Hi! Could you tell me a little about yourself? What positions do you hold in and out of CSUF?
I actually have three positions in and out of CSUF. I am a full time lecturer at CSUF, and the PRSSA faculty advisor. Besides this, I run a public relations firm called Integrity Public Relations. I am also a Navy Public Affairs Officer, a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy. I work for Third Fleet in San Diego.
How do you juggle all your positions?
That is a challenge. I have to juggle those things while giving time to family. Part of it is that I own my own business so I can work anywhere. That’s how I can work full time at CSUF and have a business going because I have that flexibility. A lot of times when I’m here in the office, sometimes I’m correcting papers and sometimes I’m working on client stuff, and I’m always working on Navy things because that can pop up whenever. The Navy is pretty much on the weekends and maybe a month out of my summer. School owns Monday through Friday of my time and sometimes on the weekends. My business owns Monday through Friday as well. The family gets the weekends and evenings. I don’t really see it as a burden because I love every single one of my responsibilities for different reasons. I love serving the country. I love my clients and building a PR Agency. I love teaching and spending time with my family. What I have found is that I can’t handle down time. I feel anxious when nothing is going on. Even when we’re on a cruise or in Hawaii, I’m working and I have my computers out. It’s just my personality.
What sparked your interest in PR?
Before I went back to school, and got my degree, I was working for the Air Force at the International Guard Station in Costa Mesa. We had an issue where we were surrounded by neighbors who hated us because they didn’t understand what we did. They thought that we were just a bunch of military guys and didn’t like us. So I decided that we had to have an open house and I created the first ever open house on the base. We brought in community partners such as the police and fire departments, and the California Highway Patrol. We had an event that helped change the perception of our military on that base in the Costa Mesa area, which sparked my interest in doing this for a living.
During college, what was your academic career like?
When I got right out of high school, I went to Saddleback College and after about a year and a half, I earned a GPA of 1.04. I decided that college was probably not for me, so I joined the Air Force. After about 10 years in the Air Force, my boss came to me and made me go back to school. He told me he wanted me to go back to Orange Coast College and get my AA degree. Turns out, I liked it and did well. It took me four years at Orange Coast to undo the bad grades at Saddleback. After getting my AA, I told my boss that I proudly got it and to leave me alone. He told me that I needed to get a four year degree. My grades were good enough that got me into UCI, but I stayed there for a year and hated it so I went to CSULB for a semester. I also hated it. Then I found CSUF where I thought everyone actually cared about me and I wasn’t just a number here. So I picked the PR communications major because it was 124 units and I just wanted to make my boss happy and get out of school as fast as I could. I ended up loving it and was recruited by UCI to be a public information representative while I was a junior at CSUF. I went back to school to get my masters in 2013 from USC Annenberg, just so I could teach here.
What made you want to teach at CSUF?
Running my firm, I found that students that came out of the program here were better than the ones I found coming out of any other schools including USC, Chapman and CSULB. I wanted to give back to the students and be part of a program that is held in such high regard, not only in Southern California but also across the west.
Did you have any internship or work during your academic career at CSUF? What did it teach you?
During my schooling, I did not have any internships because I was working full time for the International Guard until I was picked up by UCI my junior year. At UCI, my job was a Senior Public Information Representative. I had never had a junior position job yet they hired me as a Senior PIR because I could type. The school waived my internship requirement because I was working in a communications job. My work taught me that the sky’s the limit. If you have a desire and a drive, you can pretty much do anything you want. The preparation I got at this school is worth millions of dollars to me. The reason I wanted to come back is to pass that along to the students that it’s not just school. If you take this seriously and apply yourself, you could be creating your career right now. Cal State Fullerton is a fantastic school. It is hands on teaching and much more than the theoretical things taught at other schools. That’s what employers want. I want to hire people that can come in the door and start working. They’ve done the capstone, they know how to write press releases and how to plan and execute PR campaigns. That is what you get from this school and that’s something I don’t think any other school offers as well as this one does.
What were some hardships you encountered in the professional or academic world?
I think an academic challenge for me was that since I didn’t go to college after high school, and took that break, going back to school as a young adult when I had a job as well was very difficult. You’re working a job, going to school, trying to get the best grades you can. My relationships suffered because I had to focus on school. Otherwise, it was just fun. I love the school and I love the people that work here. Like I said, I have gone to USC, Saddleback, Orange Coast, Long Beach, Irvine and Fullerton. By far, I felt the most comfortable at Fullerton as a student and still feel it as a faculty member.
Could you tell me about your PR Agency?
When I was at UCI, I went to a PRSA meeting and met someone who was a principal in a tech PR firm in Newport Beach. He knew I had a communications degree and said I should get into tech PR so I left UCI and joined their agency. Their agency had some ethical issues that I couldn’t get past, so I made a stand and quit. I told them I was going to start my own agency and compete against them. I was going to call my agency Integrity PR, a name I totally made up. It happened to be available for URLs and things like that, but it wasn’t supposed to be a real agency. I was still looking for a job but what happened was once I left that agency, the client I was servicing there, fired that agency and they came after me, asking me to continue to be their PR person. That was my first client and after that, I just started getting word of mouth referrals from people that knew me. All of a sudden, the agency was born and ever since then, I have not worked for any other agency. It was born out of the fact that I was trying to take a stand for ethics, so I named it Integrity PR. We focus on tech PR but we have done a lot of nonprofits. We are the Make A Wish foundation’s agency record for about ten years, but primarily we are in the technology space. We are in the 20th year as a PR firm.
Any Career highlights or special moments you would like to share?
One of the highlights from my entire career is being placed on the alumni wall of fame at CSUF in 2004. That was about 5 years after I left the school. I had my agency and was getting awards so Fullerton put me on their wall of fame. Also, getting to teach here was huge. I didn’t need a master’s for PR, I needed one to teach. I went to USC and spent $75,000 on a master’s degree just to teach. That is what I did and what I only wanted to do. I got a job here in 2015 and started teaching part time before going full time in 2017. When I first stepped into the classroom, in the fall of 2015, it was a good day for me. I was CSUF faculty at that point. Being the faculty advisor for PRSSA has been incredible.. Getting to work with the students and the board is amazing. Another highlight would be that now I was inducted in the PRSA College of Fellows at The PRSA Convention. That is a big deal because there are only 350 active PR professionals in the world that are active in the College of Fellows. I was selected as one of eleven across the nation. The fact that I can share this with my CSUF family makes it more special.
What advice would you give students entering the PR world?
Participate in capstone. That’s why this school is special. They make you get out there and do the work. You get a more intense experience than you would in an internship because you’re actually going to work with clients, research their problems, and create and execute a campaign, all within one semester. That’s really the key to PR; if someone can do that, know how to research and identify a target audience and know how to get messages to them. I know that the inclination for a student is to look at graduation, but pay attention and apply yourself in these classes because it is going to make a difference. I’m an example of someone who was not a student. I was just terrible but I applied myself and so far, I have had a 20 year career in PR that has given me and my family a lot of flexibility and ability to do the things we want to do. My advice to students is that you’re only in school for a short amount of time, make the best of it, find good professors, take as much of their information and keep in touch with them because they can help you find jobs and write reference letters. Fullerton is a huge resource and I’m happy to be a part of it.