Are PR and Marketing Really the Same Function?

7 Dec

I’m sorry it’s been so long since my last post. The end of the semester has not been kind. Luckily there’s one more week and I am home free for a few weeks. Anyways, I created a video that I wanted to share.  

Should PR and Marketing be lumped together? Or should they be treated as separate endeavors? We ask Kent State University PR professors Bill Sledzik and Dr. Bob Batchelor to weigh in on the debate.

Click the link to see what they have to say!


Success With Honor: Joe Paterno’s True Impact

9 Nov

I had the fortune of witnessing Joe Paterno capture his 400th career victory as the head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions on Saturday. Penn State came from behind to defeat the Northwestern Wildcats 35-21 in a thrilling game that I, along with the other 105,000 fans in attendance, will never forget.

Paterno became the first coach in the history of major college football to win 400 games. He will almost certainly be the only FBS coach to ever reach this milestone. But Paterno’s legacy consists of so much more than his win-loss record.

A Library Named After….A Football Coach??

For starters, Paterno donated $4 million of his own money and raised $13.5 million so that Penn State could have one of the premiere libraries in the nation. It was an easy decision for university officials to honor its longtime football coach by naming the new facility “Paterno Library.”

Think about it. How many college libraries out there do you think are named after football coaches??

Academics Are THE Priority

In an age when so many coaches act as glorified pimps, Paterno has never strayed from his mission of “Success with Honor.” While coaches promise the world to recruits if they sign on the dotted line, Paterno knows it’s a long and difficult road to the NFL. While a select few of his 100+ players will get drafted, the majority of his team will need to make a living outside of football. He makes sure that players know from day one they are at Penn State first and foremost to earn a degree.

Paterno worked to earn his degree while being a gridiron star at Brown University (His career total of 14 interceptions is still a school record after 62 years). He expects the same balance from the young men he coaches at Penn State.

Paterno (far right) from his days as a student-athlete at Brown University

The Paterno Standard

A player who does not live up to their potential in the classroom is unacceptable in Paterno’s program. There have been countless examples of player’s being left behind for games to focus on their studies. In 1997, Penn State wide receiver Joe Jurevicius was not allowed to make the trip to the Citrus Bowl because he had skipped a few classes. Jurevicius was in no danger of failing and was academically eligible to play against a very strong Florida Gators team. But Paterno was not pleased with his behavior. Despite being one of the best receivers in the nation and a certain NFL draft pick, Paterno made the decision to keep Jurevicius at home.

Earlier this year he decided to redshirt freshman quarterback Paul Jones so he could focus on his grades. Jones was a leading candidate to start at quarterback, but Paterno decided it was much more important for Jones to adjust to college life. Football can wait.

Simply put, there are the NCAA standards, and then there are Paterno’s standards.

Paterno’s True Legacy

Joe Paterno joking around with players during the 2010 team photo

There is a reason why Penn State has ranked at or near the top of the list for graduation rates every year. Paterno may be the last coach that cares more about molding young men into productive members of society than creating professional athletes. He knows that the world needs doctors, scientists, and educators more than NFL stars with inflated egos.

The 400th win is one of several accomplishments that make up Paterno’s legacy. But Paterno will also go down in history for a timeless pursuit of doing things the right way. As impressive as his on-field accomplishments are, his off-field achievements are what makes him a true original. I could write for as long as Paterno has been at Penn State (61 years as an assistant and head coach) and still not include everything he has done for the Penn State community. In this time he has touched countless lives in a tireless quest to leave the world in better shape than when he came into it.

Beyond Underwater Basket Weaving: The 12 Oddest College Courses

2 Nov
It’s that time of the semester where everyone is trying their best not to hit the wall. It’s deep enough into the semester to feel burnt-out, but it’s not yet far along to see the glorious light at the end of the tunnel that is winter break.


Students enrolled in these unusual classes are no doubt feeling the pressure, but at least they get to learn from an interesting perspective. Without further ado, here are some of the most unique college classes offered across the U.S. 

 Philosophy and Star Trek (Georgetown University)
The most common question in this class: “How many gigabytes does the L-19 contain?”

The second most common question: “What’s a girl?”

 History of African-American Hairstyles (Stanford University)

In all fairness, most people attend Stanford to bolster their hairstyling credentials.

Far Side Entomology (Oregon State University)

Entomology is the study of insects, for those of you that did not already know (I just had to look it up myself). Implementing the greatest comic strip of all time is just plain brilliant. The Far Side has the ability to make any subject interesting.

Bugs were common fodder in The Far Side

Inflatable Public Sculpture (Rensselear Polytechnic Institute)

 I wonder if these are the people responsible for this.

