Thank a Teacher: Impact Beyond the Classroom

It’s May, which means it’s Teacher Appreciation Month! To honor the incredible work of our teachers, members of The Fund team are guest authoring posts to #thankateacher who has impacted their life. Today, Lauren is writing about a professor who shaped her career. 


I’ve been fortunate to have some really terrific teachers who helped shape the person I am today. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Hines, fostered my love of writing from an early age. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Fatheree, can be credited with my excessive use of “pardon?” My middle school humanities teacher, Mr. Moe, taught me to take notes, write an outline and to study – skills that aid me to this day. Mr. Kraddock’s engaging chemistry lessons made me love a subject that I didn’t naturally gravitate toward.

I’m grateful for the impact these teachers made on my life, but none so much as my favorite college professor, Jim Bright.

In 2006, I took a public relations course with Jim Bright, a new professor in the Indiana University School of Journalism. Jim had a long career in public relations, and after retiring from Ford Motor Company, he brought his talent and passion to Bloomington, Indiana.

Rather than focus most of our classes on textbooks and case studies, Jim brought in actual public relations professionals to help his students understand what a career in public relations would look like. One day, a Vice President of Weber Shandwick, the world’s largest public relations firm at the time, spoke to our class. At Jim’s encouragement, I ended up applying for an internship with the firm at its global headquarters in New York City.

When I got a coveted interview, Jim met with me to help me prepare. He gave me one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received: to write several questions on a notecard and bring it with me. That way, if my questions were answered during the interview, I could pull out my card and show that I came prepared.

To my delight, I landed the internship and spent a summer in New York City. When I returned, I couldn’t wait to tell Jim about my experience and to enroll in another class with him. The following semester, the final of my college career, I took my last (and best!) class with Jim. This wasn’t just any class: it was a brand-new international public relations course that culminated in a trip to Japan, where we met global public relations experts and had the experience of a lifetime.

Jim’s commitment to providing his students with real experiences went beyond the classroom. He was always available to meet with students and support them however he could. When I wasn’t sure if I should continue in public relations and was debating applying to Teach For America, Jim wrote me a recommendation and counseled me through the process.

Fast forward to 2013. I had been in the classroom for nearly five years, but was feeling ready to transition back into the world of communications. I sent Jim an email, asking for his advice, and he immediately made time to meet with me over coffee. Jim listened to me, gave me sound advice, and encouraged me to apply for the fellowship that landed me at The Fund.

Jim’s passionate, thoughtful and steadfast leadership profoundly impacted my personal and professional trajectory. I can quite literally say that I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, and I remain eternally grateful for the three semesters I had with him, and for all the years since.

Jim, if you’re reading this, thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do – for me and for all of your students.


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