After a two week hiatus from the blogosphere, I’m back. I had a fun ol’ time in the nation’s country music capital, Nashville, but things got a little more serious in St. Louis where I spent four days at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s (AEJMC) annual conference. I realized that after 30 years as a public relations and media professional, I have so much to learn when it comes to the world of learning.
The large conference (1,400 attendees!) featured scores of workshops and panels and mentoring on the latest research, teaching methods and issues within the academic world. I settled in to the PR track, surrounded by colleagues with all levels of experience. It was a wonderful exchange of ideas and support, and I took away more than a few good applicable methods of research and teaching. I also joined about 40 of my colleagues as we left academia for a couple of hours and toured the St. Louis headquarters of international PR firm Fleishman and Hillard, where we heard from top executives on what they’re looking for from graduates. It was eye-opening to see an occasional disconnect between academics and the profession. Critical and creative thinking, humility and fearlessness, and the ability to use existing (and future) computer-based tools were emphasized by these executives; it was a wake-up call for some of the professors there.
Colleges and universities are not trade schools, but they should prepare students for careers. I believe a balance should be struck between theoretical learning and skills training. I’m finding that some of my academic colleagues agree with this thinking, and some don’t. But learning about learning — and debating and exchanging ideas and methods are what these conferences are all about. Your thoughts?