My Causerie

"All great change in America begins at the dinner table." ~ Ronald Reagan

Communication majors seeing more green September 17, 2014

Filed under: ACS 213,ACS 313 — mycauserie @ 2:41 pm
Photo Credit: wistechcolleges via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: wistechcolleges via Compfight cc (cropped)

Midterms are looming in the horizon along with the gray skies of winter. Times like these, we can all use a little good news to brighten our day. For students in the Department of Applied Communication Studies at SIUE, this article from, “The College Majors Whose Starting Salaries Have Increased The Most” just might do the trick.

Many college students are bombarded with horror stories of college graduates still waiting tables and making a living off of tips because they either can’t find a job at all or can’t find one that pays enough to “pay the bills.” According to data cited in the above article, the communications discipline had the second-greatest jump in salaries showing a 10.1 percent increase over 2013, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics states public relations specialists are still seeing continued growth in the industry. So while the job market is competitive, the jobs and the salaries are seeing promising growth for new public relations professionals.

This doesn’t really come as a surprise to me because I hear success stories from a lot of recent graduates. I also see LinkedIn updates from many of our alumni as they land their first jobs, and for many, in a short period of time, move beyond their initial entry-level positions.

The “teachable moment” in these success stories is for current students to see the common denominators among those experiencing this success. You don’t see it coming from those who while in college just wanted to scrape by doing the bare minimum necessary to walk across that stage in May. However, success doesn’t necessarily just go to the 4.0 students either. On the contrary, the students I see achieving early success in their careers are those who not only performed well academically, but also realized the value of professional development outside the classroom. These students took leadership roles in student organizations such as PRSSA; they took the effort needed to ensure they attended local, regional and national industry-related conferences; and they participated in not just one but often two or three internships over the course of their college careers.

It’s exciting to reach out to former students and ask them to come back and serve on one of the PR professional panels that I host every semester. These panels often served as networking opportunities for these ambitious students. Now, they are sitting on the other side of the table and sharing similar advice with students sitting where they once sat just a few years ago. This offers hope to students because for many, seeing is believing. I can stand up in front of these classrooms and say, “Do this, do that” until I am blue in the face – but let one of these young professionals come back and tell them, “You need to get an internship, you need to be a strong writer,” then they are paying attention!

So, there is good news for communication majors, but start taking action now toward achieving that success. Join PRSSA or another professional group relating to your chosen career; set up your LinkedIn profile and begin learning how to leverage it toward your career goals; take advantage of volunteer opportunities; find a variety of internships; read and learn about the industry you plan to enter; and take your coursework seriously. Look at each assignment beyond the mere 100 points you may earn in the current class. See the forest!

Photo Credit: fatboyke (Luc) via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: fatboyke (Luc) via Compfight cc

In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk!


Happy Birthday, Dad September 4, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 7:00 am

And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own.
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.

Today Dad would have turned 85. Although he didn’t darken the doors of a church very often in his lifetime, he enjoyed singing some of the old-time hymns, and he lived his life loving others and doing whatever he could to help someone in need.

A generous, hard-working, intelligent man with just an eighth-grade education, Dad went to work at a young age to help support his family. Later while serving in the U.S. Navy, he would keep a minimal amount of his monthly pay, sending the rest home to his parents. Sending money home to his parents, buying his little sister a dress for her eighth-grade graduation, caring for his dad up until his death and even providing a home for his older brother who needed a place to live, Dad lived a life of extravagant generosity.

His generosity extended beyond family too. He often donated his time and money to worthy causes and would even extend a helping hand to strangers. I remember the time he loaned his car to a complete stranger; he was an honest man and expected the same of those he encountered.

My home is full of treasured keepsakes from Dad – all with a story to tell like the Navy locket I keep safely under a glass-top table. It is a constant reminder of the amazingNavy locket for Phyllis Jean love he had for his little sister who tragically died in a car accident at the age of 15. Her death was hard on him, and he often talked of the time he said she came to him and told him she was fine and that she didn’t want him being sad any more. He cried every time he told me this story.

As the Alzheimer’s began to steal his memories away, he would often ask about family members who had long since passed. He asked how they were, if I had seen them lately, and he wanted to go visit them. Knowing those he loved so deeply welcomed him at the gates of heaven gives me peace. Their reunion actually makes me happy, and as much as I miss him, I know he is happy.

Currently more than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and millions more are faced with the financial and emotional challenges of caring for a loved one with this disease. If current trends continue, Alzheimer’s will bankrupt families, communities and our healthcare system, and cause many more families to endure the heartbreak of watching a loved one slowly slip away right before their eyes.

