Career Talk: Marc Posner, director of Campus Communications at Cypress College
Marc Posner had a more than 20 year gap between starting college and earning his degree at Brandman University last spring. Although he didn’t need a bachelor’s degree when he started as a journalist — he worked at the Anaheim Bulletin, the Daily Pilot and the Los Angeles Times community editions before switching to public relations — he knows that anyone seeking those jobs now would need one. With the help of his academic advisor, Rebecca Warner, and supportive faculty members, he completed his degree in 18 months. In this second Brandman Speaks: Career Talk podcast, Posner talks about why he went back to college, what he had to overcome, how it has helped shape his current role at Cypress College and his plans for the future.
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Cindy O’Dell: Welcome to Brandman Speaks: Career Talk. I’m Cindy O’Dell, communications manager at Brandman University. In this episode of our series focusing on the career choices of Brandman graduates, we’ll hear from Marc Posner who completed his bachelor’s degree a year ago. Marc is the director of campus communications for Cypress College, a community college in North West Orange County, California. Like many Brandman students, Marc had a big gap between when he started college and when he finished. But first we wanted to know how did his current career match his earliest career goals.
Marc Posner: When I was younger, I really wanted to be a photographer. And you know I always had this sense of chasing after fire trucks, chasing after police cars, so I think I knew real early on that there was a journalist hidden in me. I just didn’t quite grasp the writing part of it at the beginning. I had a neighbor who was a professional photographer for Rockwell, and he kind of talked me out of that path. And then when I took journalism classes when I got to high school, I was told you have to take journalism classes to be on the newspaper. I tried explaining I wanted to be a photographer and they said, yes and you still have to understand the fundamentals of news. And I really fell in love with writing, early in high school, probably my freshman year.
O’Dell: Marc says he was lucky to get his first job in journalism, but like so many first jobs, it grew out of a personal connection.
Posner: I attended classes at Fullerton College, enough classes I probably could have earned a bachelor’s degree there if they had offered them. But I had amazing faculty. Julie Davy was my primary journalism instructor there, and I had a friend who was at the Anaheim Bulletin at the time and they were looking for a production editor so I stepped out of classes kind of directly into an editor’s role and bypassed what a real traditional path starting with the journalist aspect of it. That paper ended up going from a daily to a weekly, and I ended up moving into a reporter role so that was a little bit more traditional from there. And then I had covered Golden West college as one of my stops in journalism and I heard their public information officer was leaving for another job and I called to wish her well and by the end of the conversation she had convinced me to apply for her job. So I made the transition from journalism to public relations in 1996, which is way early for that trend to occurred, and I’m extremely fortunate to have done it with you know essentially no college degree at that point.
That really wouldn’t happen today.
O’Dell: Making the decision to finally complete a degree didn’t come easily.
Posner: Well it was really hard for me to go back. I had probably 18 years in higher ed at the point I decided to go back and complete my bachelor’s degree and I had completed my associates along the way. I had a college president here at Cypress who had talked to me about completing my degree probably on a monthly basis for the entire time we worked together. When he retired, his last stop, he walked in my office, set his boxes on my desk, and he said, “You know what I’m going to say so I don’t even need to say it. Just take care of business.” Oh, that was really a wake up call.
O’Dell: Once Marc made the decision there were other hurdles to overcome.
Posner: I can recall driving up and parking at the campus in Irvine and thinking, I don’t know if I can walk in there. That level of trepidation … I realize a great number of our students feel that. I didn’t expect that. I had been in higher ed for a 18 years. I should feel comfortable in that environment. And so I, you know, I guess my take away from that is that we all carry these kinds of insecurities in, these doubts about whether or not we can do it. Fifty feet from here a colleague of mine and I were having a conversation he said, just take the one class if you can’t do it you can drop in. No one knows any differently. The starting was certainly harder than the doing. Don’t get me wrong. The doing takes effort and the classes are challenging and rigorous but they’re not impossible. Getting over that mental hurdle to actually sit down with a counselor to fill in the application the admissions application that was the hard part.
