a few years later.
Leaving my mark…
Looking back over the past dozen-plus years, some highlights stand out:
• I take enormous pride in spearheading the 2008 launch of our e-newsletter, News & Events Daily, along with its complete redesign three years later. To a certain extent, I’ve considered N&E Daily “my baby” — but great satisfaction comes from knowing that I leave it in the more-than-capable hands of my colleague Marie Lang (who has my special respect and thanks for tolerating me as her supervisor for the past two years). I hope both of us learn next month that N&E Daily won a GREAT Award from Digital Rochester (it’s a finalist in the communication technology category).
• I’ve overseen the University News website for the past six years or so — and, collaborating with talented colleagues in University Publications, I guided a major redesign in 2010. Plus, I have managed this blog and personally launched the RIT News presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
• And then there are all those podcasts: “Dateline: RIT,” “Studio 86,” “RIT Newsminute,” “Author’s Spotlight,” “WITR Postgame Rewind” and more. But my all-time favorite has to be “Dateline: RIT – Bloopers & Outtakes” (listen to podcast).
Remembering back to when I covered beats, some memorable stories and “hits” (a term we use for news placements) include:
• A story I wrote about statistics professor Tom Barker and his toy-train-repair hobby appeared word-for-word (but with no byline!) in the Chicago Tribune on Christmas Eve 2000; and a story about space tourism (and a class taught by C.J. Wallington) was featured on MSNBC, and articles ran in The Chronicle of Higher Education, New York Daily News and elsewhere in 2001.
• Articles about RIT’s just-launched game-programming course hit The New York Times and The Associated Press wire on the same day in 2002. (Believe me when I say it, “Now, that’s a good day!”) It’s a story for which I earned my first PRism Award from the Public Relations Society of America.
• And there was a lighthearted piece about the “RIT Football — Undefeated Since 1978” T-shirts that landed in The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2001 (I relish it because it’s so tough getting into The Chronicle, particularly in a positive light — they do love scandal).
• Plus, there were fun stories written for our publications: one about Buster, the service dog who went to college; a feature on “the nerdiest deli in America”; and a tale about RIT’s “brick juice.” And I wrote not only the story, but practically the entire News & Events special issue announcing RIT’s new president, Bill Destler, in 2007.
• More recently was a video from my MG sportscar’s perspective, “A Day in the Life of a Sportscar’s Trip to a Car Show” (watch video); and, yes, I got to be Ritchie — on “Ritchie Faces the Nation” (also PRism-Award-winning), featuring Bob Schieffer of CBS News (watch video).
…here, there, everywhere…
At one point, I launched my own newsletter, UNS Link. Published quarterly and primarily for faculty in the beats that I covered at the time (CAST, COE and, for a while, GCCIS — a CAST offshoot), it featured an “RIT in the News” page — a precursor to the section that lives, to this day, in News & Events Daily and on the RIT News website. A great concept, UNS Link lasted for three years before giving way to Dateline: RIT (the “sister” newsletter to the podcast, website and Facebook group sharing the same name).
Then there was another dream job that overlapped with RIT for about five years: radio columnist. After pitching, to various publications, my idea for a column covering local radio, Business Strategies Magazine said “Yes!” Thus began a labor of love combining two passions: radio and writing.
And last year, after being out of commercial radio for about 11 years (I had signed off from my long-running request show on 99BBF on April 1, 2000), out of the blue came a call from longtime friend Pat Rivers, the midday host on WARM 101.3. The next thing I knew, I was back behind the microphone (and reprising my radio pseudonym, Mike St. John, from my WBEE and traffic-reporting days) for a second stint — 22 years apart from the first — as a weekend DJ on WARM 101.3. (This might be news to some readers. To be sure, there have been radio references aplenty on this blog through the years; but, although friends and close colleagues are very much aware of my “other life” on the radio — a sideline hobby that I love with a passion — it has otherwise been largely separate from my “day job.”)
A common thread
Even without telling you that as a kid I would rewrite newspaper articles into pretend radio newscasts, by now you might’ve noticed a common thread: Radio. Radio advising. Radio column. Podcasting (a form of radio). Radio again. And it has all been woven around writing, graduate studies (master’s thesis: radio ownership), teaching and advising, and nearly 13 years of toiling on a university campus.
It all adds up to my dream job at SUNY Geneseo — one of few that could lure me from my other cherished alma mater, RIT. At least one person asked me recently, “Did you ever think…?” My reply: “Truthfully, yes” — because I had seen myself one day back in Blake Hall, where I had spent so much time as an undergraduate. Though it might be somewhat cliché to say it, I feel as though I’ve been preparing my whole life for this opportunity.
As many colleagues, former students and others are keenly aware, I’m not someone who enters into anything half-heartedly. I’ve oozed orange and brown in dedication to RIT for a dozen-plus years. But sometimes you just know when the time is right….
I recall walking away from 99BBF following six-plus years (a lifetime in radio) — but without a single regret (mind you, back then I lived for Saturday night on the radio). Next week, I’ll leave RIT thrilled about this new chapter — but with a twinge of sadness, too. And you know something? I wouldn’t want it any other way.
But I’ll have no regrets…because I’m ready to bleed blue and white — again — for Geneseo.
Special thanks to advisers and friends Ron Hira, Rudy Pugliese, Bruce Austin and C.J. Wallington (my master’s thesis advisers, each provided another round of good counsel in recent weeks). My gratitude also goes to Will Dube, Kathy Lindsley, Pete Bella and Sam McQuade for unwavering support; WITR adviser Carol Reed, WITR student general manager Arun Blatchley ’13, and former students Diana (McKee) Burggraff ’06, Sherry Hoag ’10, Jamie Least ’10 and Katie Robert ’07, ’08 for graciously sharing kind words on my behalf; former WGSU adviser Chris Pruszynski for reaching out to me about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rejoin my “first love” of a radio station; Joe Bulsys, the only professor from my undergraduate days who’s still at Geneseo, along with Andrew Herman and my other new colleagues at SUNY Geneseo; and everyone at RIT and University News for many fulfilling years.
Finally, to readers of this blog (and all RIT News publications where my byline has appeared over the past 12 years and nine months) and RIT podcast listeners everywhere … thank you, and farewell.
“I have made this letter longer than usual because I lack the time to make it short.” — Blaise Pascal, 17th century mathematician, philosopher