About the Author · Learning 101 · Op-Ed · What's Going On

Op-Ed: Oh legitimate news stories – where are you?

Lately I’ve been hearing the under-the-breath grumblings from Americans who are curious to know where they can read legitimate news stories.  Oh what, your Facebook news feed isn’t cutting it anymore?  Seriously, according to my students this quarter social media is where they get most of their daily news.   Apparently it’s true for most Americans.  During the 2016 presidential election many voters chose their candidate based on what they read on Facebook. In a September 2016 article from The Washington Post, How Facebook could swing the election – and who will benefit “Facebook can influence millions of votes by the literal press of a button,” said Michael Brand, a professor of data science at Monash University in Australia.

What is really interesting to me about this topic now in 2017 is that if everyone actually cared about the news they were reading 6-12 months ago, we wouldn’t be having this uneasy feeling to start fact checking everything we read now, including from our most reliable news sources.  I know I don’t like walking around not knowing what just happened in Washington D.C. to the country I love and not knowing what’s the next big news story just around the corner.

In an effort to educate myself and our household, my husband and I agreed we needed to invest in more trustworthy news sources to help educate ourselves with factual news.  We agreed that The Washington Post and The New York Times seem to have the most credible stories with multiple sources being cited in their stories on a regular basis.  I did some research and found that I was able to get a FREE subscription to The Washington Post and a discount subscription to The New York Times because I am an educator.  I applaud these news sources for allowing educators and others to obtain their news with such access.

I feel our current President has put us on a news roller coaster since his inauguration, which is extremely exhausting to follow at times.  While I may not agree with the policies the President has put into place, I feel it is my duty as a tax paying, voting American citizen to educate myself on what is happening to MY country.  I vowed a long time ago to take social responsibility online and to not share any news stories on social media that are nonfactual and not vetted by a credible news source.  I would like to challenge all social media moguls (i.e. Mark Zuckerberg) to make it part of your user online rights and responsibilities to have all your users check off on a “online social responsibility policy”.  There are policies in place that you cannot use online images without the permission of the creator of the image, (and yes thank you to everyone who keeps cutting and pasting the same “rumor” FB policy from 2009), I believe that everyone who wants to help make a more educated and informed society to take the same online social responsibility pledge with me.  I ask everyone to have more accountability online when posting new stories and to not repost anything from a non-credible source.

But realistically money drives our world.  What amount of advertising dollars would Facebook and other social media sites loose if their fake news sources couldn’t post on their website anymore?  What would society be if online trolls who like to stir the pot with fearful posts about what is not actually happening in our country or worldwide do with all their free time?  Wasn’t the internet created for us to share more information at our fingertips and to keep people in touch, but has since torn friendships and families apart?  Take responsibility for your posts, delete them if you think they are untrue, follow up with educated responses when you find someone who is not like-minded as you, and learn to listen more than you speak (or post).

About the Author · Op-Ed · What's Going On

Op-Ed: What the National Women’s March and Movement Means to Me 

I tend not to share on social media my personal politic views, as I don’t want to start an argumentative conversation behind a keyboard.  But while posting a video of today’s live feed from CNN showing how many people showed up in Chicago for today’s rally and march, I had a FB friend who seemed to think that today’s march was a bunch of “cry babies” and that today’s will “accomplish nothing” and to “get over it”.  Being an educator by nature I feel like I need to explain what today’s movement really means to thousands of Americans.  Hence why I am hitting the keyboard (extremely aggressively) to have my voice be heard.  Note this is NOT to open the door to an argumentative conversation but an op-ed piece to share my point of view.


First of all, I want to thank all the #nastywomen and #WomensMarch brigade who hit the pavement this weekend.  I loved your signs, your pictures and videos you shared online.  Thousands of men, women, children, marched to show the solidarity of one thing – THEY WANT TO BE HEARD.  Similar to how many of American had Exercised their first amendment right to assemble for years, so have they.

