I was shoveling snow from the driveway this morning when I realized that yesterday marked the 18th anniversary of my adventure in higher education. Which means I’m now in my 19th year plying my craft, which has changed immensely over the years.
I came into this field of higher ed marketing — or communications, or marketing communications, or whatever it is we’re doing nowadays — with limited experience in what was then known as true marketing. I had a degree in journalism, had worked for a small daily newspaper, had worked as a “communications and marketing coordinator” for a small non-profit, had written scores of short stories, had published a couple (one for pay), and had started writing four or five novels. On Jan. 27, 1991, I stared working for the news services office of this very university, which has since changed its name.
In 1991, my job was to write news releases about research, events and student activities using a nifty software program called DisplayWrite 3 on an old IBM machine. I used two floppy disks — one that held the DW3 program and the other on which I saved the news releases. Once a news release was edited and approved, I made the corrections, then handed the floppy to a secretary who would log and number it, print it out, and hand it off to a student to make copies for mailing and filing. The student then ran the copies through a folding machine, stuffed the folded copies into labeled envelopes, and took them to the mail room downstairs.
I can’t remember the last time we sent out a news release via U.S. Postal Service.
So much has changed in 18 years.
But some things, while not constant, are cyclical. For instance, scarcely a month after I was hired, the president of the four-campus university system announced a hiring and salary/wage freeze due to budget shortfalls. (Smart career move, Andy.)
Today, we’re in the third month of a hiring freeze, and dealing with all sorts of other belt-tightening measures — travel restrictions, cost reductions for non-essentials, etc. Our university weathered the budget storm of 1991, and we’re as solid now as we were then, if not more so.
This economic downturn looks to be more severe, but with the right leadership, a focused mission, a solid, realistic business plan, and talented, dedicated faculty and staff who are committed to the mission, an organization can survive the tumult and come out stronger on the other side.
Today, the challenges ahead are so much more exciting than they were in 1991. I made the career move into higher ed because I love learning, I love writing and I love to do work that is meaningful and fun. I can’t imagine being in any other field.