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Almost DailyBrett Editor’s Note: In applying to graduate school three years ago, I was asked to write a “Statement of Purpose” and with it came memories of almost daily meetings with elementary, middle school, high school and college students as the press secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian.

Little did I know at the time that these teaching sessions would eventually lead to a new direction in my life.

As I contemplate making a major directional change in my career, I was reflecting back to one of the responsibilities that did not fit into the position description of a gubernatorial press secretary: meeting, greeting and answering questions from visiting university, community college, high-school, middle-school and elementary-school students.

During my three years as the Press Secretary to California Governor George Deukmejian, I was repeatedly asked to serve as the face of the administration and to encourage students to pursue public service or at least to have a profound interest in their society. Sometimes the questions were tough, many were unfair or off-base, but the students demonstrated that they wanted to learn and they wanted to challenge authority.

As I moved from the public sector into roles with two major industry trade associations, a publicly traded high technology company and to a leadership position in an international public relations firm, I was periodically asked to lecture classes on effective communications. Some of these schools included: UC Berkeley, Oregon State, San Francisco State and just recently Santa Clara University.

At Santa Clara, I lectured both MBA and undergraduate students about how to communicate to Wall Street and investors. I realized in making my presentation and seeing the enthusiasm that I generated that these students were clearly appreciating that the world of financial communications was shifting at a breakneck pace.

This rate of change is not just limited to the financial sphere as digital technology, the ubiquitous ones and zeroes, are making instantaneous communication and lightning-fast responses a never-changing fact of life. We now have the ability to self-publish and to share with the world our deepest thoughts. The Genie is out of the bottle and the bottle is nowhere to be found.

Social media or conversational marketing via digital key strokes is something that Johannes Guttenberg could not even fathom when he invented the printing press in Mainz, Germany. But one thing has been constant since then; technology has made communication faster, more efficient and global in nature.

Many cannot stop talking about and tweeting on Twitter, amassing their connections on LinkedIn.com, watching videos on YouTube or counting friends on Facebook. They are commenting on breaking global events via their blogs or reading what others are saying via cyberspace, bypassing the “traditional media,” particularly the dying pencil “press.”

The hot social media tools of today most likely will not be the hot social media tools by the time I complete the master’s degree program from the University of Oregon in 2012. These new techniques are being written today not on parchment paper, but rather in the form of software code.

Will students and society as a whole be prepared for these new techniques and their implications? What are the responsibilities of self-publishing in the wake of fewer and fewer conventional media outlets? Will the bloggers become the reporters of the 21st century, thus setting new standards for journalism?

Looking back, I have been extremely fortunate in my career. I cut my teeth on the tax revolt in 1978 that shook the foundation of governments throughout the country. I was sitting at the apex of California state government in 1989 when the Loma Prieta Earthquake literally shook the ground, and I was told “The Bay Bridge is in the water.”

I ventured across the ocean to the Land of the Rising Sun to help convince Japan to stop predatory pricing and open its doors to competition. I founded a corporate PR department against the backdrop of Internet mania and a corresponding crash as Americans lost faith in Wall Street and imposed a new way of doing business.

And I was privy to and helped advance a digital technology revolution that contrary to opinion of some pundits is really just getting started.

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After all of this, I still go back to the Governor’s bill signing room in Sacramento filled with students and their mentors with a particular gleam in their eyes and engaging questions flowing off their tongues. They wanted to learn. They wanted to explore. They wanted to challenge convention. I was more than happy to help them on their quest.

How can I continue this love affair with helping students? Certainly, I do not know it all and never will. Harry Truman didn’t like experts because “… if an expert learned something, he wouldn’t be an expert anymore.”

I am learning something new every day.

So why do I want to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication? The answer is that I can leverage my Master’s degree to teach students the art of strategic communications. The truth is not a fungible quality, it is essential. Having said that, we need to manage information and present it in an intelligent way in order to effectively compete in the marketplace of ideas.

Today’s students and tomorrow’s communicators are going to have to compete; there is no way around this fact. Will they succeed or not? The University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication training will greatly improve their chances. I want to coach and mentor these students so they can be tomorrow’s winners.

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