Right To Assemble

The right to assemble is intricately related to the formation and growth of the philanthropic sector because it answers the need to come together, share common beliefs, and act upon those beliefs (concepts that have been so essential to this sector’s creation). Groups form for many purposes, from reform movements (the Civil War, women’s suffrage, the struggle for civil rights) to charitable organizations that meet specific needs (e.g., the American Red Cross) to churches, mosques and synagogues

What is bothering me today is the lack of education and pure ignorance on the part of many American who don’t quite understand what The National Women’s March is and what it stands for.  So let me share my perspective on what today’s movement means to me.

I am writing to frame today’s march as a movement.  I would hate to see the days spent by thousands across the country in preparation for today is only seen as a march.  I view today’s movement as an awaking to an ideology of a paradigm shift towards understanding the concerns of all Americans, especially the concerns facing all women living in this country.  I am a daughter, wife, mother, aunt, educator, and friend who I would like to do my part in helping create a momentum in sharing this movement beyond this weekend.

20 years ago when I graduated high school I viewed the world very differently.  My goal in life at 18 was to go to college, get a degree, getting married and have kids.  Through expanding my horizons in college and the years beyond, I was given the ability to see the world through a different lens.  Through the past 20 years, I have faced injustices in the workplace, unfair pay because of my gender, reproductive challenges, observed friends who have been denied access to affordable health care due to a predetermined medical condition, and the list goes on and on. While everyone faces different adversities in their lifetime, being ignorant to the challenges of those around you is unacceptable, especially if you have been awarded the presidency of the United State and you represent a country which s made up of people who are facing such adversities.

As I sit here my kitchen of my home, a well-educated mother of two healthy boys, while my loving and supportive husband is at the grocery store it occurs to me there are no traditional gender roles in our home.  Daily we share the duties on who cooks the meals for the day, who takes care of the kids, does the laundry and grocery shopping.  We are a united team in our household and I wish this model could be shared across the country in every home and workplace.

So what can you do to make your mark on the movement?  Volunteer in your community.  Share your talents with the less fortunate not just your opinions.  Make known your voice not just in words but in actions too.  Get informed on local and national politics through credible news sources and practice social responsibility in person and on social media.  For more ideas and information on this movement, please visit their website at https://www.womensmarch.com/.


Education · Op-Ed · Technology

An Op-Ed: Has technology killed the conversationalist?

*Note: This post was written May 18, 2016. 

As I sit here at the airport waiting on my second of three flights this month for work, I’m reminded of how dependent (or reliant) society is on technology. There are charging stations at every corner of the airport for travelers to stay fully charged while away from home, and there is Wi-Fi available to everyone throughout the airport as well as on most flights (when the Wi-Fi is working). Many passengers don’t even print out their boarding passes before their flights anymore, but instead rely on their smartphones for scan-able boarding passes. While waiting just over an hour and a half through the security checkpoint at O’Hare this morning, I was actually questioning the validity of those non-printed boarding passes. How do the TSA personnel physically write on those passes to make sure that person has been cleared through security?

Technology is also playing a key part outside the terminal. For example, while sitting here at my gate I noticed outside the window that a suitcase, which was supposed to be stowed away on a flight going to Charleston, SC, fell off the cargo truck and was laying on the tarmac under the walkway to the plane. It was over 20 minutes before someone came back to retrieve the suitcase. I would like to think that some technology notified the luggage handler of the missing suitcase, but then again wouldn’t we have NO missing bags if that were the case?

While waiting for the boarding call to begin, I noticed that many passengers – including myself – are on their personal technology devices. Laptops, smartphones, iPads and e-readers are in full usage all around the terminal. While video may have killed the radio star, has technology killed the conversationalist? What happened to participating in pleasant small talk with other passengers while waiting for a flight? I noticed a middle-aged man who had arrived at the gate very early waiting to board the plane. When another couple about his age sat down near him, he tried to strike up a conversation about how he is a widower traveling to Boston this weekend to see his daughter graduate from college with dual degrees. He was beaming, but they just looked at him and said some comment in a dismissive tone along the lines of, “Boy, that’s great. Congratulations.” Then they proceeded to have their own conversation. Now the widower is just sitting there looking out the window and at the passengers going by in the terminal. It was quite sad to witness the death of this conversation right before my own eyes. Even now, I know I rely heavily on my own technology to keep me connected to my family while I’m traveling, but I recognize that I need to spend more time talking to family and friends via phone or face-to-face to keep those lines of communication open.

