Endings and beginnings

The gathering of students, faculty and alumni who came together for my last Residency Gala Dinner as MCM Director, at Trius Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. A lovely night. I was very grateful.

Sometimes we immerse ourselves so completely in something, that we don’t see the years roll by, focused as we are on the exciting task at hand.

That has been my experience of the last eight years, during which I was director of the Master of Communications Management program, offered by McMaster University in partnership with the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

I am very proud of the great work our MCM team has done during my directorship. I took over from the MCM’s founder, Dr. Terry Flynn, who was academic director until 2011. When I became director, the program was in its fifth year of existence. we had 9 alumni and 17 students enrolled. The program was young and had a great foundation, laid by Terry and the first pathfinding cohorts of students. It was a success story waiting to be built.

While director, I was happy and proud to work with Terry, my friend and research collaborator Dr. Philip Savage (who served as Acting Director whilst I was on research leave after my first term in 2015-16), my friend and right-hand person Janice Peltier (MCM Program Administrator) and the rest of the MCM team to build it during my mandate.

Now, in 2019, as I leave the directorship, we have reached a consistent steady state of 40-45 students enrolled, and recently achieved the milestone of graduating our 100th alum (we are now up to 115!) — none other than Martin Waxman, whose brilliant capstone project on “Putting the AI in PR” I supervised. The MCM was recently ranked as the 13th best corporate communications graduate program in North America, against some heavy competition. Not bad for an upstart!

Above all, I am proud of the professional community of friends and mutual supporters we have built. As director, I really felt like a facilitator, uniting the forces of our students, faculty, staff and growing alumni community to achieve our common goals. It is beautiful to see how everyone worked together to build MCM into Canada’s leading graduate degree and professional learning community in the communications and related fields.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my amazing partner in managing the MCM, our program administrator, Janice Peltier. She was my right hand throuhgout the eight years – a sage advisor, friend and tireless advocate for the program. I will truly miss working with her in the day-to-day. Janice is a gem.

I would also like the acknowledge the wonderful marketing communications specialists with whom I have had the pleasure of working: Sarah Parent, Melonie Fullick, Dusting Manley, APR, and, very briefly, Morgan Myles. Each of them made a significant contribution to building the MCM brand and community. I am grateful to each of them.

I got to work with some amazing faculty during my time as director: Ira Basen, Michael Meath, Dr. Paul Bates, Aislinn Mosher, MCM, Jacquie Hoornweg, MCM, Heather Pullen, MCM, Cynthia Breen, MCM, Martin Waxman, MCM, Dr. Haniyeh Yousofpourfard, Dave Scholz, Mark John Stewart, Adam Prokop, Peter Vilks, Adine Carter, MCM, and Don Smith, MCM. I feel like these great people have become my friends and family. I look forward to many future professional and personal contacts with them!

One of the innovations I introduced as director was tutorial assistants for each class. This became a wonderful way for MCM alumni to continue to participate in the program. All of our TAs are MCM alumni now! This amazing group of people has also become a community of friends for me: Josie Cassano-Rizzuti, MCM, Paola Morrone, MCM, Rita Chen, MCM, Rebecca Edgar, MCM, Peter Bailey, MCM, Gerald Mak, MCM, Victor Vrsnik, MCM. Some of the faculty in the previous paragraph started out as MCM TAs!

I was also happy to formalize two traditions during my mandate as director: the Saturday Night Residency Gala Dinner and the Wednesday MCM-CPRS Hamilton Master Class. Both of these have become a tradition that students look forward to, and a great way of honouring the many industry masters in the public relations, journalism, advertising, marketing and data science/market research fields. The two speaker series have attracted a who’s who of Canadian professionals and entrepreneurs. Just to name a few: Linda Kuhn, Linda Andross, Tina McCorkindale, Terry O’Reilly, John Clinton, John Delacourt, Andrew Laing, Neil Parmenter, Jonathon Harris, Nik Nanos, Terry Fallis, Elaine Kunda, Christine Szustaczek, MCM, Frank Vassallo, MCM, Tanya Seajay, MCM, and many others!

It has been an honour and a privilege to build and serve the MCM community as director. Now I will be happy to continue to work in the program (and in our undergraduate communication studies program) as a researcher and professor.

If you are interested in joining the MCM, Canada’s leading community of professional communicators, you should contact Terry to see if it is for you!

A New Adventure: MCM Labs

I am on research leave from McMaster University for six months from today, July 1, 2019 until January 1, 2020. During my leave, I will focus on research and writing — I have two co-authored book projects that I really want to complete!

As well, I have teamed up with my good friend and colleague Dr. Philip Savage to reboot our old Communication Metrics Lab, under a new identity: MCM Labs (McMaster Communications Management Labs). It will be a place where we store and analyze quantitative and qualitative data for the purposes of academic and professional research as well as for teaching applied research methods in a hands-on fashion.

MCM Labs will also be a place where our alumni are welcome to participate in research to continue their MCM experience as scholar-practitioners. They will be able to do research in partnership with McMaster University faculty and with our industry partners.

The lab will work with industry partners to store and analyse datasets and produce research articles published in peer-reviewed journals, as well as reports and practical guides useful to the practice.

Dr. Savage and I also hope that MCM Labs will attract other researchers interested in communications management from across McMaster, Canada and internationally.

A final word

Life is sequence of endings and beginnings. I was very happy to serve as MCM director for eight years and to help build the program during that time. I gained many insights about the practice that I now want to dig into and publish. I really feel a need to add some bricks to the wall of scholarship and theory in communications management and public relations. I look forward to a little more work-life balance, with time to read and think quietly and peacefully. I also look forward to taking care of myself a little, getting fit again and finding my center.

Above all, I look forward to writing. How I have missed it!

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