Underwater Basket Weaving (UC San Diego)

 I’ve heard this referenced countless times in the popular media, but I never fathomed the idea of it being an actual class. The plants that are weaved into wicker baskets need to soak first, so that kind of explains the underwater part. I think. 

The Art of Walking (Centre College)

This is actually a philosophy course, but instead of sitting in a classroom you take walks with the professor and his dog. Plus you learn how to look cool while you walk, just like this guy.

This guy really discovered the fine art of walking

I owe it all to the Art of Walking!

Daytime Serials: Family and Social Roles (University of Wisconsin)

 I took a family roles class as an undergraduate and we discussed the dynamics of fictional families all the time, so this makes sense. I even wrote my final paper on the Gavin family from Rescue Me, which is basically a soap opera for men.

Examining Urban Crime, Policing, Politics, and Delinquency Through The Wire  (Syracuse University)

The Wire has been roundly hailed as the greatest television show of all time. It is a layered masterpiece brimming with precise detail that covers urban issues often ignored by the popular press. Of all the classes on this list, this course would easily be the most intimidating.

Dukes of Hazard and its Social Significance (University of Alabama)

 The final consists of hopping through the window of the General Lee while ardently denying the North won the Civil War.

 Wine and Beer Appreciation (Syracuse University)

 My school offers this course too. The class meets in the downtown area Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. I think I may audit this week’s class as soon as I finish this blog post.

 Joe Paterno and the Media (Penn State University)

Joe Paterno’s press conferences should be required viewing for any mass media student. He has been at Penn State since 1950, and has never failed to be the smartest person in the room. Whenever some young reporter asks a silly question, Paterno will just look at them and say “That’s a stupid question,” before moving on to another suddenly timid reporter.

My personal favorite Paterno presser moment happened a few years ago after he decided he had enough sensationalism for one day. He gave a long lecture to the media members in the room about how sports journalism disappeared about 20 years ago. He concluded by saying, “I’m not sure what happened but somewhere along the way, you all got taken,” before standing up walking out on quite a few embarrassed reporters.

Legendary Penn State football coach Joe Paterno addresses the media

Can you hear this guys? What if I turn it up for you?

*Sorry for the rant. Check back next week for more on my man-crush on JoePa.  

Elvis Anthology (Iowa University)

 The original title for this class was “How White People Steal Everything and Turn it Into Mainstream Garbage.”

In all seriousness, implementing pop culture into boring subject matter is a great way to get students interested in the class and motivate them to learn. The administrators and professors responsible for these type of classes should be applauded for thinking outside the box when designing the curriculum. The majority of these classes probably have much deeper undertones than expected. Students that are enrolled in such classes have a fantastic opportunity to learn while having a little bit of fun.

These are only 12 courses included in this list and I’m sure there are plenty of other unusal classes that I missed. Have you ever taken or heard of a class that could be included on this list?

The Great For-Profit Debate

27 Oct

photo from

One of the largest current debates in the education spectrum is the value of online degrees versus degrees from traditional “brick and mortar” schools. Many for-profit universities, such as the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, and Brown Mackie offer online degree programs for students that are not able to attend college in-person on a full-time basis. Some view these online programs as an opportunity for adult students as they try to juggle having a family and a job along with earning a degree. Others believe these schools are making a profit off its students’ tuition in exchange for a degree that holds little value in the real world.

Now Congress is weighing in on the debate as well, which is forcing major changes for several of the largest for-profit schools.

This past summer, Congress proposed “gainful employment” regulations for the for-profit industry. The general premise of the proposed new laws is that schools that have too many graduates in default on their student loans will no longer be able to offer loans to incoming students. This would obviously have a catastrophic impact on schools that do not meet the required numbers.

Congress gets involved

Congress decided to step in after examining the growing number of college graduates in default on their student loans. Naturally, default numbers rose with the increase in unemployment. However, of all the default cases, a whopping 43% were graduates of for-profit schools.

This statistic led to the impression that a degree from a for-profit school was basically a worthless piece of paper. Media coverage was roundly negative and basically called for the elimination for the entire for-profit education industry.

Not so fast my friend

Then fall came around and things started to change. People who supported for-profit schools started to speak out. There were several rallies on Capital Hill and letter-writing campaigns to members of Congress.  Feeling the heat, Congress decided to push back the gainful employment regulations indefinitely.

This turn of events demonstrated that for-profit schools do produce satisfied graduates that go on to find meaningful employment. But like with anything else, the for-profit industry has its share of bad apples that could ruin it for everyone.

How for-profit schools got a bad rep

One of the major culprits of the for-profit mess seems to be accreditation. While some for-profit schools share accreditation with prestigious universities, others simply have no accreditation at all. This causes the most headaches for for-profit graduates once they begin their job search.