As a professor of communication studies, I’m quite aware that the best form of communication, to make sure that both nonverbal and verbal communications are being accurately transmitted, is face-to-face communication. Electronic communication is, in my opinion, the least effective form of communication because it’s missing both non-verbal cues associated with body language as well as verbal cues like tone and inflection, as depicted in this illustration by Bill Warters of Creative Commons .

CommunicationModelDiagramWithout the appropriate channel of communication, how can you be sure your message is being transferred effectively? Can you recall a time when your lack of choosing the proper medium led you down a path of total miscommunication? While this is a lecture that I share with my students during the first week of my class, the lessons learned from this lecture carry well beyond the classroom.

Technology challenge: Today I challenge all my readers to take one moment out of the next week to try to strike up a conversation with someone outside your comfort zone. I’m not asking you to be “that guy” who starts talking to everyone at the grocery store, but maybe you’re on the train riding in to work and you realize that, instead of texting a family member, you actually pick up the phone to talk to them just to say hi.

While we know that technology has killed the art of correspondence, let’s not let it kill the art of being a conversationalist. Verbal, face-to-face communication is essential to the development of all mankind and is slowly becoming extinct. Do you think we can avoid adding the conversationalist to the endangered species list? Put down your technology and open your mouth – don’t let the art of conversation die.

Education · Higher Education · Op-Ed · Professional Development

Op-Ed: How current events will affect your career

Ever Monday night I teach ORGC 201 Business & Professional Communications at DePaul University.  I have 23 students in my hybrid class this quarter mostly made up of sophomores and juniors in a variety of majors. I’d like to think the students take my course because of the professor’s witty lectures, but the reality is that it’s a required course for most majors.  It’s one of those “life skills” courses combining public speaking with employment interviews that many students wait until their junior year to complete, but wish they had taken sooner. According to the ORGC 201 course description in the DePaul course catalog:

Employers demand strong communication and presentation skills. In order to compete effectively in the job market, students need to acquire and practice the written and oral communication skills needed to interview successfully. Furthermore, as a professional you will not only be expected to be a confident speaker, but also to organize and prepare clear, concise and interesting presentations. You will also need to communicate effectively while working as the member of a team or in other group contexts. In developing the knowledge, competencies and skills needed to communicate effectively in these and other contexts, this course will embrace opportunities for both critical thinking and applied problem solving. (Formerly CMNS 201)

As part of the course, the students can obtain an easy five points of extra credit when they bring in a news article they recently found and present to the class 1) a summary of the news article, and 2) an explanation of how this current event will impact his or her career path.  This is a concept that I introduced to my course when I first started teaching in 2005.  I wanted my students to realize that the current events of today will make an impact on their future career paths.  After taking attendance, I start each class with, “So does anyone have a current event they’d like to talk about?”  This week my students and I discussed a variety of topics from the Iowa Caucasus to the State of Illinois possibly expanding medical marijuana for PTSD patients.

The reason I bring current events into the classroom on a weekly basis is that, while I was a college student, I was greatly impacted by events that happened in 2001 which, in turn, impacted my career path.  In the fall of 2001, I was about to graduate from Eastern Illinois University with a BA in Speech Communication, focusing on broadcast journalism.  With the experience I gained and the amazing resume tape I created at WEIU-TV, I thought I had my job search in the bag.  However, a number of entry-level positions were eliminated from many Chicagoland stations in the post 9/11 broadcast era, including a morning writer position I had my eye on at WGN.

