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Monday, September 22, 2008
Monday Mug Shot
Siena Heights, my alma mater! It was Siena Heights College when I was there, becoming a University just as I was finishing my degree. We have fun here with the differences in our schools. David went to one of those Ivy League schools back East. The difference between an Ivy League school and a private Catholic College? We have crystal stemware with the Cornell crest on it. For Siena Heights, we have a coffee mug!
So, I started and finished school in a private Catholic Institution. I went to St. Pius Catholic school in Southgate, Michigan for first though fourth grades. Then public schools for the rest of grade school, community college and trade school for the first two years of college.
I decided I would give it a go with the trade school certificate and my equivalent 2 years of college and not worry about the bachelor’s degree. The truth is, the money just wasn’t there for any more school. I had to go make some money before I could get more education anyway! And I was doing VERY well moving through internships, part time gigs, contract work as a camera operator for town meetings, then the job at Omnicom!
I loved the job at Omnicom! I was the Public Access Producer and Local Sports Director. I coordinated, wrote class materials and taught public access classes and I produced high school and community sports programming. I worked and average of 55-60 hours a week on salary and I LOVED my job! That salary had progressively gone up every year. In fact, my raise was above company average after my second year. That was merit. I’d turned around the image of the local sports programming, offering a balance of men's and ladies’ coverage and boldly covering sports that hadn’t been televised in Southeast Michigan before. I also worked with a great group of young professionals, many of whom are still good friends today.
But in 1995, Omnicom was bought out by a larger company. The first thing the new company did was review records and give everyone raises in compensation to “industry standard.” It was a sizable raise and I wasn’t unhappy about that! But then, the other shoe fell...hard. In the new world order, my job wouldn’t be Public Access and Local Sports. Those were very separate parts of local programming in the new company. I was not going to be the Public Access Coordinator anymore. I was also NOT going to be the Sports Director. I was going to be one of the producers in the local origination pool. That’s like being the office manager and being given a raise before they put you into the secretarial pool!
I’d turned the image of the sports department around in the eyes of the high school sports directors. I’d increased the number of people who attended public access classes and that increased the number of community produced shows. I’d won a statewide award for my editing work and was on a first name basis with the elected officials in the five municipalities we served. Why was I being demoted? When I asked, I was told that they wouldn’t even consider interviewing me for the job I’d had for over four years because I didn’t have a degree. I was only still there because I was grandfathered in.
To say I was upset was an understatement. If wasn’t a devoutly nonviolent person, I could have gone postal before going postal was cool! But, I also realized that if I wanted to go anywhere in my chosen profession, or any profession, I needed the degree!
Siena Heights is in Adrian, Michigan, but was just starting a program for degree completion with satellite campuses scattered around Southeastern Michigan. When I sat down with the admissions counselor, he went through my transcripts. I had my 2 years from community college and credit for trade school. I would also get credit for all of my internships and many of my classes for my major with a letter of recommendation and verification form my program director. If I passed the testing to get into the program for the accelerated classes, and didn’t take summers off, with a full class load, I could be finished in a year and a half.
I took the necessary tests, got the letter from my PD and started in the accelerated program at the Southfield campus. It was a grueling year and a half! I left the old job and coordinated three part time jobs with school to maximize the class schedules available to me. This slow reader was reading 10-15 chapters a week, writing papers, preparing for tests and driving between all my jobs. My daytimer and my coffee cup we my best friends!
I’m proud to say that I made it trough that time! In June of 1997, I took my last exam and in August, was awarded my degree in Broadcast Communications with a 3.8 GPA. I was 31 years old. Times may be tough right now. They’re tough everywhere. But, I do know that when things get better, I have that piece of paper that will make a difference again some day. And I also stand as shining example. I am both proof that you’re never too old to get that degree, but the tiring way I finished it stands as a testament to the preferred way to do it, right after high school!
If your are over thirty and without a degree, know that you too can have a mug like this and earn the right to say “my alma mater.” But if you are reading this and you’re still in high school, YOU still have a chance to earn the stemware!