O’Dell: Marc says he could have done that without the guidance of his academic advisor Rebecca Warner who customized his degree and kept him motivated to finish his degree in 18 months. He continues to value what he learned at Brandman and the faculty members who challenged and inspired him.
Posner: My major was applied studies so I sometimes joke and say it’s the Jerry Seinfeld degree. It’s the kind of, you know, well what’s that degree about? Well, it’s about really piecing together everything you’ve done in your career to that point, in piecing together your previous coursework but it is not, you know, tightly identifiable as saying, “Oh well I have a bachelor’s in fine arts.”
But it did allow me to have exposure to a lot of areas I didn’t previously have exposure to, so I kind of look at my coursework at Brandman as two different tracks. The one that was really defined had coursework related to communication. Jeff Compangano was one of my first instructors and really, really strong content, especially non-verbal communication stuff that maybe I knew intuitively but I didn’t quite understand. And so that was a fabulous class. And then Dr. Michael Moodian, who, I mean I don’t think anyone should attend Brandman without taking his course. Just an absolutely fabulous course in cultural communication, again things that I kind of knew it and kind of understood but I didn’t appreciate the concepts behind it. So the communication track was really practical stuff that I was applying day in and day out. And then the other track I had a lot of coursework in was organizational leadership and I think maybe I had some trepidation about that to begin with. I didn’t even necessarily understand what the concept was of it. But then there were things that were happening here at work that I could take that course work and these were all new concepts to me and they really helped me understand that. We went through a bond campaign, in fact it’s the second largest bond in Orange County history to pass. And what I was learning in the courses helped me be part of the leadership of that group, so I was daily walking in the in the door with ideas, “Hey we could do, this we could do that.”
Laura Galloway was absolutely an amazing professor there. I still have. I’ve had the occasion to teach subsequent to completing my degree. And I use some of her teaching technique because her command of a classroom is incredible. But what that did was allow us to engage in the subject matter, and she is absolutely an expert in that discipline, And so, the concept from that class I can recall is the DiSC assessment and understanding the different traits that we carry in the jobs and then to see those in others around me and to better understand who I was working with and how I could better communicate and say things that would resonate with them. It has really transformed, I think, my leadership style here and I’ve heard it from colleagues. “You’re different.” I didn’t really expect that when I went back for my bachelor’s degree. It had been so long. I really kind of thought I was working on a piece of paper. And you know what. it turns out is that I completed that process a different person, far more confident but far better versed in leadership principles and organizational principles.
O’Dell: And then there was that class he had been avoiding.
Posner: I had that one last math class that I had to take and I knew way back when at Fullerton that I was taking a math class that applied for my associate degree but did not apply for transfer. So I knew the day was looming out there and I ended up, because of circumstances, having to take that my last semester, So here’s a class that’s a true barrier between me and commencement.
And Dr. Winston taught that class. You know math if you come from a writer perspective, it’s not something you get excited about. Had always felt like it was this gotcha kind of discipline for me. Right. Oh you made one little mistake here, wrong. You lose all your points. If you miscalculated here, wrong. You forgot this formula, wrong. And so I, you know, I was nervous going into that class. But in the way it’s structured and what the online course content in Dr. Winston’s philosophy. “OK, do it again. Try it again.” And she did a fabulous job of applying different real world concepts as the course content. And so I can recall applying math to photography. I can recall applying it to cryptography. We had a lesson in concepts that I’ve ended up using here because, you know, we use outside vendors. So you want to send them data that they can’t identify the student you’re talking about but you have a way of resolving it back. So again, you know, this course that I really did not want to take in and I have concepts from her that I carry into my work every day.
O’Dell: We want to know if he had advice for students wanting careers in communications.
Posner: Well, I think the first thing to pay attention to is the deadlines, in the detail. As a writer, I think sometimes those things escape us and so the things that come naturally, you kind of are naturally good at it. But those gaps that need to be filled, really need to work on filling those things in so even something as simple as really looking at the syllabus ahead, knowing what’s coming up, looking at the Blackboard core site and knowing about assignments and when they’re coming due. I think this in this field, in terms of communication, is a fascinating field to be in and you have to have a ton of skill sets now to work in that.