But there is something we can do to stop this devastating disease. We can walk together to end Alzheimer’s by supporting the Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s®.

The Alzheimer’s Association®, the leading voluntary organization in Alzheimer research, care and support, is dedicated to finding prevention methods, treatments and an eventual cure for the disease. I support the Alzheimer’s Association because I know how important these resources are; I turned to the Alzheimer’s Association several times while I took this journey with Dad.

Would you please consider making a donation? You may visit my online fundraising site to learn more and make a donation, or you can mail your donation using the donation form. No amount is too small; every dollar counts, so please consider supporting this cause. Checks should be made payable to the Alzheimer’s Association, and your donation is tax-deductible. You may also be able to double your donation if your employer has a matching gift program. Find out by visiting

Although the disease robbed Dad of his memories, it could not steal our love for each other away. Because of that love, we were able to enjoy many happy times together during his last year of life. If you are facing a similar journey, I hope our stories encourage you. While living with this disease, it is important for you and your loved one to do just that: live. Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association, Dad and I did. You can too.

Thank you to family and friends, thank you to SIUE students, thank you to members of the SIUE Chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America for joining in the fight, and thank you in advance to all who donate to the cause. Your generosity is greatly appreciated.


Aloha to God’s Perfect Timing August 23, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 6:33 am

A father-daughter love.

I sat in the quiet of my house, tears flowing as I read the last book in a series titled, “Journeying Through Grief” by Kenneth C. Haugk, a pastor and clinical psychologist. A friend from church gave it to me with a note attached saying, “I am sorry I am getting this last book to you late.”

But you see, the book wasn’t late at all. In fact, it was delivered in God’s perfect timing. I have struggled with so many emotions the last couple of weeks as the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death approached, and this book was filled with the encouragement I needed. It reminded me that there is no time table for grieving, and that even though this past year of “firsts” has been difficult, if I continue to find year two, three, five or 10 difficult, that it is perfectly fine. There is no “one-size-fits-all time frame for grief. As Haugk says, “You don’t go to bed on the 365th day still grieving and wake up the 366th day feeling completely healed.” I have made it through a year without my dad. It’s not that I had any doubt that I would as I know the Lord renews my strength just as Isaiah 40:31 tells us, but I have missed him tremendously, and I know that isn’t going to change on day 366 or any day after that.

For many who lose a loved one to Alzheimer’s disease, death can seem like the second loss because the first one comes when your loved one no longer knows who you are. I faced this sense of loss in the last year of my dad’s life. Many times we felt that he was seeing me as my mom in her younger years. In fact, sometimes he would pat my hand or caress my face and say, “I have the best little wife ever.” Once he asked his sister if she knew who I was, and she replied, “Yes, I do.” My dad just grinned and said, “She’s been in our family a long time.” My aunt and I just smiled.

In Chapter 5, Haugk shared this quote from a gentleman by the name of Dennis Klass: “Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship.” He also shared a saying from an Irish headstone that said, “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal; love leaves a memory no one can steal.” The first one is true. Death nor even the cruel clutches of Alzheimer’s could end the relationship with my dad, but no matter the depths of love, Alzheimer’s can, and does, steal our memories away.

It’s sad that Alzheimer’s robs a person of their life even before their death. How many times throughout our lives do we say, “I’ll never forget…” Now, I realize that until a cure is found, those treasured memories can be pilfered from our minds – but not from our hearts. It’s true that my dad seldom knew my name in his last year of life. Yet, without a doubt, I know his heart knew that I was somebody he loved and that I loved him too. His big smile, his eyes lighting up with joy, and then that jovial, “There she is!” as he reached out to give me a hug was all he needed; it was all I needed. No names required.

Haugk closes this last book in the series with a chapter titled “God’s Aloha.” He reminds us that “aloha both bids farewell and welcomes.”  So, in loving memory of my dad on this one-year anniversary, I say aloha to God’s perfect timing, to His amazing grace, to His unfailing love. He continues to bless me with all that I need as I go through this season of grief. No matter how long I am on this journey, I know He will continue to provide peace, comfort and strength. Loved to see you!

Aloha, Dad; until we meet again. I know you will be there to greet me with a smile and outstretched arms!

Please help us say aloha to Alzheimer’s disease by joining the Walk to END Alzheimer’s. Join or donate today.


