Tag Archive: Pro Seminar

After at least four years of more lectures, labs, study groups, readings, papers and presentations than you would ever care to count, the prospect of taking up to another 18 months to attain a master’s degree or maybe even four years to earn a Ph.D is a prospect most graduating seniors would rather not even think about.

And yet the question still persists for some: Should you seriously consider taking the advanced degree plunge right here and now following graduation? Consider that even more employers are requiring advanced degrees; many want MBAs.

Before answering this perplexing interrogative: Consider the unmistakable NFW response by the author of Almost DailyBrett in 1978. Yours truly had just received his bachelor’s in Broadcasting Journalism from the University of Southern California. There was simply no way when it came to the question of signing up for even more college.

I was done, thank you very much.

Looking back at that easy-and-yet momentous decision, your author now regrets not pursuing a master’s degree right then and there, when he was as free as a bird … no spouse, no kidlet, no mortgage, no car payment … absolutely nothing.

Fortunately, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were right in Stairway to Heaven: “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

A confluence of events in my life (i.e., widowerhood, adult daughter, real estate appreciation, fellowship) gave me that one-last-chance-in-a-lifetime opportunity in 2010 to pursue my master’s degree in mid-life at the University of Oregon.

The author of Almost DailyBrett was very fortunate, very fortunate indeed.

Died and Went to Heaven

When the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication offered me a fellowship, your author jumped at the opportunity in two nanoseconds or less.

You should do the same, if you are selected for an on-campus fellowship at a R1 university.

Becoming a Graduate Teaching Fellow (GTF) provides the following benefits:

  1. An absolutely free master’s degree or Ph.D … yep no-instate or better yet, no out-of-state or private school tuition;
  2. Medical, dental and vision health care benefits for at least the fellow, and maybe the whole family as well;
  3. A stipend of $1,000 or more per month;
  4. Invaluable teaching experience as a teaching assistant to a professor.

As Almost DailyBrett wrote before, I appreciated this unbelievable deal and thought I had died and gone to heaven. It was perplexing to say the least when the University of Oregon GTFs went on strike in 2014 … Patience, Kevin. Patience. Let’s not get started on this subject again.

Some have asked: Should I take an online master’s degree or Ph.D? My short answer is nein.

If one is pursuing an advanced degree in public relations, marketing, journalism, broadcast, film etc., it is best to be on campus to directly interact with your colleagues and Ph.D professors. Sorry to say, file sharing and texting just don’t cut it.

If one is pursuing an advanced degree in accounting, an online program may be appropriate. Having said that, communications requires – face-to-face interaction and diplomacy – no online program can help you advance these interpersonal story telling skills.

What about the necessary evil? The Graduate Record Exam (GRE)?

Brace yourself and come to full acceptance mode as quickly as possible. Any graduate school worth its salt (sorry University of Phoenix, that designation does NOT apply to you), particularly a Research One or R1 university, will require the GRE.

Your author took it twice, the second time after a prep course, and lived to talk about it. Take the prep course and do as well as possible on the GRE.

What About Grad School?

“No one does bull shit better than you.” – A compliment from one of my USC fraternity brothers

Trust me, bull shit does not work in Pro Seminar.

The two-night-per week, three-hours per class, was the most intense review of communications philosophy one can imagine (i.e., Kant, Marx, Althusser, Descartes, Hegel, Le Bon …). Don’t even think about going to class without doing the reading; you can’t hide in plain sight for three hours. Don’t even think about B.S.- ing a full professor with a Ph.D in Philosophy from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.

And once you have navigated the benign sounding, but mind-numbing Pro Seminar class with its up-to-five hours per night of reading, you will be ready for … qualitative and quantitative analysis in the next quarter.

Sounds horrible? Right?

In reality, pursuing a graduate degree was an incredible and rewarding challenge. It soon dawned on me that I was only using a mere fraction of my brain. I made some great friends as well.

One of my profs said: “We are working on your intellectual growth.”

Intellectual growth? Me? Really?

Oh, did I mention that my master’s degree was an absolute prerequisite for landing a tenure track professorship in public relations and advertising at Central Washington University? Guess, learning about Immanuel Kant and his categorical imperatives was well worth it.







Even though my Master of Arts diploma has been on my wall for the better part of two months, I took full advantage of the opportunity today to parade around in my gown, hood (not to be confused with “hoodie”), mortar board and tassel. This is my second graduation in 34 years.

This day meant the culmination of another of life’s journeys, but it is not the end, not even close…just another beginning.  In other ways, I have been very fortunate. In many ways, I have been very unfortunate. I will not whine. I will not complain. I will keep plugging on, and on, and on.

Two days ago, I indulged in upscale, sustainable, organic, free trade, shade grown coffee with a colleague of mine. He is 10 years younger and was noting that he is getting old as evidenced by his aches and pains. I didn’t want to hear it.

Am I in denial about age? Some can easily come to that conclusion, but frankly I don’t care.

Instead, I think back to the fall of 2010 taking Pro Seminar at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.  The class was a deep dive into the philosophical writings of Descartes, Foucault, Marx, Locke, Mill, Kant, Hegel, Socrates, Plato and even more dudes who have been pushing up the daisies for many, many moons.


The nightly readings (about 50-100 pages) were dense, turgid, laborious and relentless. Miss one day, even a Saturday or a Sunday, and you were hopelessly behind. I had to learn to keep reading, regardless of whether I understood a paragraph or not. The goal was to be a sponge and absorb, and eventually a little light went on. One was starting to comprehend and understand.