With no job prospects on the horizon, I had to quickly develop a Plan B and found a digital editor position.  I was extremely grateful to a cousin of mine for connecting me with the owner of NuWave Productions in Palos Hills for a non-paid internship opportunity.  My time with NuWave allowed me the opportunity to explore different editing software and even participate in an infomercial.  During my internship I continued to apply for other positions and, eventually, I landed a full-time position as an assistant editor at Daily Planet, a post-production house in Chicago.  I was so excited to commute into the city for a 12 hour work day while making a cool $19,000 a year (ah – young, naive Colleen! She’ll learn).

While my dreams of reporting the daily news were quickly diminishing, I knew another career path would be just around the corner.  Then I was offered the opportunity to help students plan out their own career paths in higher education at Robert Morris University in Chicago, and I had a new calling.  Working and teaching in higher education has been the most rewarding career path that I could have ever imaged!

To remind students that current events are affecting their career planning, I started a scholarship at EIU at few years back which the department still funds.  Per the College of Communication website:

Fashing Speech Scholarship – Established in 2006 by communication studies alumnus Colleen Fashing, this award supports a student who demonstrates strong public speaking skills and an ability to connect current events to a future career. The student receiving the scholarship must complete a manuscript connecting a current event with a future impact on a career and then present a speech to a faculty panel.

With the lack of state funding in Illinois for public colleges, many students are beginning to see the direct impact current events can have on their future career paths and, realistically, their college education, especially students who rely on MAP funding for scholarship dollars.  The students at EIU recently started a social media campaign labeled #FundEIU via Facebook and Twitter hoping to bring a spotlight on the very real impact the state budget is having on their university.

If you’re so inclined to support the students in the College of Communications at EIU through this scholarship opportunity, please feel free to donate to Eastern Illinois University via their annual fund giving page.  Please note that if you are working full time your company may offer a matching gift opportunity for the university.

Take a look back at your own career path to see if you can pinpoint a current event that impacted you.  This might be a topic that you’ve never thought about until now.  Once you can recall this said event that made an impression on you and your career choices, share that experience with a young professional.  Your shared experience will allow the young professional to be aware of current events and how it really can make a different in the career path they choose.

Op-Ed · Professional Development

An Op-Ed: When Company Loyalty isn’t Enough

In the past, part of my career path involved advising on professional development and career planning for college students, community members and adult learners.  Today, I still teach professional development courses and offer advice on career planning when asked.  With 12 years of experience and two major dips in the economy, I have heard and seen many challenges facing job seekers in their quests for better employment opportunities.

One recent frustration I’ve witnessed on now two different occasions is when long-time workers are being “pushed out” of their current positions by their employers.  These hard-working individuals who have been with their employers 15-plus years and who are nearing retirement age are being asked to step aside for a young generation of workers (who have little to no experience).   One example I saw was when a full-time job description was modified to encompass fewer work responsibilities and made a part-time status.  While some people may consider this reduction of work as a blessing, to a hard-working, highly-motivated staff member who is dedicated to his or her profession, these changes may make one feel unappreciated and inadequate while doing a job for a company to which they have been loyal for many years.  Plus, when an employer modifies an employee’s job description from full-time to part-time status to save money on benefits, the employee may be forced to seek alternative employment in order to continue their medical benefits and retirement savings.  I have also seen an educational requirement for a position be upgraded from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree with CPA preferred, all while the job duties and responsibilities remain unchanged. Why would an employer attempt to make these modifications to a job description unless they were looking for new talent to fill a roll that already exist within the company?

While it’s cheaper for employers to hire a fresh college graduate who may accept a position with a reduced salary compared to the current salary being earned by a loyal worker, my question to these employers is, what happened to having loyalty for your employees?  An interesting fact is that the millennial generation (which is replacing the seasoned workforce) is more likely to have a greater number of jobs and career paths in their lifetimes than any other generation.  This now-acceptable bouncing around from career to career is likely due to wanting more challenging opportunities at work, higher salaries, more room for professional advancement, and to fulfill a desire to work for a company with a socially responsible mission statement. So riddle me this: why are employers hiring this generation who are not loyal to their company, but are more loyal to themselves as individuals?