An email, an article and a trash can August 16, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 10:57 pm
Photo Credit: kernlatta via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: kernlatta via Compfight cc

What does an email, an article and a trash can have in common? All three have brought a smile to my face during a week that I have felt rather emotional. I think the emotion stems from various causes, but my top three guesses: 1) the stress of getting ready for another semester to begin, 2) the news of Robin Williams’ death and more than anything else, 3) the approaching one-year anniversary of my dad’s death.

1) Another semester beginning is always a busy time, and I tend to make it even busier by what my family characterizes as sometimes being a bit of a perfectionist! However, for all my extra effort, there is sometimes a return on my investment!

Teaching’s reward is not monetary! I know; such a statement is kind of like the Geico commercials: “Everybody knows that.” Well, did you know that teaching can make you smile more than money can? It can, thanks to students who take the time to say, “thank you.” When I receive emails from former students telling me how much one of my classes meant to them and how it had a positive impact on their lives, well…that’s the reward for all my efforts. That makes me smile. So, to the student who sent the perfectly-timed email this week expressing appreciation for my efforts, I want to say thank you. You chipped a little of the sadness away this week with your kindness.

Photo Credit: theglobalpanorama via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: theglobalpanorama via Compfight cc

2) As for the news of Robin Williams’ death, it is hard for me to explain because I am by no means a celebrity groupie. I’m not one to have much interest in who is doing what in Hollywood. But Robin Williams has always been one of my favorite actors. His movies, from the dramas to the comedies, have always been favorites too. Many of his films have amazing stories, and he was always an amazing storyteller. I think it was the way in which he told the stories that made you feel like you were actually friends. I guess that is why I felt so sad when I heard the news; it felt as if I had lost a friend. I came across this article, “7 Quotes from Robin Williams, for Communicators,” and I liked quote #2: “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.” It’s hopeful, and it made me smile. Rest in peace, friend.

Enjoying the Tri-State Rodeo Parade!

Enjoying the Tri-State Rodeo Parade!

3) And most of all, my heart is struggling this week with the approaching one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. In some ways, it doesn’t seem possible that he has been gone a year, and other times, it seems like he’s been gone much longer. My heart still aches; tears still flow. Simply put, I miss him. I miss his smile.

Yet, cherished mementos, pictures and memories make me smile. Like this trash can that my brother gave to me today! A trash can makes me smile? Yes; yes it does. It makes me smile because it has a story to tell.

My Dad's chicken feed container!

My Dad’s chicken feed container!

This trash can sat inside my dad’s chicken coop. He used it to store the chicken feed. I can remember making trips out to the chicken coop with him, scooping the feed out of this can and filling the feeders. I also remember the day we worked together making repairs to the chicken coop. That was a long day, but looking back, it makes me smile that I had the chance to spend that time with him. As a professional carpenter all his life, I am sure he had fun watching me hammer those nails!

As I think about all this: the email, the article and the trash can, it’s the stories told within each of these that made me smile. I’ve always loved a good story…what public relations professional doesn’t! And this week, I was on the receiving end of the stories being told, and they made me feel appreciated, hopeful and grateful.

So be sure to share your stories this week; you never know the impact they might have on someone. Just take a look at my trash can…go ahead, you can smile! It’s an awesome trash can filled with stories…and soon, chicken feed again!

In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk!


I’ll take ethics for $1,000 August 3, 2014

Filed under: ACS 213 — mycauserie @ 7:00 am

Photo Credit: Shawn M. Smith via Compfight cc

Answer: The standard of conduct that indicates how one should behave in any given situation. Question: What is ethics?

As the summer session of SPC 213 winds down, I think one concept consistently emerged in our conversations: ethics. Whether you are preparing to enter the public relations field or your career is taking you in a completely different direction, ethical behavior is a mainstay.

In Chapter 3, there was a quote from Jon Harris, SVP of global communications with Sara Lee that stated, “You are your reputation. Never go against your beliefs, ethics or morals. Trust is something that is easy to lose and almost impossible to gain back.” Wow! I remember sharing that same advice with my daughters as they were growing up! Like I said, ethical behavior is a mainstay; it never goes out of style.