Before taking the plunge into after-50 academia (not exactly the traditional response to a “mid-life crisis”), one of my best friends said I would do well because I am, “So good at bulls…” Alas, this particular “talent” doesn’t work in Pro Seminar: Either you know the readings or you don’t. BS is not an option as it will be exposed after the second sentence has left your mouth.

About mid-way through the 10-week quarter, our professor with an über-Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Illinois said that he was concentrating on each student’s “intellectual growth.”

“Intellectual growth?”


As I dived deeper into Pro Seminar I was coming to the realization that in my days as an agency PR team supervisor and as a corporate public relations director, I was only using a fraction of my brain. In carrying out my responsibilities, I was running so fast in delivering deliverables to clients there was absolutely no time to reflect, no time to contemplate and no time to smell the flowers.

Academia was demanding that I slow down, even though there were still deadlines for papers, abstracts and presentations. There had to be wood behind the proverbial arrow in the form of thought, application of theory and references for all cited work. Post-graduate work naturally teaches you how to write an academic paper as opposed to a business memo. There is a world of difference. The first is inflexible with rigidly prescribed rules. The second actually affords more flexibility as long as return on investment (ROI) is observed.

Another facet of academic work is the need for humility and to check one’s ego at the door. My master’s project, creating an upper division course, Strategic Business/Financial Communication, required about 12 iterations for a 61-page paper with about 140 citations and more than 15,000 words. At one point, my academic advisor cut-up my paper and taped it back together again to help me with my organization.


Today, it all became worth it as that very same academic advisor placed my master’s hood over my mortar board in front of 450 other students and all their parents, friends and significant others.

What made it the most rewarding is when one of my students and her parents came up to me after the ceremony. Her parents told me that I was her daughter’s favorite teacher, and they even invited me to dinner. My mumsy, sis and daughter were there to hear the accolade.  Have to report: I was beaming from ear-to-ear.

Guess that makes all the nights reading about Hegelian dielectrics worth the effort.

“I believe some Americans are simply saying, we don’t want to pay the price. We would rather spend our time on the net, texting, tweeting, gaming, creating our own little worlds. We are not willing to study hard. We don’t want to learn a trade. We don’t want to go to a demanding college. No. It’s far easier to devote our time to leisurely pursuits and let the government take care of us.” – Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly, February 14, 2012.

For just one mere nanosecond, please resist the temptation to shoot the messenger and concentrate on the message. There is an uncomfortable truth in these words, yes even words from Bill O’Reilly.


The world is changing. It is moving from analog to digital. It is shifting from the old to the new. Are we wasting precious time or making the best of our limited tenure on earth? Will we take control of our lives or will we ask someone else to take care of us?

When it comes to sinking or swimming, I have made my decision. The real question is: Will I ultimately succeed? Nothing is certain.

After a long kick-in-the pants career including leadership stints in the California governor’s office, a publicly traded custom semiconductor innovator and an international public relations firm, my prospects came to a crashing halt three years ago.

When I would compete for a job, I would receive “optional” demographic forms asking me whether I was male of female? Male, strike one; Caucasian of anything else? Caucasian, strike two; Veteran and/or handicapped? Neither, strike three. None of these factors has changed or for that matter will ever change, but I do know that more of these optional demographic forms are in my near future.

What I can do and some of my fellow, mature, white, Anglo males are doing (none of these characteristics are an advantage) revolves around preparing to personally compete again in this high-tech world requiring as Mr. O’Reilly stated, skills, education and disciplined thinking.

If all goes well I will finish next month my master’s degree in “Communication and Society” from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. I am actually looking forward to sporting the long robes, the mortar board and tassel. This degree was hard-earned, much more difficult than I ever imagined. I sweated out this degree. Would I do it again? That’s not an easy one to answer.


As a Baby Boomer reentering the college ranks at 54-years young in order to reinvent myself yet again, I had several concerns:

1.)  Would I be accepted by my fellow classmates or would I be an amusing curiosity? There was no denying that I was almost 2x the age of the average graduate student. Refreshingly that turned out to not be a problem. For the most part, my colleagues have treated me well and with respect, and made sure that I was always invited to their bull sessions over adult beverages.

2.)  Would my annoying political philosophy be resented by my “progressive” colleagues? I adopted a policy that listening was cheap, and it doesn’t hurt to hear what people have to say. If my social justice classmates believe that Internet access is an entitlement and a basic human right…well then, intellectual property be damned.

3.)  Mac vs. PC. This was actually the biggest hurdle to clear. After two decades of jobs with IBM Think Pads loaded with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel and powered with Intel processors, virtually every machine at the UO School of Journalism is a Mac. It is akin to driving a stick for the first time, if you are used to an automatic.

Reflecting on O’Reilly’s words, I have to say that not all of us are willing to study hard and for good reason. I still have the scars from taking both Qualitative and Quantitative Analysis in the same quarter, and earning the Zertifikät Deutsch from the Goethe Institut. The 50-100 pages of laborious communications-related philosophy each night for the relentless Pro Seminar class was absolutely brutal. I made it.

O’Reilly opined that some of us don’t want to go to demanding colleges. This remark reminded me of the Stanford student holding up the sign (after Oregon spanked the Cardinal last fall) stating that Oregon was his “safety” school. If all else failed, he could go to Oregon.

Guess I must not be at the same academic level as the geniuses on the Farm. His opinion of my “safety” school is not going to make me any less proud. If a Baby Boomer asked me about going back to college my reply would be: “If not now, when?”

And finally, if I had a dollar for every time someone suggested that I was going back to college to chase coeds, I would be a very wealthy hombre. I am old enough in most cases to be a coed’s father…but that doesn’t mean that I am not interested in her mother.

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