In a recent PRNewswire articleMillennials and their employers: Can this relationship be saved? Businesses at risk of losing top talent, according to Deloitte’s global annual survey, “Two-thirds of Millennials express a desire to leave their organizations by 2020.”  If you’re an employer thinking about replacing a seasoned worker who could be retiring within the next ten years with a millennial who may be leaving your organization within the next 4 years for a new opportunity, you may want to think twice.

To bridge this gap, my suggestion would be for more companies to initiate mentoring programs, partnering seasoned workers with newly hired staff, especially if the new hires are millennials.  One concept human resource offices have been exploring is the notion of “reverse mentoring,” as highlighted here in a 2010 article from the Harvard Business Review.  While I agree that allowing millennials to help mentor the seasoned employee on social media may be beneficial to the organization, I think adding in a subliminal component of allowing the seasoned employee to help train and mold the millennial as a replacement worker for when they retire is the key factor missing from this equation.

While there are many pressures which companies face, especially in today’s economic uncertainty, cutting costs cannot always be the driving force for hiring and staffing decisions.  I encourage all managers to take a good look at their workforce to see where there are gaps, try to implement cross-training opportunities when available and be a kind human with appreciation for your workforce as many of them spend more time with you and on your business than with their own families. The hard working Baby Boomer generation needs to be shown appreciation by their employers over a bottom line.


An Op-Ed: Annoyed With the Media

I shouldn’t have to clarify on my own blog that this is an op-ed piece from the author, but because you never know where this may end up, here is my disclaimer. 

Since journalism was my first career path post-college, I’d like to consider myself an avid supporter of the Chicago media outlets.  Knowing I like to have a well-rounded perspective of the news, I read the newspaper (now online), I listen to talk radio and I watch a few different TV media outlets each day.   Lately I’ve been questioning from where I’m receiving my local news. What I’m starting to get fed up with is the lack of fact-checking and respect for integrity in journalism.  I realize the “old news formats” are competing with the instant gratification outlets of social media like “The Patch.”  There has to be someone accountable for the laziness in today’s reporting!

The current presidential race, which is LOADED with very poorly fact-checked stories and comments, which are then retweeted to encourage the spread of more untruths.  A good example of this was from the day of the Paris ISIS attacks.  A meme started quickly circulating saying that France had closed its boarders, therefore Donald Trump’s isolationist stance on refugees and other immigrants held some validity. Well, actually France continued to let refugees into their country (even on the day of the Paris attacks) and they only closed their boarders to anyone trying to LEAVE France until they were questioned by authorities, but the hot-button words “closed boarders” are so polarizing that certain manipulators (the creators of these types of memes) out there know that they can use those words to get others to share and perpetuate the false information.  So many stories posted in social media are not true, or completely outdated, and many people don’t take the time to pause and think, “Um – let me research this a bit more before I share this information with 1,000+ contacts who can share it with their friends too.”

Integrity is a word that I heard a lot the past few days as it relates to the good, kind, thoughtful, well-thought-out, acts of a person.  The dictionary has defined it as a noun, “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness”.  If this is to be true, the Chicago media outlets have shown a lack of integrity beyond words the past 24 hours.  A local TV channel was repeatedly showing a Chicago firefighter being carried to an ambulance on a stretcher by his comrades while CPR is being administered, knowing they were reporting this story after confirmation of the firefighter’s death.  While this looks like a scene straight from a TV show, it’s not.  This is real life!  This is someone’s father, husband, son, uncle, brother and friend.  This footage should not be looped on the local news outlet as part of the story for hours on end.  Why is it that we took the family of a slain law breaker into consideration and cut the video footage just before his death, but we continue to loop the footage of a fallen firefighter who died while doing his job and making the ultimate sacrifice?

We need to demand better reporting in the Chicagoland area and also put the onus on us the reader/viewer to seek out facts in journalism.  We need to take responsibility to not post stories on social media without seeking the source of those articles or the validity of the information.  We are driving ourselves crazy with social media! If you have the time to troll on social media for hours on end, take the VERY limited time that it takes to check your stories before you share them with others.