Unfortunately, some students do not perform sufficient research before entering college. Many students become excited about future opportunities and are motivated to begin their educational journey as soon as possible. Several years later they can’t find work because they have a degree that most employers in their field do not deem as valid. Meanwhile, they have accumulated tens of thousands of dollars in debt thanks to the student loans they had to take out to afford tuition.

Don’t blame the students

However, a lack of research on the students’ part should not receive all the blame for this mess. It has been widely reported that some for-profit schools use deceptive practices to get students enrolled. Many schools for have quotas for admissions officers to make sure they bring in enough new students to keep their jobs. Hoping to avoid the growing unemployment pool, admissions officers at some for-profit schools will tell a student anything to get them to enroll. This often means misrepresenting the value and specifications of a degree.

photo from

Do you trust this guy enough to invest 50K?

Plenty of unanswered questions

This issue raises some very important questions. Should Congress take away federal loans to schools that have too many students in default? Does the for-profit industry need regulated? Should colleges be able to operate without accreditation? Or should students have the right to attend schools regardless of accreditation? Let me know what you think!

Inventive Study Habits

19 Oct

One of my responsibilities at work is to teach a study skills session at the beginning of each quarter. We found that some of the adult students needed a refresher because they have spent the last few years out of the classroom and their study habits had become rusty.

Students brushing up on their study habits.

I am always looking for ways to improve this seminar, so I approach students who attended to get their feedback. Here are some of the things that I have been told were the most effective.

Study in different locations– This is one of the most enthusiastic responses I receive from students who attend the workshop. Apparently I’m not the only one that found this effective. Reviewing the same material over and over in the same spot just makes it all run together. Try changing things up next time you are preparing for a big exam. Spend some time studying at home if it’s quiet, then the library, and then take a trip to your favorite coffee shop. Location doesn’t matter, as long as you find a few places where you can focus.

Study the entire quarter instead of cramming– This seems like common sense but few people approach their studies this way. Instead of being stressed out and relearning material right before an exam, simply review notes and course material throughout the duration of the class. By the time the exam rolls around, you will have a firm grasp of the material and there will be no need to stay up all night frantically trying to memorize everything. A few of my students took this advice and their improvement was astounding. It just takes some discipline and it made their lives much less complicated by finals week.

This student should have started studying a LONG time ago.

Become an active reader– Some students struggle on quizzes and exams because of their reading style. They take the time to read the required chapters and then toss the book aside. When the time comes to retain this information, nothing is there. One simple way around this is to always have a highlighter in your hand as you read. Mark up key concepts. This will make reviewing so much easier down the road. I also suggest jotting down questions in the margins as you read. This way you will have them right in front of you next time you have the opportunity to ask questions in class. And don’t worry about reducing the resale value of the book. Some of my students use this as an excuse, but it’s not worth the extra $2.50 to get a “C” when you easily could earn an “A.”

Find your motivation– Sometimes it’s hard to get yourself up for a long night with your micro-economics textbook. Find ways to reward yourself in these cases. Get through two or three chapters and watch an episode of The Office. Or call a friend. Or eat a piece of cake. You know yourself better than anyone, so find whatever it is to motivate you to get through something unpleasant.

I could go on all day, but those are a few of the tips that students say have helped them turn a corner from average to the top of their class. What are some of your best study tips? What “outside the box” techniques do you use to help boost your grades?

A Wag of the Finger

12 Oct

My high school sucked. So did my middle school, elementary school, and primary school. That’s right Howland School District, you are getting a very special Inventive Education “Wag of the Finger.”

Just to clear things up, I’m not one of those “I hated going to school so I’m going to whine about it” type of people. In fact I love school. I double majored as an undergraduate just because I couldn’t decide if I found psychology or sociology more enjoyable. Right now I am in grad school full-time despite working 55+ hours per week, and I actually enjoy it! I’m one of those weird people that never skips class because I genuinely enjoy showing up and learning something new (with the exception of Intro to Geology, but I think I deserve some slack there).

The Problem with Howland

The problem with Howland Schools is that it has the ability to be a premier educational institute, yet is operated like a school with a shoestring budget. Every single year Howland puts up a school levy that passes with flying colors. Yet any Howland student must scratch their head and wonder just what happened with the new funds.

Will Work for Sugar and Toys

The annual levy was a big deal when I was in elementary school. Every year the drill was the same. They would pack the entire school into the gym the day before Election Day. They would get all the students excited to attend with the promise of free candy. Once all the students were hopped up on sugar, they would tell us just how fortunate we were to be enrolled at such a fabulous school. Then they would talk about the big upcoming levy and that it would not pass unless we helped. And if we didn’t help, then we would lose any hope to take any more field trips or get new playground equipment or taking field. Once we had the perfect combination of sugar and fear, they would send us home with the message that we needed to go around our neighborhoods to ask everyone to please vote yes for the levy.