One ethical dilemma for public relations professionals is something referred to as “pay for play.” You might remember reading about it in some of the chapters in your text. For a quick refresher, look in Chapter 3 on page 87 of your text as well as in Chapter 19 on page 504. Pay for play was also the topic of discussion in a recent post on Spin Sucks. In these readings and in our discussions over the past five weeks, you can see that few professionals are advocates for this practice. Falling into this trap puts your client’s reputation, your own reputation and the profession as a whole in jeopardy. There is no trust; there is no third-party credibility in your message if all it takes is a little – or a lot – of cash to get the message out. Think about it; why is it you seek advice from friends, family or even online reviews about a product versus just going with what the product advertisement tells you? Pay for play relegates your message to exactly that: a paid spot. If you have a story to tell and that story is worth hearing, it should go forward on its own merits. No payment is necessary.

Many organizations place a strong emphasis on ethical practices. Many require employees to complete an annual ethics training. SIUE requires such training. PRSA even created a mobile ethics app to give practitioners easy access to ethics resources. Think about the video you watched regarding social media use in the workplace. The freedom given to these employees is because of trust. Lose that, and like Harris said, “It’s almost impossible to gain back.”

I hope you have taken away some useful lessons during this fast-paced, five-week course, and I hope one is the importance of ethical behavior. No matter what career path you are on, success will be yours if you move forward with an honest, trustworthy and hard-working attitude. I wish you all much success as you move forward in your careers. For those returning to SIUE in the fall, I hope you will check out the SIUE Chapter of PRSSA. You can learn more about the Chapter and the benefits of membership by attending the fall social. Watch for more details on the Chapter’s Facebook page.

In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk.







Put Your Hands Up in the Air July 28, 2014

Filed under: My Causerie — mycauserie @ 7:00 am
Photo Credit: hounddiggity via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: hounddiggity via Compfight cc

Alzheimer’s disease. The only cause of death among the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed. If you have a loved one living with the disease, you know it takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride. It turns your life up. side. down.

I don’t argue this. How else can you explain how life feels when your dad thinks you are his daughter, wife, girlfriend…all in one day. I’ve been there. I know. I don’t discount the hurt, the sadness or the stress of caring for someone living with this disease. But just like those scary roller coasters that are fun to ride, you can have fun on this ride too.


Picture my dad colored. He always loved his horses!

During the last year of my dad’s life, we had so much fun together doing things I hadn’t done with my dad since I was a small child! We played games – not always by the rules – but that was part of the fun! We went for walks; we talked; we sang songs; we colored pictures.


594 We shared a lot of hugs and kisses, and even though he may not have known my name, one thing was a constant: whoever I was, he knew he loved me and he knew I loved him!

So as we raise valuable research dollars to discover ways to someday cure and prevent Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to remember that the 5 million people living with this disease are doing just that…living, and we can still be a part of that life. In fact, we NEED to be an active part of their lives. Don’t let the ride scare you. Just hang on tight, or better yet, put your hands up in the air and have some fun! Trust me, just like the biggest roller coaster you ever dared to ride, you will laugh, smile, and yes, shed a few tears! You don’t want to miss the experience though, so don’t shy away!

And help in the fight by donating or joining The Purple PRoject at this year’s Walk to END Alzheimer’s. Your financial gift not only supports the much-needed research, but it also provides valuable resources to families caring for loved ones living with this disease. I know how important those resources are because I turned to the Alzheimer’s Association often for advice and support as our family cared for my dad.

So please, donate today. You can make your tax-deductible donation online, send it by mail or contact me at I will gladly help you with your donation!

In the meantime, pull up a chair and let’s talk.








Social Media Checkup July 20, 2014

Filed under: ACS 213 — mycauserie @ 11:30 am
Photo Credit: light2shine via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: light2shine via Compfight cc

Attention soon-to-be graduates: Have you had your social media checkup yet? This should definitely be part of your pre-graduation checklist to make sure your social media reputation and skills are in good health before you enter the job market. This is true for all graduates but especially for those entering the public relations industry.

The Speech Communication Department offers a social media class to help students understand the myriad of new communication

technologies. Although I don’t teach the social media class, I do teach public relations writing classes, which is also a skill young professionals need to ensure is healthy. It is also important for students to see the connection between the two. The new technologies have changed the way messages are disseminated and interpreted. With the pervasiveness of social media, it’s important for students to master the pen and the “send button.”

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings via Compfight cc

Many experts say that social media has put the public back into public relations. Two-way conversations on sites like Facebook and Twitter are great ways for organizations to get feedback from, and build relationships with, their target audiences. Sites like Instagram and Pinterest also show the increased popularity of visual content.

With all of these digital conversations taking place, we are seeing an increase in social media management positions. Students who learn to use these technologies strategically and creatively will be strengthening their job marketability.

So take a few minutes to watch this humorous take on a serious subject. How healthy are you?





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