Fifteen years ago when I started this we weren’t carrying around an audio recorder, video recorder or internet communication devices in our pocket and so we had to know how to write and that was that if you know maybe use a keyboard and type.
But I would say it’s still storytelling at its heart. We’re still telling stories and so the fact that we have these other devices with us all the time maybe changes the expectation about the medium that we have to use or the multiple mediums that we use in putting stories together, but it’s still storytelling. And so I would say be inquisitive. Ask, ask questions. You know, if it’s the writing that needs to be improved, there’s a great writing center at Brandman and then the libraries. You learn to use the libraries and find credible information. You know it’s easy to come up with information, but it really undercuts what you’re saying when people fact check you and say, well it’s not quite right. Talk to people who are doing this job. I think in the communication field, it’s ripe for doing internships or sitting along with someone for a day and observing what they do. There’s an opportunity for freelance work so that’s a nice way into the business. There’s often, you know, always a lot of overflow work that can be shared with someone who has the skills. So I think there’s a great opportunity for kind of finding your way in through networking and you have to be willing to talk to people, which was not in one of my strong suits. I tell people I’m really an introvert and most people around me don’t get that, “I don’t understand you were a reporter for years you talk to people all the time for your job.” And yes, it takes a lot of work to get my energy psyched out to do that. We work our way past it and those of us who really find the skills and the techniques to do it, I think are able to expand our roles.
O’Dell: Marc’s enthusiasm for communications as a career hasn’t wavered but he discovered there was another benefit to completing his bachelor’s degree that he wasn’t expecting.
Posner: When I enrolled at Brandman, I didn’t really have anything specific in mind for my degree. I was really doing something that I should have done years ago. It wasn’t a requirement of my job when I applied and was hired. But it now is a requirement of my job so I really feel like doing the bachelor’s degree just to get up to par and to be recession proof. We went through a pretty deep recession and if I had lost this job I don’t know where I would be working. I really don’t.
So I finished at the end of Spring I a year ago. About two weeks later, we had a faculty member in journalism who was out ill, and they needed someone to sub in for his class. That particular class only required a bachelor’s degree to teach so I was able to fill in for him so immediately after completing my degree, it was posted to the transcript. And you know a week or two weeks later I was already using it in a way I had never imagined. You know I hope down the road, and I’m currently working on a master’s, so I hope down the road that maybe I’ll be able to teach a little bit more. I think it allows an opportunity to have a different kind of transition into retirement than I ever imagined before. I’d like to have a little bit more control and be more recession-proof. So that’s in the back of my mind.
O’Dell: That opportunity has inspired him to begin working toward a master’s degree in communications at USC and thinking about the possibility of an eventual doctorate in education from Brandman. Marc also has this advice for those still wavering about returning to college.
Posner: When this podcast concludes you can click on a link and you can complete the admissions application. And it’s a step that you can take right now to change your situation and take control of your future. And it’s easy to think, “Well gosh, that’s going to take me two years, it’s going to take me four years.” But having been through it now, I’ve been done for a year, the year that I’ve been done feels longer than the 18 months it took me to complete the degree. So when you’re in that moment you find ways to get the course work done. You find that reserve of energy. And the eight week classes, I loved the pace. They are just go-go-go-go and you’re done and then you’re checking off classes and in you’re seeing them pop up in your academic plan as being done and you see the progress bar about how close you are. But it starts with completing that application. You have to take the first step.
O’Dell: At Brandman, we know how important it is to connect to people in similar careers or with similar career goals. Students and alumni are encouraged to connect with Career Services to seek advice and to be available to others as mentors. Information for students, alumni and potential employers can be found at www.brandman.edu/about/career-services. Brandman Speaks: Career Talk is a production of the Communications team at Brandman University in conjunction with Career Services.
To learn more about the university go to www.brandman.edu. To hear more podcasts or to read more about the students, faculty and staff of the university go to nimbler.brandmannews.sachiel.xyz.
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