A Laundry-List of Issues

This Karl Rove-esque tactic to deploy all the cute children worked year after year. The only problem was that the school district only fell further and further behind. All the school buildings were run down and in need of renovations.


Where's all that money going again?


Most of my classes had well over 30 students. All of the textbooks were 25-30 years old. In fact, I actually was under the impression that they stopped printing textbooks in the late 1960’s. There was no auditorium at the high school for any type of productions. When I joined the swim team I had to pay a $400 fee so the school district could rent out pool over a half-hour away from the high school.


I swear these are the most current books available!


Curriculum Fail

I could go on and on, but the most damning shortcoming is the lack of curriculum. The school offered no alternatives to the very basic courses. When I entered college I was both appalled and amazed to learn that several of my classmates had a leg up on me since their schools offered a much more diverse curriculum. Whereas the information I was learning in classes such sociology and philosophy was brand new, it was review for many of my classmates. Not only where they more prepared to excel at such classes, but they had been exposed to so many things they had a much narrower career focus.

While a handful of Howland School District employees have bolstered their salaries, thousands of students have lost the chance to find their place in the world. There are so many ways Howland could open the curriculum to help students gain a passion that will lead to a meaningful career. Until these changes are made, my finger will remain wagging.

Is Howland a Unique Case?

Did your school operate like Howland? If not, what type of programs helped you down the road?

An Inventive Take on Special Education

5 Oct

I know I already wrote a piece on a new educational program at Kent State. I know there are stories from all around the nation that deserve attention. However, last year I was privileged to work for an organization that gave me such an uplifting experience that I can’t help but rave about it.

I was about to enter grad school and desperately searching a part-time job to help pay the bills while I was in school. I was starting to hit panic mode because it had been a month since my contract at my old job had run out and I was not gaining much traction with my job search. Then I was fortunate enough to get a call from Tom Hoza, the director of a brand new program called the Campus Transition Project (CTP).

An Eye-Opening Opportunity

Tom and I met later that afternoon to discuss the CTP. After a few minutes, it became obvious that Tom was putting together something truly remarkable that had the potential to provide life-altering experiences for its students and their families.

Your blogger being hilarious as always.

The objective of the CTP is to help high school students with special needs transition into adulthood. Every day the students were challenged to learn about themselves and the world around them. They were exposed to options they never knew they had before. The students quickly developed passions for new endeavors. For the first time their lives, the students were treated like adults that were going to contribute to society as adults. They responded by exceeding everyone’s expectations.

However, it became obvious they were not receiving the same treatment outside the CTP. With all the reasons for optimism, we knew it was an uphill battle as all the students accomplishments were being undone at school and home.

How the Schools Failed

The students would regularly learn a new skill, yet were unable to apply them in a real-world setting where they were always being treated with kid gloves. For instance, one day we took the class to a laundry mat where they learned how to do their own laundry. They all picked up the skill very quickly. A week later we asked how their new chore was coming along. To our surprise, none of the students’ parents would let them help out with a task they were more than capable of performing.

One student was visually impaired, yet quickly mastered navigating the tricky Kent State campus. After the first few weeks he knew his way around better than the majority of the freshmen on campus. Yet, for some reason he always seemed uncertain of himself. He never quite gained the confidence that he could get around without someone by his side. We figured out the reason for this once his family visited for our open house. His mom wouldn’t let him so much as walk across the room without someone holding his arm and giving him directions he didn’t actually need.

The CTP students were a classic case of the self-fulfilling prophecy. All their lives they have been treated like their disabilities are too detrimental to live an independent and fulfilling life. It makes me wonder how many students with special needs across the country will never live up to their potential because they are treated with kid gloves every day of their lives.

Can the CTP Survive?

Sadly, the future of the CTP is up in the air. It was made possible by a two-year grant with the possibility of extending the program for a long-term basis. It could come to an end in May, or it could be growing strong 100 years from now. Not only does the CTP need to be extended, it needs to be replicated in schools across the country. The first year had astounding results as it helped 11 students find their place in the world. Over the course of the school year they evolved from timid students that always waited to be told how to think and act, to opinionated and productive members of society capable of making an impact on the world.

Keep the CTP Alive

To learn more about the CTP and find out how you can help keep the program alive, contact me at or Tom Hoza at Helping out is as easy as dropping off supplies, contacting your representative, or spending an hour with the students to share some of your expertise.

The Ladies of the CTP

*All photos taken by Jared Slanina

%d bloggers like this: